Understanding The Different Types of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies can act like real money—in a sense, they are real money—but they take a digital monetary form and are not managed or governed by any central authority. A true product of the digital age, cryptocurrencies operate without the involvement of banks, governments, or any middleman.

Statista —with Bitcoin boasting more than 7 million active users.

Insiders call it “crypto,” so that’s what we’ll be calling it going forward.

Crypto Tokens vs. Coins

Encrypted coins and tokens can fall under the heading of crypto. And, generally, they can be listed into two sorts of cryptocurrency: alternative cryptocurrency coins (Altcoins) or tokens.

Alternative Cryptocurrency Coins (Altcoins)

Altcoins usually refer to any coins that are not Bitcoins. Bitcoin is a popular digital currency that’s produced by computational solutions to complicated math problems. It works separately from a central bank or state entity (i.e., government-backed Treasury).

Some altcoins include:

•  Peercoin
•  Litecoin
•  Dogecoin
•  Auroracoin
•  Namecoin

In fact, the name “altcoin” actually means “alternative to Bitcoin.” Namecoin is considered the very first altcoin, created in 2011.

Like Bitcoin, most cryptocurrencies listed here have a limited supply of coins—to keep the balance in check and to reinforce its perceived value. There is a fixed number of Bitcoins that can exist—21 million, as decided by the creator/s of Bitcoin, though some remain to be mined. Once all 21 million are tapped (the number changes when new blocks are mined), that’s it. The only way to bring in more is for Bitcoin’s protocol to allow for it.

Though most altcoins are built upon the same basic framework as Bitcoin, many claim to be better versions of Bitcoin.
Each system can differ from the next, as they’re created to serve various purposes and applications, and identified in different ways.

Some coins don’t work with the same open-source protocol that Bitcoin does, however. For example, the following list of cryptocurrencies have created their own separate systems and protocols:

•  Ethereum
•  Ripple
•  Omni
•  Nxt
•  Waves
•  Counterparty

They’re each self-supporting, too.


Unlike altcoins, tokens are created and given out through an Initial Coin Offering, or ICO, very much like a stock offering. They can be represented as:

•  Value tokens (Bitcoins)
•  Security tokens (to protect your account)
•  Utility tokens (designated for specific uses)

They are not so much meant to be used as money as they are used to describe a function. Like American dollars, they represent value but they are not in themselves of value. Tokens are a type of encryption, specifically referring to the long lines of numbers and letters representing the crypto used in a transaction, such as a money transfer or bill payment. In short, tokens cover a number of meanings.

For instance, both Bitcoin and Ether (from Ethereum) are considered crypto tokens.

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The Most Common Types of Cryptocurrency

Here’s a list of cryptocurrency types—representing the most popular industry crypto projects (at present):

1. Bitcoin

Possibly the “Kleenex” or “Coca Cola” of all crypto, in that its name is the most recognizable and the most closely associated with the cryptocurrency system.

There are currently more than 18.5 million Bitcoin tokens in circulation, against a present capped limit of 21 million.

2. Bitcoin Cash

Introduced in 2017, Bitcoin Cash is one of the most popular types of cryptocurrency on the market. Its main difference with the original Bitcoin is its block size: 8MB. Compare that to the original Bitcoin’s block size of just 1MB. What that means for users—faster processing speeds.

3. Litecoin

Litecoin is increasingly used in the same breath as Bitcoin, and it functions practically the same way. It was created in 2011 by Charlie Lee, a former employee of Google. He designed it to improve on Bitcoin technology, with shorter transaction times, lower fees, more concentrated miners.

4. Ethereum

Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum focuses not as much on digital currency as it does on decentralized applications (phone apps). You could think of Ethereum as an app store.

The platform is looking to return control of apps to its original creators, and take away that control from middlemen (like Apple, for instance). The only person who can make changes to the app would be the original creator. The token used here is called Ether, which is used as currency by app developers and users.

5. Ripple

Ripple is one type of cryptocurrency on the list, but it’s not Blockchain-based . It’s not meant so much for individual users as it is for larger companies and corporations, moving larger amounts of money (its coinage is known as XRP) across the globe.

It’s more well-known for its digital payment protocol more than for its XRP crypto. That’s because the system allows for transfer of monies in any form, be it dollars or even Bitcoin (or others). It claims to be able to handle 1,500 transactions per second (tps). Compare this with Bitcoin, which can handle 3-6 tps (not including scaling layers). Ethereum can handle 15 tps.

6. Stellar

Stellar focuses on money transfers, and its network is designed to make them faster and more efficient, even across national borders. It was designed by Ripple co-founder Jed McCaleb in 2014 and is operated by a non-profit organization called Stellar.org .

Its goal is to assist developing economies that may not have access to traditional banks and investment opportunities. It doesn’t charge users or institutions for using its Stellar network, and covers operating costs by accepting tax-deductible public donations.

7. NEO

Formerly called Antshares and developed in China, NEO is very aggressively looking to become a major global crypto player. Its focus is smart contracts (digital contracts) that allow users to create and execute agreements without the use of an intermediary.

It’s going after its main competition, Ethereum, but NEO lead developer Erik Zhang mentioned on a Reddit AMA that NEO has three distinct advantages—better architecture, more developer-friendly smart contracts, and digital identity and digital assets for easier integration into the real world.

Ethereum, on the other hand, uses its own programming languages that developers must first learn before creating smart contracts on its platform.

8. Cardano

Cardano aka ADA is used to send and receive digital funds. It claims to be a more balanced and sustainable ecosystem for cryptocurrencies, and the only coin with a “scientific philosophy and research-driven approach.”

That means that it undergoes especially rigorous reviews by scientists and programmers. It was founded by Charles Hoskinson, who is also the co-founder of Ethereum.


Launched in 2016, IOTA stands for Internet of Things Application. Unlike most other Blockchain technologies, it doesn’t actually work with a block and chain; it works with smart devices on the Internet of Things (IoT).

All you need to do to use it is to verify two other previous transactions on the IOTA ledger, which is called the Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG), but IOTA creators call it The Tangle.

According to Coin Central , this means the devices need to be able to purchase more electricity, bandwidth, storage, or data when they need them, and sell those resources when they don’t need them.

The Role of Miners In Cryptocurrency

How exactly do you get your virtual hands on different types of cryptocurrency? You can buy it the old-fashioned way. Or, you can trade it on an exchange using other crypto (for example, using Bitcoin to buy NEO). Some blogs and media platforms pay its content providers in crypto.

Then, there are the miners . Miners usually don’t pay directly for their crypto; they earn it with their smarts. These tech savvy investors can be compared to the prospectors of the Old West, panning for gold in 1848.

The value is built in because the supply is limited—it’s just up to the complex computers to dig it up by cracking codes and solving complicated puzzles. A lot of it is guesswork, but once the “block” (of the blockchain) is solved, the other miners drop what they’re doing and go on to the next block. No parting gifts—the contestants just turn their attention to the next game round.

