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The Fed says interest rates are likely to remain at historically low levels — for now

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 3:21pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Federal Reserve policymakers saw fewer risks to the economy at the end of 2019.
  • They predicted there would be little to no need to adjust interest rate levels anytime soon. 
  • But the central bank has also pointed to a bruising trade dispute between the US and China, which has weighed on business investment and manufacturing.
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Federal Reserve policymakers saw fewer risks to the economy at the end of 2019 and predicted there would be little to no need to adjust interest rate levels anytime soon. 

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee was widely comfortable in December with the current benchmark interest rate range of between 1.5% and 1.75%, minutes released Friday showed. The central bank slashed borrowing costs to that historically low level last year in an attempt to insulate the historic expansion from growing strains, including a slowdown abroad and global trade tensions. 

"Maintaining the current stance of monetary policy would give the Committee some time to assess the full effects on the economy of its policy decisions," the minutes from the December 10-11 meeting said. "Participants also discussed how maintaining the current stance of policy for a time could be helpful for cushioning the economy from the global developments."

The FOMC said that downside risks to growth had eased since its last meeting and continued to point to the historically strong job market and healthy consumer spending patterns. But the central bank has also pointed to a bruising trade dispute between the US and China, which has weighed on business investment and manufacturing.

The Trump administration announced in October an interim agreement to defuse those tensions, even though punitive tariffs were kept on thousands of products. 

"Important factors influencing this assessment were that international trade tensions and foreign economic developments seemed more likely to move in directions that could have significant negative effects on the US economy than to resolve more favorably than assumed," the minutes said. 

Fed Chairman Jay Powell has separately expressed concerns about inflation readings, which have consistently come in below a 2% target. In November, the central bank's preferred gauge of price changes rose 1.6%. 

Geopolitical tensions between the US and Iran have risen sharply since December, which could influence the outlook ahead of the next FOMC meeting at the end of the month. An American airstrike killed a central Iranian military figure overnight, rattling financial markets and sending oil prices sharply higher. 

"There's always the possibility of a 'heart attack,' or shock, perhaps caused by global risks," Richmond Federal Reserve president Thomas Barkin said in Baltimore early Friday. "Imagine an escalation with Iran or a collapse in international economies."

SEE ALSO: US manufacturing activity drops to weakest level since financial crisis as tariffs bite

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

Here's what 4 analysts are saying about Tesla after record delivery numbers sent shares climbing (TSLA)

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 3:20pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Tesla reported record fourth quarter 2019 vehicle delivery numbers Friday that brought full-year deliveries above the low end of the company's guidance and topped Wall Street expectations. 
  • Shares of the company surged as much as 5.5% Friday to new intraday highs. 
  • Here's what four analysts had to say about Tesla after the record report. 
  • Watch Tesla trade live on Markets Insider.

Tesla reported record fourth quarter and full-year 2019 vehicle delivery numbers on Friday, topping Wall Street estimates and beating the low-end of the company's own guidance. 

Shares of the company opened at a fresh high and surged as much as 5.5% Friday after the news revived investor confidence that Tesla has returned to profitability

"We view these results as a clear indication that EV demand remains strong for Tesla and that the company is well positioned for 2020 with continued positive momentum in all business areas," Jed Dorsheimer, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, wrote in a note Friday. 

Dorsheimer raised his Tesla price target to $515 ahead of the report and reiterated his "buy" rating, implying the stock would surge more than 20% in 2020. It's now the highest Tesla rating from a major brokerage

Even an analyst who doesn't recommend buying Tesla was impressed. Daniel Ives of Wedbush, who has a neutral rating on stock and a price target that implies nearly 14% downside from where shares closed Thursday, called the results "another major feather in the cap for Musk & Co." in a Friday report. 

Overall, Wall Street analysts have a consensus price target of $303.86 and 11 "buy" ratings, 10 "hold" ratings, and 15 "sell" ratings on shares of Tesla, according to Bloomberg data. 

Here's what four analysts had to say about Tesla after the solid vehicle delivery report Friday. 

1. Canaccord Genuity: "Production woes of the past have been rectified"

Price Target: $515 

Rating: Buy 

"Overall production was roughly 105,000, yet another record for the company, signifying the production woes of the past have been rectified," wrote Jed Dorsheimer of Canaccord Genuity in a note Friday. 

He continued: "The company also provided an update on the key Shanghai facility, reporting that over 1,000 salable vehicles had already been produced and indicated a 'greater than 3,000' unit run capability. This is truly a remarkable feat given the facility did not exist less than one year ago."

2. Wedbush: "Another step in the right direction"

Price Target: $370 

Rating: Neutral 

"This morning's 4Q delivery numbers were another step in the right direction for Fremont and an impressive performance in our opinion. Looking ahead, a major part of the Tesla growth thesis is around China as the flagship Shanghai Giga 3 build out is ahead of schedule and remains the fuel in the engine for the overall China bull thesis, which combined with healthy underlying consumer demand in this key region should be a catalyst in FY20 and beyond," Daniel Ives of Wedbush wrote in a note Friday. 

He continued: "If Tesla is able to sustain this level of profitability and demand for the company going forward, especially in Europe and China, then the stock (and bull thesis) will open up a new chapter of growth and multiple expansion in our opinion."

3. CFRA: "Questions remain"

Price Target: $400 (was $320) 

Rating: Hold 

"We think sales were boosted by customer purchases ahead of its federal EV tax credit expiration. TSLA shares surged in the back half of 2019, as balance sheet-related concerns eased and investors began to look ahead to the China startup and 2020 Model Y debut," Garrett Nelson wrote Friday. 

He continued: "Still, we think questions remain about first half 2020 results and gross margin sustainability; we point out that Tesla is already lowering prices in China and faces a flood of EV competition in the U.S., with at least 25 new models debuting this year (with most eligible for the full $7,500 tax credit)."

4. Bernstein: "The key question is gross margins and profitability"

Price Target: $325 

Rating: Market-perform 

"While Q4 deliveries were strong, we do see risk of a meaningful deceleration in Q1 20 – about 7,000 of the 12,000 sequential increase in Model 3 deliveries came from the Netherlands, which is witnessing a pull-forward due to a EV tax change," Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein wrote in a note Friday. 

He continued: "Per usual, the key question is gross margins and profitability. Our conversations with management suggest the Shanghai Gigafactory may prove a larger-than-expected drag on Q4 gross margins (perhaps 200-500 bps!) as all Chinese-manufactured Model 3s have to be recognized in COGS regardless of whether they have yet been delivered."

From Apple upping its healthcare ambitions to Walmart acquiring a health insurer, VCs shared the biggest surprises they're watching out for in 2020

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 3:19pm  |  Clusterstock

2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in healthcare. 

From a booming IPO market to pharma companies getting more serious about using artificial intelligence to discover and develop new drugs, healthcare venture investors have no shortage of expectations about what's ahead for the industry over the next year.

