Don't you just love stories about people giving back?
While there's a lot of greed out there, some of the richest people on Earth realize how lucky they are and decide to share the wealth.
Just look at Jeff Bezos of Amazon and his decision to donate $100 million to food banks. It's a lot more than you and I (and several large families put together) will ever give to charity… Because it's more than we'll earn in our entire lifetimes.
It's more than you could fit in the trunk of your car in stacks of $100 bills! If you put it all in a basic savings account, you and me and those several families could all easily live off the interest alone!
Actually, when you think about it like that, it's kind of more money than any one person could ever need or even spend on anything normal...
Sure, if you want to travel the world in a luxury blimp, eating meals out of the skulls of dead celebrities, you could spend it all pretty easily. But if you're just trying to have a happy, comfortable life, $100 million isn't much better than an $80,000 salary.
Fixing the World's Problems
So why doesn't any of these mega-billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Elon Musk, or any one of the Walmart Waltons just give away their riches and go down in history as the person who ended world hunger? At an estimated cost of $20 billion a year, each of them could afford to end homelessness in America for between two and eight years.
They could even keep a few car trunks stuffed with hundreds so they could continue living like kings and hunting olympic athletes for sport. And imagine how much all those people could improve their lives if they had stable places to live and sleep.
It must not be that simple... Because if private greed was the only thing standing in the way of transformational change, governments could have collected all that wealth with some steep taxes and made the world a better place. There has to be some reasonable explanation for why these people don't just give it all away…
In this series we are looking at a number of prominent myths around philanthropy, including the notions that billionaires' "wealth" is substantially different than money, and that they are important patrons of the arts.
Previously we debunked the ideas that charity is better than "government handouts" and that it's even possible for billionaires to be generous, but today we'll look at the question of whether their private charitable foundations are powerful forces for good.
Myth: Those foundations do a lot of good though
The Myth: They might not be as good as well-funded government programs, but in the absence of the political will to raise taxes and establish those kinds of programs, the private charitable foundations of billionaires do a lot of good and are a great option for helping people in need.
Why It's Wrong: There's no doubt that some of those foundations have truly helped people in significant, life-changing ways. But, generally speaking, the stated charitable missions of these organizations are secondary to their function as tax havens.
Adam Ruins Everything - Why Billionaire Philanthropy is Not So Selfless | truTV www.youtube.com
In the past these organizations were a useful way for anyone lucky enough to be leaving assets in excess of ~$600,000 to their loved ones to avoid the estate tax. These days the estate tax has been gutted to the benefit of no one who has ever earned anything, and the amount has been pushed above $11,000,000. But there are plenty of people who still want that loophole or enjoy the prestige that private charitable foundations provide them.
Often private LLCs directly controlled by the billionaire funders, these foundations allow for income not only to evade income tax, while earning the donor a tax deduction on top of that. Of course in order to qualify for these benefits, the organization must meet the requirements of a non-profit, but the standards aren't exactly strict.
What Billionaires Want
Not only can the organization focus only on the issues that matter most to a person with ungodly amounts of money (a cure for all the papercuts they get from flipping through their stacks?), they only need to spend 5% of their investment assets annually. And they could choose to spend that amount on administrative costs and salary for the friends/lackeys they've chosen to run them.
You basically have to be as blatantly self-serving and corrupt as Donald Trump—spending other people's money to buy a portrait of himself—to come under any real scrutiny, and even then it's only if you're running for president...
On top of that, these foundations are free to grow their assets through investments—even in for-profit industries that work in diametric opposition to the foundations' stated goals. Consider the fact that—until Bill Gates was publicly shamed into divesting—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was heavily invested in fossil fuel companies.
Apart from their horrifying impact on climate change, these companies are among the worst offenders on Earth in terms of polluting fresh water resources. If only there was a charitable foundation that was focused on preserving and cleaning water supplies in developing countries. Like, for instance, the WASH program…of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Worse still, many so-called charitable donations end up going to think tanks, university branches, and political advocacy groups that fund and promote research and policy initiatives that support the interests of the wealthy.