If the puzzle is solved, the reward is a certain amount of crypto, and sometimes even voting power on the platform. As of October 2020, the value of one bitcoin had well exceeded $13,000 .

Sounds sweet, but mining isn’t cheap. It requires powerful, expensive hardware and lots of electricity. Also, the number of awarded crypto will be going down, usually by halves every four years or so. Unfortunately, that might not do your utility bill any favors.

Forks, Hard Forks, and Soft Forks

Sometimes, a cryptocurrency—whether Bitcoin or an altcoin—forks. This typically happens when systems need an upgrade or update, or occasional steering (ie a large enough group of miners decide to make new rules for the network.

You could think of a fork like an actual fork, the kind you eat with. Each prong represents a different open-source code modification, but the prongs are designed to work together to assist in the main function.

Sometimes, forks happen by accident when nodes start making copies or if they do not recognize conflicting or unfamiliar information or characteristics. This is what leads to the difference between hard forks and soft forks.

Hard Forks

If a protocol is changed so that the old protocol version is no longer valid, call that a hard fork. This could be problematic, because if the older, now-invalid protocol is still running, it could lead you to scratch your head and say, “what the fork?” It could cause confusion and even possibly a loss of funds, because the old and new protocols running together are butting heads and making mysteries.

An example of a hard-fork problem—with Bitcoin, for instance, a hard fork is a must when making changes and protocol updates to the Blockchain. The new protocol is cool with the changes, but the old protocol becomes a hot mess, not understanding the new activity going on.

Since the old protocol rejects the new changes because it doesn’t recognize them, that causes a traffic jam or worse. The old protocol will claim that the changes and updates are not valid, even if they are. What you then get are two blockchains, one old and one new. As these chains grow, so can your problems.

The hard-fork challenge, then, is to get all the nodes on the old protocol to switch to the new protocol all at once, and at the same time. This sounds easy, but technically it’s easier said than done.

Soft Forks

Unlike a hard fork, a soft fork is totally cool with the new changes and keeps working. The old version accepts the newer version. Harmony! The newer, updated blocks become longer, and it becomes obvious that the older (shorter) blocks are obsolete and unusable. This recognition eliminates confusion over which protocol is now the real deal (it’s the newer, valid one.)

When a soft fork is implemented, there has to be a “majority vote” on whether to accept it into the established fold. If not, the new soft fork fails, and the rest of the chain simply goes on it with its life with no interruption.
Hard-and-soft forking can cause all kinds of unintended consequences. When members of the Ethereum community rejected a hard-fork change and decided to keep going with the non-forked version of Ethereum, that old-school system was renamed Ethereum Classic.

When Bitcoin hard-forked in order to add more functionality, a portion of the Bitcoin Cash community was left behind and was cut off from the rest of the network.

The Current View of Crypto

Bloomberg report stated that Bitcoin approached its highest valuation since 2017.

Dead Coins lists 1,050 digital currencies and initial coin offerings (ICO) as either “deceased.” Coinopsy catalogues cryptocurrency lists of more than 1,700 coins as nearly worthless.

It’s possible that a good number of those failed cryptos were scams, and the authentic, true-quality systems remain in place.

Furthermore, from a perception perspective, Bitcoin and other crypto have recently come under fire for their ability to be involved in illegal transactions, thefts, and scams. That’s just one of the reasons that investing in the list of cryptocurrencies out there still carries significant risk. Crypto has also been suspected as being a part of an economic bubble that may still pop.

The Takeaway

While Bitcoin launched a new asset class little more than a decade ago, today there are many different cryptocurrencies for investors to learn about and invest in.

If your curiosity about cryptocurrency is fueled by a desire to start investing, SoFi Invest® can be a great place to start. SoFi members can manage crypto investments in the SoFi app, with the peace of mind of knowing their crypto is in a secure platform.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you with your investment goals.

SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Source: sofi.com

How Tax on Mutual Funds Works

For a long time, mutual funds have been a popular investment vehicle for millions of investors, largely because they offer an easy way to purchase no-fuss, diversified assets with relative ease. This out-of-the-box diversification and risk-mitigation is something that individual stocks can’t match.

Though technology has made it easier than ever to buy securities like mutual funds online, one area of confusion persists. When it comes to tax on mutual funds, and calculating capital gains on mutual funds, many investors don’t know where to start.

Discussing tax on mutual funds and other investments can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Read on to learn how tax on mutual funds works, what investors should expect or anticipate when it comes to dealing with mutual funds and the IRS, and some simple strategies for tax-efficient investing.

Quick Mutual Fund Overview

First, it makes sense to review the basics. Mutual funds are similar to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in that they’re not singular investments. Instead, they’re a collection (or a “basket”) of many different investments like stocks, bonds, and short-term debt. When an investor buys into a mutual fund, they’re essentially purchasing a spectrum of assets all at once.

Paying Tax on Mutual Funds

Like other types of investments, investors must pay tax on any income or profits they realize from their mutual fund holdings. Not every fund is the same, so it follows that the taxable income shareholders receive (or don’t receive) from a fund isn’t the same.

Since it’s up to investors to know when to pay taxes on stocks and report the amount of taxable income they’ve received from the sales of their investments and distributions (on IRS Form 1099-DIV) the most proactive thing an investor can do to get an idea of what type of tax liability a specific mutual fund may present is to research the fund before any shares are purchased. In other words, do your homework.

There are a number of online resources—including but not limited to Morningstar and Kiplinger Mutual Fund Finder —that allow investors to conduct that research, with some also providing rating systems to help streamline the process.

Paying Tax on “Realized Gains” from a Mutual Fund

capital gains taxation rate will vary.

Because funds contain investments that may be sold during the year, thereby netting capital gains, investors may be on the hook for capital gains taxes on their mutual fund distributions. As each fund is different, so are the taxes associated with their distributions. So reading through the fund’s prospectus and any other available documentation can help investors figure out what, if anything, they owe.

How to Minimize Taxes on Mutual Funds

When it comes to mutual funds, taxes are going to be a part of the equation for investors—there’s no way around it. But that doesn’t mean that investors can’t make some smart moves to minimize what they owe. Here are a handful of ways to potentially lower taxable income associated with mutual funds:

Know the Details Before You Invest

IRAs and 401(k)s—are tax-deferred. That means that they grow tax-free until the money contained in them is withdrawn. In the short-term, using these types of accounts to invest in mutual funds can help investors avoid any immediate tax liabilities that those mutual funds impose.

Hang Onto Your Funds to Avoid Short-term Capital Gains

If the goal is to minimize an investor’s tax liability, avoiding short-term capital gains tax is important. That’s because short-term capital gains taxes are steeper than the long-term variety. An easy way to make sure that an investor is rarely or never on the hook for those short-term rates is to subscribe to a buy-and-hold investment strategy.

This can be applied as an overall investing strategy in addition to one tailor-made for avoiding additional tax liabilities on mutual fund holdings.

Talk to a Financial Professional

Of course, not every investor has the same resources, including time, available to them. That’s why some investors may choose to consult a financial advisor who specializes in these types of services. They usually charge a fee, but some may offer free consultations. For some investors, the cost savings associated with solid financial advice can outweigh the initial costs of securing that advice.

