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Bernie Sanders has made $1.75 million in book royalties since 2016 — but he's still one of the least wealthy US senators. Here's what we know about his finances and assets.

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 7:02pm  |  Clusterstock

Sen. Bernie Sanders has a double-digit lead over the other Democratic presidential candidates in two national polls.

Sanders, a self-declared Democratic socialist known for his harsh criticism of income inequality in the US, has been known as one of the least wealthy members of Congress

He earns a yearly salary of $174,000 as a senator, and his total reported assets were less than $750,000 in 2015. But in both 2016 and 2017, Sanders earned more than $1 million, primarily because of royalties from his books, financial-disclosure documents show.

The Vermont senator could be worth as much as $2 million, according to the financial website The Street — although his exact wealth is unknown. The senator's office did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment on his net worth.

Here's what we know about Sanders' wealth and assets.

SEE ALSO: Michael Bloomberg is the richest person ever to run for president. Here's how the former New York City mayor makes and spends his $64 billion fortune.

DON'T MISS: Elizabeth Warren and her husband are worth an estimated $12 million. Here's a look at the lifestyle, finances, and real-estate portfolio of one of the leading Democratic presidential candidates.

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator running for president, has been known as one of the least wealthy members of Congress.

"Congress is a special, elite set," Viveca Novak, the editorial and communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics, told NPR in 2015. "Most members of Congress are millionaires."

In 2015, the median net worth of a senator was $3.2 million, a report by Quartz found.



The Vermont senator could be worth as much as $2 million, according to the financial website The Street, but his exact wealth is unknown.

Sanders makes $174,000 a year as a senator and his total reported assets amounted to less than $750,000 in 2015, which made him the 77th-wealthiest senator that year.

The richest senator is Democrat Mark Warner from Virginia, who was worth a minimum of $90 million and a maximum of $402 million in 2016, the most recent year for which the center tracks data.

Lawmakers' precise net worths are difficult to determine because the financial disclosure forms don't require lawmakers to submit exact values, only the value of their assets within a range.



In his early political years, Sanders likely didn't accumulate much of a fortune.

He served as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from 1981 to 1989, a position that earned him about $33,700 per year.

He previously worked as a carpenter, a documentary filmmaker, and a writer.



However, the senator's income has seen a jump in the past few years.

Sanders made more than $1 million for the first time in 2016, largely thanks to book royalties, which earned him about $868,000 that year, according to Senate Financial Disclosures.



He released "Our Revolution" in November 2016 and "Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution" in August 2017.

The next year, in 2017, Sanders made about $1.06 million, and more than $880,000 of that came from book royalties.



Sanders and his wife, Jane, reportedly own three homes.

He and his wife bought a four-bedroom house in Chittenden County, Vermont, for $405,000 in 2009, for which they obtained a $324,000 mortgage, according to The Wall Street Journal.



The senator also owns a one-bedroom townhouse in Washington, DC, that he bought in 2007 for $488,999.

It spans roughly 900 square feet and sits just a few blocks from the US Capitol.



In 2016, Sanders and his wife bought an 1,800-square-foot house on the shore of Lake Champlain in Vermont for $575,000.

Jane Sanders told the Burlington Free Press at the time that the home purchase was funded by a variety of sources: She sold her share in her family's longtime vacation home in Maine to her brother for $150,000 and borrowed some money from her retirement account. The couple also used an advance from a book her husband was writing.



4 places to put your tax refund so your money grows with little to no effort

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 6:21pm  |  Clusterstock

Getting a tax refund can quickly reverse the dread that hovers over tax season. 

By the second week of February — a mere two weeks into filing season — the IRS had already paid out billions of dollars in tax refunds, according to filing statistics, with the average taxpayer receiving $1,952.

If you're expecting a refund this year, chances are you've fantasized about how you'll spend it. If you don't need the money to pay outstanding bills or high-interest debt, there are a few smart ways you can put the money to work. 

1. High-yield savings account

High-yield savings accounts are ideal for storing cash you need (or may need) in the short-term, like for a down payment, a new car, a home repair, self-employment taxes, or travel expenses. Sure, you could keep the money in a checking account, but you'll see negligible growth and you may even be tempted to spend it. 

The best high-yield savings accounts don't charge monthly fees and earn 15 to 20 times more interest on your money than a traditional savings account. You can use your tax refund to boost an existing savings goal or open a new account to get a big head start on the next one. Either way, rest easy knowing that your money is growing safely.

2. Certificate of Deposit (CD)

A worthy alternative to high-yield savings is a certificate of deposit, or CD. For money you don't need access to immediately, a CD is a smart way to earn even more on your tax windfall by locking in an interest rate for anywhere from three months to five years.

Generally, a CD should be fee-free and as easy to open as any checking or savings account. In addition to considering the interest rate, also look at minimum deposit requirements and penalties for early withdrawals, which are typically equal to the interest you've earned up to that point.

With that said, choose your term wisely. If you intend to spend the money at a specific point in the future, make sure your term is up before you need the cash.

3. IRA

If you're thinking long-term, consider putting your tax refund toward your retirement goal. If you have a retirement account through work that's funded with pre-tax contributions, you won't be able to add your refund to that account, but an IRA works just as well.

IRAs are tax-advantaged investment accounts that come in two varieties: traditional and Roth. The former allows you to deduct your contributions on your tax return until you reach a certain income level, while the latter is for after-tax contributions and tax-deferred growth. In 2020, you can contribute up to a total of $6,000 to a traditional IRA and Roth IRA, plus an extra $1,000 if you're over age 50. 

One valuable benefit of an IRA is that you're able to fund your account for the previous year all the way up to the tax deadline. That means if you didn't max out your 2019 contribution limit, you can still put money in an IRA before April 1 and count it toward last year's limit, and then contribute an additional $6,000 for 2020.

4. Brokerage account

A brokerage account is a good way to level up your investments. If you make regular retirement contributions and the money you need for short-term goals is accessible in other accounts, you might consider investing your tax refund in the market. 

The opportunity for growth in an investment account is far beyond a savings account. Plus, the money is generally more liquid than if it were tied up in a retirement account. Keep in mind that there will be an element of risk no matter what you invest in, but choosing the right allocation of stocks and bonds can help mitigate it.

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Hedge funds are reportedly reducing ties with the family that owns opioid-maker Purdue Pharma

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 5:31pm  |  Clusterstock

A Wall Street Journal report said two hedge funds are distancing themselves from the controversial Sackler family, the owner of the opioid maker Purdue Pharma LP, which faces thousands of lawsuits for its alleged role in spurring on the opioid epidemic. 

DeepCurrents Investment Group LLC and Sunriver Management LLC have returned some funds to the investment firm Kokino LLC, a family office owned by the Sacklers, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. 

Sunriver, an almost $600 million hedge fund that was among the top-performing in 2019, told investors in a letter that it had relocated from its former offices, which were owned by the Sackler family and the headquarters of Purdue, The Journal reported. People familiar with the matter told The Journal that the move was motivated in part by a want among the fund's leaders to cut back ties with the Sackler family. Kokino's investment in the fund can be as much as 20% of assets under management, though that is a decrease for the firm, which was an early investor in Sunriver, The Journal reported. 

A person close to Kokino told The Journal that the family office wanted to diversify its investments. DeepCurrents declined to comment on the redemption to the Journal. 

"We're disappointed The Wall Street Journal inaccurately reported, after two weeks of providing the writer with detailed factual information that refutes statements in the article," a Sackler family representative told Markets Insider. 

The Sackler name fell under intense scrutiny in 2019 amid lawsuits that allege the family's company, which makes OxyContin, and some individual members of the family itself, played key roles in marketing the opioid aggressively to the public.

The family has denied any wrongdoing and is fighting the charges. So is Purdue. They reached a partial settlement in September with some of the states and cities suing them, which called for the Sacklers to contribute at least $3 billion to settle the charges and surrender ownership of Purdue, The Journal reported. But not all states agreed to the deal, and many of those that did, did not say the Sacklers should pay more, according to The Journal. 

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Meanwhile, there's a broader exodus afoot. Institutions including Columbia University, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Metroplitain Museum of Art have reviewed, reduced, or halted their philanthropic donations from the Sacklers since January 2019. 

Within the financial industry, the move by DeepCurrent and Sunriver brings the total count of funds distancing themselves from the Sacklers in light of the opioid crisis to four, according to The Journal. Hildene Capital Management and Balter Capital Management both gave back some Sackler money within the past year.

Management at Sunriver said it believes that will help the fund to garner new clients and limit the reputational hazard of a close affiliation with the Sacklers, according to The Journal report. A client of Sunriver told The Journal that he had heard the fund had conversations with investors who were wary of investing with a firm tied to the Sacklers.

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Insiders explain how fractional-share trading went from fringe to must-have — and who's actually doing it in an industry where everyone wants to be an early mover

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 4:46pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The rise of self-directed fractional-share trading is a product of the fiercely competitive, margin-pressured environment that startup and legacy brokerages alike are operating in today.
  • Players like Robinhood, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab have raced to announce their own offerings — marketed largely at customers still building up wealth — in recent months, or have hinted at launches it in the press. 
  • At a moment when every last bell and whistle is a differentiator in a zero-commission moment, brokerages have been plowing resources into building out fractional-share trading. 
  • We spoke with nearly a dozen insiders and execs about the feature's rise in mainstream retail investing to understand who wins, who loses, and what it says about the industry today.
  • Visit BI Prime for more stories.

Life moves fast in the discount brokerage universe, where every announcement and product launch sparks a new arms race.

The chain reactions can be swift. Interactive Brokers said last September it would roll out a zero-commission trading offering for US stocks and ETFs, a move that's eaten into the firm's revenue. Competitors raced to match it. 

Rivals came out with their own announcements in the days that followed, spurring sharp share price moves in brokerage names. It ultimately upended the industry, culminating in Charles Schwab's announcement weeks later that it planned to buy TD Ameritrade in the largest brokerage deal on record.

A similar domino effect is playing out across the business, with buzz and fast follows around another move aimed at a generation of customers still building up wealth: fractional-share trading.

At a time when some of the most popular stocks are at all-time highs, fractional-share trading allows customer exposure to companies they might not typically be able to afford whole shares in. Consider shares of Amazon, trading this week north of $2,000.

To be sure, trading stock slivers has been available in different forms for years, mainly via dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs.)

But for the first time, firms are executing fractional share trades in real-time, versus a complex trading method that firms typically carried out once a day. Interactive Brokers, Robinhood and Fidelity have launched a real-time offering in recent months.

Charles Schwab, the biggest publicly-traded discount broker, has said its set to introduce fractional shares in the spring, but has not elaborated on its plans. 

But unlike zero-commission trades, this battle didn't involve just a price tag — it adds a layer of complexity for the brokerages and potential added costs to capture what are by nature relatively small-dollar trades, which could cost customers as little as a dollar.

"When the client goes in and says, 'I want to buy some Apple,' they're clicking the dollar button instead of shares when they place the trade. They're choosing to transact in that way," Scott Ignall, the head of retail brokerage at Fidelity, told us. "We think it's a really powerful piece of functionality, and we're seeing people vote with their feet on that."

As opposed to axing online trading commissions, trading fractional shares in real-time has required a heavier lift — and spend. Firms are either taking the splitting up of shares on themselves, or working with firms like DriveWealth and Apex Clearing, while big market makers steer clear for the time being. 

We spoke with nearly a dozen insiders and executives about the feature's rise in mainstream retail investing to understand who wins, who loses, and what it says about the industry today. 

Targeting a younger demo 

Fidelity, the privately held, Boston-based financial services behemoth, said in late January that it would immediately begin rolling out real-time fractional share trading.

In an interview, Fidelity's Ignall said his team began building out the capability in summer 2019, months before it announced zero-commission trades, and that the two features were unrelated. He called the feature a "break-even" operation, adding that the firm does not intend to generate revenue from the fractional trades.