The effect is to amplify ideas that ultra-wealthy already believe and what they want to be true. If you were a researcher who had reason to believe that increasing the top marginal tax rate to 90% could solve all of our nation's most pressing problems, you would struggle to get your research funded. But if you managed to complete it and get it published, there would immediately be 10 well funded studies seeking to disprove it.
The Bill Gates Approach to "Fixing" Education
Look again at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Not only does it give a lot of money to so-called good causes that primarily serve the wealthy, but even when the foundation is focused on trying to do actual good they often end up hurting more than they help.
Among its primary focuses has been revamping America's public school systems, which has involved billions of dollars being spent on various initiatives to change the way teachers are trained, the way children are taught, and the way schools themselves are organized—all with an emphasis on data collection and standardized testing.
Among the complaints against how the Foundation operates is the fact that its model of reform and success involves little input from educators and that Bill Gates himself essentially steers the ship with little resistance from within the organization. And the results have been...less than stellar.
Obviously the goal of improving the education system for everyone is admirable, but the allure of Gates' money and his supposed genius has tempted state and local governments to match his initiatives with a lot of money of their own.
And time after time those initiatives have been abandoned as soon as they don't yield the results Gates was looking for—leaving schools and municipalities on the hook for cleaning up the mess without that financial backing.
From Common Core to smaller schools to creepy data mining, Gates' ideas have faltered or crumbled when they meet with the real world, and they've ended up costing the communities they "serve" a lot more than they've ever cost him. At this point you could argue that the biggest accomplishment the foundation has achieved is rehabilitating Bill Gates' predatory reputation.
But he is way too rich to be ashamed of his failures. So Bill Gates just keeps going and pushes his narrow-minded views on education even harder. These days he's helping New York Governor Andrew Cuomo with the idea that we don't even need classrooms…
Stricter Standards for "Charity"
So while claims that Bill Gates is using vaccines to spread the mark of the beast and practice eugenics are a bit wild, the work of these private charities definitely deserve more scrutiny.
Basically, even when these private foundations aren't glorified tax shelters, they're still awful. As well-intentioned as some billionaires might be, they are too powerful, too used to getting their way, and too detached from real life to actually be much use in helping people.
In other words, we need to make the standards for these foundations far stricter—to make sure they're doing some actual good in exchange for their tax evasion—and once we've done that, we need to tax the hell out of all the billionaires' money so they remember what it's like to be human.
And if you're thinking that we can't do that—because all that wealth is tied up in investments—we'll have to cover that myth in the next installment.
Airbnb offers an affordable option for people looking to be more comfortable as they travel.
However, there are downsides to staying in a host's home rather than a hotel. Whereas hotels are designed for constant streams of visitors and often have furniture built to last, at an Airbnb, you may be staying on old or cheap furniture that a host is using in order to maximize their profits.
And while most reputable hotels will have regular room inspections from staff to check for any wear and tear, Airbnb damage disputes are oftentimes he said, she said situations. If you are in an Airbnb and something breaks, there are a few steps you should take in order to ensure that you are not on the hook for damages out of your control.
I have used Airbnb for years and have had a grand total of one dispute over damages with a host. But by following these steps, I was able to effectively work with Airbnb to come to a fair resolution.
Step 1: Assess if you are actually at fault. If you are, pay for it.
We have all heard the stories of fat cat Airbnb management companies pulling in millions of dollars from hundreds of apartments, but the reality is that the average Airbnb host makes less than $1,000 a month. These are likely people just like you who are trying to supplement their incomes and stay in their home sasn rents in many major cities climb faster than wages.
If the damage is normal wear and tear, then the guest won't need to pay. But if you broke something through actions outside of regular wear and tear, even if it was unintentional, it is the right thing to do to pay for the damages you didino this person's home. The host will likely take the money out of your security deposit, but you may need to arrange for additional payments for larger damages to their property.
Step 2: Take pictures of the damage right away.
