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Officials have confirmed 37 deaths and nearly 1,900 cases of serious lung disease tied to vaping. Here are all the health risks you should know about.

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 5:30pm

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating a spate of lung illnesses tied to vaping, or using e-cigarettes.
  • According to new numbers released on Oct. 29, there have been 1,888 confirmed and probable cases of illness across the US. 37 people have died.
  • Investigators still don't know the cause, but they're increasingly narrowing in on cannabis, which was involved in about three quarters of the cases.
  • The mysterious lung disease isn't the only risk of vaping. Read on to see how vaping affects your health.
  • Still, when compared against smoking, vaping nicotine appears to be healthier.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Since June, 1,888 people in the US have been struck with lung illnesses tied to vaping, or using e-cigarettes. Thirty-seven people have died.

The new figures, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Oct. 29, include confirmed and probable lung-illness cases from 49 states, Washington, DC, and the US Virgin Islands. US officials have said they expect the number of deaths tied to vaping to increase.

Vaping is a highly variable hobby, making it difficult for officials to determine exactly what's causing the illnesses and deaths. 

Officials have said it's likely that products containing THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, are playing a major role in the outbreak. According to the CDC, 86% of the people who have the lung disease reported using vapes containing THC. Another 11% said they exclusively vaped nicotine.

On Oct. 17, officials said the CDC was doing new lab tests to home in on a cause. The agency is currently testing specimens from sick patients that includes lung biopsies and plans to run chemical tests on lung fluid, blood, and urine. The CDC is also preparing to test e-cigarette vapors and e-liquids.

The agency previously said it had gathered about 120 vaping devices and substances that may be linked to the illnesses.

Read more: Vaping is leading to a spate of lung injuries, comas, and death. Lung experts say oils like vitamin E may be partially to blame.

The CDC advised people to consider not vaping until it can figure out the cause of the illnesses. The agency also warned smokers who vape nicotine to not return to smoking, however.

So far, the available evidence still suggests that when compared to smoking, vaping is a healthier habit. The practice involves inhaling heated vapor, rather than burned material. In general, vapers are believed to be exposed to fewer toxicants and cancer-causing substances than smokers. 

To help prevent young people from vaping, states including Michigan, New York, and Massachusetts have banned at least some e-cigarette products.

There are hundreds of different kinds of vaping devices

There's an enormous amount of variety when it comes to vaping devices, ingredients, and brands — making it difficult to pinpoint any single cause.

First, there are the all-in-one style devices, where all of the necessary pieces are contained in the device itself. These popular e-cigs are sold under brand names like Juul and Blu (for nicotine), and Pax (for cannabis).

Read more: The precarious path of e-cig startup Juul: From Silicon Valley darling to $38 billion behemoth under criminal investigation

Then there are the modifiable tank-based e-cigs, in which pieces of the device can be bought separately, and users can customize everything from the temperature of the device to the drug ingredients. These modifiable setups have been linked with dangers in the past, including at least two deaths.

Finally, there are the ingredients that go into the devices, which can range from waxes to liquids to ground plant matter. Some devices allow users to pour in their own liquid or stuff in their own wax or herbs, while other devices simply include disposable pre-filled cartridges.

In some of the cases reported to health agencies, users said they were vaping cannabis when their illness occurred. In Oregon, health officials said they had received reports that the person who died had been vaping cannabis. But because marijuana is still illegal in many states, it's possible that those cases are under-reported. Other vapers in the reports have been using only nicotine.

In many of the cases, patients said they experienced a gradual start of symptoms like trouble breathing, shortness of breath, and chest pain before they were brought to the hospital. Some people said they also experienced stomach issues including vomiting and diarrhea.

A new practice with several unknowns

Vaping is a relatively new practice, having only became popular within the past decade. Because of its novelty, researchers have warned that there's a lot we still don't know about how the practice impacts the brain and body.

"Given their relatively recent introduction, there has been little time for a scientific body of evidence to develop on the health effects of e-cigarettes," the authors of a large recent report on the overall health effects of vaping wrote.

Recently-discovered health risks range from a heightened exposure to toxic metals to a potentially higher risk of a heart attack.

Last spring, for example, researchers examining the vapors in several popular e-cigarette brands found evidence that they contained some of the same toxic metals normally found in conventional cigarettes, such as lead. They also found evidence suggesting that at least some of those toxins were making their way through vapers' bodies. Their results were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Consistently inhaling high levels of toxic metals has been tied to health problems in the lungs, liver, immune system, heart, and brain, as well as some cancers, according to the US Department of Labor's Occupational Health and Safety Administration. 

In a study published last fall in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, scientists found evidence tying daily e-cigarette use to an increased risk of a heart attack. Still, the study could not conclude that vaping caused the heart attacks — only that the two were linked.

When it comes to the spate of recent lung illnesses, health departments are further investigating by testing e-cigarette products and samples they've collected from patients.

But vaping seems to have helped hook millions of teens on nicotine 

Separately, vaping appears to have helped hook lots of new young people on nicotine — in some cases, young people who otherwise would not have smoked.

E-cigarettes have been tied to a large recent jump in smoking among middle school and high school students. From 2017 to 2018, the percentage of teens who said they'd used e-cigs jumped 78%, according to the CDC. Preliminary data for this year shows that e-cig use has continued to increase among teens.

Because they contain nicotine, e-cigarettes are especially dangerous for kids and teens whose brains are still developing, experts say. In young people, nicotine appears to blunt emotional control as well as decision-making and impulse-regulation skills. That most likely helped prompt a warning about e-cigs from the US surgeon general in December.

The rise in youth vaping prompted a crackdown on the industry led by the FDA. The agency responded by curbing the sale of flavored e-cigs, which they've said are particularly appealing to young people.

"Ultimately, we expect these steps designed to address flavors and protect youth will dramatically limit the ability of kids to access tobacco products we know are both appealing and addicting," Scott Gottlieb, who was then FDA commissioner, said in a statement at the time.

This article was published on August 30 and has been updated.

SEE ALSO: 11 key findings from one of the most comprehensive reports ever on the health effects of vaping

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Corporate travel is a $300 billion market, and travel search engine KAYAK is trying to break into it with a new platform for business travelers

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 5:14pm

  • Travel search engine KAYAK is launching a service catered to business travelers. 
  • KAYAK for Business promises to streamline the process of booking corporate travel and is free to use.
  • As of November 1, prospective KAYAK for Business users can sign up for a waitlist. The official product launch, according to KAYAK representative Kayla Inserra, will be later this month.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Booking travel can be a headache.

Booking corporate travel can be an even bigger one. Beyond the traditional stresses of coordinating hotels, trains and planes, business travelers need to consider staying within company budgets and adhering to company travel policies. 

Nine months ago, travel search engine KAYAK saw an opportunity in this.

"We wanted a better way to plan business travel for our own employees," KAYAK CEO Steve Hafner told Business Insider. "And there wasn't anything on the market, so we built it."

Today, KAYAK for Business debuted an early access waitlist for businesses in North America. KAYAK and OpenTable employees are already using the platform, Hafner said, and now companies can request integration ahead of the official product launch later this month. KAYAK's Senior PR Manager Kayla Inserra said that global rollout is "coming soon."

The service offers business travelers access to KAYAK's listings with the added perks of discounted corporate travel rates and a streamlined booking process. Prospective users who visit the website today will be prompted to enter their emails in order to join the waitlist.

"With KAYAK for Business, everything is integrated," Hafner said, noting that users will be able to access corporate policies, manager approval, and reporting and tracking from the platform. Unlike existing corporate travel management systems, KAYAK for Business will not bundle customer service and will, like its consumer counterpart, be free to use. 

"KAYAK has always been free to use," Hafner said. "It basically started as letting consumers be their own travel agents. And now we think that business travelers should be entitled to that as well."

KAYAK for Business will be competing against the likes of Concur and Lola.com

Corporate travel online booking tools emerged in the 1990s, and by the early 2000s were recognized as "the inevitable future for corporate travel booking" for their ability to cut costs and time spent booking, Business Travel News reports.

Today, a dizzying number of corporate travel management companies — ranging from early leaders in the space such as Concur to newcomers like Lola.com, the brainchild of KAYAK cofounder Paul English — are vying for a share of the market. According to the US Travel Association, domestic and international business travelers in the US spent $327.3 billion in 2018, and the Global Business Travel Association predicts that global business travel spending will reach $1.7 trillion by 2022

However, in recent years, corporate travel management companies have struggled to retain business travelers.

In September 2017, the New York Times ran an article on the growing segment of "rogue" business travelers who are taking bookings into their own hands. Kenneth Diederich, who spent more than half of 2016 staying in hotels for business, told reporter Harriet Edleson that he often booked his own travel through KAYAK or Priceline instead of going through his corporate travel agent in order to accrue points.

"They are used to searching for the best fares, staying in unusual places and collecting reward points," Edleson said of these travelers.

Today, companies are working to develop all-in-one corporate travel management products for their employees, but face the challenge of convincing employees to adopt these systems, Isaac Carey recently reported for Skift. In order to get business travelers to quit shopping around, these new products will need to provide an experience superior to the online booking tools business travelers are used to, he said.

KAYAK already has an extensive base of users: 120 million people use KAYAK a month, Hafner told Business Insider. What remains to be seen is if the familiar interface is enough to convince users to use the platform to book corporate travel, too.

Hafner suggested that the free-to-use service will be especially beneficial for small companies that don't yet have a corporate travel system in place. "Now they basically get Kayak on steroids," he said. 

SEE ALSO: A network of 28 tiny, one-bed hotels in Amsterdam is being called the most beautifully designed hotel of 2019 — and it consists of a series of converted bridge houses. Take a look inside.

NOW READ: Major hospitality chains are buying up independent boutique hotels, and it's creating a new challenge that's at odds with the main reason people travel in the first place

Join the conversation about this story »

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Fashion designer Zac Posen is shuttering his business after nearly 20 years

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 4:48pm

Zac Posen's namesake fashion label is no longer.

WWD's Bridget Foley reported on Friday that Posen is shuttering his business, which he established in 2001, and that his roughly 60 employees had been informed earlier in the morning that they were out of jobs.

"The board made a difficult decision," the designer told WWD. "We were in a sale process and we ran out of time."

In a lengthier interview with Vogue's Nicole Phelps, Posen explained that his "House of Z" had been in the midst of sales negotiations as one of its investors, Yucaipa Cos, was attempting to offload its shares in the label since at least April. Per a press release provided to Vogue, the fashion label "determined to cease business operations and carry out an orderly disposition of its assets."

"The Board of Managers made this difficult decision following a comprehensive strategic and financial review of the businesses ... The Board of Managers is disappointed with this outcome but can no longer continue operations and believe an orderly disposition at this stage is the best course of action, under the circumstances," the press release continued.

The celebrity-beloved fashion icon, who also designed Princess Eugenie's wedding reception dress, expressed to Vogue that he's "very sad" about this turn of events and intends "to reflect and regroup" before taking any next steps in his career.

WWD also reported that the designer's Spring 2020 collection, shown in September, would not be shipped amidst the abrupt shutdown.

The shuttering of Zac Posen represents the latest casualty in the fashion industry. Earlier today, legendary upscale department store Barneys New York was sold to Authentic Brands Group, with the new owner intending to close down most of its remaining stores.