He's now seeing "activity ramp up every day," but declined to provide adoption figures among the firm's 23 million brokerage accounts. Ignall, who joined Fidelity six years ago, said that his team had built out "a very complex order-entry engine" to handle the transactions, and that part of the reason for the launch was attracting younger customers.

"The bar is being reset on digital experiences every day," he said. "The financial services industry needs to keep up with that." 

The bar is being reset on digital experiences every day. The financial services industry needs to keep up with that.

The feature highlights the lengths to which firms have gone to bring a new, younger set of clients in the door — who might one day pay for premium offerings, like wealth management fees — as stocks hit all-time highs and fewer large companies execute stock splits.

To offer real-time fractional-share trading, some brokerages have chosen to hold an inventory of stocks in order to immediately fill customers' fractional orders. 

Some insiders we spoke with said the process of holding shares of sometimes volatile stocks could pose a risk. Others dismissed any chance of meaningful systematic risk due to the small amount brokerages would likely be holding to meet customer demand. 

Terry Hendershott, a professor at the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley, told Business Insider fractional shares essentially forge diversified portfolios by the very nature of the small stock slivers, therefore the risk taken on by brokers in this kind of offering as rather small.

In his eyes, the high price of stocks and low cost of building out the technology has spurred the feature's spread. 

"It's hard to see how this is going to be a big money-maker right from the get-go," said Hendershott, who previously served as the chair of the Nasdaq's Economic Advisory Board. 

Interactive Brokers, the Connecticut-based brokerage, was the first of its large competitors to roll out the feature when it announced the offering last fall. The firm said that Virtu, the market-making giant, clears some of Interactive Brokers' fractional trades, but figures around that trade volume is not tracked. 

"All fractional share orders (like regular orders) get executed at the best price available for the IBKR Pro service level, and are sold to market makers for IBKR Lite client orders," Steve Sanders, the executive vice president of marketing and product development, said in a statement.

Speaking to us about the catalyst for launching fractional shares, chairman and former chief executive Thomas Peterffy told us recently: "Many of the 'FANG' stocks are rising in price and not splitting them, as used to be the convention of Wall Street, when a stock would go much above $100."

"In relatively small portfolios where the owners would like to allocate their money among several issues, they cannot afford to buy whole shares," he added. 

The brokerages' ambitions 

Robinhood, the California-based trading app popular with younger investors, built out its offering when it brought clearing capabilities in-house. So far, only some users have access to the feature. 

The startup is handling fractional trading in-house as opposed to working with a clearing brokerage, something that sets it apart among fintechs. Robinhood chose to self-clear in October 2018, having previously worked with Apex Clearing, which services some of the most popular fintechs

A Robinhood spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the build-out process, or precisely how many users currently have access to the feature. Similarly, Fidelity is also rolling out the capability gradually.  

Abhishek Fatehpuria, a product manager at the $7.6 billion startup, told Business Insider in December that fractional shares was something Robinhood thought about "for a while," but declined to provide additional details. 

The startup isn't the only one that's tight-lipped when it comes to the feature.

Charles Schwab, founder of the eponymous firm, told Bloomberg News in November the firm planned to introduce fractional shares in the spring, according to a video interview published on Wednesday.

A company spokesperson said "we do expect to launch fractional shares soon," though did not provide a firm timeline for launch. 

TD Ameritrade, which Charles Schwab said it would buy for $26 billion in a deal set to close later this year, has given no indication it will jump into the fractional-shares waters either. A spokesperson said that "we are always evaluating new products and services based on client feedback."

E-Trade, the smallest of the major discount brokerages by market capitalization, does not currently offer it. A company spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment around whether it was a product in the works.

Brokers have been cagey about many fronts on the broker wars, given the intensely competitive nature of the business. 

For fintechs, an opportunity in real-time trades 

Before larger firms and Robinhood embraced the feature, some smaller fintechs had tacked it on as an offering. M1, Stash, SoFi, and Square's Cash App are among the fintechs that let users trade fractional shares, though not all offer real-time trading.

But the concept of executing fractional share trades in real-time is pretty new. Traditionally, fractional trading wasn't done in real-time but instead handled in batches. 

A fintech would collect orders for fractional shares throughout the day, choosing a specific time to round up to the nearest whole number and put in an order.

Once executed, the orders would be broken up on the back-end. 

The push for real-time fractional share trading, meaning an order is executed immediately when a customer puts it in, has led to more complexity. In order to fill a fractional share in real-time, a firm must hold an inventory of stocks, essentially creating a market.  

The players powering fractional trades

But not every firm is willing or capable of taking on that task itself — that's where a player like DriveWealth comes in.

The fintech, which is backed by Point72 Ventures and Route 66 Ventures, serves as a clearing brokerage for fintechs in the wealth management space. It's also zeroed in on the rise of fractional share trading in real time, touting the service atop its website.

John Shammas, chief product officer at DriveWealth, told Business Insider that more than 90% of its client base, which includes MoneyLion, Cash App, and Revolut, consistently trades in fractional shares. 

Shammas said the firm has an internal tool called "the fracker" that balances DriveWealth's inventory of stocks to ensure they hold as little as possible while still being able to manage customer's orders throughout the day.

"We've seen partners try to do it themselves in the past on platforms, and besides the risk it's also just messy having to manage all of that, buying and selling the inventory count themselves," he told Business Insider. "So that's what we really wanted to automate."

DriveWealth tries to keep its inventory at about one share for each stock throughout the day, though Shammas said those numbers tend to rise early in the trading day when activity is high. The fracker can allow DriveWealth to build up its inventory if it wanted to, but for now Shammas said the goal is to minimize risk.

There's probably a point where there is so much volume where it's a real revenue line item for us.

While offering fractional share trading is an important feature for DriveWealth's customers, Shammas said the revenue generated via actually trading in a fractional way is "pretty insignificant" — but that could change as business grows.

"There's probably a point where there is so much volume where it's a real revenue line item for us," he said.

DriveWealth isn't alone in seeing opportunity in offering fractional-share trading for fintechs.

Apex, which has worked with Betterment and Stash, has created its own offering. Bill Capuzzi, the chief executive of Apex, told Business Insider the company spent the better half of 2019 working on offering fractional shares in real-time. 

Part of that was understanding how to manage an inventory of fractional shares in real-time. Apex also worked on being able to offer it through an application programming interface (API), Capuzzi said, which is the method that most fintechs prefer to consume information.

Capuzzi said building out a real-time fractional shares offering was a product of customer desire as opposed to any potential revenue opportunity. Ideally, he'd like to maintain a perfectly hedged book at all times, holding as little inventory as possible.

"There's risk for me, as Apex, to hold those securities because they're obviously dynamic and the prices change," Capuzzi said. "There's so much that goes into being a market-maker and so much risk, that I think it's just dangerous for people to take that on."

Squaring fractional shares and market makers 

How do the market makers — the large trading firms tasked with providing liquidity to the wider market, particularly for retail customers, along with price discovery and managing risk — fit into the equation? 

It's a difficult question. Nobody knows how much fractional-share trading it would take to make it a worthwhile venture for market makers to pursue trying to build out some type of fractional share service, and none of the brokerages have publicly reported what type of volume they've seen from fractional shares. 

Also, most brokerages and fintechs already have agreements in place to sell their customers' order flow to market makers as opposed to going directly to exchanges. 

Regardless of whether a firm chooses to fractionalize shares or not, most brokerages will still source liquidity from market makers, as has been the case for years. 

"Our goal is to help our brokerage clients create the best possible trading experience for retail investors by providing price improvement and exceptional execution for their orders," Joe Mecane, head of execution services at Citadel Securities, told Business Insider in an email. "We hope that fractional share trading will create even more opportunities for retail investors to participate in the market and we are committed to helping them trade at the best prices when they do."

"Fractional share trading is an innovative, market-led solution that makes high-priced stocks accessible to more investors," a Virtu spokesperson said. 

As for the actual exchanges, it seems unlikely they'd be open to allowing stocks to be traded fractionally on their own marketplaces. 

Even Cboe Markets, which is working on pushing through changes around how equity markets are structured, such as the handling of odd-lots — that is, orders of less than 100 shares — doesn't seem open to the idea.

Edward Tilly, the exchange group's chairman, president and chief executive, dismissed listing fractional shares at an event in January that Business Insider attended.

"Buy one share and be protected, rather than breaking them up," Tilly said.  

SEE ALSO: Everyone from Robinhood to Fidelity is hyping fractional share trading — here's why they want to get you hooked on $1 slices of stocks

SEE ALSO: Charles Schwab expects branch closures and job cuts when its TD Ameritrade deal goes through. Here's a look at exactly where the 2 brokerage giants have the most overlap.

SEE ALSO: Charles Schwab execs explained why the firm is now having to make 'distasteful' cash offers to investors just to compete in the cut-throat brokerage industry

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The CEO of a recruiting-software company that works with Slack and Airbnb explains how to build a personal brand and stand out in a sea of applicants

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 4:21pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Boost your chances of landing the job you want by staying active in your community and building your personal brand.
  • That's according to Daniel Chait, the CEO of the recruiting-software company Greenhouse. Chait has recruited for some of the buzziest tech startups right now, including Airbnb and Pinterest.
  • For example, you might contribute to open-source projects on GitHub, attend Meetup events for people in your industry, or stay active on Instagram.
  • Click here for more BI Prime content.

Looking to land a job at one of tech's darling companies in the new year? David Chait, the CEO of the recruiting-software company Greenhouse, can help.

Greenhouse's clients include some of the hottest tech startups like Slack, Airbnb, Venmo, Pinterest, and HubSpot. Of his list, Slack and Pinterest had successful openings in the public market last year, and Airbnb announced it intends to follow suit in 2020.

If you're applying for a job at one of these stellar startups, Chait said there was a relatively easy way to draw attention to yourself and up your chances of landing the role you want: Be active in your community and build your personal brand.

According to Daniel Chait, the CEO of the recruiting-software company Greenhouse, few job candidates do much to help themselves stand out amid a sea of talented applicants.

"Most people do zero," he said. "So the bar is pretty low."

Here's how to build up your personal brand if you want to land a job at Slack or Airbnb.

Maybe that means attending Meetup events for people in your industry; maybe it means staying active on Instagram if you're in a field like marketing.

Chait shared a hypothetical example of someone looking to make a career change: The person has a degree in art history, and has been working in food service, but they'd love to get a job in tech.

"Do you have a GitHub profile?" Chait said, referring to a site that hosts free programming projects. "Have you contributed to some open-source projects? Have you gone to a local technical meetup? Have you written some articles on Stack Overflow?" (Stack Overflow is a question-and-answer site for programmers.)

Dora Korpar, a former Trader Joe's employee who's now a programmer at a San Francisco startup, told Business Insider's Julie Bort that it's helpful to create a GitHub profile and participate in open-source projects, since programmers evaluate each other's work there.

Even people who started contributing to Quora and Reddit forums without any intention of finding a job have found career benefits, like potential clients looking at their profiles and getting in touch.

An additional benefit of being involved in your community, Chait said, is that you might meet people whose teams have openings. "You get the inside track," he said. (Though your willingness to schmooze at Meetup-type events depends on your feelings about the power of networking.)

"You don't have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning author or have 2 million followers on Twitter to really stand out," Chait added. "You just have to do something that's somewhat noteworthy and different and represents you."

SEE ALSO: This LinkedIn message took 2 minutes to write and got the sender a job at a successful startup — even though they weren't hiring

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'A new risk to the global growth outlook': Here's what the Fed said about the coronavirus outbreak at its last meeting

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 4:19pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The Federal Reserve deems its current policy stance and interest rate "appropriate" amid the growing coronavirus threat, minutes from January's Federal Open Market Committee meeting revealed Wednesday.
  • The meeting took place days after coronavirus fears fueled a sharp downtrend in US stocks. Participants cited the outbreak as "a new risk to the global growth outlook," adding it "warranted close watching."
  • The committee also mulled the implementation of a target inflation rate range instead of its current 2% goal.
  • The Fed has previously hinted at keeping its benchmark interest rate stable until inflation reaches the intended threshold, prompting speculation around whether the central bank would even consider cutting rates if the coronavirus posed a serious threat to the US economy.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

The Federal Reserve considers its current policy stance as appropriate "for a time" despite the coronavirus outbreak presenting a new threat to the global economy, minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting held in January revealed on Wednesday.