The Takeaway

Getting taxed on capital gain on a mutual fund is unavoidable, but with a little help from a tax professional, you can minimize the amount you get taxed.

Some of the above strategies can work in concert: Investors who are investing for long-term financial goals, like retirement, can use tax-deferred accounts as their primary investing vehicles. And by using those accounts to invest in mutual funds and other assets, they can help offset their short-term tax liabilities.

While it’s possible to buy some mutual funds with an online brokerage account, many have restrictions on the types of funds investors can buy, as they’re specially-tailored toward specific financial goals, like retirement. With a SoFi Invest® account, investors can get started building a portfolio, and even gain access to complimentary advice.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you get your money in the market.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.


Source: sofi.com

Moving in Together: 11 Signs You Know It’s Time

After a few months (or years!) of dating, you’re feeling ready to take the plunge with your significant other. And no, we’re not talking about marriage.

Moving in together is a significant step in any relationship. According to a recent study, living together even decreases the risk of divorce down the line. Today, more than 66 percent of married couples have lived together before exchanging vows.

It makes sense as you get to know your other half more personally — from how they handle their finances, their daily cleaning habits and even how they react to life happenings.

So, how soon is too soon to move in together? Know that saving money or my lease is almost up are not valid reasons to make this big step. Living together will bring up the smallest annoyances, and compatibility is essential to make a dream home.

How long should you date before moving in together?

Of course, this is subjective. The amount of time is not as significant as the feeling that you’re in a stable relationship. You shouldn’t feel rushed about outside parties (ahem, parents) or others’ timelines.

In a 2008 study, 37 percent of couples waited until they dated for six months to one year before moving in together.

While you’re weighing the pros and cons of moving in together, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you ready to give up a bit of your independence?
  • Are you thinking about moving in together because you want to and not because it’s convenient and/or the next step?
  • Are you ready to share more of your life — including finances, family and habits — with your other half?
  • Are you prepared to talk frankly about your future together?
  • Are you prepared to have honest conversations about beliefs, moral dilemmas, communication techniques and kids?

In the end, moving in together is a gamble, so make sure that you have all the facts before moving forward with the conversation.

couple on bench talking about moving in together

How to talk to your partner about moving in together

Once you’ve simmered with your feelings and are ready to talk to your partner about moving in together, it’s time to put everything on the table. Yup, you heard us right. This is the time to be as transparent as possible to avoid any mistakes.

Set up a time to talk about this over, without distractions, since there will be some extremely personal things that you’ll be discussing:

  • Who will handle the budget of the home? Discuss your money habits, accounts, budget, credit scores and, of course, any debt including student loans and credit cards.
  • Are you on the same page about what your home and future will look like?
  • Are you both OK with this next level of commitment?
  • What happens if you break up? Discuss who gets the apartment and/or any joint pets or belongings.
  • Review the way you communicate and solve conflicts. Remember, you can’t go to your other apartment when in a fight.
  • You’re both OK with change — both in your home and in your relationship

Signs that it’s time to move in together

You took the time to meditate on this on your own and had a heart-to-heart with your significant other. Read on to learn the signs that it’s time to move in with your significant other.

1. Money talks happen often

Since you started dating, you’ve been transparent about your money situation. Whether it’s your salary at work, your savings account or the student loans you have, you’ve been open with each other since the beginning.

Sharing how much you would pay for a house or rent an apartment for your plan to pay down your debt with your other half continually signals trust and transparency in your relationship. Remember, this is a two-way street, too.

couple with dog

2. You’ve practiced cohabitating

Beyond staying at each other’s apartments a couple of times a week, you’ve already been thinking about cohabitating by doing a week trial. You both decided to stay together for a week, intentionally, to understand your schedules and habits.

3. Your habits are starting to match up

Based on your cohabitation trial, you can see your schedules, cleaning and eating habits are starting to sync up without much friction.

For example, if you wake up around the same time, you’re both willing to do the dishes, split up cooking and grocery shopping based on preference and more. Having similar habits can help keep harmony in the home.

4. You feel heard

When you bring up an issue with your other half, you feel like they listen to you and try to resolve the matter with you instead of dismissing you. This will be vital to your relationship when you move in together as it will help you resolve conflicts and fights more quickly.

5. Problem-solving as a team happens often

Before moving in together, make sure that you go on vacation together. During vacation, conflicts come up often — lost reservations, missed flights, food poisoning and also, interests may clash. Beach bums versus activity enthusiasts, anyone?

But if you’ve gone on a vacation and were able to solve any issues quickly without much frustration, you’re on the right path.

engagement ring

6. Marriage talks happen often

This is a big one. Often moving in together predates marriage, and if you move toward cohabitation, you may make assumptions. If you’re talking about marriage often, it’s probably a sign that it’s time to move in together.

7. There’s no pressure to do it, but you want to

Parents, friends, society — external pressure comes from all sides sometimes. But you’ve looked inwards, and as you think about moving in together, you feel like you’re moving forward together because you want to, not because it’s the next thing on the list.

8. Financial secrets don’t exist

You’ve been completely honest with one another about your financial journeys and issues, including debt, budget habits and other financial secrets. If you’ve been transparent about this to each other, you’re most likely to move in together.

People are 10 times more likely to break up if one of the partners is terrible with money. Money can create resentment within the relationship and poison the well if you will.

couple having breakfast talking about moving in together

9. You know how to communicate

Whether it happened organically or it was with the help of a counselor, learning how to communicate with each other can lead to a more stress-free cohabitation. Take note of past fights: how did you talk to each other? How did you resolve the issue? Did you go bed angry?

If you feel comfortable with the way you talk during conflicts or arguments, it’s a sign that there’s compatibility, and it’s time to move in together.

10. You talk about the future often

Marriage isn’t the only factor in the future to discuss. Things like travel, kids, aging parent’s care, retirement goals, city versus suburbs and more are part of the future conversation.

Even if you end up living together without marriage, these things will come up. Discuss them now to avoid conflicts during an emotional time.

11. And finally, your gut says it’s time

Here’s the thing — if you love each other and all the boxes above check out, your gut most likely says it’s time. Only you and your other half know when it’s time. These conversations and questions can clarify what your gut is saying.

Ready to take the plunge?

Deciding to move in together is huge, but if you sit down to have an honest conversation and love each other, it should be mostly a breeze. This is an exciting time for both of you! Just remember to schedule things with friends outside the home, separately, but also invite friends over for a game or movie night to warm your home.

Source: rent.com

A Look Back at 2018 Data Breaches

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While recent data breaches may not have cost you any money, the same can’t be said about the companies that were breached. It’s estimated that data breaches cost companies an average of $3.5 million. If you look at data breaches case by case, you’ll see they can cost individual companies a lot more in terms of both money and public relations. The Yahoo data breach of 2013 was one of the biggest corporate data breaches of all time. Over 3 billion accounts affected. It cost the company over $100 million.