Read the full interview with Zac Posen over at Vogue >>

SEE ALSO: Target is resurrecting its collaborations with Lilly Pulitzer, Zac Posen, Hunter, and other designers, and it's taking precautions to avoid the massive frenzies that plagued past events

DON'T MISS: Designer Zac Posen shares his secret to success

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Traditional Japanese swords can take over 18 months to create — here's what makes them so special

7 signs you're wasting money

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 3:28pm

  • Whether you've allowed "lifestyle creep" or you're just paying for subscriptions you forgot you had, there are many ways you could be wasting money and not necessarily realize it.
  • Subscriptions to streaming services you don't use or gyms you don't visit may be draining your bank account.
  • Eating out more than you cook at home, shopping online for stuff you don't need, and paying high bank fees are a few other ways you may be wasting money.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Living from paycheck to paycheck is not fun, and not always necessary. Your rent, car note, and utilities are fixed expenses, which are difficult to lower without significant lifestyle adjustments. But the money-wasting habits listed below only require small modifications.

Take a look at seven signs you're wasting money. Perhaps you can make some adjustments and still have money in your pocket days before your next paycheck arrives.

1. Your refrigerator is full of take-out containers

There is a difference between food loss and food waste. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1/3 of the food globally and 40% of food in the US is lost along the food supply chain from the farm to the market.

Food waste is what we put in the garbage. Both are bad, but food waste is something that we can affect  immediately, helping the planet and our wallets. The first step is to increase the number of times you cook at home. Plan what you're going to eat for the week, create a weekly menu, and buy only what you need for that week.

Don't like to cook? There are now many meal-kit delivery options that offer a wide variety of tasty, fresh, easy-to-make food for less than take-out.



2. You're shopping online for stuff you don't need

One-click shopping works in the same way as the candy display at the checkout aisle in the grocery store: It's tempting.

A friend suggested that, to minimize impulse purchases, I should leave items in my online shopping cart for at least 24 hours before purchasing. It's a way to resist buying yet another pair of shoes until I'm no longer Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT) and question if I really, really need them. (I really, really don't.)



3. You're not using your gym membership — but you're still paying for it

Once, I calculated how many times a week I would have to go to the gym to make my monthly membership fee less expensive than signing up for the per-class option. The number was 20. In other words, I would have to go to the gym every day after work every month in order to get the return on my investment.

While I am committed to exercise, I'd be deluding myself if I believed that I was going to go to the gym five days a week.

Instead, I buy a monthly class pass, which I primarily use during the winter. At other times I walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park my car at the furthest end of the parking lot each day in order to get my steps in.



4. Your bank is charging you to be their customer

The need for banking services is so great that we often forget that, first and foremost, we are bank customers and have choices about which businesses we support.

Before selecting your bank or credit union, read the fine print in their marketing materials and ask questions.

Are there perks and discounts for having your paycheck deposited automatically? Are there fees for using an ATM outside of their network? How much interest will they pay on certificates of deposit?

What are their overdraft fees, and do they cap them? In other words, once your account is overdrawn, do they continue to submit items for payment? If so, you could end up with hundreds of dollars in fees for attempting to withdraw $20 from the ATM.

As customers, we should shop around for the best benefits and lowest fees from banks, just as we would for someone to paint our house or mow the lawn.



5. You have a shelf full of books you bought but have never read

As much as I love to read, I've moved too many times to keep hauling boxes of books from new address to new address. Instead, once I've unpacked, I get a library card and use it regularly; after all, I've already paid for the library books with my local taxes.

In addition to being able to reserve the latest best sellers at your local branch, most states offer inter-library loan services so that you can access the book collections of other in-state branches for free.

Plus, libraries will order any book for you, and most offer e-books, which you can access on your screen of choice without leaving your couch.



6. You're using your car for work

I once worked at a company that provided company cars for employees to drive to business meetings. Later, due to insurance liability expenses, the company changed their policy so that employees had to use their own cars.

I submitted expense reports for the mileage and gas, but I did not realize that I could deduct a portion of my car's maintenance expenses on my taxes. Small deductions like these can add up.

Also, for those who work from home, you may be able to claim tax deductions for office supplies, your internet services, etc. Consult with an accountant and save all receipts.



7. You're paying for content you're not watching

Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, HBO, Starz, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, etc. There's so much choice! And it costs so much money!

Together those services can take over $100 or more out of your budget every month. That's in addition to having to pay for internet access. 

The good news is that it's possible to subscribe, binge watch an entire season of your must-see program, and then cancel your subscription. The bad news is that you have to remember to cancel the subscription.

Since I don't have time to watch all the shows I like, I rotate subscriptions. While "Billions" is on, I subscribe to Showtime. Once that season is complete, I move to Starz. Amazon Prime has additional benefits, so I keep that one year-round.

You've worked hard to earn your income. Small changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference in your wallet. Don't miss those obvious places where you are wasting money.



5 unexpected facts I learned about millionaires from 23-year-old classic 'The Millionaire Next Door'

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 3:19pm

  • In reading "The Millionaire Next Door," which was originally published in 1996, I learned that many millionaires aren't the flashy status-symbol-laden rich people we might imagine. 
  • Instead, Dr. Thomas Stanley and Dr. William Danko's analysis of 292 millionaires found that many were first-generation and self-made, and many owned a small business.
  • The authors also found that many millionaires took years to amass their fortunes, and lived modest lives that allowed them to save.
  • Read more personal finance coverage. 

My copy of "The Millionaire Next Door" by Dr. Thomas Stanley and Dr. William Danko is an older edition, dog-eared and bought at a yard sale. However, it is a very good example of why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover: This book has gone on to numerous reprints and revisions and updates because, in its 23-year history, it has had a major impact on how people understand what it means to be wealthy in the United States.

The millionaires that the book discusses aren't the flashy status-symbol-laden rich people that we might imagine. The central premise of the millionaire next door is that there is a surprising amount of quiet wealth accumulated by regular people, people who use this wealth to form a secure safety net for their families during hard times or to create a comfortable, worry-free retirement.

Here are five things I learned about millionaires from reading "The Millionaire Next Door."

1. Many millionaires are first-generation

I was initially surprised to realize that generational wealth is a major player but not the only player in the millionaire set. Stanley and Danko point out that only 19% of millionaires had received money from a trust fund or estate, and 91% never received any ownership of a family business; a substantial percentage are "self-made" millionaires.

I believe that generational advantages also play a role, but it was refreshing to hear stories of people whose families were not wealthy and who still accumulated $1 million in savings or investments in a single lifetime.

2. A huge percentage of millionaires are small-business owners

I expected more discussion of highly paid professionals (lawyers, doctors) as high-wealth individuals, but this book really focused on the many people who built a small business to the point of retaining more than $1 million in wealth. Stanley and Danko write: "These self-employed people are four times more likely to be millionaires than those who work for others." Of the non-retired millionaires, two-thirds of them were small business owners.

Does this mean every small business succeeds? Of course not. However, it did point to some of the advantages of being the owner when a business idea takes off.

It was nice, in an era where we are thinking so hard about whether high-priced higher education is "worth it," to realize that there are options if college isn't of interest to you. There are ways to start a small business that offers a value-add that doesn't require a college education.

3. Many millionaires reject status symbols whenever possible

One of Stanley and Danko's refrains is summed up in the phrase from Chapter 4: You Aren't What You Drive. They state that millionaires "believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status."

While most of us aren't buying high-priced cars in order to look wealthy — I'd say most of us can't get that far — the book's point is well-taken about evaluating what we need and want on our own terms rather than buying whatever others in our peer circle want to buy.

4. Millionaires allocate time to their financial plans

Many of the millionaires that Stanley and Danko surveyed (192 out of 292, according to the results) spend a lot of time planning their financial future. They write that only the very high-income earners or heirs to their money in his sample were less likely to be planners.

Obviously, you can spend lots of time on your financial plan and not become a millionaire, but I enjoyed reading about how organized and thoughtful they were. I have noticed in my own life that my auto-pilot setting has me spending more money and saving less than my thought-out, planned setting.

5. Millionaires take decades to get there

While this element of the book isn't touted all the time, this 1996 release wasn't an example of the newer "Financial Independence, Retire Early" movement. Many of the millionaires were in their 50s or 60s (the original book said the average age was 57), and a big part of why they'd amassed a lot of money was that they'd had a lot of years to do it.

The book even mentions the value of becoming an entrepreneur partially because these business owners begin earning money earlier in life (enabling them to start saving earlier) than professionals who go through many years of higher education without earning money.

One way that many people reject the advice of ambitious financial-independence gurus is that they look at one number, something like saving $10,000 a year, and say, "I can't do that on my current income." This book encouraged me to say, "What can I save this year, based on what I make?" It made me feel like, even if I don't ever get to being a millionaire, it would be good to try the frugal strategies that could yield me a nest egg. It takes decades to get to the level described in this book, so patience is in order.

Since the book's release in 1996, it has encountered some criticism, mostly in the idea that their sample of millionaires is biased. Critics mention how luck isn't discussed often enough: Driving a sensible car and living in an inexpensive neighborhood are traits of those who have trouble building wealth also, and luck in the business world (or the luck of having good health or a solid educational background) could account for the difference in wealth, rather than just frugal habits.

This critique is well-taken, but the core value I gleaned from this book remains true. If millionaires are people who live below their means and work hard to step outside cultural expectations of their spending in order to only buy what they actually want and need, that is a path I can begin.

Learn more about "The Millionaire Next Door" »

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Long before Ken Fisher's sexist comments cost his firm billions, his operation was under fire for aggressive sales tactics

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 2:47pm

  • Ken Fisher's embattled firm, Fisher Investments, has used aggressive sales tactics for years, according to a Bloomberg report.
  • These issues were under scrutiny long before Fisher himself came under fire over sexist remarks.
  • According to Bloomberg, there have been 125 grievances filed with the Federal Trade Commission against Fisher Investments since 2016.
  • The billionaire investor caused an exodus of capital from the firm earlier this month after making comments at a conference that winning clients is like "trying to get into a girl's pants." 
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

Ken Fisher's sexist comments have caused his firm Fisher Investments to lose billions in capital. But the firm has reportedly been under fire for aggressive sales tactics for far longer.

According to Bloomberg, 125 people have filed grievances with the Federal Trade Commission against Fisher Investments since 2016. Many of the complaints revolve around representatives from Fisher calling prospects in an excessive or aggressive way, the report found.

Some prospects complained about receiving calls at their work numbers. And, in one case, a complaint said Fisher Investments solicited a customer's father who had passed way three years ago, according to Bloomberg. 

Other people who demonstrated interest in free investment advice offered by Fisher Investments found that the firm would follow up with a barrage of phone calls on a daily and weekly basis, the report found. 

"In their sales pitches they routinely ask prospective clients, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable, to hand over hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to their care. This type of sales technique is despicable," one claim from 2018 said, according to Bloomberg.

As of now, the FTC hasn't opened a case against Fisher. 

The news comes about three weeks after Fisher said at an investment conference that winning clients is like "trying to get into a girl's pants." 

The comment sparked a flurry of withdraws from Fisher Investments totaling about $2.7 billion by major clients such as Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, and the Los Angeles fire and police pension fund. 

Fisher Investments did not respond to Markets Insider's request for comment. 

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Tips to maximize your 401(k) and IRA retirement contributions

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 2:00pm

When you contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), or IRA, you're already on a path securing your financial future. But could you save more? Making the most of your organization's retirement plan now could help ensure your golden years are even more golden.

Read 5 steps to creating your retirement plan to help you get started.

Could you increase your 401(k) contribution?

A 1% increase only makes a small difference in your paycheck — but may make a big difference down the road.

Cutting or reducing non-essentials could allow you to bump up the money you're putting into your 401(k) or 403(b). Like the gym membership you haven't used in six months, for example. Or buying a certified used car instead of a new one. How about those merit increases or a bonus? 

A little could go a long way in the future. Consider this example1 for a $35,000 annual income:

Imagine if you could increase it to 10% of your pay?