The meeting took place days after the coronavirus outbreak began to drag on the US financial sector. The virus has killed 2,012 people and infected more than 75,000 as of Wednesday morning, surpassing the death toll of 2003's SARS epidemic. The FOMC highlighted an uptick in economic growth across Asia, but warned that the spreading virus could quickly reverse any gains to gross domestic product. 

"Early GDP releases showed a pickup in growth in China and some other Asian economies, though news of the coronavirus outbreak raised questions about the sustainability of that pickup," according to the January 28-29 minutes.

The FOMC addressed a wide range of topics in the January meetings, including the possibility of a target inflation range instead of the current 2% goal. The Fed slashed its benchmark interest rate over three consecutive meetings in the second half of 2019, and has since hinted that it would keep the rate stable until inflation meets the desired level.

The meetings' participants deemed the current rate range of 1.5% to 1.75% "appropriate" for the US's moderate level of growth, but added that fading risks from trade tensions have been replaced by growing uncertainty "posed by the outbreak of the coronavirus."

The committee still deemed the current market risks "somewhat more favorable" when compared to their outlook from the end of 2019. The January meetings took place roughly two weeks after the US and China inked the phase-one deal and introduced the first major deescalation of the trade conflict since it began in the summer of 2018. The agreement, when coupled with the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, brought stabilization to a world stage recently fraught with trade hostilities.

Since then, the coronavirus has emerged as "a new risk to the global growth outlook," according to the Fed. The outbreak's threat and death toll have already led economists to lower growth expectations and companies to warn of hits to future earnings. The FOMC participants agreed the virus "warranted close watching," signaling that future stimulus to counteract the outbreak's fallout is still under consideration.

The FOMC is next scheduled to meet March 17-18 and release the meetings' minutes roughly three weeks after.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

A top research firm lays out a bleak coronavirus scenario that would cause global growth to slow significantly in 2020

Gold spikes to a nearly 7-year high as investors flee to safety amid coronavirus worries

A Wall Street firm forecasts that Disney Plus will have more subscribers in India by the end of 2020 than Netflix has there now after 4 years in the market

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The best Capital One credit cards for travel rewards, cash back, intro APR offers, and more

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 3:28pm  |  Clusterstock

  The best Capital One credit cards of 2020:

The Capital One Venture Rewards card is especially popular thanks to its robust marketing budget and commercials featuring Jennifer Garner, but it's not necessarily the best Capital One card for you. At the end of the day, the best option is the one that fits with your spending style and rewards goals.

If you're in the market for a new credit card and haven't tried out a card from Capital One just yet, the issuer's offerings may be worth considering in 2020 and beyond.

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.

Best for flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture card

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Why you'll love it: This card lets you earn rewards you can redeem for any type of travel at a rate of 1 cent per mile. 

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles (worth $500 in travel) after you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening

Earning structure: 2 miles for each dollar you spend, making it easy to rack up points without worrying about earning caps or rotating categories.

The Capital One Venture Rewards card is very easy for consumers to use and understand. The fact you earn 2 miles for each dollar you spend is a huge plus, and you can redeem these miles for any travel purchase at a rate of 1 cent per mile. That makes the bonus alone worth $500 in travel, which you can redeem for hotels, airfare, train fare, campgrounds, and more.

The Capital One Venture Rewards card also lets you transfer points to more than a dozen airline partners and two hotel partners (Wyndham and Accor). The transfer ratio for airlines is less than optimal, however, so this is only a good option if you have your heart set on a specific redemption with one of their partners. Capital One transfer partners include Etihad, Emirates, Air France/Flying Blue, Avianca, and more.

This card does charge a $95 annual fee, but the fee is waived the first year. As a cardholder, you'll also receive free travel accident insurance, no foreign transaction fees, and a credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership.

Pros: Generous flat-rate rewards, up to $100 statement credit to cover the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Cons: Transfer partners aren't that great

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards card » Best for cash back: Capital One Quicksilver Rewards card

Annual fee: $0

Why you'll love it: The Capital One Quicksilver Rewards offers a generous sign-up bonus that's easy to earn along with flat-rate rewards that are easy to keep track of.

Sign-up bonus: $150 after you spend $500 within three months of account opening

Earning structure: 1.5% cash back on every purchase

The Capital One Quicksilver Rewards card is for you if you want to earn cash back without paying an annual fee. This card lets you earn a flat rate of unlimited rewards, 1.5% back, so you'll never have to wonder about bonus categories or whether you've hit your rewards cap. On the redemption side of the equation, you can redeem your rewards for cash back at any time and in any amount. You can also cash in your points for gift cards.

The Quicksilver Rewards card also comes with no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad.

Pros: Generous flat-rate rewards with no annual fee, long intro APR period

Cons: Rewards can only be redeemed for cash back or gift cards

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Quicksilver Rewards card » Best for dining and entertainment: Capital One Savor card

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Why you'll love it: The Capital One Savor Rewards offers a huge initial bonus and lucrative rewards in popular spending categories.

Sign-up bonus: $300 back after you spend $3,000 on your card within the first three months from account opening 

Earning structure: 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores, and 1% back on everything else you buy

The Capital One Savor card is an enticing option thanks to its initial bonus and ongoing rewards, and that's especially true if you spend a lot on dining and entertainment each year. Even if you just spend a lot at the grocery store, earning 2% back is excellent as well.

You can redeem your rewards for cash back in any amount, and this card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the US.

Pros: Generous signup bonus, exceptional earning categories with no caps or limits

Cons: Redemption options are limited with this card

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Savor card » Best for 0% APR: Capital One SavorOne card 

Annual fee: $0

Why you'll love it: This card offers generous rewards and a lucrative intro 0% APR offer without an annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: $150 after you spend $500 on your card within the first three months from account opening

Earning structure: Earn 3% back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores, and 1% back on everything else you buy

The Capital One SavorOne Rewards card lets you rack up exceptional rewards on dining and entertainment as well as grocery purchases. This card also comes without an annual fee, which is a net positive if you want to keep your costs down.

If you have a large purchase you want to pay off over time, you'll be happy to know this card extends 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 15.49% to 25.49%. This card also comes with no foreign transaction fees.

Pros: Generous 0% APR offer and ongoing rewards

Cons: Lower initial bonus and ongoing rewards when compared to the more premium Capital One Savor card

Click here to learn more about the Capital One SavorOne card » Best for Students: Journey Student Rewards

Annual fee: 

Why you'll love it: The Journey Student Rewards is available for consumers with "average" credit, making it a smart card for students who need to build their credit scores.

Sign-up bonus: None

Earning structure: Earn 1% back on everything you buy, and boost your rewards to 1.25% back when you pay your bill on time

The Journey Student Rewards is geared to students who want to earn rewards while they build up their credit over time. This card gives you a flat 1.25% back when you pay your bill on time for the month, which isn't the best available today. But since this card is available to consumers with average credit, it's available to a broader selection of consumers who need help getting started.

The Journey Student Rewards doesn't charge an annual fee, and there are no foreign transaction fees, either.

Pros: Earn rewards without an annual fee, get approved with average credit

Cons: Redemption options for rewards are limited

Click here to learn more about the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One »

Read more: The best credit cards for students

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

I love being a homeowner, but there are 5 things I wish someone had told me before I bought a house

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 2:52pm  |  Clusterstock

  • My wife and I married young (we were 21 and 22) so there was a lot we didn't know about home ownership when we bought our first house.
  • On top of all the money we didn't expect to spend on things like ladders and a lawn mower, we also didn't know we needed to clean our gutters regularly or change our furnace air filters.
  • We also discovered that, despite our enthusiasm before we moved in, it's hard to keep up the energy for home-improvement projects once you're in the house and life takes over.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

It's been almost 20 years since my wife and I bought our first home. I still remember driving in our minivan to the closing appointment with a screaming infant who was missing a feeding because there was no time to feed him or we would be late. 

In the first months and years of owning our home, there were a lot of things we found out the hard way. Part of this stems from the fact that we were married fairly young in life (I was 22 and she was 21). So when we moved into our first home, there was a lot we didn't know. 

Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes.

You're going to spend a LOT of money

When you're in the process of buying a home, you're so focused on making sure you have the necessary money for your down payment and closing costs that you might lose sight of the fact that there is a lot more money that you're going to be spending as part of homeownership. 

That's why you need to be saving up money for more than just your down payment and not buying a house at the very top of your price range. 

If you come out of closing with the keys to your new home and nothing else in your bank account, you're going to be in for a rough couple of months as you transition into homeownership and deal with transitional costs that you didn't have as an apartment dweller. 

Things like property taxes, HOA fees, a lawnmower and other landscaping materials, and fixing things that break all start to add up, and that's even assuming that you're handy enough to take care of them without hiring a professional!

You should change your furnace air filters (regularly!)

The next few lessons we learned involved some of the regular maintenance that comes with owning a home. 

In case you didn't know this already, you should change the air filter in your furnace around every three months. Depending on what kind of furnace filter you get, it can cost anywhere from a couple of dollars to $20-$50 or more. 

Because keeping a clean furnace filter directly affects how effective your furnace is, regularly replacing your furnace filters can save you money on your energy bill.

You need to clean out your gutters

Another regular home improvement task that nobody told me about was cleaning out your gutters. 

I was a few years into owning my home when I had a contractor come over to look at a different project. As we were talking about the specifics of the project, he asked me, "When's the last time you cleaned out your gutters?" I'm sure he was quite amused by the blank look on my face. 

Since then, I've scheduled a regular cleaning of my gutters into my yearly routine. You'll want to clean out your gutters in the fall and, depending on how many trees you have in your yard, in the spring as well. 

The good news is that cleaning out your gutters is a relatively easy home-improvement project to tackle, even if you're not particularly handy. The bad news is that you're going to need to buy a tall ladder (see what I mean about extra costs you never thought about before you bought a home?).

Mowing the lawn is ... kind of fun? (for awhile)

If you're like me, you spent many a night and weekend as a teenager being forced to mow the lawn of the home you lived in with your parents. I certainly did not have fond memories of mowing the lawn as a kid. 

But the very first time I mowed my own lawn as a homeowner, I remember feeling a sense of pride.

That lasted about two mows before it was back to feeling like a task to be dreaded. 

Thankfully, as the father of three boys, I haven't had to mow the lawn in almost 10 years. I've got about five more years left of exploiting my kids' free labor before I have to tackle mowing the lawn. Maybe that's enough time for it to become fun again?

It's hard to keep up the energy to tackle home projects

The last thing nobody told me about owning a home is that it is incredibly difficult to keep up the energy to tackle all of the projects that you want or need to do. 

Before you buy your home, you make a list a mile long of all the things you want to do to improve your home. But then you move in and your limited free time on nights and weekends starts slowly being taken over by just living your life.

And the work is never done. My best advice to you is to keep a list of things you want to do, prioritize the most important things, and tackle small bits of projects on a regular basis. You'll find yourself turning your house into your dream home in no time.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A podiatrist explains heel spurs, the medical condition Trump said earned him a medical deferment from Vietnam

Neobanks like Chime and N26 raised record VC cash in 2019. Here's how they differ from traditional banks, and where they're finding revenue without lending.

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 2:46pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The traditional banking business model is pretty simple. Banks take in deposits, then lend that money out and charge interest. They make money on the 'spread,' or, the difference between the deposit and loan rates, as well as non-interest income like overdraft fees. 
  • Upstart digital banks like Chime, N26, and Varo—which are attracting billions in VC cash— for now only play on the deposit side of the balance sheet, offering checking and savings accounts.
  • Instead of earning interest rate spreads, neobanks rely on interchange fees earned from debit card transactions for revenue.
  • N26 and Monzo have been experimenting with freemium membership models as an additional source of revenue.
  • Chime also earns a modest percent of revenue from referring customers to other fintechs like SoftBank-backed renters insurance startup Lemonade and fellow DST Global portfolio company Root Insurance.
  • Chime is exploring lending-like products, launching a free overdraft program called SpotMe, and offering two-day advances on direct deposit paychecks.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

The traditional banking business model is pretty simple.