A Look Back at 2018 Data Breaches

We’re going to take a quick look at the most recent data breaches. If you were affected by a data breach, there are steps you can take to protect your information.

 Quora Breach

Breach announced: December 3, 2018

Number of accounts affected: 100 million user accounts

The question and answer platform recently announced that about 100 million user accounts had been compromised when they discovered a malicious third party in their computer systems. The company quickly stated that this breach was not likely going to lead to any cases of identity theft since users don’t share any sensitive information such as Social Security numbers or credit card details. The breach is still a reminder that sensitive personal information is vulnerable to malicious third parties.

Marriott Starwood Breach

Breach announced: November 30, 2018

Number of accounts affected: 500 million user accounts

Marriott International, which is a conglomerate of hotels that include W Hotels and the Sheraton, recently announced that it had suffered a data breach that affected up to 500 million client accounts. This breach had been ongoing from 2014 to September of 2018. The sensitive clientele information compromised included:

  • Names
  • Email addresses
  • Passport numbers
  • Phone numbers
  • Dates of birth
  • Arrival and departure information
  • Starwood Preferred Guest account information
  • Reservation dates and communication preferences

The breach also affected encrypted payment card numbers and expiration dates. Because this information is enough for hackers to commit identity theft, Marriott customers have been advised to change their passwords and be on the lookout for any fishy activity on their credit card accounts.

Facebook Breach

Breach announced: September 28, 2018

Number of accounts affected: 50 million user accounts

The social media platform announced that over 50 million user accounts might have been compromised by hackers. While Facebook says that they’re not sure whether the hackers accessed any sensitive information, they urged their users to keep an eye out for unusual activity. They also reset over 90 million accounts, requiring users to change their passwords.

Panera Bread Breach

Breach announced: April 2018

Number of accounts affected: more than 7 million customers

Panera Bread announced that hackers had compromised their “MyPanera” loyalty program and that sensitive customer data may have been compromised. The information stolen included:

  • Names
  • Dates of birth
  • Physical addresses
  • Last four digit of user credit card numbers

Panera Bread disputes the exact number of customers that may have been affected by the breach. Researchers estimate the number of customers affected is in the millions, not thousands. Users have been advised to keep a lookout for phishing emails.

MyFitnessPal Breach

Breach announced: March 29, 2018

Number of accounts affected: 150 million user accounts

Under Armor’s MyFitnessPal announced that about 150 million user accounts had been compromised by hackers. The company says that information such as diet, step counts and payment data may not have been affected. However, they do believe that the hackers took usernames, passwords and email addresses. Users have been advised to change passwords and to look out for phishing emails.

Even though many of these companies believe that sensitive payment information may not have been affected by these breaches, customers should pay close attention to their credit card activities. They should also be on the lookout for phishing emails. Phishing usually appear to be emails coming from the company asking users to provide sensitive information like passwords or account information. However, companies do not ask their users for this type of information.

You may be wondering how you can help keep your personal information safe online. Hackers are getting smarter as technology improves.

Here are some things you can do to improve the security of your personal data online:

  • Don’t completely fill out your social media profiles. The more information you share on these platforms, the easier it is for hackers to scam you using a phishing email.
  • Be careful when providing your Social Security Number. The only people who should need your SSN are your bank, lenders, and the credit bureaus.
  • Turn on private browsing. This can help keep your history safe from prying eyes, especially when you shop online.
  • Use passwords for everything. Make sure that your electronics require a password for data security. Secure all login credentials. Also, use different passwords for all accounts and make sure that they’re tough to crack.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Use this for the platforms you frequent the most. With this authentication, once you log-in, the system will require a special one-time code that is sent to your phone. This ensures that it’s you trying to access the account and not someone else.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, there are other steps you can take to protect your credit. Many companies have offered free identity theft monitoring to victims of these breaches. If you think you’ve been a victim of a data breach, contact the company to see if they’re offering identity theft monitoring.

It’s also a good idea to pull your credit reports to make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft. You can access your credit reports every 12 months for free at annualcreditreport.com. Or you can sign up with Credit.com to monitor your credit. We offer a free credit score and a credit report card which is a summary of your credit report.

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Source: credit.com

How to Host a Football Party | ApartmentSearch

A bowl of chips and a plate of burgers, chicken, and friesIt’s September, which means fall is upon us. The air is getting cooler, pumpkins are getting spicier, and the trees are getting orange-ier? But changing leaves aren’t the only things you’re watching. That’s right; it’s football season! And if you’re planning on throwing a watch party, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure your party is a touchdown.

A High Definition TV is a Must

Whether you’re cheering for your favorite professional team or still rooting for your old college team, do it in front of a high definition TV. The last thing you want to do is watch those magnificent touchdowns through a grainy picture. Also, you don’t want to have to squint to see 6’4” quarterback on a 30” screen!

Make sure your TV is big enough to allow you to enjoy the game without having to strain your eyes or huddle your friends around a tiny screen. Elevate your viewing experience with a clearance HD TV from CORT Furniture Outlet.

Don’t Let Your Guests Go Hungry

No football viewing party is complete without a full spread of snacks of all varieties. Now is your chance to get creative! Turn your food into football shapes, or cook some fun fall recipes you’ve been wanting to try. If you’re in a small apartment and worried about getting rid of cooking smells before your party, try preparing all the food the night before and stashing it in your fridge until the guests arrive.

If you decide to make your party a potluck, a good practice is to let people know what to bring. Stick to broader categories, like drinks, chips and dip, desserts, etc. That way, your guests can still be creative (and budget-aware) with what they bring, and it ensures that your party isn’t just tortilla chips and paper plates.

Have Seating for Everyone

Football games usually last a few hours. That’s a long time to be standing around. Have enough seats for all your guests so they don’t get tired before halftime. Plus, it’s a lot harder to jump out of your seat with excitement when you don’t have a seat in the first place. Have some fold-out chairs stashed in a closet to bring out as necessary so your guests can view the game in maximum comfort.

Clean Your Bathroom

You’ve spent so much time and effort getting your living room space ready and setting out your buffet of snacks. But you might have forgotten one crucial thing–cleaning your bathroom! You know your guests will use the restroom at some point during the party, and you certainly don’t want them walking into a dirty or cluttered bathroom. Wipe down all the surfaces, put away any clutter, and stock plenty of toiletries–just in queso.

Make Space for Your Victory Dance

So, your apartment is clean, the food is set out, and the TV is set up and ready for game-day action. But you may also want to consider moving some furniture around to make sure your guests have space to celebrate all the team’s victories. You might have already made space for those extra chairs you brought out. But if you’ve got a small apartment, this may mean moving your coffee table or side tables to another room. After all, this is a party. So, make some room to party!

Make Your Apartment Festive

Maybe you’ve already decorated your apartment for fall. But for game day, you’ll want to go a little extra. Set aside some craft time to make paper garlands for your chosen team, dress up your food table with a fun football field-inspired tablecloth, or blow up some balloons to quickly and easily add your team’s colors to the room.