If you're wondering how to save more toward retirement, read 5 smart money tips from super savers.

Tip: Don't forget inflation's impact on retirement savings. You may feel like you're saving enough to maintain your current lifestyle. Even though your income may increase over the years, so will your cost of living (typically). If you spend $50,000 a year to live in today's dollars, for example, how much more will it take 30 years from now?

Good news about maximum contributions for 2019

Life can make it tough to save as much as you want. In 2019, that became easier when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made a cost of living adjustment that allows you to put away more money in retirement plans and IRAs.

Anyone enrolled in their employer's retirement plan and still working can generally make a maximum contribution of $19,000 per year, up $500 from what was previously allowed.2

If you have an IRA, your annual max contribution also increased by $500 to $6,000. (Want to learn more? Read the basics of IRAs.)

Get the scoop: Read 2019 contribution limits are up, and you can thank the IRS.

Consider making catch-up contributions to your 401(k) or IRA (if you're old enough)

How about this cool perk once you've hit the big 5-0:

You can contribute an additional $6,0003 to your 401(k) or 403(b) plan once you've reached the annual maximum, but only if you're 50 or older and it's an option in the plan. And since these contributions are typically pre-tax, they'll lower your current taxable income even more. You can make catch-up contributions to an IRA, too.

Next steps:

Ready to make a change now? If you have a retirement savings account serviced by Principal®, log in to increase your contribution.

To increase contributions to your Principal IRA, call 800-986-3343, option 2. Interested in starting one? Find out why you should choose a Principal IRA.

Need someone to guide you through next steps? Principal will help you find a financial advisor.

Have a retirement account from your employer with service at Principal? Log in to principal.com to see what you're allocating to stocks. First time logging in? Get started.

This post was created by Principal with Insider Studios

1 This example is for illustrative purposes only. It assumes $35,000 in annual income, 3.5% annual wage growth, 30 years to retirement, 7% annual rate of return and a 25% tax bracket. Estimated monthly retirement income calculations assume a 4.5% annual withdrawal in retirement. The assumed rate of return is hypothetical and does not guarantee any future returns nor represent the return of any particular investment option. Reduced take-home pay is accurate for the initial year and would change based on participant's annual pay. Estimated savings amounts shown do not reflect the impact of taxes on pre-tax distributions. Individual taxpayer circumstances may vary.

2 Contributions are limited to the lesser of the annual plan or the IRS limit as indexed.

3 Some plans may not allow catch-up contributions to the plan.

" "

 

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Wealthy millennials want homes that are within walking distance of their social lives, and it's redefining how they're thinking about traditional luxury locations

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 1:52pm

For rich millennials, the living is easy when everything they need is within walking distance.

While walkability isn't a new concept in luxury real-estate, millennial millionaires are redefining its importance. According to a new report by Coldwell Banker, they're likely to choose a non-traditional luxury neighborhood over a traditional luxury neighborhood if it means they can walk to the local café.

The Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program worked with wealth intelligence data and research firm WealthEngine to analyze the lifestyles of millennial millionaires, from wealth creation and property investments to spending trends. It defined millennial millionaires as those ages 23 to 37 with a net worth of more than $1 million.

"They want to live near gathering spaces," Karen Yang of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Los Altos in California said in the report. "They want to live near throwback downtowns, or districts that grew organically — and they are willing to give up square footage and amenities to be able to live in those kinds of locations."

Being able to walk to work, stores, and the gym is the winning factor

Danny Hertzberg, Coldwell Banker Global luxury ambassador and member of The Jills-Zeder Group from Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Florida, sees this happening in Miami.

"Walkability is a really big thing," he said in the report. "They want to be able to walk to neighborhood coffee shops and bakeries ... Health and wellness is a priority for them, so they like to be close to fitness facilities and yoga studios."

He continued: "Location has always been a factor in real estate, but what's changed is the definition of what is a good location. It used to be that the prestigious neighborhoods were gated and secluded, often outside of town. Millennial buyers want to be close to the action."

Business Insider previously spoke with several real-estate agents in three states that are popular among rich millennials — New York, California, and Florida. They, too, all told Business Insider that location and walkability are key factors among buyers.

In New York City, many want to be able to walk to work, Ian Slater of Compass told Business Insider. Millennials also want to walk to restaurants, recreational activities, and, in the case of Florida, the water, West Palm Beach real-estate agent Burt Minkoff of Douglas Elliman said. 

"Primarily, millennials are focused on location as the main selling feature," Southern California agent Sally Forster Jones of Compass said. "Whether they are looking for views or a home with walkability to local shops and/or their job, the location plays a major part in the decision-making process."

SEE ALSO: Nearly half of America's millennial millionaires live in California, and it highlights just how strong the relationship between tech, money, and real estate is

DON'T MISS: The top 10 ZIP codes where America's wealthiest millennials live, ranked

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A death in the Atlantic, a media empire that once had $4 billion in debt, and a yacht named Lady Ghislaine: Take a look at Ghislaine Maxwell's family history

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 1:40pm

  • Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who has been accused of serving as Jeffrey Epstein's madam, is the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell.
  • Ghislaine is well connected with elite businessmen: Business Insider previously reported that she posed for a picture with Elon Musk at a 2014 Oscars after-party, and Vice's Ben Makuch reported that she attended a writing conference hosted by Jeff Bezos in 2018.
  • In 1991, Robert Maxwell was found dead in the Atlantic Ocean after falling from the luxury yacht he named after his daughter, as INSIDER reported.
  • Ghislaine's brothers, Ian and Kevin Maxwell, were tried with and acquitted of financial crimes related to their father's businesses in 1996, according to The New York Times.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Ghislaine Maxwell has become a topic of public scrutiny for her relationship with former financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested on charges of sex trafficking in July.

Maxwell, a well-connected British socialite, posed for a picture with Elon Musk at a 2014 Oscars after-party and reportedly attended as many as three writing retreats — one of which was in 2018 — hosted by Jeff Bezos.

She's also been accused of connecting Epstein with his alleged victims, and serving as the now-deceased sex-offender's madam. Maxwell has denied these allegations.

Epstein was found dead after an apparent suicide on August 10. At the time of his death, he'd been awaiting trial in a New York jail.

But Maxwell's family has plenty of scandals of its own, dating from the 1990s. Keep reading to learn more about the Maxwell family.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

SEE ALSO: The famous connections of Jeffrey Epstein, the elite wealth manager who died in jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges

DON'T MISS: How Jeffrey Epstein, the mysterious hedge-fund manager arrested on sex-trafficking charges, made his fortune

Robert Maxwell was the first mysterious businessman in Ghislaine Maxwell's life.

Ghislaine Maxwell, 57, is the youngest child of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell's nine children. According to a 2011 report from The Telegraph, she was his favorite. All Maxwell's children were born in France, according to the Daily Beast.

Robert Maxwell was born Ján Ludvík Hoch in 1923 in Czechoslovakia, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Despite losing most of his family in the Holocaust, Maxwell escaped to the United Kingdom during World War II, changed his name to Ian Robert Maxwell, and became an officer in the British Army.

After the war, Maxwell entered the publishing business by selling academic papers, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.



"Ghislaine's father Robert Maxwell was one of the darkest and most mysterious men to appear in British public life," the Daily Beast wrote.

In July, the Daily Beast described Maxwell as a "charismatic businessman" who was surrounded by an air of mystery.

In 1984, Maxwell purchased Mirror Group Newspapers, the publisher of six British newspapers, including the Daily Mirror.

According to the LA Times, Maxwell went on to expand his empire to include the New York Daily News, the publishing house Macmillan Inc., and the now defunct paper The European.

But the expansions caused financial troubles for the company. It was later discovered that Maxwell stole money from his other companies and employee pension funds to cover the newspapers' debts, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.



Robert Maxwell considered Rupert Murdoch his rival, according to the Daily Beast.

Maxwell tried to create a media empire that would rival Rupert Murdoch's, the Daily Beast reported.

The two newspaper publishers posted opposing bids for British tabloid News of the World in 1969, according to the Daily Beast. Murdoch's bid was selected. Maxwell also lost a bidding war for The Sun to Murdoch in 1969.



Various reports indicate that Robert Maxwell did not shy away from questionable business practices.

Maxwell had the Daily Mirror's offices bugged so that he could hear what the company's executives were saying about him, according to the Daily Beast.

Maxwell engineered contests for Daily Mirror readers designed to prevent anyone from winning, according to the BBC. In one contest, any reader who could locate a football in an image printed by the paper was promised £1 million.

"He took aside the promotions manager and myself and he said, 'Between you, I want you to make sure no one can win £1 million,'" former Mirror editor Roy Greenslade told the BBC.



In November 1991, Robert Maxwell was found dead in the Atlantic Ocean.

Robert Maxwell had been sailing off the coast of the Canary Islands aboard his 180-foot luxury yacht named after his daughter, Lady Ghislaine, according to the AP. Maxwell was missing from the yacht for 14 hours before his naked body was discovered.

Maxwell was set to meet with representatives of the Bank of England over his company's unpaid debts the day after his disappearance, his sons told the Sunday Times, 27 years after his father's death, according to The Guardian.

The media mogul was 68 at the time of his death, according to the AP. Ghislaine was 30.



After an investigation, Robert Maxwell's death was deemed to have been the result of natural causes.

According to The Guardian, Maxwell's death was officially ruled to have been caused by a heart attack combined with accidental drowning.

But Maxwell's cause of death became the subject of many conspiracy theories, INSIDER reported. His death had been widely speculated by the public to be a suicide because it occurred during a period of financial turbulence for his company.

Years after his father's death, one of Maxwell's sons spoke out against the suicide theories.

"In 27 years I've never speculated: Was he killed or did he kill himself?" Maxwell's son Ian told the Sunday Times, 27 years after his father's death, according to The Guardian.

"If I say anything about it, I think it is highly unlikely that he would have taken his own life. It wasn't in his makeup or mentality. I don't think any murder conspiracy stands up, so for me, it is an unexplained accident, and I'm content to live with that."

Maxwell's companies owed more than $4 billion to 43 different banks at the time of his death, according to the Daily Beast.

After her father's death, Ghislaine Maxwell moved to the Manhattan's Upper East Side and began working in real estate. According to a New York Post story from 2000, she was living off about $100,000 a year from a trust fund her father had set up.



After her husband's death, Ghislaine's mother, Elisabeth Maxwell, became a Holocaust expert.

Maxwell devoted her life to Holocaust research after her husband's death, earning a doctorate from Oxford at age 60, according to The New York Times.

Before Robert Maxwell's death, she spent her time managing the couple's 53-room mansion in Oxford, The Times reported. Less than a month after his death, Robert Maxwell's financial crimes erased the family's fortune, forcing her to move out of the mansion and into a borrowed apartment.

She died in 2013, according to The Times.



Two of Ghislaine's brothers, Ian and Kevin Maxwell, were tried with financial crimes related to their father's businesses in 1996.

The brothers were later acquitted, according to the AP. Kevin Maxwell filed for bankruptcy in 1992, according to The Guardian.

Ian and Kevin Maxwell have been extremely private since the trial's conclusion, HuffPost reported in 2018. The brothers now own a real estate and telecom businesses outside the UK. In 2018, they launched a think tank called Combating Jihadist Terrorism and Extremism, according to The Guardian.

Ian serves as CoJit's director, according to the organization's website. CoJit did not return Business Insider's request for comment.



The Maxwell siblings have been described as having kept low profiles in recent years.

In a 2011 report titled "Whatever happened to the Maxwells?" The Telegraph said that Robert Maxwell was "famously good at covering his tracks," and that it's "hardly surprising his family has grown so skilled over the past two decades at simply disappearing."