Banks take in deposits from customers and pay them interest. Then, they lend that money out to other customers, charging interest. Traditional banks make money on the spread, or, the difference between the deposit and loan rates.

But upstart digital banks like Chime, N26, and Varo — which are attracting billions in VC cash — for now only play on the deposit side of the balance sheet, offering checking and savings accounts.

And these neobanks are attracting waves of VC cash. In 2019, neobanks raised more than $3.7 billion in VC cash, a new record following 2018's $2.3 billion, according to CB Insights.

Chime, founded in San Francisco in 2013, is the highest valued US-based neobank. 

In December last year, Chime's valuation quadrupled to $5.8 billion following its massive $500 million Series F. The round was the largest single equity investment in the neobanking space, a record previously held by Brazil's Nu Bank, according to CB Insights.

Its investors include Dragoneer Investment Group (Compass, Klarna, Nubank), DST Global (Nubank, Robinhood, Root Insurance), and Menlo Ventures (Betterment, Carta, Roku).

Chime isn't profitable, but its CEO Chris Britt told Forbes in November last year that it could be if it reduced its marketing spend.

Fees for card swipes and membership

Since many digital-only banks are not lending in the US (some of them, like Monzo and N26, offer credit products in the UK and Europe), they need other sources of revenue.

For example, every time a customer uses their debit card, the banks earn transaction processing fees —  sometimes called interchange fees — from merchants.

Beyond interchange, digital-only banks are also experimenting with membership models. Germany's N26, for one, offers tiered freemium membership to its European customers, and now it's thinking about rolling that model out in the US.

N26 offers a free standard membership and tiered levels for a monthly subscription fee. 

Each tier comes with its own perks, like dedicated customer service, discounts at merchant partners, and insurance on car rentals and cell phones.

The UK's Monzo, which had rolled out, then shut down its premium membership offering in September last year, just announced its plans relaunch the product in the first quarter this year.

Both Monzo and N26 are also neobank unicorns. Monzo has a $2 billion valuation, following its $113 million Series F last June. N26 was last valued at $3.5 billion valuation after its $470 million Series D last July.

Chasing customer stickiness

To grow both membership and interchange fee revenue, neobanks are prioritizing customer acquisition, then customer stickiness.

And in banking, stickiness is often pegged to establishing what's called a primary banking relationship. 

To be sure, the nature of a primary banking relationship has evolved. Over the past several years, fintechs have been riding a wave of unbundling — meaning they offer consumers pieces of the suite of products typically offered by a bank, like a high-yield savings account or passively managed investment accounts.

But for digital-only banks, there's a key piece of a consumer's banking habits that could increase stickiness: payroll direct deposit. The neobanks have deployed products like access to wages two days early and no-fee overdrafts, specifically for customers who use the accounts for direct deposits.

And their customer bases are growing. In September last year, Chime announced it surpassed the 5 million account milestone. N26 just announced it has 5 million customers globally (including 250,000 in the US), and Monzo says it has 3.8 million customers.

That said, the number of open accounts is not necessarily the same as the number of active deposit customers, so pinning down exact customer numbers is tricky. In some cases, one customer who opens both a checking and savings account could be counted with two open FDIC-insured accounts.

Since the neobanks are private companies, they are not subject to the same disclosures as public retail banks. Ten-year-old Ally, one of the US's largest digital-only banks which went public in 2014, reported 1.97 million retail deposit customers in fourth-quarter earnings last year.

Chime makes the majority of revenue via interchange

Chime earns the vast majority of its revenue from interchange paid to Chime by Visa, a Chime spokesperson told Business Insider in emailed comments in December last year. 

Every time one of Chime's customers makes a purchase with their debit card, the bank earns a fee. 

Chime also earns a "modest percent of revenue" from referring customers to other fintechs like SoftBank-backed renters insurance startup Lemonade and fellow DST Global portfolio company Root Insurance, the spokesperson said.

Today, Chime announced it would offer a high-yield savings account with rates starting at 1.6%, well above the national average savings rate of 0.09%, according to the FDIC. Other digital-only banks unburdened by the cost of brick-and-mortar footprints, like Goldman Sachs' Marcus and Ally Financial, also both offer high-yield savings.

While Chime doesn't currently offer direct lending products, it's been vocal about its ambitions to enter the credit side of the balance sheet. But the timelines are unclear.

In March of 2018, Chime's CEO Chris Britt told Bankrate that it would launch lending products within the year.

"Our initial efforts in the area have been focused on the short term lending segment, and more specifically, the overdraft fee epidemic facing our country," the Chime spokesperson said.

Chime launched a new product called SpotMe in September last year. Customers who direct deposit at least $500 per month are able to overdraft their accounts up to $100. 

There is no interest applied to the overdrafts, which are repaid to Chime from the next payroll direct deposit. Users are offered the option to leave a tip to "pay it forward."

"While we've publicly announced our intention to launch other credit and lending products, we'll focus next on helping our members improve their credit scores and will announce a new service in this area in the first half of 2020," the Chime spokesperson said.

Neobanks are challenging legacy players' fee structures

In addition to free overdrafts and getting your paycheck a couple days early, there are other features of these digital-only neobanks attracting customers. 

Across the board, they have leaned into fee transparency, and largely moved toward eliminating things like minimum balance and account maintenance fees. 

Incumbent retail players like JPMorgan and Bank of America both charge $35 for every overdraft, and $12 in monthly maintenance fees. 

According to Chime's website, the only fee it charges is $2.50 for out-of-network ATM withdrawals. N26 doesn't charge overdraft, maintenance, nor foreign transaction fees.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: WeWork went from a $47 billion valuation to a failed IPO. Here's how the company makes money.

I spent $3,000 on a financial planner, but a lesson I learned from her has already returned that money many times over

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 2:43pm  |  Clusterstock

 

I have run my own business for most of my adult life and, because of that, I have a DIY attitude about my finances. 

I probably would have continued to do my own taxes and muddle through my own financial management for many years longer if my next door neighbor hadn't started her own business as a financial planner. 

I knew her and trusted her, so I gave her my taxes to do, and got her help with investing a few years later.

Getting skilled, professional help with my money is one of the smartest decisions I have ever made. Here are the two most important lessons I learned from my financial planner.

Lesson #1: Deduct everything

I thought I was saving money by doing my taxes myself with TurboTax. I had a small business, but I was a sole proprietor and my returns were not complicated. And, a few years before, I'd paid someone to do my tax return and she had botched it, causing me to overpay and get money back. I could do better than that.

However, I lived in fear of the IRS. Since I did my own accounting by the seat of my pants, I was terrified of getting audited. As a result, I didn't claim all the deductions I was legally entitled to for my home-based business. Biggest of those was the deduction for business use of my home, which I feared would trigger an audit.

The first year I handed my taxes back to a professional preparer, she advised me to deduct everything I was entitled to, including my home office and production studio. She told me to take photos of my workspace every year, so I'd have proof of the use of the space in case I ever got audited. 

The chances of that, I learned, were slim. The IRS had developed questions that help people determine whether their home office is deductible. Because of this, the deduction is no longer a red flag for auditors.

During the years when I didn't declare all my business expenses, I probably didn't give myself any protection from an audit. But I did overpay my taxes and cost myself money.

Initially, I felt anxious about spending money to pay someone to prepare my taxes when I had been doing it myself for almost nothing. I discovered almost immediately that it was a good investment, however. The money I saved by properly deducting my business expenses more than offset the fee I paid for tax preparation. 

Lesson #2: Invest everything you can

Several years ago, I took over management of some accounts from my parents. I turned to my financial planner to help me invest the money.

My parents had invested their savings in money market and CD accounts. In addition, they had a large amount sitting in their personal checking account. As a result, they were earning very little interest on the money they had saved.

My financial planner created an investment plan that balanced growth with security. She charged a one-time fee for her planning services and left the implementation of the plan up to me. 

It cost about $3,000 to get a professional investment plan. It seemed like a lot of money to me at the time, but the investments have returned that money many times over. 

Talk to a financial planner about how to invest and grow your money. SmartAsset's free tool can connect you with a qualified professional »

Under her guidance, these and other funds have had an average growth rate of over 10% in the last year. Looking back over the last five years, the return on investment has still been very healthy at almost 6%. It has been satisfying to watch the accounts grow over time.

That's why I was willing to listen to my financial adviser when she told me not to keep too much money in my rainy-day savings account, but to transfer that to an investment account when it got over $5,000-$10,000. 

I like the immediateness of having funds on hand in case of emergency, but the money in an investment account can usually be transferred to my bank in less than a week if it's needed.

As I've watched the expenses pile up for my elderly parents' care, I want to squeeze the most out of every dollar I can put aside. I know I'll need it after I retire. I continue to go back to my financial planner every few years to get an investment tune-up. That helps me keep investing money where it will bring the greatest return while managing my risk.

Bonus lesson: Work with a financial planner

There's an old saying that an attorney who represents himself in court has a fool for a lawyer. I think the same is true of financial management. Being cheap about getting financial planning help actually cost me money. Professional help with my finances is an investment that pays off.

You don't have to have a lot of money to get professional help. Many financial planners are finding ways to help clients who don't have a lot of money to invest. It's never too early to start investing.

Ready to connect with a financial planner? Use SmartAsset's free tool to find a qualified professional near you »

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 5 things about the NFL that football fans may not know

This $12 million 'mansion yacht' is made entirely of stainless steel — and it's a first for the industry. Take a peek inside.

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 2:26pm  |  Clusterstock

A vessel named Mansion Yacht was shown at the 60th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October, and people have been buzzing about it ever since. According to FOX Business, the yacht is the first ever to be made entirely from stainless steel. 

"It does a whole bunch of other things that a normal yacht doesn't do, so it doesn't replace an ocean-going yacht, but it definitely is a great addition to the yacht family," Bruno Edwards of Mansion Yachts told FOX Business. 

Edwards told Business Insider in November that the company's base 9,000-square-foot model has an asking price of $12 million. And apparently, "a few billionaires" had already expressed interest at the time.

"This will be the first one that we sell," Edwards told FOX Business in November. "We've already had a lot of interest, so we are waiting on our first contract."

In the meantime, scroll down to learn more and to look inside the stunning Mansion Yacht.

SEE ALSO: This enormous 262-foot 'hybrid' superyacht will have an onboard spa and whiskey lounge

DON'T MISS: The $200 million superyacht once owned by a fugitive businessman and later rented by Kylie Jenner for her 22nd birthday is now for sale — take a look inside

SEE ALSO: Disappointing photos show what owning a yacht is like in real life

FOX Business reports that the Mansion Yacht is the first yacht to be made entirely out of stainless steel.

It was shown at the 60th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October.

Source: FOX Business



The 84-foot long vessel has a total 9,000 square feet of space — enough to accommodate 149 people.

Source: FOX Business, Mansion Yachts



It has a 1,600-square-foot entertainment area on the front deck, along with a 3,300-square-foot viewing space.

Source: Daily Mail, Mansion Yachts



The Mansion Yacht has five bedrooms ...

Source: Daily Mail, Mansion Yachts



... five bathrooms ...

Source: Daily Mail, Mansion Yachts



... and a hot tub that can fit up to seven people.

Source: Daily Mail, Mansion Yachts



The boat has 18-feet hydraulic legs which can keep it propped up above water, giving the impression that it is floating.

Source: FOX Business, Mansion Yachts



It's also relatively eco-conscious, with 72 solar panels capable of producing 15 kilowatts of electricity.

Source: FOX Business, Mansion Yachts



However, despite its name, the Mansion Yacht is not technically a yacht.

"It does a whole bunch of other things that a normal yacht doesn't do, so it doesn't replace an ocean-going yacht," Bruno Edwards from Mansion Yachts told FOX Business. "But it definitely is a great addition to the yacht family." 

