Though Social Security continues to provide crucial retirement benefits to millions of seniors, the program is, to some extent, in trouble. Once its trust funds run out, beneficiaries risk as much as a 21% cut in benefits beginning in 2034. That’s bad for the seniors today who count on that income to stay afloat. It also explains why most working Americans don’t think the program will be there for them once they’re ready to retire.
But despite the doom and gloom surrounding Social Security, there’s also much to celebrate. Here are three positive points about Social Security to remember the next time you start bemoaning its shortcomings.
1. The program isn’t going broke
Though a potential reduction in benefits is hardly something to celebrate, let’s not ignore the bigger picture: Social Security will, by all projections, be around for many, many years to come. The program gets the bulk of its revenue from payroll taxes, so as long as we have a workforce, Social Security will continue to collect money, and recipients will continue to collect benefits in some shape or form.
Furthermore, because of the number of people today who rely on Social Security as their primary source of income, Congress is reasonably invested in avoiding a future benefits cut. And while we don’t have a solution to the program’s impending shortfall at present, there are many in the works.
2. You have the power to boost your benefits
First, the bad news: Social Security is designed to replace only about 40% of the average worker’s pre-retirement income, assuming there are no benefits cut. Since most folks need roughly double that amount to live comfortably in retirement, the end result is that you can’t count on Social Security alone to pay your senior living expenses.
The good news: You have the ability to substantially raise your benefits, thereby securing a higher monthly income stream for life. All you need to do is hold off on claiming benefits past your full retirement age, and accrue delayed retirement credits for as long as you can (keeping in mind that these credits stop accruing at age 70).
Let’s imagine your full retirement age is 67, at which point you’re entitled to a $1,500 monthly benefit, and that you don’t file for Social Security until you turn 70. By waiting that long, you’ll end up boosting your monthly payments to $1,860, thereby giving yourself an extra $4,320 a year to work with. Best of all, that increase is permanent.
3. You might get benefits even if you never worked a day in your life
To become eligible for Social Security in retirement, you’ll need to have accumulated 40-lifetime credits, whose dollar value changes from year to year. In 2018, one credit can be gained per $1,320 of earnings. Next year, the value of a single credit will be $1,360 in earnings. It, therefore, stands to reason that if you never worked, you won’t collect benefits when you’re older.
But that’s not necessarily true. If you are, or were, married to someone who’s eligible for Social Security, you may be entitled to spousal benefits. These are based on your current or former spouse’s work record. But in a nutshell, you could end up collecting as much as half of your spouse’s benefit at full retirement age. This means that if your spouse’s work record translates into a $1,500 monthly benefit, you might get $750 yourself.
When Social Security is in the news, the details are often depressing. But rather than get caught up in that despair, realize that Social Security still has a lot going for it. Not only can it carry on without its trust funds, but it also allows you to actively grow your benefits while covering you even if you never managed to earn any money. And these are all reasons for a positive outlook about Social Security.
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How Influencers are Affecting the Real Estate Market
It makes sense that online influencers would have an impact on myriad facets of life. After all, the term “influencer” means these content creators are people with the ability to impact how others spend their time and money. From fashion and food to recreation and real estate, influencers are leaving their mark.
Real Estate Reality Shows
The concept of real estate reality TV isn’t new; House Hunters has been a popular HGTV show since 1999. Shows about flipping homes or restoring historic buildings have been a hit since Bob Vila started hosting This Old House in 1979.
However, this new niche of influencers is having its own effect on the real estate industry.
Who’s Buying Homes?
It used to be that a person or family purchased a home to live in it. It’s where they spent their free time, raised kids, had pets, and hosted gatherings to celebrate milestones. To find this home, hopeful buyers turned to a recommended real estate agent to take them through homes on the market.
Now, though, it’s common for a person to have a home that serves solely as a backdrop for content creation. Videos are filmed in practically empty homes because the influencer doesn’t even live at the property they’ve purchased. Or, instead of investing in a home purchase, influencers collaboratively rent spaces for photo or video shoots.