While gathering predictions for the year ahead, we asked 10 venture capitalists what they thought could be the biggest surprises to hit healthcare in 2020. That is, if we were to look back on 2020 and think, "Wow! I can't believe that happened this year," what might that be? 

To be clear, the surprises below aren't exactly predictions. But if the events were to occur, they could have big implications for investors and patients.

The answers we got from the venture capitalists included everything from big legislative changes in healthcare to companies like Amazon and Walmart more directly owning pieces of the $3.6 trillion healthcare industry.

Here's what surprises might lie ahead in 2020.  

US government actions could be the biggest surprises of 2020

A common surprise venture investors thought could rock 2020 was government action. 

For Venrock partner Bryan Roberts, having the government do something material in healthcare would be the biggest surprise. That could be anything involving healthcare costs or drug prices that could change what Americans pay for their healthcare. It wouldn't, he said, include changes in which hospitals have to post their prices, a rule introduced by the Trump administration in 2019.

"I don't think anything material's going to happen," Roberts said. 

Similarly, Andreessen Horowitz general partner Julie Yoo said she'd be surprised if "Medicare for All," the idea of single-payer healthcare in the US, moved from an idea to a reality during the 2020 presidential election year. 

"If it actually happens, that'd be a huge shocker," Yoo said. 

Read more: A rising star at Andreessen Horowitz explains why companies that make drugs will start delivering healthcare in 2020

Robert Garber, a 7Wire partner, agreed. "I would look back and be surprised if some version of Medicare for All or public options actually makes its way through legislation," he said. 

While presidential and congressional elections take place in November, the officials elected won't begin their terms until 2021. 

In December, the House passed a bill backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed at lowering drug prices for Americans. 

Krishna Yeshwant, who leads GV's life-sciences team, said that the biggest surprise of 2020 could be if a bill like that were to pass. If it did, he said, it could dramatically reduce the number of new companies working on new approaches to treat diseases.

Big tech gets more ingrained in the healthcare industry

Many of the surprises that the venture capitalists thought could rock 2020 had everything to do with the looming presence of big tech companies that have been increasingly making their way into the healthcare industry over the past few years, as well as retailers like Walmart.

Read more: Companies like Walmart, CVS, and Amazon are beefing up their healthcare strategies. Here are their plans to upend the $3.6 trillion industry.

In particular, it'd be a big surprise if those companies were to make direct acquisitions that got them into entirely new lines of business. 

For instance, Maverick managing director Ambar Bhattacharyya said a big surprise would be if Amazon, Apple, Walmart, or Google were to buy a health insurer. If that happened, he said, "I think the landscape will change significantly." 

Read more: A top investor at a $400 million VC firm predicts 2020 will be the year that prescription weight-loss treatments get sold online, just like Viagra

NEA principal Lily Huang said she'd be surprised if Apple bought a provider group or became a provider itself, while Lux partner Zavain Dar said he'd be surprised if Google or Amazon got into the business of developing new therapeutics. Apple, for its part, operates health clinics for its employees called AC Wellness that are independent from the tech giant.

Already, the moves the unconventional healthcare players have made in the industry — in particular, Amazon — have set it up so it'd be a big surprise in 2020 if they were to turn their backs on it completely. 

"I would be shocked if Amazon walked away from healthcare," Lux partner Adam Goulburn said. 

Read more: VCs at $2.4 billion Lux Capital think 2020 will be the year Big Pharma companies buy startups that ship Viagra and hair-loss pills to your door

Fundamental changes to the market could be big surprises too

For Alyssa Jaffee, a vice president at the venture firm 7Wire, the most shocking thing to come out of 2020 would be a fundamental change to how she invests in startups. 

That is, if the healthcare industry abandoned its push toward a more consumer-friendly market that pays for how well care is given, rather than how much of it is performed. 

"I think that the tailwinds on consumerism and the tailwinds on value-based care are so strong, it is a matter of when, not if," Jaffee said. "I would be shocked if the market flipped."

Throughout 2019, there were predictions that the market was headed for a recession in 2020. NEA partner Blake Wu said he'd be surprised if that were to play out. 

"It doesn't look like 2020 is going to be the year we enter a recession," Wu said, pointing in part to the low unemployment rate in the US

"It looks like the global — especially the US — economy will be able to withstand any kind of hit," Wu said. 

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NOW WATCH: Here's how to survive an avalanche

Pressure is mounting on fugitive Carlos Ghosn as authorities make arrests and the probe into his mysterious escape heats up

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 2:59pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Carlos Ghosn's safety in Lebanon is seeming increasingly perilous as details of his escapade trickle out. 
  • The former auto executive may have broken Lebanese law with prior trips to Israel, The Washington Post reported. 
  • Ghosn is expected to give a press conference in the coming days — where he'll have plenty of questions to answer.
  • Follow Business Insider's full coverage of the international fugitive here.

As details began to trickle out this week of former auto executive Carlos Ghosn's mysterious escape from Japan to Beirut, there are still more questions than answers.

In Japan, the 65-year-old was under strict surveillance while awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct as part of his multimillion-dollar bail agreement. If convicted, he could face a 15-year prison sentence — a real possibility given Japan's extremely high conviction rate.

However, his April trial seems unlikely to happen so long as he's holed up in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

Now all eyes have turned to Japanese authorities to explain themselves — and to Ghosn to explain what comes next.

A press conference is expected in the coming days, where Ghosn could elaborate on the "injustice and political persecution" he says he escaped.

"I have not fled justice," he said on Tuesday upon his landing in Lebanon, which he reached via Turkey and a private-jet charter, Bloomberg cited Lebanese media as saying. "I have escaped injustice and political persecution." 

In a brief follow-up statement on Thursday, Ghosn sought to discredit reports that his wife or other family had aided in his flight.

"There has been speculation in the media that my wife Carole, and other members of my family played a role in my departure from Japan," he said through a US-based representative retained since his escape. "All such speculation is inaccurate and false. I alone arranged for my departure. My family had no role whatsoever."

Turkey, for its part, has detained seven people, including four pilots it has accused of aiding in his travel, and Interpol has issued to Lebanon a warrant for his arrest.

But while Lebanon has extradition treaties with only the US and South Korea, Ghosn might not be as safe as he thinks — even in a country that loves him enough to put his face on billboards and postage stamps.

A group of lawyers on Thursday sent a complaint to Lebanon's judiciary, The Washington Post reported, alleging his visits to Israel violated Lebanon's laws that forbid contact with the country, a major enemy of Lebanon.

"If he thinks that he actually could be protected here, it's not going to happen, because according to Lebanese law he visited Israel, which is an enemy state," a Lebanese political analyst told the paper.

Now the world waits.