Source: FOX Business, Mansion Yachts



Edwards told Business Insider that the base model of the vessel has an asking price of $12 million.

Edwards also noted that the Mansion Yacht's stainless steel will keep the maintenance costs low. 

"It is actually 25% of the maintenance cost of a fiberglass boat," Edwards told FOX Business.

Source: Daily Mail, FOX Business, Mansion Yachts



The views, at least, are pretty priceless.

The 4 types of credit cards everyone should have to diversify rewards and benefits and enjoy travel protections

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 2:24pm  |  Clusterstock

 

There are lots of great rewards credit cards on the market right now, with generous sign-up bonuses and travel perks to boot.

While it's always best to pick credit cards based on your personal spending habits and travel goals, there are a few types that come in handy no matter what. Here are four types of credit cards everyone should have in their wallets.

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.

Read more: The best credit card sign-up bonuses available now

A cash-back card

With rewards programs constantly devaluing their award charts, having a cash-back card in your arsenal is crucial. Most of these cards have no annual fee, which makes keeping them long-term much easier to justify. And with cheap international airfare becoming more prevalent these days, it doesn't always make sense to redeem points for travel.

For example, I found some basic economy fares to Europe on United Airlines between San Francisco and Paris this fall. The cost? Just $336.73 round-trip. The same ticket costs 60,000 miles and $81.03 in taxes and fees. Using cash-back rewards is a much better value in this scenario than redeeming a ton of points or miles. I would have to spend $60,000 on my rewards credit card to earn 60,000 miles, but just $16,836.50 on a 2% cash-back card like the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card.

For the average person charging their daily spending to a single card, a 2% cash-back card might offer more attainable rewards than an airline credit card. You may not always get 2 cents of value out of each point from your rewards credit cards, but you will get that much out of your 2% cash-back card spending.

Beyond the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature, you should consider the Citi® Double Cash Card, as well as the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The latter offers 1.5% back on every purchase, and you can also convert your cash-back rewards into Chase points down the line if you decide you want to book travel.

Read more: The best cash-back credit cards

A card that earns a flexible rewards currency

What are flexible rewards currencies? They're points that can be redeemed for travel purchases directly through the credit card issuer, or with airline and hotel partners. We're talking about Amex Membership RewardsChase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards. These currencies don't lock you into earning points with a single airline or hotel.

Award flight and award hotel stay availability isn't always predictable. So when you are ready to book your dream vacation, you won't be restricted to using points from a single program. You can transfer your points to various partners, usually at a 1:1 ratio and in many cases instantly. This flexibility is really important considering some of the program devaluations we've seen this year and that will likely continue as more people begin maximizing their points and miles through rewards credit cards.

If you're looking for a great flexible rewards-earning credit card, be sure to take into account things like category bonuses so you can get a maximum return on your biggest spending categories. Also keep in mind annual fees and the perks you may receive in return (i.e. airline fee credits, elite status, etc.).

Here are some credit cards I recommend:

A card from an airline or hotel rewards program you travel with frequently/that gets you status

Why am I recommending an airline or hotel-specific credit card after warning against devaluations and lack of flexibility? Because these credit cards can offer tremendous value if you travel with a specific brand often.

For example, if you travel with American Airlines a few times a year but not enough to earn elite status, the free checked bag benefit from the Citi® AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® might make getting this card and paying the $95 annual fee worthwhile.

Read more: American vs. Delta vs. United — we compared the 3 most popular airline credit cards

If you're a loyal to Hilton but can't manage 40 nights a year to earn Gold elite status for perks like free breakfast and room upgrades, you may want to consider applying for a Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, which has a $95 annual fee and offer complimentary Hilton Gold status.

I personally picked up a Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express earlier this year. The card has a $450 annual fee and offers top-tier Hilton Diamond status. On a recent trip to the Maldives, received over $2,500 worth of value through the annual free night (which was issued a couple of months after I got the card), free breakfast, early check-in and $250 resort credit alone. With a hotel or airline credit card, loyalty can pay off, even if you're not traveling enough to earn elite status.

Read more: Hotel credit cards that offer elite status just for holding them in your wallet

A credit card with great travel insurance

If you're picking up credit cards that meet each of the above-mentioned criteria, then be sure that at least one of them offers solid travel protections: trip cancellation/interruption insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and, ideally, auto rental collision damage waiver.

Read more: Having primary car rental insurance can save you time, money, and stress. Here are the top credit cards that offer it.

These features can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in case your trip doesn't go according to plan. It can even save you from having to purchase travel insurance on your own. You're paying annual fees on many of your rewards credit cards, make sure you get your money's worth through benefits like these. 

Join the conversation about this story »

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

A framework to evaluate and compare self-reconfigurable robotic systems

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 3:20am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
via Techxplore: Self-reconfigurable robots (SRRs) that can automatically change shape and adapt to their surrounding environment have recently attracted a lot of interest within the robotics research community. These robots could have several useful applications, as they can acquire a high level of autonomy in sensing their surrounding environment, as well as in planning and performing suitable actions. While past studies have introduced methods to classify these robots into subgroups, there is still no standard procedure to evaluate their performance...[more]

Researchers Create A Roadmap for 3D Bioprinting

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 2:27am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
via 3D Printing Industry:
A worldwide collective of researchers and scientists from universities, institutions, and hospitals have come together to produce a roadmap for 3D bioprinting.

Published in Biofabrication, the paper details the current state of bioprinting, including recent advances of the technology in selected applications as well as the present developments and challenges. It also envisions how the technology can improve in the future, and details the research that went into creating the roadmap.

Each of the authors takes on different aspects of bioprinting technology to focus on within the study. Specifically, these topics range from cell expansion and novel bioink development to cell/stem cell printing, from organoid-based tissue organization to bioprinting of human-scale tissue structures, and from building cell/tissue/organ-on-a-chip to biomanufacturing of multicellular engineered living systems...[more]

Wall Streeters have been speculating that Microsoft could buy Bloomberg. Here's why a deal might actually make sense. (MSFT)

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 8:27pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Michael Bloomberg's campaign said on Tuesday that he would sell Bloomberg LP if elected US president. That echoed previous comments from Bloomberg about either selling the company or putting it in a blind trust if he ran.
  • In late 2019, when Bloomberg officially jumped into the race, we talked to analysts and insiders to understand what kind of deal would make the most sense. Here's the original story.
  • Bloomberg LP delivered $10 billion in revenue in 2018, making any sale a sizable transaction, reducing the number of potential acquirers.
  • Business Insider talked with experts last month about what company would be a leading contender to buy Bloomberg. 
  • Finance professionals in both New York and London have been speculating that Microsoft might buy Bloomberg. Microsoft declined to comment, while the Bloomberg spokesman Ty Trippet said "the company is not for sale."
  • Still, experts say such a deal could make sense for Microsoft because Bloomberg is a treasure trove of data.
  • Microsoft could use that data to win sought-after customers in the financial-services industry and compete with rivals including Amazon Web Services and Salesforce.
  • The acquisition would most likely be difficult for reasons including the structural complexity of Bloomberg's business and potential conflicts of interests from Microsoft.
  • Also read: Michael Bloomberg built a $54 billion company. For 2 decades, women who worked there have called it a toxic, sexually charged nightmare.

(Michael Bloomberg's campaign said on Tuesday that he would sell Bloomberg LP if elected US president. That echoed previous comments from Bloomberg about either selling the company or putting it in a blind trust if he ran. In late 2019, when Bloomberg officially jumped into the race, we talked to analysts and insiders to understand what kind of deal would make the most sense. Here's the original story as it appeared on Nov. 27, 2019.)

Billionaire Wall Streeter and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg officially entered the 2020 presidential race in November, dropping tens of millions of dollars on TV ads in the process.

Last December, Bloomberg said he'd either sell his namesake company or put it in a blind trust if he ran for president. "But I think at my age, if selling it is possible, I would do that," Bloomberg said then. "At some point, you're going to die anyway, so you want to do it before then."

Bloomberg's comments and the fact he's officially in the race have made what might happen to Bloomberg LP, and which companies if any are in a position to buy it, a topic of conversation for Wall Streeters.

Business Insider talked with experts last month about what company might be a leading contender to buy Bloomberg. 

And in those conversations with finance professionals in both New York and London, one name kept coming up: Microsoft. Bankers, traders, and industry consultants all suggested Microsoft.

To be clear, these folks have no inside knowledge on any deal talks, and the Bloomberg spokesman Ty Trippet has told Business Insider that "the company is not for sale."

What's in it for Microsoft

Still, Business Insider talked to tech and finance industry watchers, analysts, and consultants to gauge whether a Microsoft-Bloomberg deal would make any sense. The verdict wasn't quite unanimous. Most of the people said that such a deal would be a good fit for Microsoft but that an acquisition itself would be complicated.

In particular, experts said the acquisition would make sense for Microsoft because Bloomberg is a treasure trove of financial-services data that could be a boon to the Redmond, Washington-based company's multibillion-dollar cloud-computing business and help it win sought-after customers in the financial-services industry.

Bloomberg is a massive financial-data provider, trading platform, and news provider. The company's Bloomberg Terminal software system is used by 325,000 financial-services professors who pay $24,000 for a single subscription.

"Bloomberg is the preeminent financial information source with a colossal user base," the Nucleus Research analyst Daniel Elman told Business Insider. "Microsoft would get that user base and all of those customers."

Bloomberg's data and customers would be a natural fit for Microsoft's business-analytics service Power BI and the company's Dynamics customer-relationship management, he said.

Microsoft also has the technical chops to improve some of Bloomberg's products. A London-based broker told Business Insider a deal with Microsoft could lead to a much-needed upgrade of the user experience of the ubiquitous Bloomberg Terminal.

"Microsoft might be able to swallow it quite easily and then slim it down, cut the fat, and rewrite all the code so the Terminal display looks more like it's from this century," the broker said.

The acquisition could help Microsoft compete with companies including Salesforce, which has a specific cloud for financial services. The companies' business applications basically have the same functionality, so they're starting to compete by creating products for specific industries.

Financial-services industry customers are especially sought after, and acquiring Bloomberg would give Microsoft a huge advantage in courting those customers.

"Bloomberg would allow Microsoft to be the application provider for financial-services customers, the very lucrative accounts everyone wants," Elman said. "That would be their main motivation behind it."

The acquisition could also become a boon to Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing business in the sense that it could help showcase the company's infrastructure, Elman said.

"Being able to handle something as large as Bloomberg, processing all of those transactions, would be a huge boon to Microsoft," Elman said. The company, he added, could be able to say, "Look at this service we're operating entirely on our own."

Microsoft has been the longtime runner-up in the cloud-computing business behind market-leading Amazon Web Services. Gartner in a report released over the summer pegged the 2018 market share for AWS at 47.8% and that of Microsoft Azure at 15.5%.

Microsoft not only could use the data for business applications, but it also could offer it to developers building applications on Azure.

"I could see wanting access to the data as a key data source for applications on Azure. That's what this does," Patrick Moorhead, the principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told Business Insider. "This would add firepower versus AWS and Google Cloud."

The Bloomberg Terminal also has an internal messaging service "that seems right up Microsoft's alley," Moorhead said. "It would be like a super-secure version of Teams."

Bloomberg also functions as a social platform for financial professionals in some ways. This aspect of Bloomberg fits well with other Microsoft companies, including the professional social network LinkedIn and GitHub, a professional network for software engineers.

The news side

Microsoft has already exited the news business. Microsoft and NBC established MSNBC in 1996, but Microsoft ultimately divested its stake, first selling its shares of the MSNBC television channel in 2005 and the online news site MSNBC.com in 2012.

Microsoft still operates the company's online portal MSN, but the website doesn't create original news content. Instead, it publishes content from news providers including The New York Times, Reuters, and Bloomberg.

The news side of Bloomberg's business isn't Microsoft's forte, Elman, the Nucleus Research analyst, said. It would make the most sense for Microsoft to split the businesses up, and Microsoft would most likely avoid the news side of the business.