Take Advantage of Your Apartment’s Amenities

If your apartment has perks, now is the time to use them! If you’ve got a pool, reserve a space to host your party. If your apartment has a courtyard, it could be a great place to set up a grill, (as long as your lease allows it), and add a cookout to your party. You might even meet your neighbors if it’s a shared courtyard. And if your apartment has a parking lot, you could always host a tailgate-style party.

Are you planning on throwing a football party this year but your place is too small for your guest list? Don’t let a lack of space bench your besties. Get a bigger apartment with amenities for entertaining with ApartmentSearch.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Digital Assets and Cryptocurrency

In the last ten years or so, a new asset class has swept the globe—digital assets and cryptocurrency. It began with Bitcoin in 2009 and has since expanded into thousands of different cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin, the first and largest cryptocurrency by market cap, is widely considered the gold standard of the asset class. Over time, other coins have seen their values plunge to zero, and it’s likely that many others will follow.

Only cryptocurrencies with large market capitalizations and a historical track record of success can be considered potential investments. Most digital assets are purely speculative in nature. Here’s what potential investors need to know about digital assets and cryptocurrency.

What is a Digital Asset?

Broadly speaking, most digital assets fall into two general categories:

1. cryptocurrencies (money)
2. cryptographic tokens

The two are often called “coins” and “tokens,” respectively, for short.

What are Cryptocurrencies?

There are many different types of cryptocurrency beyond Bitcoin. These include:

•  Bitcoin Cash
•  Litecoin
•  Ethereum
•  Ripple
•  Stellar
•  NEO
•  Cardano

In 2011, Charlie Lee created a “hard fork” of the Bitcoin (BTC) network, meaning a new and different blockchain was created based on the old one. Lee called this new coin Litecoin (LTC). LTC uses a different consensus algorithm than BTC, generally allowing for faster transactions with lower fees. But because the Litecoin network is much smaller, it’s also less secure.

Satoshi Nakamoto white paper, was published on October 31st, 2008. Just over two months later, on January 3rd, 2009, the Bitcoin network went live, and a new asset class (cryptocurrency) was born alongside a new technology (blockchain).

Bitcoin is a scarce form of digital money that can be transferred peer-to-peer, without any financial intermediary. It uses the proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm and has a fixed supply limit, so it can’t be created out of thin air.

Benefits of Investing in Digital Assets

The benefits of investing in digital assets go beyond the potential for outsized capital gains.
The biggest benefits of investing in digital assets are:

•  Individual sovereignty and less counterparty risk
•  Portfolio diversification
•  Hedge against inflation

There are some people within the community who want to buy cryptocurrency because of the ways it aids individual freedom and sovereignty more than for its potential for prosperity. There are others who value this investment as a unique form of diversification and a hedge against inflation.

Individual Sovereignty

Bitcoin allows people to become their own bank. When storing assets at a traditional bank or other financial institution, an individual becomes vulnerable to the risk of that institution going bankrupt or mismanaging their funds. This risk is known as counterparty risk.

Because they are peer-to-peer, digital assets and cryptocurrency eliminate all counterparty risk.

By holding their own private keys, investors can have total ownership of their digital assets and cryptocurrency. Other than gold or silver, no other asset has this quality.


Bitcoin has been the best performing asset class of the last decade by far. During eight of those years, the returns from holding Bitcoin exceeded that of any other asset in the world. At the time of this writing, the same holds true for 2020. (That said, as with any investment past performance is not an indication of future performance.)

Cryptocurrency can diversify an investment portfolio in a way no other asset class can. Crypto is known as a “non-correlated asset,” meaning it tends to have little or no correlation to the rest of the investment world (although this has changed at times during 2020).

Inflation Hedge

While all investing carries risk, investors often fail to factor in the one risk inherent in every investment denominated in fiat currency (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, etc.): Inflation risk.

The law of supply and demand dictates that when the supply of something increases, its price will decrease absent an equal or greater increase in demand. With central banks creating tens of trillions of new currency units in 2020 alone, more and more investors have begun looking toward digital assets and cryptocurrencies that have fixed supply limits, like Bitcoin.

It should be noted that the only cryptocurrencies that can serve as viable inflation hedges are those that have a fixed supply limit. Like gold, scarce commodities tend to increase in value during times of inflation.

In addition, global uncertainty and turmoil tend to increase demand for safe haven assets.

And amidst the chaos of 2020, Bitcoin is the best performing asset in the world, being up 80% year-to-date at the time of writing. (Despite this success, past performance is not an indication of future performance.)

Digital Assets and Risk

The vast majority of altcoins are highly speculative in nature. Most have very small market capitalizations of less than $1 billion or even less than $100 million, so their prices can swing dramatically in short periods of time due to a lack of liquidity. And in the long run, it’s not unheard of for altcoins to drop to zero, meaning investors lose everything.

Bitcoin might be a little different because it has the most secure network (due to having the highest hashrate), the longest track record, and the largest market cap by far.

Best Practices for Investing in Digital Assets and Cryptocurrency

Anyone considering investing in digital assets and cryptocurrency would do well to educate themselves on related subjects.

bitcoin halving, bitcoin forks, cryptocurrency wallet, and crypto exchange, the less confusing this type of investment will seem.

Due to the volatile nature of digital assets and cryptocurrency, a common strategy is what’s known as dollar-cost averaging. Rather than trying to time the markets, investors sometimes buy fixed dollar amounts at fixed time intervals.

An example would be an investor setting a recurring buy for an automatic purchase of $50 worth of Bitcoin every two weeks.

The Takeaway

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to digital assets and cryptocurrency. This relatively new asset class has a lot going for it—from individual sovereignty to a hedge against inflation—but it can feel very much like the wild west to new investors.

When considering investing in digital assets and cryptocurrency, the bottom line is the same as for any investment: Potential investors always benefit from educating themselves before making financial decisions. SoFi Invest® gives members the straightforward, simple information they need to invest in cryptocurrencies.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you invest in cryptocurrency.

SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


Source: sofi.com

5 Ways to be Better at Conscious Consumption

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

We’ve all been there. You walk into your favorite store, the one with the amazing branding and the conveniently set up dollar bins and somehow walk out with $100 worth of stuff when you just went in for conditioner. Or is it just me?

I have accumulated stuff over the years sitting in drawers and boxes, cluttering up my closet and I have no idea how it got there or why it is there.

Since taking a closer look at my finances and being more aware of my purchases, I was embarrassed by the number of foods from the grocery store that went uneaten and scented candles gone unlit. I’m not against candles, I love candles! But I’m starting to realize that I don’t need every scent just because they’re $3.

And I also care about the story of my purchases. Where did it come from, how did it get here, and is it beneficial for the future if I buy it? It’s a common trait in millennials; we want to be good stewards of the earth’s resources and ethical to people around the world. It’s transformed the way I look at shopping.

So now, I pay attention to what I buy.

