Sunday, November 16, 2014

Americans Live for Today Rather Than for Retirement

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) Americans live for today but worry about tomorrow. Even though many of us fear running out of money during retirement, we are unwilling to change our current spending habits, according to a Merrill Lynch survey of "mass affluent" individuals with $50,000 to $250,000 in investable assets. Having enough money to live "in the here and now" is a bigger priority for most of those surveyed (63%) than saving more for the future (48%).

Also See: Roth IRAs Give Millennials Welcome Perks

While many fear losing a job (37%), public speaking (27%) or gaining weight (25%) most (55%) worry about not having enough money to last throughout retirement. But few will reduce outlays for entertainment, eating out or vacations to save more money for life after work. However, most parents will cut spending in order to help their children -- more than one-third (35%) say they have withdrawn funds from their savings or investment accounts to help their kids out during a financial bind. "Many mass affluent investors are taking more of a "live for today" financial approach than you might expect given their fear of running out of money in retirement," said Aron Levine of Bank of America. "That type of disconnect might have a significant impact on the long-term financial well-being of these investors." Also See: Are Our Caveman Roots Preventing Us From Effective Retirement Planning? This "carpe diem" disposition is deep rooted: even if they were to receive an unexpected million-dollars, less than one in five (19%) say they would make it a priority to set aside the windfall for retirement. Over two-thirds (68%) of survey participants who are divorced say they are worried about not having enough money during retirement, compared to 53% of those who are single, married or widowed. And in matters of love and money, these upscale Americans are most likely to be attracted to someone with an appealing sense of humor (74%) or to a mate they have chemistry with (66%), rather than financial stability (49%) or money saved (20%). Though women are more than twice as likely as men to be attracted to someone with a stable job (51% vs. 24%) and almost twice as likely to be attracted to someone who has financial stability (64% vs. 33%). Millennials (18-34 adults) are more than twice as likely as other age groups to be attracted to someone who has some money saved (37%) while Gen-Xers (35-50) are more likely to be drawn to people who have financial stability (59%). --Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why Intel Is One of the Best Internet of Things Investments

By now most have heard references to the Internet of Things, or IoT, and how large it will become, creating billions of connected devices and trillions of dollars annually. But it might seem difficult to determine which companies have the most to gain from IoT, and where the best investment value lies. Here's why I think Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) , and companies like it, are an investor's best bet.

What is the IoT?
The IoT is a system of "things" connected to Internet networks, and these things will overtake smartphones and tablets in quantity. IDC estimates there will be over 30 billion autonomous connected things in 2020, almost three times more than today's connections. The MIT Technology Review estimates that nearly all of this growth will exclude mobile phones.

So how do we get to 30 billion connected devices? The answer is by connecting the Internet to ordinary products, such as cars, credit cards, refrigerators, home heating and cooling systems, streetlights, elevators, billboards, passports, and so on. Just about any and every item will have Internet connection capabilities, collecting data to create efficiency and improve convenience.

IDC earlier this month put the worldwide IoT market at $3.04 trillion in 2020.  

Where's the benefit?
Certain companies stand out as beneficiaries of the Internet of Things: Apple and Google in hardware and software, along with Verizon and AT&T as 4G LTE network service providers. However, very few companies have an overwhelming market share in key IoT industries on a global scale.

For example, AT&T and Verizon might reap the rewards of U.S. connections via data consumption, but they have nothing to gain in China, Europe, or other markets. This brings me to Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) , a global chip company that plays a crucial role in IoT.

Intel operates in several industries, suggesting it has a great opportunity to grow in the Internet of Things. First and foremost, Intel produces the chips that power smartphones, tablets, PCs, and other connected devices. While 65% of Intel's business derives from PC-related chips, the fact that the company holds the technology to power all devices serves as a major advantage.

Intel has guided to have its chips in 40 million tablets by year's end, up from 10 million last year, meaning its presence in mobile computing is growing. The company's technology also powers data centers, which will be crucial for the IoT thanks to the amount of data that will be collected from billions of devices.

The Internet of Things is a top priority for Intel. During Intel's last quarter, its IoT revenue rose 27% year over year, and it now creates more than $1 billion in annual revenue for the company. With Intel's global presence, stabilizing PC business, and growing mobile chip segment, the company has an opportunity to find revenue growth as billions of new connected devices require chips. That holds the promise that IoT will account for more than 5% of Intel's total revenue in the future.

Something to think about
Intel is sure to benefit from this movement on a large scale thanks to its leading presence in a segment of the market that is crucial to the success of the Internet of Things. Devices must have power and a means for Internet connection, two areas where Intel chips play a role.

For investors seeking IoT beneficiaries, there are many options. However, those companies with the greatest shot to succeed will have the resources and operating presence for global penetration. Also, a company's services or products must maintain a competitive advantage. Intel is one of those companies.