"Microsoft has been very good about staying tight to its core competencies," Elman said. "Microsoft would be targeting data and customers and trying to stay away from all of that."

Plus, now there are politics to consider. The news side of the business would most likely be less attractive to Microsoft given what Moorhead called the recent "political controversy between AWS and The Washington Post."

AWS was considered the frontrunner in a competition for a $10 billion Pentagon cloud-computing contract that ultimately went to Microsoft. AWS is challenging the decision, citing in a statement "unmistakable bias." Some think the bidding process included interference from President Donald Trump, who has publicly feuded with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over his ownership of The Washington Post.

One potential model would be for Bloomberg to split off the news operation and come up with an arrangement to pay to distribute the content on its terminal.

Bloomberg already licenses content from publishers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Business Insider. The recent addition of broad access to Dow Jones articles to the terminal has already had an impact in the Bloomberg newsroom, Lucia Moses previously reported, with some journalists asking whether Bloomberg needed all its journalists when it had access to all these other articles.

Thomson Reuters, arguably Bloomberg's biggest rival, could serve as a template for how a deal could be done. In 2018, Blackstone acquired a majority stake in Thomson Reuters' financial and risk unit, rebranded Refinitiv, for roughly $20 billion. The legal, tax and accounting and Reuters news businesses remained part of the publicly traded Thomson Reuters.

As part of that deal, Refinitiv entered a 30-year agreement to pay Thomson Reuters for Reuters news and editorial content.

Refinitiv, which includes the Eikon terminals, has proved to be a hot commodity. In August, the London Stock Exchange Group made a $27 billion bid for the financial-data company. In September, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange threw its hat in the ring, making a $37 billion pitch for Refinitiv. Refinitiv rejected the bid shortly thereafter.

How the deal might work

Microsoft is one of the few companies that could afford to buy Bloomberg, experts told Business Insider. Estimates from FactSet show that Microsoft had more than $130 billion in cash on hand for a purchase as of the firm's latest earnings report — the most of any public company.

And culturally, the two companies share some similarities. The Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and Bloomberg have a big focus on philanthropy that's become part of the companies' identity.

But an acquisition of a company as big as Bloomberg wouldn't be simple.

Microsoft paid $26.2 billion to acquire LinkedIn in its largest acquisition, but the price for Bloomberg is likely to be much higher. LinkedIn's revenue was $2.99 billion in 2015, the year before Microsoft acquired the company. Bloomberg's 2018 revenue was more than $10 billion, insiders told Business Insider.

One estimate from 2016 put Bloomberg's valuation at $54 billion. A managing director at a top-tier investment bank told Business Insider it could go for as much as $70 billion.

But the data giant also has its fair share of structural complexities, the same banker said.

As a private company, Bloomberg has also had the luxury of giving many of its employees the freedom to develop new projects that aren't immediately helping to drive revenue, the source added.

"There's a lot more kind of skunk-work stuff that goes on there because they're not reporting quarterly earnings," he said. "If somebody does something with Bloomberg, how do they deal with these real structural differences?"

The company also has a unique setup when it comes to its financial officers. Bloomberg's finance division is run by Geller & Company, founded by Martin Geller, who served as Michael Bloomberg's accountant when he started the business. Patti Roskill, the CFO who sits on Bloomberg's management committee, is a partner at Geller & Company.

"I don't think it's as easy as people think," the banker said.

And while shedding some of Bloomberg's many divisions is one option — the banker pointed to Bloomberg Law, its subscription-based business for legal research, as one area ripe for being cut before a deal — the sum of the parts is much stronger than if they were sold off separately.

"I think it's more powerful as a whole," the banker said.

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at astewart@businessinsider.com, message her on Twitter @ashannstew or send her a secure message through Signal at 425-344-8242.

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The best auto loans of 2020, whether you're buying or refinancing

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 6:02pm  |  Clusterstock

Here are the lenders offering the best car loans of 2020:
  • Best auto loan overall: Bank of America
  • Best auto loan for excellent credit: LightStream
  • Best auto loan for bad credit: Capital One
  • Best auto loan for refinancing: Clearlane by Ally Bank
  • Best auto loan for lease buyouts: Bank of America

Check out these auto loan offers from our partners:

When it comes to car shopping, finding the right loan can be just as important as finding the right car. 

It's not as easy as simply showing up to the dealership. To get the lowest interest rate, you'll want to shop around for an auto loan to see what kind of financing is available to you. Dealerships often mark up the interest rates on loan offers from lenders, and that can leave you paying more for the same car. 

The good news is that it's completely avoidable if you're willing to shop around for your loan and get pre-approved before you start shopping at the dealership. To shop for the best rate, you'll want to look at several different lenders and see what each will offer you. Once you start getting rate quotes, you'll have two weeks to gather all the quotes you'd like without multiple inquiries hurting your credit score — the credit reporting bureaus count all of those inquiries as one within that period.

Having a pre-approval for a car loan can give you better bargaining power and peace of mind that you'll have the lowest interest rate possible. As you start shopping, keep in mind that your local small bank or credit union could also be a great place to get a loan — these institutions often offer lower car loan interest rates than big banks, but are usually limited to a relatively small geographic area.

Here are a few banks to help you start your search for a variety of situations.

Best auto loan overall: Bank of America
  • Interest rates: as low as 2.99% for a new car purchase loan
  • Available in all 50 states

Bank of America has excellent rates for auto loans currently, offering the lowest starting interest rates going into 2020. Rates for a new car purchase start as low as 2.99% APR, and a used car could be as low as 3.49% APR. With other similarly large banks large banks like Chase starting their auto loan rates around 4%, Bank of America's rates beat out the other big banks. Bank of America offers rate discounts for current customers, up to .5%.

Best auto loan for excellent credit: LightStream 
  • Interest rate range: 3.99% to 8.14% for a new car purchase
  • Minimum FICO score requirement: 66o
  • Available in all 50 states

If you have a good or excellent credit score, you might want to consider LightStream in addition to Bank of America. A part of SunTrust Bank, Lightstream focuses on auto loans to customers with good or better credit, but does offer loans in all 50 states. Because it focuses on a narrow subset of customers, its rates don't go too high — For a 36 month loan for a new car purchase between $10,000 and $24,999, interest rates range from 3.99% to 5.99%. Experian data from Q3 2019 shows the average loan interest rate at 4.19% for borrowers with credit scores above 780 buying new vehicles, and LightStream beats the average. However, borrowers with lower credit scores may find better rates elsewhere. 

Best auto loan for bad credit: Capital One
  • Interest rate range: 3.39% to 11.25%
  • Minimum FICO requirement: 500
  • Available in the contiguous 48 states

Capital One offers easy and reputable auto loans for borrowers with credit scores of 500 or higher. The typical buyer in this credit range will see loan offers with 11.71% APRs for new cars, and 16.89% for used cars, according to Experian — a rate which could quickly increase the cost of buying a car. Capital One offers rates lower than this, offering interest rates topping out at 11.25% according to research by MagnifyMoney. Capital One offers loans as small as $7,500 for used vehicles, but it's worth noting that their maximum loan amount is $50,000.

Best auto loan for refinancing: Clearlane by Ally Bank 
  • Interest rates: 3.54% to 10.24%
  • Minimum FICO requirement: 600
  • Car must have fewer than 100,000 miles and be less than 10 years old 
  • Only offers loans for refinance and lease buyouts. 

Online bank Ally doesn't offer financing to purchase a car. But, if you're looking to refinance the car you already have, its auto lending division Clearlane offers some competitive rates. As long as your vehicle meet the standards (less than 100,000 miles, and fewer than 10 years old), this lender could offer a competitive rate as low as 3.54% according to NerdWallet. Clearlane also offers auto lease buyouts.

Best auto loan for lease buyouts: Bank of America
  • Interest rates starting at 3.99%
  • Also offers purchase loans in addition to lease buyouts

If you're interested in buying the car you're currently leasing but need a loan to do so, Bank of America offers a loan for that. Bank of America offers a variety of auto loans, and like the others, its interest rates are competitive in 2020. Lease buyouts can have higher interest rates than a new or used car loan, but Bank of America's lease buyout APRs start lower than the rates other lenders offer.

Check out these auto loan offers from our partners:

Frequently Asked Questions How were these winners determined?

These lenders were chosen based on interest rate (APR) for each of the conditions above, including credit score, whether you're buying new or used, and loans for a specific need like refinancing or lease buyouts. Business Insider gathered data from NerdWallet, MagnifyMoney, and Credit Karma, and from the lenders themselves. This list only considers loans that were available in most of the US, and does not include captive lenders — lenders owned by auto companies. 

The dealership I'm shopping at offers financing. Should I just use that? 

Car dealerships are allowed to mark up interest rates on auto loans that they offer, and generally, they do. The interest rate a salesperson offers often includes a cut for the dealership, resulting in a higher interest rate for you. While you might qualify for an interest rate of 6% from a bank, you might see 6.5% or even 7% from a dealership, for example. 

If you're willing to put some work in, you may be able to save by shopping around on your own. The best way to avoid this issue is to get pre-approved by a few banks or lenders as you start car shopping, and take those pre-approvals to the dealership with you. Then, you'll have a few estimates on what your cost to borrow could be, and can comparison shop for the lowest APR. 

How long is too long for an auto loan term?

The longer the loan, the lower the payment. But, paying for longer than 60 months (five years) on your auto loan could leave you owing more than your car is worth. 

Cars depreciate quickly, and if you're paying for more than five years on an auto loan, your loan could end up in this situation, also called being "upside-down." In Q3 2019, 61.9% of used car buyers and 71.9% of new car buyers took out a loan with a term between 61 and 84 months according to Experian data, and it's turning into a problem. As auto loans increase in length, auto loan delinquencies are on the rise, too.

Getting an auto loan with bad credit? Here's what you need to know.

If you're shopping for a car loan with bad credit, you could benefit a lot by doing your research and shopping around when looking for an auto loan. Avoid any "buy here, pay here" financing, as these loans often come with exorbitant interest rates and high monthly payments. According to data from the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, "buy here, pay here" dealers saw an average default rate of about 35% in 2019. 

A local credit union might be a good place to start if you have a bad credit score — sometimes lenders like these can be more forgiving and offer lower interest rates than big banks.

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Walmart breaks down how the coronavirus has hit its $10 billion business in China

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 5:54pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Walmart's leadership weighed in on coronavirus concerns during the retail giant's investment community event on Tuesday.
  • CFO Brett Biggs said that "sales have been okay" in China, although Walmart has faced issues with its product mix as consumers scramble to buy up essentials. 
  • Right now, Biggs said he is anticipating the outbreak to have "negative impact" to the tune of just a few cents for Walmart in the first quarter.
  • CEO Doug McMillon said that its stores have largely remained open, although many are operating under reduced hours.
  • "We like to keep stores open," McMillon said. "Customers need us."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Walmart executives broke down the retail giant's response to the coronavirus outbreak in China during the company's investment community event on Tuesday. It's cutting store hours at locations in China and doubling down on a partnership with Chinese delivery and logistics firm Dada-JD Daojia. It's also anticipating a negative hit to its first-quarter numbers. 

The virus has broken out at a time that's seen the retailer reach new heights in China. Walmart International CEO Judith McKenna said that the company runs a $10 billion business in the country, boasting 412 stores, 26 Sam's Clubs, and ongoing plans to open five more members-only clubs every year going forward. McKenna added that the Sam's Club in Shenzhen has the highest sales of any club or store "anywhere in the Walmart world." 

But while Walmart's leadership said the coronavirus would likely have a small negative impact on its first quarter, it's too early to know the outbreak's impact beyond that.

"We're managing the issues related to the coronavirus daily," CEO Doug McMillon said early on in the presentation "Our primary focus is of course on our associates and our customers."

Later, in response to a question from Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom, the CEO said that most Walmart stores and Sam's Clubs in China are operating on reduced hours.

"We like to keep stores open," McMillon said. "Customers need us. We do it with hurricanes in the US. We're doing it with this situation in China."

He added that the company is working in collaboration with Chinese government officials to ensure a safe environment.