Pull out your phone and take pictures of the damage. Some people take pictures before they enter an Airbnb in case of any damages, but after a long day of travelling I rarely want to peek in every nook and cranny of an apartment. Still, it's always a good idea to take photos the moment damage occurs. You will want to have these photos in case of a dispute with the host.
Step 3: Contact the host through Airbnb immediately.
You should never communicate with a host through a medium other than Airbnb. Remember that communicating through the app is meant to ensure the safety of all parties. Airbnb will put less weight towards screenshots of text messages or your description of a phone call than communication within their app, which they know cannot be fabricated.
I always recommend communicating through written message rather than trying to call as that way there is a clear record of who said what and when. If there are damages to thAirbnb, you should want to contact the host immediately, first to show that you are not trying to hide the damages and second because you are entitled to accommodations that comply with the specifications listed in the ad. If the fridge in your Airbnb is not working, then the host has a responsibility to fix it to provide you with the amenities you paid for.
Keep your communication through Airbnb so there is a record in case of a dispute.
Step 4: If the host does not respond, contact Airbnb
In my own case, I had arrived at my Airbnb in a small beach town for a holiday weekend. When the wooden bed frame came apart as soon as we sat on it, we could not get a response from the host, who was likely enjoying their own festivities.
A host is supposed to be ready to respond to any issues during check-in and when they were not available, I decided to contact Airbnb. The Airbnb bot is available through the app (always go through the app whenever possible!) and I was advised to call Airbnb Community Support. I explained to the representative that the bed had come apart when we had sat on it (certainly normal usage) and was unusable. They advised us to wait while they tried to get ahold of the host, so we sat on the floor and put on a movie while we waited.
After about an hour, they reached out to us through the app and neither one of us had been able to reach the host. If you are still able to use the Airbnb, they will likely have you continue to stay in the accommodation if it is useable. In our case, because it was the only bed in the apartment and there was no room to put the mattress on the floor, they put us in a hotel and paid for half of the difference in price from needing to book a last-minute room.
Step 5: Wait for the host's claim in the Resolution Center
Hosts have up to 60 days to make a claim on a deposit, and you must respond within 72 hours. If you don't respond, then Airbnb will go ahead and process the claim.
Read through the host's claim several times before crafting your response. You will want to respond to any points they make in their claim that you disagree with. The host has to prove that you caused the damage in order to be awarded the money, so you will want to respond to any claims they are making. It doesn't feel good to be accused of doing something you did not do, but do not let emotion come into it. It is best to be professional and matter-of-fact as you go through this contentious situation.
Never pay a host directly. All damage disputes should be handled through Airbnb's Resolution Center.
Step 6: If you hear from the mediator, prepare your response.
If you decide to dispute the claim, then the host can elect to involve a mediator through Airbnb. They will gather information from both sides of the dispute and make a decision. The mediator's judgement is final, and you cannot escalate the situation any further. You must respond to the mediator within 72 hours or they will automatically rule in favor of the host.
A good response will have the following elements:
- Highlights from your positive reviews. If you have dozens of positive reviews all saying you are very respectful of the property, it would certainly be wise to point out your positive prior experiences with Airbnb hosts as a testament to your character.
- A complete and truthful description of how the damage came about. You may be tired of explaining what happened at this point, but this will likely be the last time. Thoroughly explain what happened so that a mediator just coming into the case can be armed with the facts. If the host is making up damages completely, point that out and explain how the items in question worked while you were in the apartment. This is your chance to tell your side of the story.
- Pictures of the damage. This is important for establishing whether the damage could have been accidental and if anyone in the dispute is being less than truthful. In my own case, the host argued that the bed that had broken was brand new and was solid wood, but the pictures I had taken showed that it was made from particle board. I think that was a big part of why I won the dispute, as the host was clearly not telling the whole story.
- All of your communication with the host. This is why you want to only communicate through the Airbnb app. The Airbnb mediator can see that your communications are undoctored, and the host cannot make any claims that you admitted to causing the damage when you did not. Showing that you immediately contacted the host and did not try to cover up the damage at all goes a long way in these disputes.