It didn’t start out so well. Thinking about my purchases looked more like just staring at the bottle of wine a little harder as I put it in my cart. But I’ve developed 5 habits that make me more confident that what I’m consuming is good for me and good for the rest of the world.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

We’ve all heard the phrase before. But did you ever think there’s a reason they’re put in that order? Recycling gets a lot of hype but priority #1 is actually to reduce as much of our consumption as possible. Priority #2 is to reuse what you already have for as long as you can. I’m not talking kids crafts with leftover egg cartons. I mean repurposing and upcycling. Then as a last resort recycle whatever’s left.

Buy Secondhand

I’m known for being a big proponent for gently used fashion but my love for all things secondhand goes far beyond wearing it. Buying secondhand cars, home décor, and furniture can not only save you money but also reduce the quantity of items that have to be made to keep up with demand.

My logic is most definitely flawed but regardless I think of it like this: even if that Forever 21 top was made in a sweatshop, buying it secondhand instead of new, saves someone from having to produce one more top. It gives me more freedom in the thrift stores and my favorite online consignment shops like ThredUp.

Shop Local

I live in a city where local is a way of life. Big box stores and restaurants can’t touch our downtown because the city is committed to shopping at independent businesses. And for produce, the Saturday Morning Market is always packed.

Buying local means you can help more people without spending more money. Each dollar you spend returns 3 times more money into the local economy than one spent at a chain and almost 50 more than one at an online mega-retailer.

Pro tip: Be cautious at farmer’s markets to make sure the produce is actually local. Big agriculture farms will often outsource to dealers meaning you’ll buy from a 3rd party vs. buying from an actual local farm.

Buy Quality

Ask yourself: How long will this last? Will I still want to wear it in 3 years? A classic shirt that costs $35 but will last you twice as long as a $19.99 fast fashion shirt is actually a better deal. Things that can break easily or you know you replace often are worth the extra money for better quality.

Minimize Waste

I’m bringin it full circle for this last one, just to emphasize: use less, waste less. This trick not only saves your money from thoughtless buys but is the easiest way to be better to the environment. After all, you don’t have to think about the quality and source of your purchase if you just don’t purchase it.

Don’t feel overwhelmed by all the steps you need to take and money you need to spend to become the ultimate conscious consumer. Make small changes day to day and you’ll see that the more you ask yourself these questions, the more they’ll become a way of life. And your wallet and the earth will thank you.

5 Ways to be Better at Conscious Consumption

5 Ways to be Better at Conscious Consumption

<img data-attachment-id="4966" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/save-money-online/mf-5-easy-ways-to-practice-conscious-consumption/" data-orig-file="https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-5-Easy-Ways-to-Practice-Conscious-Consumption.png?fit=600%2C900&ssl=1" data-orig-size="600,900" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta=""aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"" data-image-title="Want to be a more conscious consumer?" data-image-description="

If you’re looking for easy ways to be a conscious consumer, read this. Tips and tricks to help you spend your money better. #consciousconsumer #consciousconsumption #spendbetter #wisespending

” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-5-Easy-Ways-to-Practice-Conscious-Consumption.png?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-5-Easy-Ways-to-Practice-Conscious-Consumption.png?fit=400%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” width=”400″ height=”600″ data-pin-title=”Want to be a more conscious consumer?” data-pin-description=”If you’re looking for easy ways to be a conscious consumer, read this. Tips and tricks to help you spend your money better. #consciousconsumer #consciousconsumption #spendbetter #wisespending” src=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-5-Easy-Ways-to-Practice-Conscious-Consumption.png?resize=400%2C600&ssl=1″ alt class=”wp-image-4966″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-5-Easy-Ways-to-Practice-Conscious-Consumption.png?resize=400%2C600&ssl=1 400w, https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-5-Easy-Ways-to-Practice-Conscious-Consumption.png?resize=200%2C300&ssl=1 200w, https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-5-Easy-Ways-to-Practice-Conscious-Consumption.png?w=600&ssl=1 600w” sizes=”(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.

Source: modernfrugality.com

The Best Money Market Mutual Funds To Consider

The best money market mutual funds are a good place to keep your cash while earning interest. Bank checking and savings accounts and money market accounts are good alternatives for your cash.

But money market funds offer a higher rate of return than these other short-term investments.

One of the best money market mutual funds is the Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund. This fund has a current yield of 1.69%. That is way more than any checking and savings account are offering.

Money market funds are considered very safe. However, they are not FDIC insured. If the lack of FDIC insurance concerns you, you may wish to invest in online savings accounts, money market accounts, or certificate of deposits (CDs).  

In this article, we will define what a money market fund is. We will list the cons and pros of those funds. We will address the main situations you will need these type of funds. Finally, we will list the best money market mutual funds to choose from.

What are money market funds?

Money market funds are a type of mutual funds. They were launched in 1975 as a way to provide investors quick liquidity to their cash, provide current income and protect the investors’ principal.

Since then, they have become extremely popular. Unlike other mutual funds which focus on other securities such as stocks and bonds, they invest in “money market” securities.

Large companies and corporations, financial institutions and the U.S. government borrow money by issuing “money market” securities as promises to repay the debts.

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For instance, the U.S. government borrows money by selling bonds or Treasury bills or notes. Banks borrow money by selling certificate of deposit (CDs).

Big companies borrow money by issuing IOUs called commercial paper. These money market securities make up the money market fund.

Mutual fund and investment companies such as Vanguard and Fidelity offer these investments. They are low risk and they provide high yield.

Some funds are intended for retail investors. Retail investors are natural investors like you and me.

On the other hand, there are funds that are intended for institutional investors. Those funds usually require high minimum investments.

Money Market funds vs. Money Market Accounts

The names may sound the same. But, they are two different types of investments.

To recap, a money market fund is a type of mutual fund. A mutual fund company such as Vanguard or Fidelity offers this type of investment. These funds invest in short-term debt. They offer higher returns than money market accounts.

On the other hand, a money market account is a type of savings account. Banks offer them.

But the rates of return are typically higher than that of a typical savings account. Unlike money market funds, they are insured by the FDIC.

Money market fund advantages:

Money market funds are one of the best and safest places to invest your hard-earned money. You will earn more interest than in a regular savings or checking account. Here are some of the advantages of these funds.

They are very safe. Money market funds are not FDIC insured, like savings accounts and CDs are. But, they are very safe.

Since they were launched, only 2 out of hundreds have run into trouble. If you concerned about the lack of insurance, you may wish to consider an online savings account or a money market account.

They are liquid and easily accessible. Another advantage of money market funds is that you have immediate access to your money.

You may withdraw your money anytime you wish without incurring penalty. Also, you can cash in your shares by phone, online, by mail or through your broker with relative ease.

You may write checks. Another positive aspect of a money market fund is that you can tap your money by writing checks against your account with no charge.

And some funds allow you to write checks for any amount for free.

They provide higher yields. They pay higher yields than a traditional savings account.

The reason is because the borrowers, i.e., the US government and big corporations are solid institutions and they agree to repay the debts at high interest rates.

Tax advantages. Some funds invest in securities where the interests are exempt from federal taxes, and in some cases state income taxes.