More on Carlos Ghosn's international escapade: 

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NOW WATCH: Here's why in-flight WiFi is so slow and expensive

Here's exactly how to borrow money with a personal loan

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 2:33pm  |  Clusterstock

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

  • Anyone wondering how to get a loan should take the same first step: checking their credit score, and making sure their credit is as high as possible.
  • Lenders look at your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio to indicate how trustworthy you might be as a borrower, so it's smart to know what to expect.
  • Once you have those numbers, make sure to get a few different rates before you commit. You can compare rates directly through sites like Credible or Credit Karma, or contact individual lenders for quotes.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

While rates vary from lender to lender and from borrower to borrower, personal loan interest rates can often be lower than credit card rates, and once you get approved for a personal loan, the rate is fixed.

"This means your rate won't go up or down every month unlike credit cards, which can fluctuate," says Dana Marineau, VP brand, creative and communications at Credit Karma.

Another benefit of personal loans is they have a fixed term, which means you have a set amount of time to pay off what you borrow. "The fixed term can vary but we see many run from three to five years, and you pay it off monthly," says Marineau. "A personal loan can be a good option for budget-conscious borrowers since the amount is predictable and consistent every month."

If you're looking at taking out a loan, here's how to do it:

How to get a loan 1. Check your credit score

If you're beginning the loan process for the first time, start by getting your credit score.

You can check it for free at any time at sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and You don't need a perfect credit score of 850 to get a loan, but lenders see your credit score as an indication of your trustworthiness as a buyer and adjust their offers accordingly — so the higher your score, the better.

2. If something looks amiss, pull your credit report

Your credit score is three-digit shorthand for the information contained in your credit report, which monitors all of your credit-related activity. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you're entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Note that there are plenty of opportunities to pay for your credit report, but is the best place to get your report for free (or call 1-877-322-8228). Be prepared to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

3. Boost your score as much as you can before putting in your application

Checking your score is easy, but the next step can be harder: boosting it as much as you can before applying for a loan.

"Anything you can do to improve your credit score, like taking care of overdue bills or paying down credit card balances, can help you get a better interest rate," says Jamie Young, personal finance expert and writer at Credible, an online loan marketplace. "Your credit score is the most important factor in deciding what interest rate a lender will offer you. Although many lenders offer personal loans to borrowers with only fair credit, you can expect to pay higher interest rates."

4. Understand your debt-to-income ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is how much of your monthly income is required to pay recurring expenses like your rent or mortgage, car loan, and other bills. has a free calculator to find your debt-to-income ratio.

Knowing your ratio can help you get an idea of what to expect from lenders.

"A debt-to-income ratio below 36% is considered healthy," says Young. "If the monthly payments on a personal loan would push your debt-to-income too high — over 45% or 50%, say — you won't be approved for a personal loan by most lenders, no matter how good your credit score is."

5. Get a grasp of interest rates

When shopping for a personal loan, realize interest rates can range from 5% to 36%, says Marineau. Your interest rate is set when the loan is granted, and that rate is for the life of the loan. 

6. Assemble your personal information for your application

When applying, have the following information:

  • personal contact information
  • date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • employment and income information — including recent pay stubs or W-2 tax forms
  • loan amount needed
7. Shop around before you commit

Before applying, take time to shop for a personal loan by comparing rates, fixed terms, and fixed payments.

There are sites, like Credible or Credit Karma, where you can comparison-shop for personal loans from banks and credit unions. You can also ask your community bank, friends or family, or do your own research from individual lenders.

8. Get at least two quotes before committing

Before choosing a loan, you should always receive at least two quotes from lenders. "That's really the only way to know if you're getting a good deal," Lou Haverty, CFA with Financial Analyst Insider, tells Business Insider. "After you receive the better quote, go back to your original lender and let them know the terms of the other offer. You'll be surprised at how often they will come back with a better offer," he says.

Compare quotes right now:

9. If you can't get a loan, try applying for a smaller amount

If you're checking rates with lenders and keep getting turned down even though you have a good credit score, try applying for a smaller loan, says Young from Credible. It will have a smaller impact on your debt-to-income ratio, and you might be approved.

Or, look for lenders that offer longer repayment terms, which will have smaller monthly payments. "Lenders available through Credible offer repayment terms of two to seven years. Just remember that the longer you take to pay back your loan, the more you'll pay in interest charges. Choose a loan with the shortest repayment term," Young says.

10. Make a plan to keep up with your loan payments

Once you decide which loan is the right one for you, make sure you have a plan in place to pay your loan on time. "Think about ways you can stay organized, whether it's with automatic payments or setting up reminders every month," says Marineau. "Remember: Personal loans need to be paid back on time every month, so make sure to stay on top of payments."

Read more about getting a loan: Credit card or personal loan? Which to use to borrow money How to use a home equity loan How do personal loans work? How to pay off student loans faster

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The true story behind the name 'Black Friday' is much darker than you may have thought

In 2019, activists and stock pickers were hot — but Ray Dalio made a rare stumble and short sellers got crushed

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 2:27pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The hedge funds that dominated 2019 included big names like Bill Ackman, David Einhorn, and Dan Loeb.
  • Spin-offs from funds like Citadel, D.E. Shaw, and Viking also made positive headlines, carving out names for themselves in the process.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Ray Dalio's Bridgewater slipped, and one of Pimco's biggest hedge funds stumbled.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories

Big names closed shop. Billions were pulled out of the industry. Fees continued to drop. 

But 2019 wasn't all bad for hedge-fund managers. 

Once embattled stock pickers like Bill Ackman and David Einhorn had bounce-back years, with Ackman posting record returns.

Activists like Third Point, Elliott, and Starboard Value saw big campaigns go their way. And Steve Cohen's first full year of trading after his ban from regulators beat several rivals — and the billionaire is set to buy his favorite baseball team. 

That said, there were funds that slipped and stumbled. Short sellers were pressed again as the market surged. Ray Dalio stumbled for the first time in years, and Pimco's flagship hedge-fund offering lost money. 

Hot: Stock pickers that bounced back

Pershing Square, with returns topping 50% for the year, was one of the big winners of 2019, as founder and billionaire Ackman returned the firm to its roots.

With a portfolio that includes only long positions, Ackman is avoiding the drawn-out activist battles that landed him and the firm in trouble during his campaign against Herbalife. 

Einhorn's Greenlight Capital, on the other hand, is not shying away from a fight with one of the most famous CEOs and companies. Notching double-digit returns a year after he lost more than 34%, Einhorn has continued his campaign against Elon Musk and Tesla, culminating in a presentation at the Sohn Investment Conference over the summer, which played a stream of promises by made by Musk. 

While Greenlight's returns surely made investors happy, Musk has so far been unaffected by Einhorn's campaign, as Tesla's stock has shot to more than $440 a share. 

Not: Dalio leads the big names who struggled

Dalio lost money and one of his top executives in 2019.

The billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates is losing his firm's co-CEO Eileen Murray in the first quarter of this year, and his firm's flagship fund lost 2% through November, trailing rivals like Paul Tudor Jones. 

Meanwhile, Pimco's flagship hedge fund, the $3 billion Global Credit Opportunity fund, fell by double digits through October last year. 

There were big closures as well, like Louis Bacon's Moore Capital and David Tepper's Appaloosa. Another big name, Jeffrey Vinik, realized just how hard the industry is now. He closed his new firm after not being able to raise sufficient capital


Hot: Spin-offs from big funds making their own name ...

D.E. Shaw is one of the most famous and successful hedge funds in history. Ken Griffin's Citadel has been so successful that he was able to buy the most expensive apartment sold in US history, and he's not even using it as his main residence. And O. Andreas Halvorsen's Viking Global Investors has an argument for the top Tiger Cub, though funds like Coatue, Tiger Global, and Lone Pine might disagree. 

But in 2019, some of the funds making the most noise were run by alumni of these industry giants. 

Brendan Haley's Holocene Advisors, for example, has pulled in billions of assets since he launched in 2017 after serving as Griffin's equity head. Parvinder Thiara's Athanor Capital is one of the most talked-about new macro shops out there, and he was selected by the Sohn Investment Committee as a rising star.

D1 Capital, started by Viking's former Chief Investment Officer Daniel Sundheim, has surged thanks to a bullish view on Netflix. Sundheim's shop has nearly doubled its assets — from $4 billion to more than $7 billion — in a year and a half. 

Alumni from these shops, particularly Citadel and Viking, have the potential to dominate headlines in 2020 as well. Ben Jacobs, who replaced Sundheim at Viking, is set to launch his Anomaly Capital later this year, while Citadel alumni like Jack Woodruff, Richard Schimel, Michael Rockefeller, and Karl Kroeker launched last year.

Not: ... with one notable exception

A spin-off and protégé of Ackman, Mick McGuire is getting out of the game after a disastrous 2019.

McGuire's Marcato Capital, which made waves when it led an activist campaign against Buffalo Wild Wings, is planning to return capital to investors after a multiyear run of poor performance. 

After nearly a decade, Marcato is closing

Hot: Big-name activists taking on big-name companies

Marcato Capital notwithstanding, 2019 was a good year for activists. 

Dan Loeb's Third Point notched returns of 14.6%, driven by the firm's big stake in Sony, which has battled the firm over the future of the company. Elliott Management has found a receptive audience to its campaign against AT&T, as company executives moved quickly to meet demands from Jesse Cohn.  

Starboard Value's investment into Papa John's has also paid off as the stock has soared by more than 50% since the activist fund decided to invest in the pizza chain. This, of course, has not stopped John Schnatter, the chain's founder, from saying the firm changed the recipe

Medium: Short sellers in a surging market

To break even as a short seller when the market breaks records is impressive enough, but the double-digit return for Carson Block's Muddy Waters Capital in 2019 did even more

Block is expanding his firm and moving it to New York, picking up a bigger media profile on the way there with his faux awards show, the Fidouchies

But Block was the exception for short sellers in 2019. One of the most popular companies to short, Tesla, soared, costing investors $2.9 billion. Russell Clark's Horseman dropped 35% and is closing its European fund.

Hot: Cohen is back

Cohen's ban from managing outside money was lifted about two years ago now, but 2019 was the first full calendar year for Point72 to trade with investor capital.

The firm didn't disappoint, besting several multistrategy rivals with returns of about 13% through the end of November.

The bigger news for Cohen came later in the year, when it was announced he would buy his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets. While David Tepper stepped away from the hedge-fund game to focus on his football team, Cohen told investors the purchase wouldn't distract from his true focus, investing. 

Hedge-fund and private-equity managers that both own a sports franchise and continue to run their firms include Avenue Capital's Marc Lasry, who co-owns the Milwaukee Bucks, and Apollo's Josh Harris, who owns the Philadelphia 76ers. 

The Costco Anywhere Visa offers generous rewards at the bulk retailer and beyond, but there are a few caveats to consider

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 1:21pm  |  Clusterstock

The Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi offers generous rewards in several different spending categories, but that doesn't mean it's the best card for Costco purchases. The reality is that there are several different cards that may let you earn more rewards over time depending on where you spend the most.

At the end of the day, the Costco Anywhere Visa really stands out in terms of the rewards it offers on gas purchases worldwide. If you're someone who drives long distances or commutes to work, this card could be an excellent choice for your wallet for that reason alone thanks to its bonus for gas purchases.

Before you sign up, it helps to know and understand exactly how this card works and how it stacks up to comparable rewards credit cards. Keep reading to find out these important details and more.

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. 

Costco Anywhere Visa card details

Annual fee: None, but a Costco membership is required

Cash-back rates: Earn 4% back on up to $7,000 spent on eligible gas purchases worldwide each year, including at Costco gas stations (then 1%), 3% back on dining and eligible travel purchases, 2% back on Costco purchases as well as purchases made at, and 1% back on other purchases

Earning cash back with the Costco Anywhere Visa

I love this card gives you 4% back on up to $7,000 in gas station spending each year. If you drive enough to max this category out each year, you'll earn $280 in rewards in this category alone.

Obviously, racking up 3% back on dining and eligible travel purchases could also help you earn rewards quickly, and you'll earn even more cash back if you do most of your grocery and household shopping at Costco to begin with. That's because you earn 2% back on Costco purchases made with this card, and that's on top of the 1% back you'll earn on regular purchases.

An important caveat for redeeming your cash back

The biggest downside of the Costco Anywhere Visa card is that you don't receive your rewards in the form of a check or statement credits. Not only that, but you also can't cash them in throughout the year.

According to the terms and conditions on this credit card, "cash back will be provided as an annual credit card reward certificate once your February billing statement closes, and is redeemable for cash or merchandise at US Costco Warehouses."

In other words, your rewards are good for more Costco purchases or cash back — but you have to visit a Costco location in order to redeem rewards for cash back instead of merchandise. And you'll only receive your rewards once per year, and during the middle of winter at that. This makes the Costco Anywhere Visa unlike most other cash-back cards, which let you redeem your rewards any time you want.

Cardholder benefits

The Costco Anywhere Visa card does offer a few notable benefits that can help consumers save money and protect their purchases.

You'll get purchase protection against damage or theft, for example, provided you report the incident within 120 days of purchase (90 days for New York residents). You'll also receive extended warranties on qualifying products that already come with a manufacturer's warranty.

Costco Visa card costs and fees

In addition to being free of annual fees, the Costco Anywhere Visa card doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees. However, you should note that you do have to belong to Costco in order to qualify for this credit card. Costco memberships start at $60, which is worth considering if you don't have a membership already and don't plan on shopping at the store very often.

In terms of additional costs, this card comes with a variable APR of 16.74% on purchases. You'll also pay a 3% fee (minimum $5) for balance transfers and a 5% fee (minimum $10) for cash advances. A $39 fee for late payments and returned payments also applies.