- A response to any unreasonable charges or claims. If you broke a wine glass and the host starts demanding hundreds of dollars to replace it, you would certainly balk. For my damage dispute, the host asked for $900 to replace the bed, and I expressed that this sounded a bit high for a particle board bed frame. If there is damage to the Airbnb, the host cannot simply make up a number they would like to charge. They must produce receipts for replacements or estimates for repairs.
- The phrases "wear and tear" and "reasonable use". Hosts are providing you a place to stay, but they cannot expect furniture to be in the same condition after months or years of use. If the damages could have come from normal wear and tear, point that out to Airbnb. Normal wear and tear is to be expected; if it's something like small scratches where the dining room chairs meet the floor, then that is to be expected after a while. Also, point out if the damages occurred during reasonable us. A chair should be able to support the body weight of a regular-sized person, a closet door should not come off the tracks when it is slid open, and you should not need to pay for damage that results from using a piece of furniture for its intended purpose. Doing parkour in an Airbnb is likely to lead to some damages that you would be responsible for, but making reasonable use of a piece of furniture should not.
- A response to the host's claim of purposeful damages. In my case, I questioned how the damage to the bed could have occurred if it was not caused by us merely sitting on a cheap wooden frame. I pointed out the bed was close to the wall and questioned how we might have caused the damages outside of reasonable and regular use of the bed. If a host is saying that you damaged the Airbnb, the onus is on them to provide an explanation and proof.
Step 7: Wait for a response
I waited anxiously for a final decision from the mediator but resisted the urge to reach out. The host must take time to draft their own response and the mediator must review all the pictures and evidence that is provided, as well as request any further documentation they need before making a decision.
In the end, because the damages had occurred from regular use of the apartment and I had maintained professional and prompt communication with Airbnb, they found in my favor. However, the whole ordeal did make me a bit more nervous about how I might be making myself vulnerable to spurious claims. In the future, I plan on taking a video of myself entering my vacation rentals and going through the apartment to show the state of the place when I arrive. Staying in a vacation rental may be an affordable alternative to a hotel, but you are certainly much more at risk of running across an unscrupulous host.
If you're keeping tabs on the art and tech worlds, you've probably been hearing whispers about "NFTs" for the past month. Just over the past week they've entered the mainstream lexicon.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey made the news for selling his first ever tweet. The app has been teasing paid subscription models and newsletter-like features, but tweets for sale is "the next frontier."
just setting up my twttr— jack (@jack)1142974214.0
The 2006 tweet went up for auction as an NFT, and the current bid is $2.5 Million. But what does it mean to own that? Why would anyone want to? And what even is an NFT?
What does NFT stand for?
NFT stands for "non-fungible token." Essentially, it's like a proof of ownership sticker for something that exists on the internet. The NFT is a piece of code that acts like a watermark or a signature — if you own an NFT, you own the rights to that little piece of the internet. Because ownership is embedded into unique code on a blockchain, NFTs are impossible to make fakes of or replicate. The digital asset can be screenshotted or replicated, but the ownership cannot.
An NFT is different from a "fungible token," like a Bitcoin. The main distinction is that fungible tokens are interchangeable. They each have a 1:1 value with each other, but NFTs do not. So while one Bitcoin has the same exact value as another, an NFT of a random Popdust tweet does not have the same value of Jack Dorsey's inaugural tweet.
Talk of NFTs is often intertwined with cryptocurrency jargon, but they are not only the realm of Bitcoin bros. Unlike other forms of cryptocurrency, you don't need to know the specific ins and outs of the market in order to purchase an NFT — making NFTs accessible to those of us who have yet to hop onto Bitcoin, Ethereum, or even Dogecoin.
What Can Be an NFT?
Any digital asset can become an NFT. From a tweet to a gif to digital art, anything that exists on the internet can now be officially owned. NFTs have been around for a while, but only recently have they taken off as a way for digital creators to sell "official" versions of their content.
Anyone can screenshot a tweet or repost an Instagram meme, but NFTs allow consumers to own the rights to trade, sell, or keep and collect them. While digital art and internet ephemera are most ubiquitous as NFTs, the market is growing for more traditional collection fodder to be sold in this new format.