Ghislaine's other siblings include Anne, Christine, Isabel, and Philip Maxwell, according to The New York Times. Anne is a former actress who worked as a hypnotherapist in Surrey, The Telegraph reported in 2011. Christine launched an internet company. Phillip was said to be in London launching a career as a writer.

As of the 2011 Telegraph article, all of the siblings were reported to have a close relationship with one another.



Ghislaine Maxwell is alleged to have helped former financier Jeffrey Epstein run a sex-trafficking ring.

Ghislaine was a close associate and former girlfriend of Epstein, Business Insider previously reported. An Oxford-educated socialite, she has been photographed alongside many powerful people, including President Donald Trump and Elon Musk.

Maxwell is now alleged of having helped him find underaged victims to use as sex slaves. She has denied these allegations.

Now that Epstein is dead, the investigation into him could refocus on her. But, as Business Insider's Michelle Mark reported, her location has been hard to track down: Maxwell had reportedly not been seen in public for three years.

That changed August 15, when a photo shared to the New York Post showed Maxwell dining alone at an In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles.



Ghislaine also rubbed noses with some of the country's most powerful CEOs, including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

Ghislaine attended Jeff Bezos' invite-only writing retreat for authors and entrepreneurs three times, most recently in 2018, attendees told Motherboard's Ben Makuch. The event, which is called Campfire, is held annually in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Business Insider previously reported. She did not attend the most recent conference in October 2019, Vice reported.

Ghislaine was also photographed with Elon Musk at an Oscars after-party in 2014, Business Insider previously reported. A Musk spokesperson told Business Insider that "Ghislaine simply inserted herself behind him in a photo he was posing for without his knowledge."

Musk has confirmed crossing paths with Epstein at least once. Musk, Epstein, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg were all guests at a dinner hosted by LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman sometime after Epstein was released from jail in 2008.



Amex has two versions of the Gold card, and the best one for you depends on where you spend the most

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 1:37pm

Facing increasing competition from other issuers, American Express revamped both its Business Gold Card and the Amex Gold Card (formerly the Premier Rewards Gold Card) in the past year or so.

Both now feature exciting new benefits, including money-saving statement credits and lucrative new points-earning bonuses. Here is a brief outline of both cards' benefits and their key differences.

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. 

Amex Gold vs. Amex Business Gold: The biggest differences

 

Now to discuss the specific factors to consider as you decide which one is more relevant for your needs.

Business versus personal credit cards

Both the Amex Gold card and the Amex Business Gold card are charge rather than credit cards. This means you must pay off the balance in full every month or face very steep charges and possible account suspension.

If a charge card fits your financial habits, the next major question you must ask yourself is: Do I need a personal charge card or a business one?

You do not actually need to own or operate a business in order to apply for a business credit card. However, you shouldn't just apply for a business card on a whim. Luckily, there are plenty of good reasons to do so.

First, having a business card lets you separate your work purchases from your personal ones, keeping your finances simpler. Second, although you will need to use your own personal Social Security number to apply for a business card, the activity on it sits on a report separate from your personal credit one. So making large purchases or other unusual activity should not affect your personal credit score. That said, if you default on your business account, you will be held personally accountable, so this is not a blank check to be irresponsible.

Another reason you might want to consider one card or the other is that Amex has strict rules regulating who is eligible for which products and which welcome offers. If you have carried a version of either of these cards in the past, you might not be offered the welcome bonus you are expecting.

Welcome offer

Speaking of which, the next major point of difference between these two cards is their welcome offers.

The Amex Gold card is currently proffering 35,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months. In the past, there have been targeted offers as high as 50,000 points. In terms of direct travel redemptions, which means using your points through the Amex Travel website, 35,000 Amex points is worth between $245 and $350 toward travel (flights have the highest value).

The Amex Business Gold card is currently extending a welcome offer of up to $500 in statement credits toward qualifying FedEx shipping purchases within the first three months of cardmembership. This is only available until November 6, 2019.

Like the Amex Gold, the Business Gold has offered welcome bonuses of up to 50,000 points (for spending $5,000 in the first three months), and even a limited-time targeted bonus of 75,000 points for spending $10,000 in the first three months.

Which of these bonuses is more relevant to you will depend on whether your shipping needs and costs justify trying for the Amex Business Gold card's welcome offer, or whether you would prefer the Membership Rewards points earnable with the Amex Gold card.

Annual fee

There is not a huge difference in the annual fees offered by these two cards. The Amex Gold requires $250 per year, while the Amex Business Gold charges $295 per year.

Where this really makes a dent is whether the personal Amex Gold card's annual statement credits will be enough to offset most of its cost. The business version does not offer dollar-based credits, but it does come with a unique points-refund feature.

Earning rates on purchases

Here is where the details really matter as both cards have recently revamped their earning structures.

The Amex Gold earns 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide. It also accrues 4 points per dollar at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar. In addition, the card earns 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through AmexTravel.com. It earns 1 point per dollar on everything else. While the dining and airfare bonuses are uncapped, the $25,000 ceiling on grocery purchases at US supermarkets means a possible total of 100,000 bonus points in that category.

By contrast, the Amex Business Gold's earning structure is more nuanced. It earns 4 points per dollar in two of the following categories in which you spend the most each month on up to $150,000 in combined purchases per year:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio)
  • U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software, and cloud solutions
  • U.S. purchases at gas stations
  • U.S. purchases at restaurants
  • U.S. purchases for shipping

When it comes to how they earn points, the two cards seem squarely aimed at different audiences, despite their similarities. Of note are the Amex Gold card's bonus categories since they include dining not just in the US, as the Amex Business Gold does, but worldwide. Its bonus at US supermarkets is capped at $25,000 per year, which probably covers most small households handily. Its 3x airfare bonus is uncapped, unlike the 4x bonus on the Amex Business Gold card.

On the other hand, the Amex Business Gold offers dynamic bonuses that depend on what you spend the most money on each month. This gives strategic cardholders a bit of flexibility. If you tend to spend similar amounts across all these categories, however, you're not doing nearly as well as folks who concentrate their purchasing in one or two of them. The $150,000 cap might also hold back some small businesses whose expenses are higher. Still, if you max it out, you are looking at earning 600,000 bonus points per calendar year.

Statement credits and other benefits

The Amex Gold card stands out in this category, too, since it offers two different calendar-year statement credits. The first is up to $100 each year toward airline incidental fees such as checked bags, seat assignments or lounge passes. To take advantage of it, cardholders must designate a specific carrier for the entire year. It does not apply to ticket or airfare purchases.

The second one is a $120 dining credit. Cardholders can earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when they pay with their Amex Gold at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. If you dine out at all or use food delivery services, it's not hard to maximize this benefit. Altogether, that means Amex Gold Card members can earn up to $220 back each year, almost making up for its entire $250 annual fee.

The Amex Business Gold card offers an entirely different type of refund benefit. Cardholders who book their flights with Amex Travel using Membership Rewards' Pay With Points feature get 25% of their points back up to 250,000 points per calendar year. This is similar to the Business Platinum® Card from American Express with its 35% points refund, and can dramatically increase the value of your Amex points via direct redemptions.

The winner in this category comes down to whether you will actually max out the airline and dining statement credits on the personal card, or if you tend to redeem hundreds of thousands of points per year on flights through Amex Travel. Let's continue with this to see what it might be worth to you.

Direct redemption values

In addition to being able totransfer points to the Membership Rewards program's 20+ airline and hotel partners, cardholders of either product can redeem their points directly for travel booked through Amex Travel. For flights, specifically, points are worth 1 cent apiece. However, when you factor in the Amex Business Gold card's 25% refund on such redemptions, you are getting a value of closer to 1.33 cents apiece, which is a significant increase.

If you tend to redeem your Amex points this way, the Amex Business Gold card is a clear winner. That said, you might want to consider the Amex Business Platinum card instead since its points refund is 35%, adding even more value. If you want to learn more about how to decide between the Business Gold and Business Platinum, check out our in-depth comparison.

Travel and purchase protections

Both cards have no foreign transaction fees, and their travel and purchase protections are similar.

Both offer secondary car-rental insurance and lost luggage coverage of $500-$1,250 depending on whether it's a carry-on or checked bag. However, the Amex Gold card just added trip-delay reimbursement of up to $300 that kicks in after 12 hours. Its purchase protection is also much higher — up to $10,000 per incident up to $50,000 per calendar year compared to the Amex Business Gold card's $1,000-per-incident cap (still up to $50,000 per calendar year).

Bottom line

Apart from deciding whether you need a personal charge card or one for business, if you're trying to decide between the revamped Amex Gold card and the Amex Business Gold card, you have a few key factors to take into consideration.

The first is which welcome offer — bonus points or a FedEx credit — better matches your travel needs. Second, which card's earning categories can you optimize? Foodies should go for the personal card while those who spend large amounts on business-related purchases like shipping, advertising and computers can rake in more bonus points with the Amex Business Gold.

In terms of unique features, the Amex Gold card offers interesting statement credits for food and airline purchases while the Amex Business Gold card's 25% points refund on Amex Travel flight redemptions can help you save hundreds of thousands of points per year.

As with any travel rewards credit card, you will need to ask yourself whether the annual fee is worth it, and whether you will actually take advantage of and leverage a card's specific perks to your benefit year after year.

Click here to learn more about the Amex Gold card. Click here to learn more about the Amex Business Gold card.

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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

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 1:24pm

  • Digital Asset, a blockchain startup that raised $115 million from big banks like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Citi, has seen at least 25% of its staff depart since April.
  • Business Insider spoke to five former employees of the once-buzzy startup about the exodus of employees, which stemmed largely from a pivot away from the distributed-ledger platform it originally built its brand around.
  • It's not the only upheaval the fintech has faced over the past 12 months — its high-profile CEO Blythe Masters stepped down in December, much to the surprise of many of those inside the company. 
  • A Digital Asset spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement that over the past year the firm "concentrated its effort on the parts of our business where we can deliver the most value to our customers and the market at large, which is DAML smart contracts."
  • The change in increased focus on DAML, its programming language for smart contracts, "is the result of years of planning, engineering work, and careful evaluation of the market opportunity rather than a reaction to perceived failures," the spokesperson said. 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories. 

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. 

Digital Asset was founded in 2014 in the midst of the finance industry's growing obsession with blockchain and raised over $115 million in funding from the likes of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Citi.

Departures have been a combination of people leaving on their own accord as well as staff reductions, former employees said. Since April, at least a quarter of its workforce across varying levels of seniority and divisions has left the startup, according to an analysis on LinkedIn.

Business Insider spoke to five former Digital Asset employees, all of whom had left the company within the last year but declined to speak on the record due to non-disclosure agreements or fear of retribution, about their time at the startup. The common theme was one of a company struggling to sell the distributed-ledger technology platform it had originally built its brand on, leading to a shift in its business approach over the past year as it looked to find a more viable business route.

At its core, one of Digital Asset's biggest missteps came from pitching a product many of its competitors were willing to offer for free. As the company realigned to find a viable business model, it was forced to shed a significant amount of its workforce. 

Further complicating the switch was the change in leadership Digital Asset faced following its high-profile CEO, Blythe Masters, stepping down in December 2018 to the shock of many, including those at the company. 

The changes at Digital Asset represents the difficulties in building out a business in the distributed-ledger space. The technology, once viewed as the future of how Wall Street conducted business, has yet to move beyond pilots and initiatives amongst most financial firms, who still seem unsure, or unwilling, to completely implement the tech in day-to-day operations. 

A Digital Asset spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement over the past year the firm "concentrated its effort on the parts of our business where we can deliver the most value to our customers and the market at large, which is DAML smart contracts."