All of these factors make money market funds popular with people who want to invest for their short term goals.


While there several pros to investing in money market funds, there are some cons as well.

Lower return. Because access to your money are relatively easy in a money market fund, they have lower returns than other investments such as stocks, bonds and index fund.

They are not FDIC insured. As mentioned earlier, the federal government does not insure these funds .

Other investments such as online savings accounts, money market accounts, certificate of deposits are. But again they are very safe.

However, if the lack of FDIC insurance bothers you, stick with bigger mutual fund companies.

Situations when investing in money market funds makes sense?

You have a short-term investment goal. You may want to invest in these funds for short-term goals.

If you’re planning on buying a house in the next year or so and looking for safe place to save for the down payment, then they’re a good place for your cash.

You’re saving for a rainy day. If you’re saving for an emergency fund, a money market fund is also a good place to park your cash.

You certainly don’t want to invest in the stock market, because you can lose money within a relatively short period of time due to market volatility.

You want to diversify your portfolio. Money market funds are not aggressive investments such as stocks or bonds.

That’s why these funds are safer and very conservative. When the stock market plunges, these funds can balance your portfolio out.

So, you can use this type of investment as a complement to your other and riskier investments.

The best Vanguard money market mutual funds:

Fund name Fund Ticker Min.
Vanguard Prime Money Market VMMXX $3,000 0.16%
Vanguard Treasury Money Market VUSXX $50,000 0.09%
Vanguard Federal Money Market VMFXX $3,000 0.11%
Vanguard Municipal Money Market VMSXX $3,000 0.15%
List of best money market funds

1. The Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund (VMMXX).

This Fund is perhaps one of the best out there.

However, this fund requires a minimum deposit of $3,000 just to open an account. This can be steep for a beginner investor with little money. The expense ratio is 0.16%.

There is no purchase or redemption fees. The fund has a total asset of $127.5 billion as of January 2020.

The Vanguard Prime Money Market primarily invests in foreign bonds, U.S. treasury bills, and U.S Government obligations.

2. The Vanguard Treasury Money Market Fund (VUSXX).

As the name suggests, this Vanguard money fund only invests in U.S. Treasury bills. However, the fund has a minimum initial investment of $50,000.

It may be out reach for beginner investors with little money. But the expense ratio is 0.09%.

The current yield is 1.58% while the 10 year yield is 0.55%. If you are a wealthy investor, you should consider this fund.

3. The Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund (VMFXX).

This Vanguard money fund is perhaps the safest and most conservative of all funds, simply because they invest in U.S. government securities.

U.S. guaranteed securities are considered risk-free investments. It intends to provide current income while maintaining liquidity.

This Vanguard fund requires a $3,000 initial minimum investments. It has a 0.11% expense ratio.

The current yield is 1.58% and a 10 year yield of 0.55%.

So, if you have a short term goal and are interested in a Vanguard fund that invests in U.S government securities, you may wish to consider this fund.

4. Vanguard Municipal Money Market Fund.

This Vanguard fund invests in short-term, high quality municipal securities.

What makes this fund a great one is that it provides income that is exempt from federal personal income taxes.

If you are in a higher tax bracket and are looking for a competitive tax-free yield, you should consider this fund.

Similar to other funds, the initial minimum investment is $3,000 with a 0.15%. This fund has a current yield of 1.20% and a 10 year yield of 0.44%.

Overall, you should consider investing in these best money market funds, because they generally pay you better than bank savings accounts and money market accounts.

But the FDIC does not insure you. However, they are very safe. If the lack of FDIC insurance does not bother you, you should try them.

Decide whether investing in money market is best for you

While a money market fund may sound great, it’s not for everyone. It won’t help those with a long term investment strategy, such as retirement.

For those with a long term focus, investing in individual stocks, real estate, or index funds may be an option instead.

Moreover, younger and aggressive investors should keep less money in money market funds than older investors who are approaching retirement.

However, if you’re looking to make a purchase soon (in the next year or so), such as buying a home, these funds make sense.

In addition, investors who want to diversify their portfolio may find that money market funds are great investments as they are very safe when compared to risky alternatives such as stocks and bonds. 

Work With A Financial Advisor Near You

If you have questions beyond the best money market mutual funds, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals. Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

Source: growthrapidly.com

3 Tax Scams You Need to Watch Out For

January 24, 2019 &• 5 min read by Adam Levin Comments 0 Comments

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According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), there was a 400% increase in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season. And tax scams extend far beyond email and malware to include phone scams, identity theft and more.  While the April 15 filing deadline still feels far away, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Scammers use multiple ploys and tactics to lure unsuspecting victims in. The IRS publishes an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. Sadly, while some of those scams lure people into getting ripped off, others lure people into unwittingly committing tax fraud by falling victim to fake charities, shady tax preparers and false claims on their tax returns.

The most important things you can do to keep yourself scam-free and protected this—and any—tax year are to:

  • Be wary—if it seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Educate yourself on the most common risks out there
  • File your taxes as early as possible

When you file your taxes as early as possible, you can just politely decline scammer and you can protect yourself from taxpayer identity theft. Tax-related identity theft is primarily aimed at someone posing as you stealing your tax refund. Scammers are creative, sophisticated, persistent and move fast once they have your information in hand. Armed with your Social Security number, date of birth and other pieces of your personally-identifiable information, they can rob you. If you’ve been the victim of a data breach—learn the warning signs—your information is likely available on the dark web. With your information, all a scam artist has to do is log in to a motel’s Wi-Fi network, fill out a fraudulent tax return online and walk away with a refund that could be and should have been yours.

What Is a Tax Scam?

A tax scam is a ploy intended to steal your information and/or your money. It can take several forms. The IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” for 2018 includes these scams:

  • Phishing scams, using fake emails or websites to steal personal information.
  • Phone scams where callers pretend to be IRS agents to steal your information or money.
  • Identity theft scams where identity thieves try and steal your personally identifiable information.
  • Return preparer fraud where a dishonest tax preparer submits a fraudulent return for you or steals your identity.
  • Fake charities where unqualified groups get you to donate money that isn’t actually deductible on your tax return.
  • Inflated refund claim scams where a dishonest tax preparer promises a high refund.
  • Excessive claims for business credits where you or a dishonest tax preparer promises a high refund for claiming credits you aren’t owed, such as the full tax credit.
  • Falsely padding deductions Taxpayers where you or a dishonest tax prepare reports more for expenses or deductions than really occurred.
  • Falsifying income to claim credits where a dishonest tax preparer cons you into claiming income you didn’t earn in order to qualify for tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Frivolous tax arguments where a scam artist gets you to make fake claims to avoid paying taxes.
  • Abusive tax shelters where a scammer sells you on a shelter as a way to avoid paying taxes.
  • Offshore tax avoidance where a scammer convinces you to put your money offshore to hide it as a source of taxable income that you have to pay taxes on.

It’s important to know that if you fall victim, you may not just be the victim. You may also be a criminal and held accountable legally and financially for filing an incorrect return.