Digital art is now being sold like fine art, and baseball cards are no longer the realm of middle school lunch tables. As the market grows, so does the scale. While an NFT gif can go for around $5,000, recent digital sales have been making headlines for reaching millions and tens of millions.
"Everydays - The First 5000 Days" by Beeple was sold by Christie's as an NFT for $69M
Why Are People Talking About Them?
While Dorsey is not the first to rack up millions for selling digital ephemera, his tweet auction has propelled the market into the headlines. The hype surrounding the NFT market is similar to the recent astronomical trajectory of cryptocurrency and has even been compared to the GameStop saga.
In one way, NFTs are similar to investments like fine art and rare collectibles. And the traditional auction world is taking notice. Digital artist Beeple, who has been creating Everydays for 13 years and amassed millions of social media followers, is finally getting payout for the work he has been doing for free. Internationally renowned auction house Christie's launched its first ever digital-only auction with a Beeple NFT.
It sold for $69 Million.
While the astronomical prices may be driven by hype, the future of NFTs is becoming undeniable.
What's the Future of NFTs?
NFTs are changing the way artists and digital creators interact with followers and get paid. Soon we'll be seeing branded NFTs collected like Jordans or even NFTs to replace tour merch. Music NFTs are already making waves, too.
They're also changing the way we think about investing. Instead of investing in the stock market or in the traditional collectibles, internet fodder can now appreciate in value. And because so many NFT platforms serve crypto users, investors can watch the value of their items and their crypto rise separately to compound their earnings.
However, the unregulated world of NFTs is rising without anyone keeping vigilant watch. The murky waters of internet ownership that NFTs ostensibly solve get muddied when people are stealing art to turn into NFTs in the first place.
And while NFTs are purportedly decentralizing and democratizing art dealing and trading, the reality seems like the people benefitting are already rich and looking to get richer.
Long gone are the days when the majority of Americans dreamed about owning a home with a white picket fence.
The traditional American Dream may be on its deathbed, but that doesn't mean a core component of the vision can't survive. It simply takes a diverse perspective. People can still believe they can attain their own vision of success in society with hard work, knowledge, and risk-taking. Investing in today's American Dream may literally mean investing money in our modern economy, starting with our infrastructure.
Real estate investing in particular is a lucrative method that can boost income and secure a better financial future for many. There's always risk involved, but the payoffs can far outweigh the uncertainty. Selecting solid financial investments is about confidence and competence. If you're looking for some advice on this kind of investment, here are a few savvy tips for new real estate investors.
Stick To a Specific Strategy or Niche
Real estate is a challenging sphere of the business world, one that requires several key skills: groundwork knowledge, networking, perseverance, and organization. True knowledge of the real estate market will come with time and experience, but it's a smart idea to select one area of the market and stick to it. This is the best way to attain in-depth familiarity with your specific niche.
First, choose a geographical area close by and then a niche strategy within it, such as house flips, rental rehabs, or residential or commercial properties. By doing so, you can become aware of current inner working conditions in the market and you'll have a better idea of how these trends may change in the future.
Be Vigilant About Viable Financing Options
While it takes money to make money, you don't have to use all your own money. A common misconception about real estate investing is that you must be wealthy to start off. This isn't straight fact, however. A majority of people can test the waters of real estate investing without a lot of initial cash in their pocket.
Aside from traditional financing options from banks and institutions, private lending options can be worthy solutions. Hard money lenders are popular, reasonable choices, and they tend to have fewer qualification requirements upfront. However, be sure to strategically choose a hard money lender to find the best possible fit.
Master the Art of Finding Good Deals
There may be hundreds of thousands of available properties for sale on the current market, but the bulk of them will never amount to the final money-making result you desire. Another great tip for new real estate investors is to use good math to estimate profit. Taking risks is part of the process, but you have the ability to analyze properties and use networking sources to find the greatest deal. You can't win every deal, but you can steadily work towards a thriving financial future.