"The execution of our strategy is the result of years of planning, engineering work and careful evaluation of the market opportunity rather than a reaction to external pressures or perceived failures," the spokesperson said. 

Digital Asset struggled to sell its DLT platform to big companies

In many ways, Digital Asset served as an initial benchmark for Wall Street's interest in the potential of the blockchain. In 2016, it nabbed $60 million in funding from 15 of the largest financial and technology firms, including Goldman, JPMorgan, Citi, and IBM, on the belief its technology could disrupt how the world's financial markets operate.

However in the three years since, adoption of the startup's distributed-ledger technology platform was limited. The Australian Stock Exchange, which announced in late 2017 it was working with Digital Asset to replace CHESS, its equities clearing and settlement system, is the only established Wall Street firm to take significant steps towards moving beyond a proof-of-concept or pilot stage with Digital Asset's original DLT platform.

By 2018, Digital Asset found itself burning cash on long, expensive pitches to financial firms that weren't leading to business, according to one former employee. The source said the issue the startup constantly came up against during pitches was the fact competitors were offering similar blockchain platforms for free via open source. 

A second former employee said the company originally maintained a mindset of wanting to own its proprietary technology and not collaborating with others, an ideology that didn't work with how most of those in the DLT space approached things. 

"We were at a huge competitive disadvantage because most of the other people were giving this shit away for free and saying, 'Yea, you can maintain it yourself,'" the first former employee said.

"That became a real expensive proposition for us. ... Competition in these multi-month, if not multi-year, RFP processes is expensive, especially when you are losing every one of them," the source added. 

Leadership changes 

The company faced another significant change in the past 12 months. Masters, a former JPMorgan executive credited with creating credit-default swaps, announced her resignation as CEO of Digital Asset, sending shockwaves through the company, and the wider industry. 

The departure of Masters, who joined Digital Asset in 2015 and had grown to be the face of the nascent technology, was viewed by many as another sign of Wall Street's apathy for the tech. Masters remained on the company's board of directors, a position she still holds.

Internally, Masters leaving also came as a surprise, according to former employees, who said many had come to Digital Asset because of her and her vision of disrupting Wall Street. No further explanation was given internally about why she had left beyond what had already been said publicly — she was stepping down due to "personal reasons." 

"Blythe Masters is a superstar," a third former employee said. "In terms of pure charisma and magnetism she's — in my opinion — irreplaceable."

However, in April, when speaking to Business Insider, Shaul Kfir, co-founder and chief technology officer at Digital Asset, downplayed her departure and any significance it had around the company's future.  

"Blythe is one person in a company of 180," Kfir said. "The company wasn't just Blythe, and her departure didn't really change anything in these plans." 

Masters' replacement 

Masters' immediate replacement came in the form of AG Gangadhar, a former engineering executive at Amazon, Google, and Uber who had joined Digital Asset's board of directors in April 2018.

The decision to name Gangadhar acting CEO and chairman raised some eyebrows within the rank-and-file at the company, according to a fourth former employee. While Gangadhar had an impressive resume from his time at some of the biggest, most innovative tech companies in the world, he also came with his own set of baggage. At Uber, he ran an engineering department that was plagued by controversy over how it handled sexual harassment complaints.

Gangadhar headed up the Uber engineering department that included Susan Fowler, the engineer who penned a blog post outlining her experiences facing sexism and sexual harassment at the ridesharing startup that eventually led to widespread changes, including the eventual resignation of cofounder and then-CEO Travis Kalanick

Gangadhar had come to Digital Asset after a short stint as CTO at Cruise, GM's self-driving car division. Following his appointment in November 2017, Cruise faced public criticism, including some from Fowler herself. By March 2018, only six months after he had joined, Gangadhar and Cruise agreed to part ways. 

His time at the top of Digital Asset would also be short lived and, according to the fourth former employee, uninspiring. Under Gangadhar's purview, uncertainty remained around the direction of the company with employees unsure of what their day-to-day responsibilities were, the source added. 

In April, Digital Asset began focusing solely on DAML

In March, Yuval Rooz, a Digital Asset cofounder who had served as COO and CFO, was appointed CEO with Gangadhar remaining on as executive chairman.

Plans Digital Asset had around another portion of its business went into hyperdrive with a slew of public announcements.

The following month, DAML, a programming language for developing so-called "smart contracts," was open sourced. A week later, a partnership with software company VMware and its blockchain project was unveiled as part of a new initiative for DAML to work with a variety of blockchains as opposed to only Digital Asset's. Integration with DAML onto blockchain projects run by Hyperledger, R3 and Amazon would follow in June

While DAML had always been a part of Digital Asset's plan, with an announcement back in August 2016 to eventually open source it, a fifth former employee said the decision to allow it to be used on other blockchains was a big one. 

"The time was right to accelerate the execution of our strategy, which involved open-sourcing our smart contract language (DAML) and integrating it with other ledgers," the Digital Asset spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, building out Digital Asset's own distributed ledger platform for large companies was no longer the priority. 

A combination of resignations and staffing cuts would soon follow the announcements, sources said, as the company focused all of its efforts and resources on DAML and building out the developer community around it and away from the blockchain platform it had failed to gain traction with. 

As for ASX, in August the exchange signed a three-party memorandum of understanding with Digital Asset and VMware to join forces for projects including overhauling CHESS and supporting DAML.

People who had been brought on to develop and sell platforms to large businesses now had completely new mandates, sources said.

While some employees were forced out as part of layoffs in the spring and summer, others left on their own accord.

"With the strategic re-shift, it's just like alright, we are playing in a different space now. Now we are in the selling to developers game. Now we are in the selling a language game and building a community game," the second former employee said. "This wasn't interesting to them, this new strategy. Also, I think the new strategy wasn't really conducive to a big workforce." 

As of Friday, Digital Asset has six job postings for its New York office on its website, along with seven other openings across its London, Zurich, Budapest, and Sydney office.  

The second former employee said the desire to raise additional investments for Digital Asset this year was partial motivation for the company to focus on DAML. 

"The initial feedback from investors was, 'Look, you guys are just doing too much without a product in the market,'" the second former employee said.

Following its initial $60 million venture round, Digital Asset had raised $7.2 million from ASX and then a $40 million in a Series B round led by Jefferson River Capital, the family office of Blackstone's executive vice chairman Tony James, in October 2017. Since then, however, there has been no announced fundraising. 

Over the same time, there was no shortage of money being invested into fintechs. Venture capital firms were forking over a record amount of cash to those looking to disrupt Wall Street in 2018 and 2019.

To be sure, all the former employees agreed a change in approach was required for Digital Asset. The initial approach it had taken wasn't panning out, they said, and a switch was needed. 

Since the announcements around DAML in April, Broadridge, an investor in Digital Asset, publicly explained its plans to use the programming language as part of a DLT-based repo platform it was building out. Swiss bank UBS also discussed an initiative using DAML for some structured products in Asia. 

That being said, the new business model isn't a sure thing, sources said. The fifth former employee with knowledge of the DAML strategy said the change in focus put Digital Asset on pace to be "much more useful, valuable," however, an open-source strategy made it difficult to assess profitability. 

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at ddefrancesco@businessinsider.com, Signal (646-768-1650) or direct message on Twitter @dandefrancesco.

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Trump touts '303,000' US job additions — more than double what the government reported in October

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 1:18pm

  • President Donald Trump appeared to falsely claim on Twitter Friday that the economy added more than 300,000 jobs in October.
  • The official employment report released just before showed a monthly payroll increase that was less than half of that. 
  • As he faces an impeachment inquiry ahead of his 2020 re-election bid, Trump has increasingly sought to paint a rosy picture of the economy.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump appeared to falsely claim Friday that the economy added more than 300,000 jobs in October. The official employment report released just before showed a monthly payroll increase that was less than half of that. 

"Wow, a blowout JOBS number just out, adjusted for revisions and the General Motors strike, 303,000," the president wrote on Twitter, though that number did not reflect labor market activity last month. "This is far greater than expectations. USA ROCKS!"

A half hour before that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the US added 128,000 nonfarm payrolls last month. The gain was stronger than expected and pointed to a solid labor market, but remained far below the figure the Trump administration had asserted. 

"Pretty easy," said White House spokesperson Judd Deere, when outlining how officials arrived at the inflated number. 

He said the administration added previous upward revisions to the October figure, even though those 95,000 jobs were created between August and September. 

Administration officials also incorporated 20,000 temporary federal workers who had left after they finished work for the 2020 Census. Asked why they counted positions that no longer existed, Deere responded: "How else would you take in revisions? Are you just supposed to ignore them?"

The remaining payrolls in the inflated figure were tacked on to account for a historic strike at General Motors, the White House said. The work stoppage shuttered factories for 40 days and temporarily left at least 50,000 out of work, according to the Labor Department. 

As he faces a rapidly-unfolding impeachment inquiry ahead of his 2020 re-election bid, Trump has increasingly sought to paint a rosy picture of the economy in recent weeks. 

"Stock Market up BIG!" Trump continued Friday morning. "Record highs for S&P 500 and NASDAQ. Enjoy!"

Now read: 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.'

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

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Dispensed: What happened in Vegas, tough times for Juul, and big microbiome bets

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 1:05pm

Hello,

Welcome to Dispensed, Business Insider's newsletter recapping the healthcare stories that kept us busy this week.

This week, I was treated to a much different "skyline" during my stay at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the HLTH conference. 

While there, I moderated a panel with healthcare investors and bankers, spoke onstage with Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis, attended an iconic Flo Rida concert — and of course picked up a lot of story ideas and tips. 

New to the newsletter? You can subscribe to Dispensed here. 

My week at HLTH

Already, I've pulled together the download on Google's health ambitions now that the Google Health team has been assembled under Dr. David Feinberg, who came to Google in January after a stint as the CEO of Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania.

From how I understand it, there are lots of ways Google can touch on the massive health industry, and it'll be Feinberg and his team's job to make sure that happens responsibly and accurately.

Coming out of the conference, I got the sense that a lot of folks embedded in the healthcare industry are skeptical of what big tech players — Facebook in particular — can do in healthcare. Companies like Facebook and Google are facing scrutiny for how they're using consumers' data, and with health information comes a higher bar. Whether tech companies can live up to those higher expectations remains to be seen. 

And I have the scoop on another massive funding round coming for primary care disruptors. This time, Iora Health is set to raise more than $100 million as it preps for 2020 and the addition of traditional Medicare patients to its model that charges a monthly fee to manage the care of patients on behalf of health plans, especially Medicare Advantage plans.

There also seemed to be a lot of interest around Walmart's new health clinics, which debuted in September. Walmart's vice president of health transformation Marcus Osbourne spoke onstage shortly after CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo, who also spoke about the company's health strategies via the HealthHUBs the company debuted earlier this year.

The presentations came a day after Walgreens announced it plans to close 150 of its health clinics, instead putting in Jenny Craig locations. It's one of those reminders that the retail clinic business hasn't fully been worked out just yet. 

Simultaneously, I had some interesting conversations about who wasn't present at the conference: Notably, there weren't many health systems around, nor was there a massive patient presence, as some have pointed out (a common theme at industry conferences).

The lack of many health systems with the presence of a number of retailers and newer care models that bring services outside the hospital has me wondering if health systems are ready for the new competitors — or if those retailers and new models are about to eat health systems' lunch.

Thoughts on that? Email me at lramsey@businessinsider.com. 

A tough week for Juul

Of course, outside the conference, news carried on. Especially, it was a week of reckoning for Juul, the Silicon Valley vaping company once valued at $38 billion. The company is facing a looming crackdown on its flavored pods. 

