Back in the 60s, Congress created REITs: Real Estate Investment Trusts—so that the —average American could reap the benefits of income earning property.

REITs allow individuals to invest in large scale income producing real estate, without the hassle and overhead of going out, buying, and managing property.

REITs offer investors multiple benefits: Diversification, Dividends, Liquidity, and Transparency.

While operating under the same rules and regulations as other public companies REITs have, over the long term outperformed the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrials and NASDAQ Composite, while also showing little correlation to the performance of the broader market.

There are two kinds of REITs:

Equity REITs derive their income from rent on real properties, usually things like malls, industrial facilities, apartment complexes, hotels, hospitals, and more.

Mortgage REITs derive their income from interest earned on mortgages or mortgage securities.

There's some criteria a REIT must meet to qualify—modeled after mutual funds, and recognized as a corporation, it must have a minimum of 100 shareholders, be managed by a board of directors or trustees, invest 75% of its total assets in real estate, and derive at least 75% of its gross income from rents on real property, interest on mortgages financing real property or from sales of real estate.

Should I buy REITs?

I did some research, asked my investing mentor, and checked the performance of my own REITs. I'll let you decide for yourself.

Here's a take from my investing mentor (who opts to remain anonymous).

To start I wanted a REIT in my portfolio some years back to diversify. This was maybe 6 years ago when REITs were booming which they did through '16. My broker recommended Cole, a nontraded REIT. Cole held stand alone commercial real estate occupied by national chains like Walgreens. Their occupancy rate was high and the renter assumed most or all of the maintenance. It was golden. I received a 6.5 % dividend till it went public and I made a healthy gain on its sale. I immediately ploughed all my earnings into another Cole REIT. This time there were problems. Cole allowed themselves to be acquired by American Realty which immediately had a compensation scandal.

Cole product sales dwindled immediately nationally as broker confidence in them diminished. Then it looked like Cole was going to be taken over by Apollo Global, a private equity firm at a fraction of their worth. That's when I decided to bail. It was hard getting a redemption from Cole too. They were resistant. There was a minimal redemption penalty as I had held the REIT for some time. The ample dividend it paid more than compensated. With both REITs I walked away with a 50% profit over approximately 4 years. It was a frightening experience. Nontraded REITs are hard to redeem quickly.

Finally, I now hold a tradable REIT fund through my NY Life variable annuity but it's only a small fraction of my portfolio. It's been down as much as 9%. It is rated high risk.

Projections for REITs have been mixed. Some segments have been slated to do well like commercial office space due to the uptick in the economy, and Internet sales storage facilities for companies like Amazon. But I just read an article claiming commercial property overall is now overpriced, and the 7 year REIT rally is ending. Investors have not embraced REITs since they got a separate S&P sector listing. REITs pay around a 4% dividend and are seen as a haven for investors when they are risk averse. This is not the case now, which is why REITs are down.

In an article for Forbes, Brett Owens claims REITs are the sector to take off for 2017. He took pains to bust a common REIT myth that they fall as interest rates rise, and even provides data that proves that REITs actually perform better as rates rise. He also suggest 5 REITs to buy, 3 of which I own personally—Public Storage (PSA), Simon Property Group Inc., (SPG), and Ventas Inc., (VTR).

My own REIT portfolio has yielded 13.2% to date.

REITs are a great way to diversify your portfolio, but do your due diligence before deciding to pull the trigger for yourself!

Check out this resource for more!

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.