How the Costco Visa Card compares to other rewards credit cards

If you're not dead set on signing up for the Costco Anywhere Visa, seeing how a few other rewards credit cards stack up makes a lot of sense. 

There are many credit cards that offer exceptional rewards on Costco purchases as well as everything else you buy. Many other cash-back credit cards also offer intro bonuses that can help you get a head start on your earnings for the year.

The Chase Freedom is a smart option if you want to earn 5% back on up to $1,5000 spent in rotating bonus categories each quarter when you activate which typically include bulk retailers like Costco and Sam's Club for three months of the year. It earns 1% back on all other purchases. The card has no annual fee, and if you also have a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, the rewards you earn with the Freedom can be redeemed for travel. (You also have the option to redeem rewards for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise, but redeeming for travel usually gets you the most value.)

You should also consider the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, which lets you earn 3% in a category of your choosing plus 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. With this card, you could earn 3% back on online purchases made at then 2% back at Costco brick and mortar stores. Just remember that a $2,500 cap per quarter applies to bonus categories with this card — you'll earn 1% back after you reach it. There's no annual fee, and you can redeem rewards for a check, direct deposit into a bank account, or deposits into select Bank of America accounts

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a final option to consider if you shop at regular grocery stores more than wholesale clubs. This card gives you 6% back on up to $6,000 in US supermarket spending each year (then 1% back), plus 6% back on select US streaming services. You also earn 3% back at US gas stations and on transit and 1% back on other purchases, and that's on top of the lucrative welcome bonus: $250 back when after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. That makes this card hard to beat among credit cards that offer bonus rewards in popular spending categories.

Just note that the Blue Cash Preferred has a $95 annual fee. You can redeem rewards for statement credits to your account, with no limitation on how often you can redeem your cash back.

The bottom line

Should you sign up for the Costco Anywhere Visa? If you're a Costco member already and you spend a lot of money on gas, it's a great option. Just remember that your rewards will only become available to you once per year, and that you'll have to visit a brick-and-mortar Costco store to get your cash back or to cash in your rewards for merchandise.

If you want more flexibility, on the other hand, other cash-back credit cards let you redeem your rewards for statement credits, a check in the mail, and plenty of other options all year long. Make sure to compare the additional cards on this list as well as other cash-back and rewards credit cards before you make a final decision.

Click here to learn more about the Costco Anywhere Visa card »

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It took me almost a decade to pay off $8,000 of student loan debt, but after refinancing I can't believe how fast it's going down

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 1:18pm  |  Clusterstock

When I graduated from college in 2009, I had around $65,000 in private student loans. Rather than the state school my parents wanted me to go to, I opted for a small, private school out of state, which cost nearly three times as much per year.

Thankfully, I had a number of scholarships, and my grandparents contributed money they had set aside for my education. I was also able to graduate a year early, which saved me about $25,000 in tuition.

But by the time I walked across the stage for my diploma, I had accumulated three high-interest loans: one for $50,000 with Wells Fargo, and two others with smaller lenders.

Looking back, I made some irresponsible choices about how to pay for college, but hindsight doesn't help pay for those mistakes. So for the last several years, I've been slowly chugging along on payments without paying much attention to the principal balance. As long as I wasn't late on paying, I thought, I was being fiscally responsible.

I was making my payments, but my debt wasn't really shrinking

I wasn't totally wrong: I was able to pay off the two smaller loans within 10 years of graduating, which I'm proud of. But as of 2017, the pesky big loan had a $42,000 balance. I had only paid off about $8,000, and it was costing me.

But there's another twist in my student loan story: In 2011, I married a man who had  just as much student loan debt as I do. Thankfully, his loans were federal, so we weren't accumulating as much interest, but together, our loans were eating up a big chunk of our income.

At one point, we were paying more than $1,500 per month on student debt alone, which meant I wasn't able to make bigger payments than the minimum. I felt powerless watching my loans accumulate interest when I was doing my best to pay it off — it was like throwing money away.

Refinancing my loans for a better interest rate

In 2017, I called my grandma, who had co-signed on the loan, and told her how discouraged I was. She recommended I talk to Wells Fargo about refinancing for a lower interest rate. I was making a lot more money at that point, and my credit score was certainly better.

I was hoping to get her off the loan, but unfortunately my credit score wasn't high enough to get a considerably lower interest rate on my own, so my grandma agreed to stay on the loan.

Think refinancing your private student loans could help lower your monthly payment? Find out what SoFi can do for you »

With her help, my interest rate would dip below 5%. It may not sound like a lot, but up to that point, my Wells Fargo loan had a 6.25% interest rate, which meant I was paying $216 in interest every month on my $316 payment. I knew saving just 1% interest per month would make a big difference in our ability to pay off the loan

Now, my rate is 4.99%, so I'm paying around $140 in interest per month, which is ultimately saving me more than $900 a year. It also means I'll be able to pay off my loan faster, since I'm chipping away at the principal rather than throwing money at interest.

It's working: Over the last two years, the loan is already down to about $37,000. It's not a huge dent — my husband and I are currently prioritizing paying off credit card debt — but I sleep easier knowing I'm not tossing away my hard-earned money.

Once we get all the credit card debt paid off, the goal is to hammer down my loan. I can't wait to lose those $326 monthly payments!

Ready to refinance your student loans? Our partner SoFi can help you get a lower interest rate »

Join the conversation about this story »

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Emerging uses of DNA mechanical devices for Molecular Nanotechnology

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 1:16pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
From Science magazine:

Modern machines, which are composed of force-generating motors, force sensors, and load-bearing structures, enabled the industrial revolution and are foundational to human civilization. Miniature micromachines are used in countless devices including cell phone microphones, implantable biosensors, and car and airplane accelerometers. Further miniaturization to the nanometer scale would enable the design of machines that can manipulate biomolecules and other nanomaterials for applications in medicine, biological research, and material development. Such machines are typically difficult or impossible to build because of their small size. However, a recent boom in the field of DNA nanotechnology, wherein synthetic DNA is used to tailor-make functional nanostructures, has produced extensive insight into the mechanical properties of DNA. This insight has propelled the emergence of a subfield that we call “DNA mechanotechnology,” wherein DNA devices are engineered to generate, transmit, and sense mechanical forces at the nanoscale...[more]

These 7 aerospace and defense stocks are getting a huge boost from Trump's strike on Iran

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 1:02pm  |  Clusterstock

Aerospace and defense companies are among the few groups of stocks rising in Friday trading, with escalating tensions between the US and Iran boosting the war-driven industries.

The S&P 500 Aerospace & Defense Industry Index climbed as much as 1.5%, while major indexes slid roughly 1% at their intraday lows.