$19 trillion industry could destroy the internet
One bleeding-edge technology is about to put the World-Wide-Web to bed. It could make early investors wildly rich. Experts are calling it the single largest business opportunity in the history of capitalism... The Economist is calling it "transformative"... But you'll probably just call it "how I made my millions." Don't be too late to the party— click here for 1 stock to own when the web goes dark.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Unlimited Cloud Storage From Microsoft Could Prove Fatal for Box and Dropbox

The price of cloud storage has been declining rapidly over the past few years, and this trend has raised serious questions about the long-term viability of cloud storage companies like Dropbox and Box. Both Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) offer competing cloud storage products, and aggressive price cuts from these two companies have forced smaller competitors to rethink their business models.

Microsoft dealt another serious blow to Dropbox and Box last week, announcing that all of its Office 365 subscriptions will come with an unlimited amount of cloud storage through its OneDrive service. This severely undercuts the competition, and it seems unlikely that either Box, which is hemorrhaging cash according to its IPO filing, or Dropbox, which has yet to file for an IPO but is very likely losing money as well, will ever be profitable.

The big problem facing Box and Dropbox
Both Dropbox, which until recently targeted mainly the consumer cloud storage market, and Box, which has been focusing on the enterprise for quite some time, have amassed a tremendous number of users. Dropbox reached 300 million users earlier this year, and at the time of Box's IPO filing in March, the company claimed 25 million users and 34,000 paying organizations.

Most of these users don't pay either company a dime, however, instead taking advantage of the free tier of service. Both Dropbox and Box rely on a fraction of these users eventually paying for a plan with greater storage and more features, but Microsoft's aggressive move to bundle unlimited cloud storage with Office 365, as well as Google's bundling of cloud storage with its productivity apps, throws a wrench in this business model.

In short, there's not much of a value proposition for either Box or Dropbox:


Cloud Storage Per User

Productivity Suite

Monthly Cost

Office 365 Personal


Full MS Office


Office 365 Business


Full MS Office


Google Apps


Google Productivity Suite


Google Apps + unlimited storage


Google Productivity Suite


Dropbox Pro




Dropbox For Business




Box Business




Sources: Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, and Box. 

Both Microsoft and Google now offer unlimited cloud storage along with their respective productivity suites for less than either Dropbox or Box sell their storage solutions. Cloud storage has officially become an expected feature, not a stand-alone product, and that poses a huge problem for Dropbox and Box.

Integrating with the enemy
Both Box and Dropbox going forward will need to convince users to pay for additional features built on top of their respective storage products, because cloud storage itself is now a commodity. Box built basic file editing features into its product, but with Microsoft Office still being the dominant productivity suite, especially in the enterprise, lacking Office integration was very likely preventing many businesses from using Box's product.

Back in July, Box announced that its product would soon be integrated directly into Office 365, in the same way that OneDrive is tightly integrated, and in October, this integration tool was officially released. Dropbox has also formed a partnership with Microsoft, making Office the default way to edit files stored in Dropbox and integrating Dropbox directly with Office 365. 

These integrations are a double-edged sword for both Box and Dropbox. While Office integration expands the addressable market for both companies, the fact that Microsoft offers unlimited cloud storage free with Office 365 means that using either Box or Dropbox with Office makes little sense. Microsoft's most profitable business is Office, and it makes sense for the company to integrate with competing storage solutions in order to continue growing that business. But why would any company pay for both Office 365 and an additional storage service?

These integrations are a far better deal for Microsoft than they are for either smaller cloud storage company, and in the long run, I suspect they will result in Microsoft's OneDrive becoming a lot more popular than it is today.

Microsoft offering unlimited cloud storage with Office 365 may prove to be the final salvo in the cloud storage battle. Neither Box nor Dropbox can possibly compete on price, and both companies have now integrated with Office. With Office 365 growing rapidly, it's only a matter of time before the idea of paying for cloud storage becomes antiquated. Perhaps Microsoft or another tech company will eventually acquire either Dropbox or Box for their user base, but as stand-alone companies, neither makes much sense.

$19 trillion industry could destroy the Internet
One bleeding-edge technology is about to put the World-Wide-Web to bed. It could make early investors wildly rich. Experts are calling it the single largest business opportunity in the history of capitalism, The Economist is calling it "transformative," but you'll probably just call it "how I made my millions." Don't be too late to the party -- click here for one stock to own when the web goes dark.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Uber program offers auto loans to subprime borrowers

uber car An Uber car on the road in San Francisco. NEW YORK (CNNMoney) Uber has a new controversy on its hands.

The taxi-hailing service defended itself Wednesday against accusations that its auto-loan program is facilitating risky loans that drivers may struggle to pay off.

Uber doesn't make auto loans itself; it connects drivers to lenders like General Motors (GM) and Santander Consumer USA, which make loans that can be paid off via deductions from their Uber paychecks.

The loan program was highlighted Tuesday by tech blog Valleywag, which noted that Uber has been pitching the program specifically to borrowers with poor credit.

"Even if you have bad credit or no credit at all, we can help you get behind the wheel in a week," the company says in a promotional video.

Valleywag quoted a number of alleged Uber drivers complaining about the terms of the loans, which one described as "just laughably bad, and left for the desperate and/or uneducated."