As always, Erin Brodwin, has the comprehensive timeline of Juul's tumultuous life as a company. You can get caught up here.

Following the downfall of uBiome, Erin looked around the health-tech industry to find the other microbiome bets that are still around. She rounded up a number of companies that are still working to target the community of microbes that live in and on us. 

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
  • Investors including Marc Benioff and Vinod Khosla still see the microbiome as a lucrative opportunity, despite several recent high-profile failures.
  • The microbiome refers to the community of bacteria living in and on us, most prominently in our gut.
  • One of the failures involved a $600 million company called uBiome, which shut down after months of challenges and setbacks.
  • Several other microbiome companies could find a way to capitalize on insights from our gut.

Before I shipped off to Vegas, I checked in with Alignment Healthcare, another player in the Medicare Advantage space (albeit, private-equity backed rather than venture-backed). At HLTH, I noticed that a lot of investors are keen to tap into the Medicare Advantage space, so will be curious to see what other kinds of bets are made there in the future. 

Alignment Healthcare raised $270 million to upend healthcare for seniors. CEO John Kao told us how it's taking on the red-hot Medicare Advantage market.
  • Alignment Healthcare provides health-insurance plans and services designed to help coordinate care, focused on Americans over age 65.
  • The company is backed by private-equity firms Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic.
  • Since its founding in 2013, the company's grown to 61,000 members, with plans to make $800 million in revenue in 2019.
  • Here's how it plans to keep growing in the competitive Medicare Advantage market, where it faces rivals like Humana, CVS Health's Aetna, and UnitedHealth.
Business Insider in conversation

We've had a lot of chats this week/listened into some interesting podcasts! Here's a recap.

If you're in NYC this weekend and watching the marathon, keep an eye out for my dad and me! We'll be running and blogging the marathon for Business Insider. Here's hoping our training paid off!

Tips? Reactions from a week at HLTH? Questions about our job postings? Post-marathon food recommendations? I'm at lramsey@businessinsider.com, and you can reach the whole team at healthcare@businessinsider.com. 

- Lydia 

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WeWork's toxic phone booths were created in-house by its 'Powered by We' business

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 5:57pm

  • 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.
  • The toxic phone booths were designed internally by WeWork and built by a contract manufacturer in China, multiple sources told us.
  • WeWork did not have detailed supply chain management systems in place to determine where the Chinese vendor sourced its materials, these people say.
  • WeWork originally created the phone booth design with high-end audio booth maker Studiobricks. But Studiobricks did not make the toxic phone booths installed in the US, the CEO told us.
  • Those problematic booths were an internal project under WeWork's "Powered by We" program, multiple people said, and came as the company was aggressively expanding into new locations and business ventures.
  • Read all of Business Insider's WeWork coverage here.

On July 31, one of WeWork's New York community managers took to the company's #buildingopen_badasses Slack channel and asked,"Has anyone experienced the 'off-gassing' (smell of chemicals) of the phone booths post openings? Have you addressed member concerns on the subject?"

Two other people replied offering ideas as to where the smell might be coming from, seemingly unfamiliar with the problem. But a few days later, in early August, another community manager replied. "yes! Been a major issue for us at 575 Lex."

That person was referring to the WeWork 575 Lexington Avenue building in Manhattan, leased in the fall of 2018, and opened earlier this year.

On October 14, two months after community managers were discussing the problem internally, tenants across the US and Canada received an email and saw signs posted across thousands of phone booths.

The signs warned them that the booths had "potentially elevated levels of formaldehyde," a chemical linked to cancer and known to cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

WeWork has said 2,300 phone books are being removed from locations across the US and Canada.

What WeWork didn't say, but what several sources close to the matter have confirmed to Business Insider, is that the toxic phone booths were not simply the result of a random shipment of defective office furniture — the booths were designed and contract manufactured by WeWork under its "Powered by We" program. 

They were a replication of designs created by the company in conjunction with high-end European audio booth maker Studiobricks. WeWork collaborated with Studiobricks to design phone booths last year, and the first shipment of the Studiobricks booths was installed in WeWork locations by September 2018, according to a post on Studiobricks' blog.

However, the phone booths that were contaminated with formaldehyde arrived later.

Although they looked almost identical, these booths were not made by Studiobricks, the Studiobricks CEO told Business Insider. They were built by a Chinese contract manufacturer, three people told Business Insider.

That Chinese company has since been shut down, these people said, and Business Insider was unable to determine its name. 

"Our booth is made in Spain, using all materials [that comply] with EU regulations. We are not buying anything, anything in China," said Studiobricks USA CEO Miguel Donoso-Cortes Esteve.

"We were working with WeWork on the design. It was a collaboration, a hybrid of our design and their design. Then they chose a different kind of company to manufacture that booth in China. We cannot complain about their using the design, as it is not our design, not patented," he added.

Studiobricks remains WeWork's phone booth partner for Europe, the Middle East and South Africa, Esteve said, but it has only installed 34 phone booths total in the United States.

WeWork declined to comment on its manufacturing process, the name of the Chinese contractor or the internal teams responsible, but a spokesperson told us:

"The safety and well-being of our members is our top priority. We regret the impact this issue has had on members at some of our locations, and we are working to remedy this situation as quickly as possible. Potentially impacted phone booths were taken out of service immediately and the full removal process will be completed soon."

Another person familiar with the situation said that the trouble seemed to come from the requirement to make the phone booths fireproof and the Chinese manufacturer's choice of glue. Business Insider has been unable to confirm that the glue was the source of the problem.

The 'hubris' of Powered by We

WeWork's choice to use a Chinese manufacturer was due to the company wanting to build booths as quickly as possible to meet demand as the company rapidly opened new locations throughout the US in 2019 and as it signed new enterprise customers, according to one of the sources.

The "Powered by We," program is responsible for custom-designing offices for larger companies including Softbank sister company Sprint.

New WeWork chairman Marcelo Claure, chairman of Sprint and COO of Softbank, told the WeWork troops last week. that Softbank's headquarters in Tokyo will be using this service, and he'll be pressing it on SoftBank's portfolio companies. 

However, under former CEO Adam Neumann, the program grew "hubris driven" when this team decided to sell additional services.

They "loved stuffing the Powered by We basket with random services that we are not good at like, HR consulting, random products which we're not good at building," one person said.

Because WeWork is a real estate management company, not a product manufacturer, it had no systems in place for supply chain management, this person said.

Other home grown products in the program, like standing desks, were so poorly manufactured they broke easily and had to be scrapped before being put in offices, sources told us.

Once the design team finished a design, they punted the project to the finance team to handle hiring vendors, another person, familiar with the process said.

When the phone booth problem emerged, WeWork didn't know, and couldn't easily track, the suppliers the Chinese manufacturer used.

So the people trying to determine what materials were used in phone booths couldn't easily determine that.

Pregnant women concerned

The problematic booths look nearly identical to the ones made in Europe by Studiobricks.

The best way to tell the Studiobricks phone booths from the Chinese look-alikes is to look for the Studiobricks logo on the side of phone booth.

The Chinese look-alikes do not have Studiobricks logo, nor do they have any other manufacturer's logo easily visible, one of the sources told Business Insider.

Business Insider heard from several pregnant woman who felt frustrated by the lack of information from WeWork.

"I joined a WeWork location this past January when I was newly pregnant, spent many hours during my pregnancy in the booths and had pregnancy complications that put me on modified bed rest this summer. I've asked the company to send me a list of phone booths affected so I can gauge my exposure and the timing," one woman told Business Insider, who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized by her company to speak.

WeWork did not give her such a list.

On October 28, in an email seen by Business Insider, the community team told a tenant that WeWork still plans to conduct additional tests:

"WeWork does plan to conduct additional sampled testing. But out of an abundance of caution, WeWork has removed all potentially impacted phone booths from service and is working to remove all potentially impacted phone booths from the premises as quickly as possible, and will share updates about this situation as soon as we're able.

If you have any health concerns, we encourage you to speak with a doctor."

Got a tip? Contact Julie Bort on Signal at (970) 430-6112 using a non-work phone, or email at jbort@businessinsider.com. Open DMs on Twitter @Julie188.  You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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Iora Health is looking to raise more than $100 million as it expands the reach of a new kind of medical clinic that charges a monthly fee

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 5:46pm

  • Iora Health, a startup that's created a new kind of clinic that charges a monthly fee, is seeking to raise new funds as it expands its reach, according to two sources familiar with the round. 
  • The round, which has not closed yet, is expected to bring in more than $100 million, according to the sources.
  • Iora works with "sponsors" — mainly employers or private health plans for the elderly (known as Medicare Advantage) — that cover a monthly fee for primary care. Iora also builds out care teams of nurses and other health professionals that can help the doctors within the practice.
  • Visit BI Prime for more stories.

Iora Health, a startup that's created a new kind of clinic focused on caring for the elderly, is raising a new round of funding to expand its reach, according to two sources familiar with the round. 

The round, which has not closed yet, is expected to bring in more than $100 million, according to the sources. They asked not to be identified because the information isn't yet public.

A spokesperson for Iora declined to comment.

The company most recently raised a $100 million series E round in May 2018. In total, it's raised more than $250 million from investors like GE Ventures, Flare Capital, F-Prime Capital, Khosla Ventures, Temasek Holdings, and Humana. 

The funding will help Iora expand its presence in the US and as it prepares to care for traditional Medicare patients in addition to those in private Medicare Advantage plans, following a new initiative from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to one of the sources.

Iora is already expanding its footprint across the US. Iora has more than 30 clinics, and it plans to open another 16 over the rest of 2019 in states such as North Carolina, Georgia, and Colorado, the company has said.

How Iora works

The company is helmed by CEO Rushika Fernandopulle, who 15 years ago had a radical idea.

A primary care doctor by training, he had been treating patients in the standard, insurance-backed way. But he started to realize that wasn't working, and insurance wasn't covering what he wanted to do for patients. 

"Working in the system, you have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to not realize that the system is broken," Fernandopulle, told Business Insider in an April interview

So he decided to create something new. The practice was initially called Renaissance Health and was based in Arlington, Massachusetts, outside of Boston.

There, Fernandopulle gave patients a proposition: He could charge them around $40-$50 a month and wouldn't take insurance. In return Fernandopulle could give them longer doctor's visits, follow-up calls, and more hands-on care to keep them healthier. 

Since then, Fernandopulle has gone on to found Iora Health, which works with "sponsors" — mainly employers or private health plans for the elderly (known as Medicare Advantage) — that cover a monthly fee for primary care. Iora also built out care teams of nurses and other health professionals that can help the doctors within the practice.

Iora says the approach is working. In one group of Medicare patients, Iora says it reduced hospital admissions by 50% and emergency room visits by 20% over 18 months.

Doctors care for a group of about 500 to 700 patients, depending on where they practice and the health of those patients.

Under the new CMS initiative, which is voluntary for doctors, companies such as Iora could stand to get more business from those in traditional Medicare plans. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said in April that it's expecting to include about 25% of Medicare participants in the new model, or nearly 11 million people. 

The changing way people are going to their doctor

Iora is one of a number of new primary care models looking to change the way we go to the doctor. 

Over the past few years, models like venture-backed Iora Health, family-owned ChenMed, and private-equity-backed Oak Street Health have picked up steam in their approaches to caring for elderly Americans, boosted by the growth of private Medicare plans, attracting hundreds of millions in funding. 

And venture-backed primary care startup One Medical is reportedly gearing up for an initial public offering, which could determine whether public markets are as interested in the model. 

And others are taking note. For instance, health systems including Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare and Pennsylvania-based Geisinger are taking similar approaches with some of their primary-care doctors. The federal government is planning to pay for care for some Medicare patients in a similar way too.