A US airstrike killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on Thursday, leading global stocks to drop while gold and oil spiked. The attack came "at the direction of" President Trump, according to the Defense Department, and was meant to deter "future Iranian attack plans."

Iranian officials quickly responded to the strike, with the nation's supreme leader warning "harsh retaliation is waiting" for the US.

"Trump through his gamble has dragged the US into the most dangerous situation in the region," a senior advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said. "Whoever put his foot beyond the red line should be ready to face its consequences."

All three major US stock indexes are down as traders flee the volatile market, but a select few firms are surging on the heightened chance of armed conflict between the US and Iran.

Here are the seven major defense and aerospace stocks rising in Friday trading, ranked in ascending order of intraday performance.

Data is as of 12:00 p.m. ET.

7. General Dynamics

Intraday performance: up as much as 0.8%

Market cap: $51.9 billion

6. TransDigm

Intraday performance: up as much as 1.1%

Market cap: $30.6 billion

5. Huntington Ingalls

Intraday performance: up as much as 1.6%

Market cap: $10.6 billion

4. Raytheon

Intraday performance: up as much as 2.4%

Market cap: $63.6 billion

3. L3Harris Technologies

Intraday performance: up as much as 3.6%

Market cap: $46.4 billion

2. Lockheed Martin

Intraday performance: up as much as 4.2%

Market cap: $117.4 billion

1. Northrop Grumman

Intraday performance: up as much as 5.5%

Market cap: $62.7 billion

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

'Likely just the beginning': Here's what 6 experts are saying about what Trump's deadly Iran strike means for already-shaken markets

The massive popularity of Baby Yoda memes highlights just how successful Disney Plus has been, one analyst says

Netflix is staffing up its consumer products team after a key exec left the company

Insight: Microtraction’s strategy for investing in ‘remarkable’ startups | @TechCabal @microtraction

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 12:52pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
TechCabal reports:
Venture capital firms desire merry returns on investment. Placing good bets in a business environment like Nigeria’s requires a flexible yet consistent philosophy. For Microtraction, the early-stage venture capital firm, two principles are fundamental: finding remarkable technical founders and providing hassle-free support. So far, it appears to be working out. The firm is on a hot streak, having secured deals in startups positioning to be first-movers in various sectors. Founded in July 2017, Microtraction has invested in over twelve companies. One of their more recent investments, Bit Sika, is its first push outside Nigeria. They’ve rounded up a busy 2019 by backing Festival Coins, an “event technology company.”...[more]

Amex Offers have saved me money and earned me bonus points at J Crew, FreshDirect, and Amazon — here are some of the offers you can get right now

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 12:37pm  |  Clusterstock

I love the Amex Platinum card for widely known perks like airport lounge access and 5x points on flights booked directly with the airline, but the card also comes with some lesser-known benefits that can save you money.

One of those benefits that's available through virtually every Amex card, but isn't the most widely known, is Amex Offers. In this past year alone, I've used offers to save money on purchases from J.Crew, Instacart, and FreshDirect, and to earn bonus points at Amazon.

What are Amex Offers?

The Amex Offers program provides cardholders with discounts at various stores, restaurants, or services, or, if not a discount, then chances to earn extra points.

The interesting part of the program is that each offer is specifically targeted to individual users and each user's individual cards. That means that you and I might get different offers, and I might even see different offers across my several different Amex cards. That adds a real benefit to having multiple Amex cards — even if you just use them to be eligible for more offers, you have a better chance of getting good ones.

One of the appeals of the Amex Offers program is that the offers continuously change. Offers can be for national brands, but are also targeted based on your billing address — for example, I have a few offers for shops and restaurants that have a New York City location.

Current Amex Offers

Here are some of the particularly interesting Amex Offers currently available. Keep in mind that some of may no longer be available, and some are specifically targeted.

  • Spend $100 or more at FreshDirect, get $30 back (up to 2 times).
  • Get 4 extra Membership Rewards points on every dollar spent at Adidas.
  • Spend $50 or more at 1800Flowers, get 1,500 Membership Rewards points.
  • Get 6 extra Membership Rewards points on every dollar spent at Cole Haan, up to 10,000 points.
  • Spend $25 or more at BarkBox, get $8 back (up to 3 times).
  • Spend $75 or more at Macy's, get 1,500 Membership Rewards points.
  • Spend $125 or more at Touch of Modern, get $25 back.
  • Spend $185 or more at The Wall Street Journal, get $75 back.
  • Get 1 extra Membership Rewards point on every dollar spent at Madewell.

If you're interested in opening a new Amex card — in addition to getting access to more Amex offers, you can earn a lucrative welcome offer — take a look at our up-to-date list of best Amex cards.

$550 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum card » $250 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Amex Gold card »

More credit card coverage

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Honey products from Holy-Trust #Rwanda founded by Shafi Hagenimana @Hollytrust3

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 11:56am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
PrePaid Africa reports:
Shafi Hagenimana, is a 25-year old entrepreneur is involved in honey processing to produce skin products and other raw materials. In 2015, with capital of Rwf 250,000, he founded Holly-Trust which is located in Ngoma District. His Made-In-Rwanda products are increasingly becoming popular and are traded under the brand name KASO. The company deals with beekeeping, honey processing and produce related products such as body and hair lotion out of honey. The firm also incorporates other raw materials such as coconut, aloe-vera, avocado and carrots among other raw materials...[more]

Nigerian Farmers Excited to Join the Gene Revolution in Africa - Onyaole Patience Koku @KokuOnyi

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 11:46am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Onyaole Patience Koku writes:
I haven’t wanted to plant cowpea here in Nigeria because the plant suffers from one of the worst enemies imaginable: the nasty maruca worm. But now farmers like me and across Nigeria have a way to defeat this terrible pest and produce an important food crop with enormous advantages for both growers and consumers. That’s because Nigeria has just approved the commercialization of Bt cowpea—and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to take advantage of this new technology...[more]

Carlos Ghosn was reportedly interested in making a Hollywood movie about his life

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 5:53pm  |  Clusterstock

In the months he was holed up in a stark Japanese apartment awaiting trial for charges of financial wrongdoing, disgraced auto executive Carlos Ghosn was plotting to tell his life on the silver screen.

According to The New York Times' Ben Dooley, the 65-year-old met with John Lesher, a Hollywood producer behind films like Birdman, in December to discuss a movie portraying his own rise to freewheeling international executive, and his fight with "political persecution."

The talks never progressed beyond preliminary stages, the newspaper reported, but the revelation is yet another insight into the worldview of Ghosn as he faced the fight of his life.

Since his original arrest in November 2018, Ghosn has categorically denied the charges by Japanese authorities, which include misuse of company assets and underreporting of earnings.

While the fugitive reportedly wined-and-dined over the New Year's holiday, investigators around the world raced to piece together how, exactly, Ghosn made it out of Japan despite constant surveillance and severe restrictions as part of his bail agreement.