McMillon said that McKenna and her team are particularly focused on the following questions: "What's happening with our associates, what do they need? Are the stores being run well? Are we taking care of customers to the extent that we can?"

According to McMillon, Walmart's partnership with Dada-JD Daojia has proved crucial as Chinese customers rely on delivery to get by during the outbreak. 

"Delivery's gone up even higher, as you would guess," McMillon said.

During her portion of the presentation, McKenna said that Dada-JD Daojia provides Walmart Hypermarket, Walmart Supermarket, and Sam's Club customers with a one-hour delivery service.

All in all, Biggs said, "sales have been okay" for Walmart China throughout the crisis. The company has taken more of a hit in terms of its product mix in stores, as shoppers eschew items like apparel and toys in favor of essentials like food and household staples. He said that Walmart expected that it might see "a couple of cents negative impact" in the first quarter.

Biggs said that the company opted to withhold the potential impact of the outbreak from its current financial guidance, as the situation around the virus is "still so fluid." But so far, the disease hasn't tied up Walmart's international logistical or sourcing operations. 

"We also continue to monitor how this might impact our sourcing operations," Biggs said. "As of now, we aren't seeing major impacts."

McMillon said that Walmart is still determining how the coronavirus could tangle up sourcing shipped from China to the United States, as well as from other markets. So far, he said, it's "real difficult to call how it's going to play out in the quarter."

"We're not even through the first month yet," McMillon said. 

SEE ALSO: Hospitals are stockpiling supplies amid fears a coronavirus-related mask shortage could endanger healthcare providers

SEE ALSO: Fashion house Chanel cancels Beijing show over growing coronavirus fears, as the outbreak continues to wreak havoc on luxury brands

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The coronavirus is slamming the US travel industry, with experts predicting it will wipe out more than $10 billion in spending from Chinese visitors

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 5:51pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The coronavirus is expected to cost the US travel industry more than $10 billion over the next four years, with more than half of that loss coming in 2020.
  • Although US airlines are working to minimize the impact, hotels, museums, retail and dining sectors, and other businesses that rely on tourist dollars are expected to face major economic fallout from the outbreak.
  • If the coronavirus continues to spread, particularly in other countries, the impact could be significantly worse.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

While the vast majority of coronavirus cases have been found in China and Asia, the US travel industry is also steeling itself to be ravaged by the rogue virus.

A new report from consulting firm Tourism Economics has put some estimated numbers to that ravaging, saying it expects the US to lose about 1.6 million visitors from mainland China as a result of the coronavirus, translating to a 28% drop for 2020. The report tallied expected losses from Chinese visitor spending at $10.3 billion — more than half of which are expected occur this year.

Travel and spending from Chinese visitors in America is massive, with China being the third-largest source of overseas travel to the United States behind the UK and Japan, according to the US Travel Association, an industry-advocacy organization. Each Chinese visitor to the US spent an average of $6,500 in 2018, according to the latest data available, which a spokesperson for US Travel characterized as "among the highest of all international visitors."

In 2018, Chinese travelers spent a total of $34.6 billion to the US economy, including $17 billion in travel-specific spending. Visitors spent an average of 12 nights in the country, and the majority were in the US for vacation or visits to friends and family.

This trend appeared to continue in 2019, with data from the National Travel and Tourism Office showing 2.5 million Chinese visitors in the first the first 10 months of the year — accounting for roughly 7% of all overseas visits.

Analysts looking at the possible industry impact of the coronavirus have referred back to the 2003 SARS outbreak and 2015 MERS episode. However, the scale and spread of the Wuhan coronavirus have both dwarfed SARS, suggesting that the impact could be longer lasting and more severe.

During the SARS outbreak, the US experienced a 30% decrease in visitors from China, and a 10% fall in travelers from the rest of Asia, according to the Tourism Economics report. It took three years for the market to fully recover.

The impact is expected to be worse than during SARS because there are more Chinese travelers than in there were in 2003 — according to the Tourism Economics report, visits from China to the US have grown 1,270% since 2002. Then, the Chinese market only represented 1% of all overseas visitors to the US and 3% of visitor spending, compared to 7% of visitors and 16% of spending in 2019.

"Given the massive increase in the Chinese travel market, the impact in absolute terms will be much larger than from the SARS crisis," the report said.

While visits impacted by the current coronavirus are expected to ramp back up in 2021, the report projects that it will take about four years to fully recover. An expected 4.6 million hotel room nights will be lost this year — 8.1 million total through 2024 — the report said, with states and cities around the country feeling the impact.

Notably, the projections do not include possible losses from other markets in Asia. If the virus continues to spread outside of China, the impact could be significantly worse.

The total impact could be enough to affect the nation's gross domestic product: The travel and tourism industries represented 2.8% of the GDP in 2017, according to the Department of Commerce. UBS economists warned that the virus' effect on the world economy is driving growth near negative levels for the first quarter of 2020.

US airlines have largely tried to contain the damage by preemptively suspending routes to China and reconfiguring capacity to Asia. However, this capacity decrease will still lead to decreased revenue, and the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization forecasted that the global airline industry's revenue could take a $5 billion hit in just the first quarter. Airlines from China and Hong Kong are expected to fare worst.

According to a report from Hopper, the travel booking app, demand for travel from the US to China dropped more than 58% compared to 2019 at its lowest point so far this year. The good news for US airlines is that overall travel demand among Americans continues to grow, although there's a shift toward interest in domestic travel over international destinations.

The economic pain of the coronavirus is expected to reverberate through the entire travel industry, as shown by the Tourism Economics report. The ban on foreign citizens who have been in China within the previous two weeks, combined with plummeting demand for business travel to and from the region, presents an impending disaster for industries that rely on airlines, hotels, museums, conference organizers, and other types of companies in the US that rely on travel from the region.

The coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, and was first identified and reported in late 2019, has infected more than 73,000 people and killed at least 1,875 around the world. Cases have been found in at least 26 other countries.

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'Tough pill to swallow for the bulls': Here's what 4 Wall Street analysts are saying about Apple's coronavirus-stricken sales forecast (AAPL)

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 5:26pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Apple shares sank in Tuesday trading after the company warned quarterly revenue would fall below initial estimates, but analysts aren't fazed.
  • Most research firms remain bullish toward the tech giant, praising its diversification of revenue streams, surging Services business, and upcoming 5G iPhone lineup.
  • Revenue lost during the second quarter will likely materialize in the second half of 2020 as consumers boost spending activity post-outbreak, analysts wrote.
  • Here's what four analysts had to say about the revenue update, coronavirus concerns, and long-term moves for Apple shares.
  • Watch Apple trade live here.

Analysts are still optimistic toward Apple shares despite the tech giant warning its quarterly revenue will fall below initial forecasts.

The iPhone maker announced Monday its fiscal second-quarter revenue will miss guidance on coronavirus concerns. The outbreak has "temporarily constrained" iPhone supply around the world and weakened demand in China, according to the Monday release. Apple's estimate was already "wider-than-usual" by its own account, but Monday's update marks a major escalation of its exposure to coronavirus fallout.

The company's stock sank as much as 3.2% in Tuesday's trading session, though it is still up 9.4% year-to-date. While the revenue adjustment lowered hopes for Apple's second-quarter report, most analysts expect revenue to rebound in the second half of 2020 and for shares to continue their bull run through the year.

Here's what four analysts had to say about Apple's update, coronavirus concerns, and how investors should view the stock.

JPMorgan: 'Look past these temporary headwinds'

Price target: $350

Rating: Overweight

The virus' drag on Chinese demand and global supply will drive "much lower" second-quarter volumes and even spill into the third quarter of 2020, but the company's long-term outlook hasn't changed yet, JPMorgan analysts wrote Monday.

Apple's biggest boost to iPhone sales will arrive in the fall with its 5G-capable lineup. Virus-related risks will likely fade by then, and steady Services revenue can offset some losses, according to the team of analysts.

Shareholders should monitor for additional updates, as the outbreak is still mired in uncertainty, the bank wrote. However, bullish investors can comfortably hold shares until signs of worsening fallout.

"We expect most long-term investors in Apple shares to look past these temporary headwinds, with both products and services continuing to demonstrate strong underlying consumer demand," the team led by Samik Chatterjee wrote.



Wedbush: 'More of a timing issue'

Price target: $400

Rating: Outperform

Apple's announcement prompted a "knee jerk reaction" during Tuesday's trading session, Wedbush analysts Dan Ives and Strecker Backe said. Yet the downward adjustment didn't faze the firm's outlook on Apple shares, with the two analysts expecting sales to rebound once the virus is contained.

"We believe this is a more of a timing issue rather than an extended supply/demand issue for iPhones globally and does not change our longer term bullish thesis on the name," the team wrote. "While this news is a tough pill to swallow for the bulls, Apple remains a company significantly exposed to this virus issue given the company's massive supply and demand tentacles throughout China."

Wedbush sees the firm potentially bouncing back in the June quarter and riding the "5G super cycle" through the end of the year. 



RBC Capital Markets: 'The ultimate impact is still very much unknown'

Price target: $358

Rating: Outperform

Analysts at RBC Capital Markets compared the Monday announcement to Apple's January 2019 statement, when the company lowered guidance on worse-than-expected demand for iPhones in China. The update saw Apple shares drop the most in six years after a temporary halt to trading, a far more negative reaction to the mild drop in Tuesday's session.

While the 2019 update "was not a (most likely) one-off item driving the lower demand," Monday's statement signals revenue will simply be delayed until the third quarter, analyst Robert Muller wrote. The most important variable is the spread of coronavirus in the near future, as a prolonged pandemic could keep demand in China stifled for quarters to come.

"While we view the situation as temporary and our longer-term outlook is unchanged, the ultimate impact is still very much unknown," the analyst said.



Canaccord Genuity: 'Well positioned for strong trends'

Price target: $345

Rating: Buy

Even as the outbreak drags on iPhone sales, the tech giant has several other revenue streams to lean on while it waits for the coronavirus pandemic to die down, analysts at Canaccord Genuity wrote on Monday. Record revenue for its Services business is expected to "outpace total company growth," and Mac and iPad sales are reaching all-time highs despite relatively high bars to clear, they added.

Apple's diversified mix of product and service revenues, along with expected boosts to share buybacks, will keep the stock from falling too much as it weathers the coronavirus storm, analysts Michael Walkley and Anthony Nemoto wrote.

"We believe Apple is well positioned for strong trends across all its business lines."

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

The coronavirus outbreak is dangerously close to shrinking global growth this quarter, UBS warns

HSBC tanks the most since 2017 after announcing a $7.2 billion overhaul charge

How to master your calendar — from a business coach who grew sales by 62% while taking 162 days off last year



Best tax software 2020: TurboTax, H&R Block, and more

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 5:05pm  |  Clusterstock
  The best tax software:
  • TurboTax: Best tax software overall
  • H&R Block: Best tax software for free filing
  • 1040.com: Best tax software for non-W-2 income
  • eFile.com: Best tax software for small business owners
  • H&R Block: Best tax software for first-time filers
  • TaxAct: Best tax software for experienced filers
  • Need more information? Scroll down to read more on how and why we chose the winners, how much they cost, and what you should know about each of our picks.  

Most Americans dread filing taxes. It can be costly, confusing, or just plain tedious ... but it has to be done.

The good news is that if you have a straightforward financial situation, there are simple and free tax filing options available online.

If your situation is more complex — you have side jobs, own a business, live and work in different states, or earn income from a trust, for example — you can expect to pay to file your federal income tax return, and probably your state return, too.

But where do you start? And who has the best tax software or online tax filing service for your situation?

Taxes are incredibly nuanced and it's naive to assume one person's filing experience will be like another's because they use the same tax preparer. That said, there are some companies that excel in certain niches, like helping small business owners navigate deductions or walking first-time filers through loads of tax jargon.

In order to determine the best tax software, we reviewed offerings from about a dozen online tax preparers, most of which are included in the IRS Free File Alliance, meaning they offer filers who earn up to $69,000 the ability to file their taxes for free. 

