From Pokémon Go To Donald Trump, very little of 2016 felt predictable. Yet, even in that chaos, there were still trends --while companies, politics and pop stars change with the wind, trends remain eternal, twisting effervescently in the breeze.
Here's a solid five predictions for what's going to be big, trendwise, in 2017!
1. Brick and Mortars (or anything) that offer something!
Amazon didn't kill main street, despite still doing its best to thin it out. Borders went ages ago and Barnes & Noble is soon about to politely bow out, wine and dining-options be damned. But it's not just books that are suffering: Target's seen some serious losses this year and there were even whispers, earlier this year, that the behemoth that practically invented the contemporary big-box experience, Walmart, might have already seen its best days. What's surviving: Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, the corner indie bookstore. Why?
The other day, working a holiday shift at a nameless big-box store, an old woman asked me what I could recommend as a gift for her teenage daughter. Perhaps she spotted my hip and generational cool. Regardless, I told her to get herself to an Urban Outfitters and listen to what they told her. From music streaming services to direct retail, the one word that everyone is yelling in this age of information-overload is curation. Stitch Fix, for instance, gets it: it's a service that will literally put an outfit together based on the algorithms that you represent and sell it to you. Now that's cash: Stitch Fix brought in $250 million of revenue last year. Invest in places that are offering something you can't get on Amazon; in 2017 they're going to soar.
Will 2017 be the year Mary Jane becomes Everyday Jane? Forbes seems to think so, with Debra Borchardt, the magazine's self-described "retail and cannabis" expert, predicting, among other things, that the popular drug will inspire at least one network television show and at least one major league sports team to come behind the popular drug in the coming year. Personally, my money is on NASCAR. But maybe Lou Williams will be the one sporting a spliff, since Adam Bierman, of the cannabis investment firm MadMen, predicts that LA will become the "the marijuana capital of the world." Bierman estimates that LA's medicinal cannabis market is already worth somewhere near $1 billion and with California, having passed Proposition 64, legalizing recreational use of weed, back in November, expect that green to flow.
Apps, apps and more apps! Remember when the coolest thing was to be investing money in somebody's idea for an app, finding the engineers in Belarus, and pouring champagne over your empire in the morning? Come 2017, it will be the most profitable thing: "Even Your Grandma Will Use Grubhub," is Fortune's line on the matter and they're not just talking about the single-tap food delivery empire whose active user base grew by 19% in 2016. Fortune also predicts that Slack, the workplace chat app that slipped into 2016 and replaced every workplace conversation ever, will get a major purchase offer by one of the big tech giants. It's time for all those smart investments to make some serious bank.
4. Investing young!
Among many other things, 2016 will also be remembered as the year that the millennials took over, literally. A few months back, Pew Research confirmed this: "Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation's largest living generation," per the latest census data. Ian Altman, among the old people of Forbes, knows what this means: "Just like past generations, millennials will emerge as the next set of managers and executives." What will this mean, besides giving any spare cash you have to the nearest person younger than you? Businesses associated with the aged will be in or are already in decline: health care, car sales. Where's the money: ZipCar, Uber (see: apps!) and companies with young leadership--like Stefan Larsson, of Ralph Lauren, who's barely in his forties, or even someone like Sean Kelly, 29, who founded a brand of vending machines that specialized in health products or Aaron Bell, who started out as a developer for Microsoft at the age of 15 and now runs an advertisement retargeting software company that's worth over $34 million. Keep an eye out for them.
Just this November, Sony's Playstation launched its first VR interface to massive success, followed quickly by Google's Daydream View which is set to generate millions for their parent company in 2017. But even before those platforms took command of the zeitgeist, the absurd and sudden popularity of a game like Pokemon Go showed how much interest there was in using something as basic as an app to augment everyday reality into a social and capitalizable experience. And Google's quick foray into the field suggests that VR developers have goals greater than video games. Daryl Plummer, Chief of Research at Gartner, a technology research company, goes long: "by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality," he told Forbes. What's in store for the year ahead? Plummer predicts that at least one global brand will be using some augmented reality platform for sales by the end of the year. They will probably deserve your money.
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Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.
Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.
But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.
Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.
Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.
More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.
Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.
Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.
Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.
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When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.