In Turkey, where Ghosn is believed to have transited en route to his home country of Lebanon, authorities arrested seven people in conjunction with the escapade, according to local media reports including official state channels. Interpol, the global police force, meanwhile issued a "red notice" calling for his arrest on Thursday.

In a brief statement on Thursday, Ghosn denounced theories that his wife or other family had helped plan and execute his flight.

"There has been speculation in the media that my wife Carole, and other members of my family played a role in my departure from Japan,"he said through a PR firm retained since his escape. "All such speculation is inaccurate and false. I alone arranged for my departure. My family had no role whatsoever."

More Carlos Ghosn coverage:

SEE ALSO: How Carlos Ghosn fell from superstar auto executive to international fugitive

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NOW WATCH: Why Lamborghini's new hybrid is bad for the environment

The cofounder of WeWork is selling his NYC townhouse for $21 million. Look inside the 5-bedroom home, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in an accidental bombing in 1970.

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 5:00pm  |  Clusterstock

Miguel McKelvey, the cofounder of WeWork, is selling his New York City townhouse for $21 million, The New York Post reported.

The WeWork cofounder, who's worth an estimated $900 million, bought the home for $12 million in 2015, according to The Real Deal. McKelvey stayed with the company as chief culture officer even after a failed IPO attempt and the ousting of Neumann as CEO.

McKelvey's townhouse has a bizarre history. Originally built in 1845, it was destroyed in 1970 by an accidental bombing by the radical leftist group the Weather Underground.

After the bombing, the home was rebuilt in a modernist style in 1978. McKelvey bought it for $12 million in 2015, according to The Real Deal. The townhouse is also available to rent for $50,000 a month.

Clinton Stowe and Melissa Bolotow of Douglas Elliman have the listing.

Take a look inside the 6,000-square-foot Manhattan townhouse.

SEE ALSO: 18 photos show how drastically the New York City skyline has changed in the past decade

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WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey has put his New York City townhouse up for sale for $21 million, The New York Post reported.

He bought it for $12 million in 2015, according to The Real Deal.

McKelvey, who cofounded WeWork with former CEO Adam Neumann in 2010, stayed with the company as chief culture officer even after a failed IPO attempt and the ousting of Neumann as CEO.

He's worth an estimated $900 million, according to Forbes.

McKelvey's home sits in the heart of Manhattan's Greenwich Village, a historically bohemian neighborhood that's now one of the priciest in the city and beloved by celebrities.

Source: NYC Go

Originally built in 1845. In 1970, the home was almost completely destroyed when a radical leftist group detonated a bomb in the basement. It was completely rebuilt in 1978 in a modernist style.

Two members of the group survived the blast, while three members died, according to The New York Times.

At the time, the home owner's daughter had joined the group in college. She and four other members had been building nail bombs in the basement for targets including a military officer's club in New Jersey, the Times reported.

The 21-foot-wide home has top-of-the-line tech throughout, including an integrated system for audio, video, shades, and lighting, and radiant heat flooring.

There's also full-house humidification, a remote security and intercom system, a water purification system, and a snow-melting system, according to the listing.

The kitchen opens up to the back garden and terrace.

Source: Douglas Elliman

The home is airy and bright thanks to large windows and high ceilings.

Source: Douglas Elliman

The home's master suite sits on the top two floors of the home, where a wall of windows opens up onto a terrace.

Source: Douglas Elliman

The master suite includes a massive dressing room.

Source: Douglas Elliman

The spa-like master bathroom is outfitted in light gray marble.

Source: Douglas Elliman

The rear of the townhouse features a 20-foot wall of windows.

Source: Douglas Elliman

The back garden and terrace has plenty of entertaining space, with an outdoor kitchen and grill as well as a heated plunge pool.

For those who don't want to make the commitment of buying McKelvey's storied home, it's also being offered as a rental for $50,000 a month.

Register now for Business Insider's event on the future of retail

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 4:56pm  |  Clusterstock

Business Insider is hosting its first Ignition event on the future of retail this January. 

Ignition: Redefining Retail will be held on January 14, 2020, in New York City. The conference will cover everything from the rise of direct-to-consumer brands to sustainable fashion, breaking down how retailers are working to connect with customers and evolving to grow their businesses.

Speakers include: 

  • Layla Amjadi, Product Manager, Instagram Shopping
  • Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Founder & CEO, LIVELY
  • Jack Forestell, Chief Product Officer, Visa
  • Arpan Podduturi, Director of Product, Shopify
  • Geoff Ramsey, Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist, eMarketer
  • Anushka Salinas, Chief Operating Officer, Rent the Runway
  • Maggie Winter, Co-Founder and CEO, AYR
  • John Targon, Founder and Design Director, Fall Risk
  • Leandra Medine, Founder, Man Repeller

For more information on the conference and to apply to attend, click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

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I was a bridal editor for years, so I used every trick in the book to keep my budget under $10,000 when I got married in 2019

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 4:55pm  |  Clusterstock

  • I've worked as a bridal editor on and off for the past eight years, and I've learned a lot about wedding budgets along the way.
  • When I got married in 2019, my partner and I set a max budget of $10,000 and came in at about $9,500.
  • We kept our guest list small, asked for help, and went nontraditional on most details to keep our spending in check
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Weddings are a delight. The food, the friends, the dancing, the love and commitment — it's all glorious. But we all know weddings are expensive. In 2018, the average US wedding cost nearly $39,000, and the industry is worth more than $72 billion overall.

It's hard not to get sucked into the fun of it all — who can say no to personalized candy bar favors when they're just a couple of dollars each? When you're planning the best day of your life, no price tag seems too high.

Until the big day is over and you find yourself in debt, unable to reach your financial goals or pay for the life you dreamt of before saying "I do." That's a bad feeling. 

Over the past eight years, I've worked on and off as a bridal editor, covering everything from drive-thru weddings in Vegas to NFL players' multi-million dollar affairs to New Age spiritual ceremonies and backyard blowouts — I even profiled a couple whose makeshift wedding took place in an office suite after Hurricane Sandy ruined their original plans. So I've acquired some high-level budget-slashing skills. 

When I started planning my own wedding in 2019, I set a budget of $10,000 with my fiancé — then I drew on every tip, trick, and hack I've learned over the years to keep us on track.

My 3 best pieces of advice

I followed three basic rules when planning my wedding:

1. Keep the guest list small

The first tip is obvious: The bigger the guest list, the bigger your bill. For every guest, you're paying for plates of food, flutes of Champagne, cocktails, wine and beer, a party favor, a chair (and a chair cover), an end-of-the-night sparkler, a fan if it's hot, an umbrella if it's rainy, a pair of flip-flops for feet tired of dancing in heels, and every other sweet and lovely detail in between.

If the bill is $300 per person for all that whimsy and wonder — an easy sum to reach, believe me — you can imagine the difference in price between a wedding for 50 close friends and family members and a guest list twice that size. 