We focused on a few important factors that we deem essential to any good filing experience: comparatively low cost, easy to use, good value, breadth of tax forms supported, ability to put off payment until the return is ready to file, easy W-2 or 1099 import or upload, an accuracy guarantee/liability, and optional audit support.

Below you'll find our picks for the best tax software.

TurboTax: Best tax software overall

Why it stands out: TurboTax delivers in all areas of tax preparation with options aplenty. It offers $0 federal and state filing with no income limits for W-2 earners, plus a clear and structured question-and-answer format to help filers with more complicated financials — e.g. a mortgage, investment income, education expenses, self-employment income, itemized deductions, etc. — find the right paid product and make the most of every deduction available to them.

While its biggest competitor, H&R Block, is cheaper, TurboTax has at least two notable edges: It supports income from estates and trusts (Schedule K-1) and it offers QuickBooks integration for self-employed filers who track their business expenses all year long. Both tax preparers have excellent user interfaces — the superior choice is usually a matter of personal preference.

Cost: 

  • Deluxe online filing — $40 federal return fee; $40 additional state return fee
  • Premier online filing — $70 federal return fee; $40 additional state return fee
  • Self-Employed online filing — $90 federal return fee; $40 additional state return fee

For nearly double the prices listed above, you can buy TurboTax Live, which gives you instant access to an expert who can review your tax return for accuracy before you submit, if that's important to you.

In addition to online filing services, TurboTax sells desktop software for a slight markup. Unless you need more hand holding and/or you want to be able to complete your tax return without internet connection, you probably don't need to splurge for the downloadable software.

What to look out for: One of the biggest complaints about TurboTax is the ease with which it attempts to upgrade users to the next-tier product, so beware of the upsell. You should also avoid paying your filing fee out of your refund, unless you're OK with an extra $40 processing fee tacked on to your total.

And a word to the wise: If you're looking for TurboTax's completely free filing service, don't go through the IRS Free File portal or you'll be met with a $36,000 income restriction.

H&R Block: Best tax software for free filing

Why it stands out: H&R Block is part of the IRS Free File Alliance, which enables free filing for taxpayers with up to $69,000 in income, but you can file both your federal tax return and state tax return with H&R Block's free file edition regardless of how much you earned.

H&R Block's free file version supports W-2 income, interest income, dividend income, retirement distributions, the student loan interest deduction, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is more than TurboTax covers for free.

H&R Block is well-reviewed by novices and experts alike for its clear instructions, explanations of tax concepts, easy-to-use interface, and helpful customer service.

Cost: $0 federal return fee; $0 state return fee.

What to look out for: You can't itemize with H&R Block's free edition. Limitations exist for homeowners, freelancers, and business owners.

Similarly to TurboTax, if you want to use H&R Block's free edition, we recommend navigating directly to the website instead of going through the IRS Free File portal or you'll hit a landing page that enforces a $69,000 income limit.

1040.com: Best tax software for non-W-2 income

Why it stands out: 1040.com works well for newbies and experienced filers alike. Like most of the online tax services, it uses a question-and-answer format to help filers navigate deductions and credits, but you can also jump directly to certain forms if you're well-versed.

Best of all, there are no price tiers or product comparisons — just one flat fee that covers everything, and you don't have to pay until you're ready to submit your return. People with income beyond W-2 earnings typically pay a premium to file their taxes, but this service levies no upcharge for reporting self-employment income, business income, estate or trust income, or foreign earned income.

Plus, you can file multiple state returns at no extra cost.

Cost: $25 federal return fee; $0 state return fee.

What to look out for: If you choose to pay for 1040.com filing through your refund, you'll be charged an additional $25 processing fee. An outside audit protection service, which is included at no extra cost with the big tax preparers, will set you back $30.

eFile.com: Best tax software for small business owners

Why it stands out: If you know you're going to report business, trust, or complicated investment income, you can go straight to eFile.com's premium package, which is comparable to H&R Block's and TurboTax's self-employment options but offered at a fraction of the price. It may not feel as professional as the others, but eFile.com offers all the same important features.

This option is best for small business owners who generally know how business income tax filing works and don't need a ton of hand holding. If questions do arise, you have access to a "Taxpert," though reviews suggest you shouldn't expect quick answers. If your return is rejected by the IRS for any reason, you can refile at no extra charge.

Cost: 

  • Deluxe online filing — $25 federal return fee; $29 additional state fee (unlimited returns)*
  • Premium online filing — $35 federal return fee; $29 additional state fee (unlimited returns)*

*Prices are rounded to the nearest dollar.

What to look out for: Don't get fooled into paying the online servicer out of your refund — it'll be an extra cost of about $25.

H&R Block: Best tax software for first-time filers

Why it stands out: First-time filers are generally younger and presumably cost-conscious. H&R Block is cheaper than TurboTax, but still provides more than enough hand holding for a novice. It also uses a question-and-answer format to guide you to the right online filing product and make sure you get every deduction or credit you qualify for. 

H&R Block also has affordable options for those who would rather outsource the work to a tax professional through Tax Pro Go. Filing fees range from $49 for simple, W-2 earners to $249 for business owners (plus $39 state filing fees) — and you don't ever have to step foot in an office.

Cost: 

  • Deluxe online filing — $30 federal return fee; $37 additional state return fee*
  • Premium online filing — $50 federal return fee; $37 additional state return fee*
  • Self-employed online filing — $80 federal return fee; $37 additional state return fee*

*Prices are rounded to the nearest dollar.

For an additional cost, you can get on-demand and unlimited help from an expert with H&R Block's Online Assist service, which includes screen-share capabilities and instant chat. There's also downloadable software if you want to work through your taxes on a desktop. It's cheaper than TurboTax, but again, just filing online is suitable in most cases.

What to look out for: It may sound easy to pay your filing fee directly out of your refund, but H&R Block will charge an extra $40 processing fee.

TaxAct: Best tax software for experienced filers

Why it stands out: If you've filed many times over and feel confident navigating tax jargon, TaxAct is a good middle-of-the-road option: It's cheaper than the industry stalwarts and still gets the job done.

Each of its online filing options is a good bet, but independent contractors may find extra value with the self-employed option, which spends extra time identifying industry-specific deductions, whether you're a freelance writer, business consultant, teacher, or musician.

Filers can also import previous years' returns from another preparer to speed up the data-entry process. If questions arise along the way, TaxAct experts are available via email, chat, or phone.

Cost:

  • Free online filing — $0 federal return fee; $0 additional state return fee*
  • Deluxe online filing — $30 federal return fee; $40 additional state return fee*
  • Premier online filing — $40 federal return fee; $40 additional state return fee*
  • Self-employed online filing — $75 federal return fee; $50 additional state return fee*

*Prices are rounded to the nearest dollar. All options are available to active duty military at no cost. 

TaxAct also has downloadable software, but it's pricier than its online counterpart. 

What to look out for: You won't get the moment-to-moment guidance and technical breakdowns that TaxAct's higher-end competitors are known for. If you need to file a return for estate or trust income, you'll need to buy a separate package for about $110, plus an additional $50 state return fee. 

Other tax services we considered and why they didn't make the cut:
  • Credit Karma: Credit Karma offers a generally good online tax service, in large part because it's completely free regardless of income level. What it doesn't cover, however, could be a deal breaker for some people, including disallowing returns for people who earned income in a state they don't reside in. 
  • Liberty Tax: eSmart tax by Liberty Tax offers three separate paid products at generally affordable prices, but none of them stand out against competitors.
  • TaxSlayer: Among the cheapest options for e-filing, TaxSlayer is comparable to TaxAct, but reviewers say the former's user interface can become monotonous and it's difficult to return to previous sections.
  • FreeTaxUSA: FreeTaxUSA may be the lowest-cost option on the market, but it's not the best service for anyone who needs help maximizing their deductions or understanding tax forms.
  • 1040Now.net: Despite its IRS Free File Alliance status, there are much cleaner, more modern options than filing your taxes online through 1040Now.net.
  • ezTaxReturn.com: ezTaxReturn.com is also part of the IRS Free File Alliance, offering free federal returns for taxpayers who earn less than $69,000 and live in qualifying states, but it restricts too many types of self-employment income to be the best. 
  • FileYourTaxes.com: You can get a free federal tax return through FileYourTaxes.com if you made between $9,000 and $69,000 last year, thanks to the IRS Free File Alliance. Independent of that, the company charges filers a nearly $45 base price for federal returns in addition to individual fees for every tax form they need. 
  • Online Taxes, OLT.com: Another IRS Free File Alliance member that allows you to file a federal return at no cost if you earned less than $69,000, but there's nothing that stands out about the interface compared to other online tax preparers.
Frequently asked questions: Why trust our recommendations?

At Personal Finance Insider, we strive to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. Filing taxes can seem like a frustrating task for many of us and we want to help make the process easier and more affordable.

As previously mentioned, "best" is often subjective — there's no single tax software or online tax filing service that will work for everyone. Not only are taxes highly personal, but there isn't one universal user experience. That's why we reviewed about a dozen of the most popular tax preparers to identify their top strengths and weaknesses.

How did we choose the best tax software?

We started with a list of tax preparers included in the IRS Free File Alliance, which offer filers who earn up to $69,000 the ability to file their taxes for free. (You can use the IRS Free File Lookup Tool to determine whether you qualify for free filing.)

All of these companies offer online tax filing services and a few, H&R Block and TurboTax included, also sell downloadable software for your computer, which you can use to fill out your tax return without an internet connection. 

We also considered a few tax preparation companies not currently on the IRS Free File list, including 1040.com and Credit Karma.

We realize that if you're searching for the best tax software, you're probably either willing to spend time filing your own return or you're looking for a more affordable option than hiring a tax professional.

With that in mind, we weighted heavily the following factors: cost, ease of use, value, the breadth of tax forms supported, the ability to put off payment until the return is ready to file, easy W-2 or 1099 import or upload, an accuracy guarantee/liability, and optional audit support.

Finally, we consulted other experts, like Wirecutter and Nerdwallet, to make sure we weren't missing any major features or drawbacks of any of the services.

Which online tax filing is the best?

According to our research, TurboTax offers the widest selection of comprehensive tax software and online tax filing options on the market right now.

That said, every American who qualifies to file their taxes for free should be able to do so without deception. A 2019 investigation by ProPublica found that Intuit, TurboTax's parent company, and H&R Block were deliberately hiding their free filing services from Google and other search engines, which led the IRS to announce early this year that the companies would be prohibited from doing so going forward.

Despite this, we still feel TurboTax offers a valuable and honest product for filing your taxes. Also, as with any financial product, it's in your own best interest to stay vigilant.

What is the best tax software for small businesses?

TurboTax offers a very comprehensive online tax filing service for small business owners, but for a much cheaper option, try eFile.com. This option is best for business owners who generally know how business income tax filing works and don't need a ton of hand holding.

How should I choose a tax software?

If you're easily overwhelmed by taxes, the best tax software is going to be one that does most of the work for you; H&R Block and TurboTax are wildly popular for this reason. All you have to do is upload the relevant tax forms and answer a few questions along the way to account for deductions and credits. These two tax preparers have multiple options for filers with any and every type of income, as well as individualized help from a CPA or enrolled agent for an additional fee, if you need it.

If your main objective is to save money on tax filing, check out the IRS Free File partners first. If your income is too high to qualify for free federal and/or state filing, consider budget options like TaxAct, eFile.com, 1040.com, and TaxSlayer. These companies offer tax software for a fraction of the price of H&R Block and TurboTax and still permit tax form uploads and provide a reasonable level of guidance throughout the process.

If getting a big tax refund is most important to you and you have time to spare, you may want to fill out a tax return with a few different online preparers. Each of the companies on our best tax software list allows you to begin a tax return for free and pay only when you're ready to submit the return (you will need to set up an account, though). Before payment is required, you should be able to see your tax refund amount and cancel any filing application that doesn't give you the biggest refund.

Tanza Loudenback has been writing about money every day for more than three years. She is an expert on strategies for building wealth and financial products that help people make the most of their money. She is a candidate for the CFP® certification.

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