A new scam recently hit the wires too. For this one, scammers email employees asking for copies of their W-2s. People who fall victim end up having their names, addresses, Social Security numbers and income sold online. The emails look very valid but aren’t If you see this or other emails that stink like “phish,” email the IRS at phishing@irs.gov

1. Phishing

Phishing uses a fake email or website to get you to share your personally-identifiable information. They often look valid. Know that the IRS will never contact you by email regarding your tax return or bill.

Phishing emails take many forms. They typically target getting enough of your personally identifiable information to commit fraud in your name, making you a victim of identity theft if you take the bait.

Phishing emails may also contain a link that places malware on your computer. These programs can do a variety of things—none of them good—ranging from recruiting your machine into a botnet distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack to placing a keystroke recorder on your computer to access bank, credit union, credit card and brokerage accounts to gathering all the personally identifiable information on your hard drive.

Here’s what you need to know: The IRS will never send you an email to initiate any business with you. Did you hear that? NEVER. If you receive an email from the IRS, delete it. End of story. Oh, and it will never initiate contact by way of phone call either.

That said, there are other sources of email that may have the look and feel of a legitimate communication that are tied to other kinds of tax scams and fraudulent refunds. And not all scams are emailed though. A lot of scammers will call. The IRS offers 5 way to identify tax scam phone calls.

2. Criminal Tax Preparation Scams

Not all tax professionals are the same and you must vet anyone you’re thinking about using well before handing over a shred of your personally identifying information. Get at least three references and check online if there are any reviews before calling them. Also, consider using the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has any complaints against them.

Here’s why: At tax-prep time, offices that are actually fronts for criminal identity theft pop up around the country in strip malls and other properties and then promptly disappear a few days later. Make sure the one you choose is legit!

3. Shady Tax Preparation

Phishing emails aren’t always aimed at stealing your personally identifiable information or planting malware on your computer. They may be simply aimed at getting your attention and business through enticing—and fraudulent—offers of a really big tax refund. While these tax preparers may get you a big refund, it could well be based on false information.

Be on the lookout for questions about business expenses that you didn’t make, especially watching out for signals from your tax preparer that you’re giving him or her a figure that is “too low.”

If you are using a preparer and something doesn’t seem right, ask questions—either directly from the preparer or by calling the IRS. The IRS operates the Tax Payer Advocate Service that can help answer your requests. The service’s phone may be unavailable during a government shutdown, but the website is always available.

Other soft-cons of shady tax preparation include inflated deductions, claiming tax credits that you’re not entitled to and declaring charitable donations you didn’t make. Bottom line: If you cheat—intentionally or unintentionally—chances are you’ll get caught. So make sure you play by the rules and follow the instructions or work with a preparer who does. Yes, the instructions are complicated. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to get honest help if you need it.

As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Tax season is stressful without the threat of tax-related identity theft and other scams. It’s important to be vigilant, because, to quote Yogi all over again, “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

This article was originally published February 28, 2017, and has been updated by a different author.

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Top 10 U.S. Cities for Dating | ApartmentSearch

Silhouette of a couple overlooking a cityAre you looking to settle down in more ways than one? If you’re not sure where to find love, but you’re certain you want to, check out the best cities for dating and find out what makes them hotspots for singles!

1. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta takes the number one spot on the best cities for singles list according to WalletHub. The many downtown bars are popular spots for ready-to-mingle singles. If that’s not your scene, look for love while enjoying a delicious and boozy brunch. If you’re more of the outdoorsy type, try the BeltLine – a 22-mile concrete trail with excellent city views and all the chances to run (or jog) into your soulmate.

2. Austin, TX

It’s no secret that Austin is one of the hottest spots in the U.S. As a growing tech hub and the home to the University of Texas, it’s no wonder so many young (and mostly single) professionals feel at home here. Many ATX residents live an active lifestyle thanks to the lakes, biking/walking trails, and scenic hiking spots. It seems there’s always something going on, whether it’s a music festival, a party boat, free yoga in the park or a fun run that ends with brunch. All these activities mean endless opportunities to meet your soulmate!

3. Boston, MA

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the U.S., but its dating scene is anything but outdated. TownCharts reports that almost 70% of Boston’s population is legally single, increasing your odds of finding the perfect match! It even made it into Forbes list of best cities for singles. The quaint historic neighborhoods and waterfront views make the perfect setting for any love story.

4. Charlotte, NC

If you’re looking for your Southern belle or gentleman, look no further than Charlotte. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people are flocking to Charlotte, NC, with a plan to settle down — probably because of the lower cost of living. There are plenty of family-friendly things to do, and this major North Carolina city is full of Southern charm, Southern food, speakeasies, and crafted cocktails, all of which make for a great first date!

5. Chicago, IL

According to TimeOut, singles make up 60% of the Windy City’s population (that’s a big dating pool). With its architecture, arts, dining, and diversity, it’s one of the most exciting cities to explore while you find your person! It’s also been voted Conde Nast Traveler Best Large City in the U.S. three years in a row — so even if you find yourself single on Valentine’s Day, it can be a great place to be!

6. Denver, CO

People seem to love Denver’s laid-back vibes and opportunities for outdoor recreation. An up-and-coming city, Denver has experienced steady population growth in the last few years. If you’re thinking about moving here, you should probably love two things: hiking and beer. But if you don’t, it probably won’t take long for you to find something (and someone) to fall in love with.

And if single males are your target audience, you may have an advantage in “Menver,” according to an article by KUSA, since the city seems to have a surplus of unattached men.

7. Minneapolis, MN

Representing the Upper Midwest at number seven is Minneapolis! While many singles love this city’s arts and nightlife, it also boasts beautiful parks, craft brews, and a romantic riverfront skyline — can you say perfect first date? Plus, living within reach of the polar vortex means you’ll always have an excuse to bundle up and snuggle with your Minnesotan sweetheart.

8. Nashville, TN

You don’t have to be a country music fan to move to Music City — but you will probably learn to love it! The nightlife and live music bring out all the single ladies (and lads), so grab your boots and your sense of rhythm for a night on the town. You might even get a phone number or two!

9. San Francisco, CA

San Francisco may be pricier than other cities on this list, but don’t let that keep you away! With many lively nightlife activities and an active daytime scene, you can just as quickly bump into your soulmate at the club or on the street. San Francisco residents enjoy walking, biking, or taking public transportation to get around this beautiful, bustling city. Not to mention, romantic getaways are easy with Wine Country just next door.

10. Seattle, WA

Seattle is one of the most populous metro areas in the U.S. Like San Francisco, the cost of living is higher, but so is the average salary. It’s full of cool spots to meet people, like Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, and the Waterfront. Sure, it’s known for its endless rainy season, but that’s the perfect opportunity to have a movie-moment kiss in the rain. Plus, Microsoft and Amazon headquarters keep the economy booming and attract many young professionals you can take home to your parents.

Now that you know where to find love — find an apartment you can fall in love with on ApartmentSearch. Start looking today — no strings attached!

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com