2. Ask for help

In general, planning and managing your own wedding will be cheaper than hiring a wedding planner, especially if you have a clear vision for what you want and don't go wild with your DIY projects and spending.

But managing your wedding without professional help takes a village. And the village has to agree to support you from the get-go. You cannot (and should not) literally DIY every detail of your day.

I had a lot of help when I got married, and that kept my budget way down. For one thing, I'd acted as day-of coordinator at one of my best friend's weddings a couple years earlier, making sure her day ran smoothly so she could focus 100% on getting married, and she returned the favor for me this summer. That was a massive help and my wedding day wouldn't have been successful without her.

Plus, because we got married in Toronto (my hometown, far from where we live in Los Angeles) I relied on my dad for help with local tasks. I asked him to pick up a giant poster we had printed before the wedding, for example, and he carted me around the city the day before the wedding finishing up last-minute tasks.

I also borrowed Mason jars from my brother for our flower arrangements, did my own hair and makeup, and had a friend sing us down the aisle. And, instead of hiring a DJ, my husband and I made a playlist of our favorite songs and had a friend oversee the stopping and starting of the music.

Bonus tip: Save for your wedding using a high-yield savings account.

I wish I'd used a high-yield savings account to pay for my wedding (the interest accrued on $10,000 could have covered at least a part of our decor!) but I didn't open my first online savings account until after I tied the knot. Live and learn.

The third piece of advice is a little more complicated.

3. Don't say 'wedding'

If you've ever searched online for budget wedding advice, you've probably come across the phrase "don't say 'wedding.'" Heck, I've probably written those words!

The basic gist of this advice is that you'll save money if you avoid saying you're shopping for a wedding cake or wedding flowers or wedding food. The problem, however, is that it's unrealistic for newly engaged couples to shop for wedding stuff without saying "wedding" — especially if they don't know what they're shopping for or where to look.

The average wedding cake, for instance — multi-tiered, artfully decorated, hand-delivered to your venue — rings in at about $500. They're works of edible art and involve tastings and consultations, so they're priced with all those factors in mind.

If you follow the "don't say 'wedding'" rule, however, you could select a simpler cake that's just as delicious but features a lot less decoration; perhaps something you'd find at a local bakery and pick up yourself the night before your wedding. For that, you might pay around $100-150, but it depends on where you live, how much cake you need, and where you're ordering from. 

It's not that wedding vendors are ripping you off, it's just that weddings require a lot from the professionals who work them, so they set their rates accordingly. If you're willing to do a little more legwork on your own and hunt around for great deals, you can keep your budget in check. That's what I did.

Our wedding budget

To start, my husband and I kept our guest list small — we invited our closest friends and family members and expected no more than 70 guests; about 50 showed up to our wedding.

One thing to note: Because we got married in Toronto, we benefitted from what I jokingly called the "Canadian discount" — basically, our US dollars went further in Canada because the Canadian dollar is worth less (about 77 cents to the US dollar). Below, I've listed the price of each line item in US dollars.

Venue: $1,800

We tied the knot at a small brewery in the east end of Toronto. The price of our venue was based on an hourly bar spend, so the total cost included seven hours at the venue (including tables, chairs, and patio space), beer, bar staff, cleanup, glassware, gratuity, and a special occasion permit. Because our guest list was fairly small, we didn't go over the hourly bar spend. Yes, we were very lucky!

Instead of looking on traditional wedding websites for venue ideas, I used a site called thisopenspace to find our venue. It lists all sorts of spaces — from photography studios to cafes and restaurants — where events or shoots can take place.

We had a vision in mind for our wedding (vintage, industrial) and had talked about possibly choosing a brewery as a venue, and we landed on the perfect choice using thisopenspace.

Catering: $1,700

We hired a wood-oven pizza truck to serve our wedding meal. Wedding catering can easily cost $100 per person (on the low end) — including service staff, china, cutlery, and linens — but I knew food trucks cost a lot less because there's not as much involved.

The truck provided paper plates, plastic cutlery, and paper napkins, and served directly from the truck. Because our guest list was small, it was easy for everyone to go up to the truck's window at their leisure and place their pizza order. And in the meantime, they could snack on roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts that were available in serving pans.

Our wedding was obviously casual — a lot more casual than would be comfortable for some other couples. But it worked for us (the pizza was exceptionally delicious!) and our guests were happy.

Photography: $1,217

We didn't follow the "don't say wedding" rule on this one — we definitely wanted a wedding photographer!

We had budgeted about $1,500, and our incredibly generous photographer — Kat Rizza — gave us her hourly rate instead of charging her full-day wedding rate since we only needed four hours of photography.

If you have a photographer in mind but don't think you can afford their rates, email them and see if they have other pricing options. They may be willing to work within your budget if you don't have full-day needs.

Dress: $250 + $20 for bodysuit, $100 for shoes

I knew I wanted a long-sleeve, loose, lace dress, so I hunted around on Etsy until I found exactly what I was looking for. I wore a nude bodysuit underneath that I bought from Target for $20 and bought my shoes from Lulus for $100.

Suit: $450 + $30 for shoes

My husband bought his suit and dress shirt off-the-rack at Topshop (RIP); it didn't require any alterations. I found his shoes at Primark in Boston while I was there on a business trip.

Wine and soft drinks: $150

We wanted to offer some non-beer options to our guests, so we bought about 12 bottles of wine from the liquor store as well as lemonade and soda.

Cakes and cupcakes: $211

We served three beautiful bakery cakes and a half-dozen gluten-free/vegan cupcakes at our wedding. We picked them up the day before the wedding and one of our friends cut and served the cake during the reception.

Flowers and decor: $750

We decorated our venue primarily with fresh green garland; I also made six simple pink, white, and green arrangements. My bouquet and hair flowers, as well as my husband's boutonniere, were artificial and purchased from Etsy.

We bought a bunch of items on Amazon, too, including a cake topper, tablecloths, cake knife and lifter, and plastic plates and forks for cake. We had the text of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision printed in large poster format, and hung it on the wall with a magnetic frame from Amazon.

Flights and accommodations: $1,475

We stayed in two different Airbnbs — a cheaper one for our first few nights in town and a more expensive one for the last three nights. We took our family portraits and first-look photos at the more expensive Airbnb because it was picturesque and because it saved us having to book an additional space.

Rings and earrings: $476

Both of our wedding bands and my earrings were purchased on Etsy.

Lawyer: $192

We had to get a letter from a lawyer in Canada to allow us to marry there.

Sound equipment: $100

We rented a speaker, a microphone, and an acoustic guitar from a local provider called Long & McQuade. We picked up these items the day before our wedding and returned them before our flight home.

Invitations: $300

We went traditional on this detail and bought our invitations from Minted.

Marriage license: $108 Officiant: $250 Total: $9,579

It was a truly magical, debt-free day.

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