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I raised my credit score by 134 points in less than a year thanks to 7 steps

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 5:19pm

  • At the beginning of the year, I had a credit score of 568 out of 850, a score lenders would consider to be bad, and which wouldn't secure me favorable rates.
  • To increase my score, I started by figuring out exactly how much credit card debt I had and where, and created myself a digital budget using a spreadsheet.
  • Then, I checked my credit score, fixed an error, decided beforehand how I'd divvy up my monthly paychecks, reined in the spending, increased my credit card payments, and took on a side hustle to make more money to put toward my debt.
  • Now, my score is 702, and I plan to keep building it even more.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Less than a year ago, I was overweight and unmotivated, with a credit score of 568 — which Credit Karma, VantageScore, and FICO all rate as "bad." I had reached "my bottom" and aggressively changed things — not only have I lost 30 pounds, but I've raised my credit score 134 points to 702, which is means my credit score is now considered "good." 

I'm not entirely sure if the two major changes were correlated or not, but they both certainly improved my life in ways that felt impossible beforehand. The process of raising my credit score well over 100 points can be narrowed down to seven steps: 

1. I did a self-audit 

In January, the first thing I did was examine my credit cards, auto loan, grad school loan, and various personal debts. Here's what my credit card debt looked like at the beginning of the year:

January 2019

  1. PNC Core: $6,323.57 — 4% APR
  2. American Express: $4,520 — 21.49% APR
  3. Bank of America: $3,012.58 — 22.74% APR
  4. Chase Slate: $1,817.47 — 24.74% APR
  5. Best Buy: $1,580.76 — 26.99% APR
  6. PayPal MasterCard: $696 — 28.74% APR
  7. Macy's: $392.83 — 27.49% APR
  8. Target RED Card: $244.51 — 24.9% APR
  9. Victoria's Secret: $41.21 — 26.99% APR

All together, that came out to $18,628.93 (down from my one-time high of about $23,000). 

October 2019 

  1. PNC Core — $4,604 ($1,719.57 less)
  2. American Express — $228 ($4,292 less)
  3. Bank of America — $2,671 ($341.58 less)
  4. Chase Slate — $1,524.60 ($292.87 less)
  5. Best Buy — $1,311 ($269.76 less)
  6. PayPal MasterCard — $0($696 less)
  7. Macy's — $0 ($392.83 less)
  8. Target RED Card — $0 ($244.51 less)
  9. Victoria's Secret — $63 ($21.79 more)

My new total credit card total is $10,401.60 — I paid off $8,227.33 in 10 months.

As for my car loan, I paid it off in May 2019. (When I checked in December, my Honda Civic had $1,582 left of my $16,000 auto loan. Thanks to my monthly payments of $259.26, I was able to pay that off in about six months.)  

The majority of my debt is wrapped up in grad school loans. At the beginning of the year, the balance was $32,304.84, and currently, the total is $31,918.58, or just $386.26 less. 

Thanks to my massive self-audit, I discovered that I was $52,515.77 in debt between my credit cards, school, and auto loan. 

2. I created a digital budget 

Next, my fiancé helped me put everything into Google Sheets: all my credit card balances, monthly bills, and upcoming expenses. He created formulas that showed how much money I had left over each month after paying my bills. 

This was a game-changer for me. Having everything in one digital place made it easy to adjust my fluctuating expenses each month (if say, I chose a different amount to pay towards my various credit cards). It also gave me immediate accountability since Johnny knew my goals, debts, and expenses. 

3. I checked my credit score

When I checked my credit score on January 10, it was 568. Ten months later, it rose 134 points to 702. Half of those points came from the most surprising thing of all:

I was casually perusing my Credit Karma app one night in May when I noticed that I had a $12,000 balance under a Discover account. This freaked me out because I closed my Discover account more than a decade ago. 

A Discover operator told me that I was an authorized user on a family member's account. They immediately removed me and the next day, my credit score went up 50 points

4. I take payday very seriously

My company pays its employees once a month. As soon as I get paid, I do the following religiously: 

  • I pay $1,200 towards my credit cards — I pay the most on my higher balances. (Before, when paying the minimum balance, interest quickly ate up my progress.) 
  • I strategize how much I pay towards each card; here's what I paid in October: 
    • $772 towards American Express (21.49% APR) — which used to be one of my largest balances. 
    • $173 towards PNC Core (4% APR). The only reason I don't pay more towards the $4,604 balance is that it has such a low interest rate.
    • $90 towards Bank of America (22.74%) 
    • $60 towards Chase Slate (24.74%) 
    • $55 towards Best Buy (26.99%) 
  • I pay more than the minimum (even if only by a few dollars).  
  • I check Credit Karma at least once a month because it keeps me on track and helps me identify red flags. 
  • I update my credit card balances in Google Sheets, which always motivates me to keep paying off my debt. 
5. I stopped getting more into debt

This past February, Johnny and I enrolled in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. That's also when I stopped using my credit cards

Even when I paid off several credit cards (Target, Macy's, and PayPal), I kept my account active to show lenders that I can be responsible with my credit by only utilizing a small percentage of my overall credit limits. 

6. I increased the size of my credit card payments

In 2018, I earmarked $300 each month for my credit card debt. I increased that to $915 in February, then $1,200 in June (after my car loan was paid off). 

7. I started a side gig

Saving $1,200 a month for credit card debt isn't easy, especially when planning a wedding. Taking on freelance writing has helped me bring in an extra $200 to $1,200 each month. 

I want to buy a house in a few years, but with a "bad" credit score, that would have been difficult. Thanks to the above seven steps, my credit score has been improving like crazy. Hopefully, I'll be much closer to a score of 850 in another year. 

Join the conversation about this story »

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Here's the pitch deck that Silicon Valley startup Crunchbase used to convince investors it could put an end to corporate websites and jobs pages

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 4:49pm

Corporate websites and job pages might soon be relics, not unlike the personal-résumé websites that predated LinkedIn. 

That's the vision CEO Jager McConnell is selling with Crunchbase, a database of corporate information like jobs and revenue run rates for private companies. These figures are easily searchable for public companies on databases like Bloomberg or Reuters but are heavily guarded by privately funded startups of all stripes.

"We are the backbone of private-company information on the internet," McConnell told Business Insider.

The going price for the next Bloomberg? At least $30 million in Series C funding tied to an undisclosed valuation, which the startup announced on Thursday. OMERS Ventures led the round, with participation from Emergence, Mayfield, Cowboy Ventures, and Verizon. The startup has raised more than $57 million since spinning out of Verizon/AOL in 2015.

Crunchbase is not the only company that aggregates data about private companies. Its premium priced competitor PitchBook is another.

But part of Crunchbase's appeal, McConnell said, is its freemium model used by "most" of its 55 million users. It's a one-stop shop for job postings, corporate information, and diversity statistics that are typically touted on a corporate blog. Those sites are too reactive, he said, because they wait for candidates or investors to land on them, not unlike his personal-résumé website that he ditched for LinkedIn years later.

"Companies are going to put themselves on Crunchbase because everything is already there, and all these users are already looking for them on Crunchbase," McConnell said. "I don't need to focus on SEO to help people find my website anymore."

But he acknowledges that the corporate site won't ever completely go away but will be more akin to a company's Instagram profile in that it almost exclusively persists for marketing and branding purposes. 

Here's the pitch deck McConnell used to convince investors that Crunchbase could usurp corporate websites and make SEO a thing of the past.

SEE ALSO: Direct listings won't save tech's flopping IPOs, a former DFJ investor said. But debt can, so he started a $100 million debt-financing company to save the next unicorns.



























Jeff Bezos got a jump scare, but he'll be back

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 4:42pm

Happy Halloween and welcome to this week's edition of Trending.

If you're new here, I'm Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider's West Coast Bureau Chief and Global Tech Editor, and this newsletter is where I highlight the best of BI Prime's tech coverage every week. 

If you're not yet a subscriber to Trending, BI Prime's tech newsletter, you can sign up here.

This week: Amazon gets the biggest jump scare of its life

Who could blame Jeff Bezos if he jumped out of his seat in terror when the Pentagon announced the winner of the vaunted $10 billion JEDI cloud contract?

The deal was all but assured to go to Amazon, but somehow, Microsoft came out of nowhere and ran away with the prize. 

It's been a lengthy and hard knuckle process — one analyst called it the "nastiest bakeoff I've seen for a technology deal in 20 years covering tech" — with big egos, big stakes and even speculation about a Donald Trump vendetta. 

But two things are clear: 

1. Oracle's "zombie" strategy was critical to Microsoft's victory.

As Ben Pimentel explains, Oracle was eliminated fom the running early on but it refused to die, swarming the Pentagon with protests and legal challenges. That slowed down the government's selection process, giving Microsoft the extra time it needed to improve its offering and catch up to Amazon. And thanks to a June cloud partnership that Oracle struck with Microsoft, Oracle stands to share some of the spoils — at least indirectly — of Microsoft victory.

2. This isn't over.

Anyone who knows Bezos knows that he doesn't give up easily. This deal is worth way too much for Amazon to go quietly —not just for the lost business it represents, but because it signifies that Microsoft is now at the same level as Amazon in the all-important cloud business. As Ashley Stewart and Ben Pimentel report, Amazon is weighing a number of options. That could mean anything from an administrative challenge to a lawsuit. Or maybe Bezos has a surprise of his own in the works.

Read the full story here: Oracle failed to derail the Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI contract, but it still ended up a winner in Microsoft's upset victory over Amazon The "other" kind of tech company

Silicon Valley has earned a reputation for left-leaning politics. That's made Palantir, the Peter Thiel-founded big data company, an outlier in the region. And if you travel south, into Southern California's Irvine, you'll find another Thiel-affiliated startup that breaks the mold. 

Anduril is backed by Thiel's Founders Fund, and counts Oculus founder and Trump supporter Palmer Luckey among its founders. But as Melia Russell reports in a fascinating profile about the company, Anduril's CEO is a "lifelong Democrat." 

Anduril's products, which include high-tech watchtowers that can detect migrants crossing the border from Mexico, will be relevant in any administration, CEO Brian Schimpf argues. And with China getting serious about AI, US companies can't afford to fall behind developing certain kinds of technology.

Whether you agree with that or not, Schimpf is worth paying attention to. The 35-year-old CEO embodies the conflicting impulses and motivations currently roiling the tech industry. In Silicon Valley, the twin tenets of changing the world and making a fortune are no longer in harmony. At Anduril, they are perfectly aligned.

"People know what they signed up for here," says Schimpf.

Read the full story here: A major Trump supporter has a $1 billion startup building drone destroyers and a virtual border wall. Here's why a 'lifelong Democrat' took the job of running it. A Quantum quarrel

In the age of Twitter, it's not unusual to see corporations and their execs get into public squabbles.

But there was something remarkable about the feud that erupted last week between two tech giants last week. Google announced a breakthrough in the field of quantum computing, the kind of news that would typically be greeted with cheers throughout the research community. But in a striking breach of decorum, IBM publicly pooh-poohed Google's accomplishment, insisting that Google had not truly achieved "quantum supremacy." 

As Rosalie Chan reports, this may seem like an academic dispute but it really shows how seriously the tech industry now takes quantum computing. Once deemed the stuff of science fiction, quantum computing is now getting closer to reality. And given quantum's potential to upend the major markets, the companies are prepared to fight for it.

Read the full story here: IBM picked a fight with Google over its claims of 'quantum supremacy.' Here's why experts say the feud could shake up the tech industry's balance of powers.

Other recent tech highlights: And more from across the BI newsroom:

As always, I'm eager for your feedback, thoughts, and tips — you can email me at aoreskovic@businessinsider.com. And if you like this newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues they sign up here to receive it.