5 stunning stats about Uber   5 stunning stats about Uber

Loans to subprime borrowers -- those with poor credit who face harsher repayment terms as a result -- played a central role in the 2008 financial crisis. In recent months, federal regulators have reportedly been investigating subprime auto lenders amid concerns about onerous rates and a potential bubble in the sector.

Uber declined to comment on the rates drivers are offered, but it defended the program, saying it "provides drivers with discounts on cars as well as access to financing that may not otherwise be available to them."

"We're very proud of the fact that thousands of our driver partners have participated in the program and collectively saved milli! ons of dollars to date," the company said.

In a blog post announcing the program last year, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the loans were low-risk because drivers "have a robust, reliable cash flow through the Uber platform."

Santander declined to comment, while GM did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This kind of criticism is nothing new for Uber. The company has faced repeated protests from drivers over its fare policies, and has tangled with regulators in a number of cities as it aggressively expands. It's also taken heat for sending thousands of fake ride requests to rival car-hailing service Lyft.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Emoji who? Riffsy is the new guy in town

riffsy app NEW YORK (CNNMoney) Move over emojis. You've been one-upped.

Texters can now send animated GIFs in one tap, thanks to Riffsy.

The startup, founded by David McIntosh, is doing for GIFs what Emoji did for emoticons. The free app is available on any iPhone or iPad with iOS 8 -- all users need to down is download and install the keyboard.

Users can browse themed GIFs -- like #blushing, #cats, #YOLO -- or add "favorites" for easy access. The "riffsys" -- which can also contain audio -- can be shared via text, email or messaging services like Whatsapp, Facebook (FB, Tech30) or Twitter (TWTR, Tech30). Plus, there's a Riffsy creator app that lets users create and share original GIFs.

The San Francisco-based company, which launched in September, announced on Tuesday that it raised $3.5 million in seed funding from Redpoint Ventures (which is also an investor in anonymous sharing app Secret), Initial Capital and John Riccitiello.

"Riffsy is already changing how people express themselves," said Redpoint Ventures' partner Chris Moore in a press release.

Indeed, the app saw 1 million downloads in the first three weeks of launching -- and users are sharing an average of five GIFs a day (from the app's library of millions).

Market Wrap-up for Nov. 3 – A Holiday Investing Plan

With October now in the rearview mirror, now is the time to prepare your portfolio for (gasp!) 2015. Here’s a simple plan to get your investments in order.

Time Flies

We all know the feeling: summer ends, and before we know it, it’s Halloween. Then Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and all of the other end-of-year holidays disappear into one big blur. The final two months of the year tend to go by very quickly, which is why it’s important to take a look at your portfolio now – before the holidays begin.

Consider Some Cuts

Despite some recent turmoil, 2014 has largely been a good year for equities so far. So if you’re sitting on a stock (or two) that has fallen significantly this year, you may want to consider trimming or exiting your position. Our general rule is to look at stocks that have fallen 25% from their 52-week highs. Ask yourself the following questions about any stock you own that has pulled back that much:

What are the reasons for the pullback? Are the reasons stock-specific or industry-specific? Is this company well-positioned for growth in 2015 and beyond? Would my funds be better deployed elsewhere in the market?

These questions are just a starting point for your examinations, but they should be enough to get you on the right track. Remember, there’s no shame in selling – it’s a natural part of the investment cycle, and it frees up money for you to invest in better stocks!

Scale Into Opportunities

Speaking of investing in better stocks, if you’ve got some capital to put to work, come up with a plan to do so over time by scaling in.

Scaling into positions is a tried and true method of putting money to work for long-term investors. The concept is simple: purchase relatively small amounts of shares over time on a regular basis until you’re fully invested.

When you scale in, you accomplish the following:

Remove the mental barrier of investing a large sum, and Reinforce the truism that there is no “perfect” price to buy a stock at.

A Simple Strategy to Scale Into Positions

For this example, we’re going to assume an investor has $100k to invest in quality dividend stocks. We’ll be putting these funds to work over a six-month period, although this timeframe could easily be accelerated to just three or four months if you so desire.

Month 1: Set Your Targets

Identify a basket of high quality dividend stocks you’d like to own (choose eight to 10 of them from our Best Dividend Stocks List). Take your time, do your research, and fully understand these companies and their businesses. You’ve got a whole month to pick your stocks, so you should feel very comfortable putting your money to work at the end of this period.

Month 2: Place Your Orders

Once you’ve got your list of stocks to buy, take 15% to 20% of your funds–in this example, $15k to $20k–and divide it by the number of individual stocks you want to own in your portfolio. This will give you the dollar total you’re going to commit to each stock. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you’re going to buy 10 different stocks. This equates to a $1,500 to $2,000 investment in each name.

Months 3-6: Repetition is Good

In months three through six, you’ll simply repeat the exact same process as Month 2 until you are fully invested. If you invest 20% of your assets each month, it’ll take you five months to reach your goal. If you’re investing 15% each month, it’ll take closer to seven months, and so on. The key is staying consistent with your investment plan.

You don’t have to place your orders just once a month either – feel free to break your purchases up into weekly chunks if you feel comfortable doing so. Just make sure you stick with your routine.