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NOW WATCH: 8 weird robots NASA wants to send to space

7 of the world's most haunted castles and mansions — and a look at their dark histories

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 4:40pm

Some of the most haunted places in the world give us a deeper look into the history of past cultures.

From Château de Trécesson in France (supposedly haunted by a young woman who was believed to be buried alive on the premises) to Morgan House in India (said to still be visited by the spectral, tortured wife who once lived there), these locations are not only home to alleged ghosts, but also to the legends that have been passed down for decades — or even centuries.

It's no wonder why these locations hold such an allure for travelers. They offer not just goosebumps or a set of cold shivers down the spine, but the chance to feel a connection with souls who came before — the people who walked in a land before our time.

And if not that — well, then at least for a pretty solid Instagram picture. 

Here are some of the most haunted, once-opulent former residences in the world.

SEE ALSO: The dark history behind Halloween is even more chilling than you realized

DON'T MISS: The 20 US cities with the most Halloween stores

Beijing, China — Chaonei No. 81, or "Chaonei Church," is noted as being "Beijing's most celebrated haunted house." While no records exist that explain why the home was built, there have been numerous disappearances associated with the property.

At the entrance of Chaonei No. 81 is a notice stating that there are no ghosts on the property. But popular legends say otherwise. 

One of the most common tales is about the mistress of a government official who died by suicide in the home, after the official left her during the Communist war. She is said to now haunt the property. 

Another legend purports that the home was actually commissioned by a British priest who intended for it to be a church, but who went missing before the construction was ever completed. 

Then, there are the three drunk construction workers who disappeared on the property, according to the Vintage News. The three workers were actually in the building next door, when they decided to break through the wall which separated their building from the Chaonei home. They were reportedly never seen again. 

Source: Abandoned Spaces, The Vintage News, The New York Times



Brittany, France — The Château de Trécesson is said to be haunted by a woman who was buried alive on the property.

The legend goes that a thief had been lurking around the Château de Trécesson and spotted two people digging a hole. Then, the two people dragged a young woman, dressed in a bridal gown, and threw her body into the hole. 

The thief ran home and told his wife about what he'd seen, claiming that he'd overheard the two people saying they'd buried the young woman alive because she had "dishonored" her family. His wife told him to run back and save the young woman, but once he returned, the young bride was already dead. 

Source: The Local



Kalimpong, India — Morgan House is said to be haunted by one Ms. Morgan, who died in the home and was reportedly tortured by her husband prior to her death.

Morgan House was once occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Morgan, who lived on the property shortly after getting married.

The legend states that Mr. Morgan used to torture his wife, causing her to fall into a state of sorrow and unhappiness. Eventually, Mrs. Morgan died, and Mr. Morgan abandoned the property. 

For decades, the home was in a state of disrepair, until the Indian government took control of it. Now, it's run as a boutique hotel, though people still report hearing the tapping of Mrs. Morgan's heels in the hallways.

Source: Times of India



Toronto, Ontario — Casa Loma has ghost stories dating back to the 1930s.

This castle was built by businessman Sir Henry Pellatt in 1914 for his wife, Lady Mary Pellatt. 

Today, visitors and staff workers at the castle report seeing apparitions, being touched by unseen figures, and even hearing disembodied voices around the property. 

The castle is said to be haunted by several ghosts, one of which is known as "The White Lady"; she is believed to have been a maid on the property in the early 1900s.

Then, there are the tunnels underneath the property, in which guests have reported speaking to and otherwise interacting with another ghost. Reports say that the formerly-alive person in the tunnel was a friend of Sir Henry, who was hired to look after his horses. 

There have also been rumored sightings of Sir Henry and his wife Lady Mary themselves. People say they've spotted Henry glaring out of the windows on the second floor, and Mary, who has been noted for turning off the cameras of those who have tried to capture a snapshot of her in the afterlife.

Source: Curbed, Toronto.com



Batu Gajah, Malaysia — Kellie’s Castle is considered one of the most haunted places in Malaysia.

Construction of Kellie's Castle began in 1915 but ceased in 1926 after its owner, William Kellie Smith, died. Soon after, the castle was sold off, and fell into a state of disrepair.

Ever since, his spirit is said to haunt the second floor of the castle, and a young girl, believed to be his daughter, has also supposedly been seen around the property. During WWII, Japanese soldiers were said to have executed prisoners on the castle grounds, leaving an eerie, unsettling vibe as one enters the property. 

Source: SCMP



Bogota, Colombia — The Casa de la Poesia is said to be haunted by the poet who once lived there.

Now a museum, Casa de la Poesia (literally "House of Poetry") was once home to poet Jose Asuncion Silva.

Tragically, he died by suicide on the property in 1896, according to The Culture Trip. Ever since, people passing the property have reported hearing moans and whispering coming from within. 

Source: The Culture Trip



County Offaly, Ireland — Charleville Castle is thought to be one of the most haunted places in all of Europe.

Charleville Castle dates back to 1798 when it was built for Earl of Charleville William Bury and his family. It remained in the family until 1963 when Charles Bury "suddenly dropped dead."

Today, people report hearing disembodied voices and classical music throughout the property. Visitors have claimed that sounds of children playing fill the air in the room that was once a nursery, and the apparition of a young girl named Harriet has been spotted in the stairwell.

Harriet died in the 1800s while she was playing on the stairwell; legend has it that a little girl can be heard giggling and talking, and has even moved furniture. 

The castle was reportedly built on ancient land where religious leaders once convened. The current owners of the property say they've seen hooded figures walking around on the castle grounds. 

Source: Irish Central



A woman who studied 600 millionaires discovered that most of the superrich have surprisingly affordable homes. Here's what some of those look like.

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 3:35pm

The key to building wealth? Living in a home you can easily afford.

That's according to Sarah Stanley Fallaw, the director of research for the Affluent Market Institute. She's an author of "The Next Millionaire Next Door: Enduring Strategies for Building Wealth," in which she surveyed more than 600 millionaires in America.

She found that no factor plays as big a role in accumulating money as where you choose to live. Most of the millionaires she studied had never purchased a home that cost more than triple their annual income. Even some high-profile, ultra-rich people — from Mark Zuckerberg to Serena Williams — have purchased homes well below their means.

To compile the list below, we compared each person's net worth with the cost of their homes. We didn't have the data to determine their net worth at the time of purchase, so we adjusted the house purchase price for inflation using an inflation calculator to compare that with their net worth today.

For example, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett bought his home in 1958 for $31,500. Adjusted for inflation, that's equivalent to $274,357 in today's dollars, or just 0.0003% of his $82.1 billion net worth.

Everyone on this list owns a home that cost less than 5% of their net worth.

SEE ALSO: A woman who studied 600 millionaires discovered where you choose to live has 2 effects on your ability to build wealth

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Sarah Stanley Fallaw, the director of research for the Affluent Market Institute, studied more than 600 millionaires for her book, "The Next Millionaire Next Door: Enduring Strategies for Building Wealth."

Source: "The Next Millionaire Next Door"



She found that your neighborhood plays a huge role in how much you save and spend.

Source: "The Next Millionaire Next Door"



If you live in a pricey home in an affluent neighborhood, you're more likely to mirror your neighbor's consumption habits and less likely to accumulate wealth over time.

Source: "The Next Millionaire Next Door"



She found that most millionaires live in a home they can easily afford, allowing them to save more money.

Source: "The Next Millionaire Next Door"



Consider Warren Buffett, who lives in a modest home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he bought in 1958 for $31,500, or $274,357 in today's dollars.

Source: Business Insider



That's 0.0003% of his $82.1 billion net worth.

Source: Forbes



As of 2017, the home was worth an estimated $652,619. He called it the "third-best investment" he's ever made.

Source: Business Insider



It's 6,570 square feet, with five bedrooms and 2-1/2 bathrooms.

Source: Business Insider



It's also guarded by fences and security cameras.

Source: Business Insider



Meanwhile, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh lives in a Las Vegas trailer park called "Llamapolis" that he created in 2014 as part of his efforts to revitalize the city.

Source: Business Insider



Llamapolis, which was inspired by the Burning Man festival, is home to 30 Airstream trailers and tiny houses.

Source: Business Insider



The cost of Airstream trailers ranges from $25,900 to $139,900. The most expensive option — $148,750, adjusted for inflation — is just 0.02% of Hsieh's $840 million net worth.

Source: Wired, Washington Post



Aptly named, Llamapolis is also home to Hsieh's pet alpacas, which (usually) live in a pen.

Source: Business Insider



Hsieh previously told Business Insider his favorite aspect of living in the park was impromptu interactions with his neighbors.

Source: Business Insider



Hseih said he founded Llamapolis "because I wanted to maximize serendipity and randomness in my life."

Source: Business Insider



Mark Zuckerberg lives in a home equal to 0.01% of his wealth. He paid $7 million for a house in Palo Alto in 2011, equivalent to $7.8 million today. While that's not an outright modest number, it is modest for a man worth $71.1 billion.

Source: Forbes, Business Insider



It comes with a big backyard and a pool ...

Source: Business Insider



... and lush, detailed landscaping.

Source: Business Insider



Inside, the house has tons of windows for sunlight ...

Source: Business Insider



... a bathroom with a tub and separate sinks ...

Source: Business Insider



... and a spacious kitchen.

Source: Business Insider



Evan Spiegel also lives in California. He purchased the Los Angeles house he shares with Miranda Kerr, his wife, in 2016 for $12 million, or $12.6 million adjusted for inflation. That's 0.57% of his $2.2 billion net worth.

Source: Business Insider, Forbes



The house used to belong to Harrison Ford.

Source: Business Insider



At 7,164 square feet, the house has an open floor plan with plenty of sunshine ...

Source: Business Insider



... a dining room, a library with dark-gray wood ...

Source: Business Insider



... and a kitchen with marble accents.

Source: Business Insider



The backyard overlooks the city.

Source: Business Insider



Meanwhile, over in Beverly Hills is Serena Williams' home that she bought in 2017 for $6.7 million, or $6.9 million in today's dollars, only 3.8% of her reported $180 million net worth.

Source: Business Insider, Celebrity Net Worth



The 6,000-square-foot, three-story Spanish-style residence sits on a quarter-acre lot in a gated community.

Source: Business Insider



It has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and a light and airy feel.

Source: Business Insider



The floors are brushed oak, and the kitchen — which opens out onto a veranda — has marble countertops.

Source: Business Insider



There's also a lower-level bonus room, complete with a glass-front wine cellar.

Source: Business Insider



Outside, the grassy backyard has a built-in grilling station and a swimming pool.

Source: Business Insider



Williams isn't the only sports star living in a relatively affordable home. Shaquille O'Neal's $21.9 million Florida home, which sits on 700 feet of lakefront property in a gated Orlando community, was on the market in January.

Source: Business Insider



He bought the house in 1993 for a little less than $4 million, or $6.9 million in today's dollars. That's 1.7% of his $400 million net worth.

Source: Business Insider, NBC Sports



The home has 12 bedrooms spread across 35,000 square feet.

Source: Business Insider



The entryway features a curved double grand staircase and polished marble floors, leading into the 1,170-square-foot great room.

Source: Business Insider



The master suite has a spacious walk-in closet, a mirrored wall, a gilded ceiling, and expansive views of the lake.

Source: Business Insider



O'Neal's home also has many additional rooms, like a recording studio, a 17-car garage, a cigar bar and lounge, a home theater, and, of course, an indoor basketball court.

Source: Business Insider



The outside is just as impressive, with a 95-foot-long, 15-foot-deep swimming pool and waterfall, space for barbecuing, and a cabana.

Source: Business Insider





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