On the flip side, some potential homebuyers are turning to influencer real estate agents to help them find their homes, regardless of their credentials.
What trends are we seeing as a result of influencer influence?
Real Estate Agents are Becoming Influencers
Have you ever heard of Seling Sunset or Million Dollar Listing? The agents on these shows have become more than real estate influencers; they’re a brand. And there’s a reason for it- instead of just showing listings to potential buyers, real estate influencer agents are showing a lifestyle that can be achieved with the acquisition of the property.
An agent acting as an online influencer goes beyond listing photos and virtual walkthroughs. Their social media is a way to give an inside look at a property and to give a taste of what it would feel like to live there and be a part of the surrounding community.
More people than ever before, especially those in the Millenial age range (19 – 39) turn to social media before making purchasing decisions. This goes not just for accessories, clothing, and booking vacations, but for buying a house as well. Finding an agent influencer online often gives an inside look at who the agent is as a person. Real or perceived, it gives followers a sense of knowing the agent prior to ever meeting them. It’s a method for establishing authenticity and trust in an agent to keep them top-of-mind when the time comes for a following to purchase a home.
Additionally, following a real estate agent online is a way to get insight into the neighborhood, and get personal recommendations for coffee shops, schools, and recreational activities in the area. Influencer agents can make it possible for potential buyers to envision themselves living in a home and community before even stepping foot on the property.
How Influencers are Affecting Market Value
But once someone has decided to take the plunge into homeownership, are they ready to face the reality of the market? Thanks to several factors, home values across the nation have skyrocketed since 2020. Are influencers one of them?
Social Media Home Tours
How often have you scrolled through social media and been treated to a home tour of a celebrity or online influencer? When influencer agents utilize the video aspects of social platforms, they have the potential to reach a wider audience than a typical multiple listing service MLS. This can lead to more interest in a property, and leveraging power for sellers. With more interested parties, home values are being inflated and properties are consistently selling above market value.
How Influencers are Affecting Neighborhood Demographics
Content, or collab, houses are popping up around the world as Gen-Z online influencers pool their resources to purchase or rent a property for content creation. Some of the most well-known are LA’s Hype House and Sway House. Wherever the home, some of the must-haves include sprawling interior and exterior square footage, a pool, and luxurious fixtures and finishes. A content house might pop up in a master-planned community like Cadence in Nevada, due to all the amenities just outside the front door. Content creators go ga-ga for a property that boasts not just a pool, but a park, fitness center, and new-build construction. Not to mention the good weather year-round is appealing.
What does this kind of trend do to neighborhood demographics? Well, imagine the antics that go viral on social media, and how it would be living next door to a house serving as the hub of it all. Perhaps living adjacent to a beauty-centric content house would be pretty tame, but one that capitalizes on pranks might be more disruptive.
According to a 2020 online article from Fashion Magazin, requirements for landing a spot in a content house include having “a lot of energy and personality and honestly [be] a little weird. The weird people get the furthest on the Internet.”
If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a content house, chances are not every influencer who films there lives there full-time. But, that may mean more comings and goings from both the regular renters and the collaborators who join them.
The majority of the content houses making waves online are located in LA,
WHAT INFLUENCERS ARE DOING IN CONTENT HOUSES
Whether they’re filming sponsored or organic content, influencers are using collab houses to sell a lifestyle. They may photograph or film beauty products, outfits, or the latest tech they’re promoting. Using a service like Pyvit, influencers can make all their content shoppable, allowing them to earn a commission on items purchased through their links.
Content houses also allow influencers to set up elaborate video gaming rooms, kitchens, and music or podcast studios. Unseen parts of a collab house are used to store props or promotional gifts so everyone has easy access to whatever they need to film or photograph new content.
While some content houses are created by the influencers themselves, others are orchestrated by media groups, with the influencers serving almost like characters in a reality TV show. Regardless, there are often rules to abide by, as even influencers aiming to go viral are concerned with maintaining their brand image.
While concrete data on how influencers are impacting real estate remains to be seen, the fact that content houses exist at all is proof of the power of the influencer.
Disposing of Hazardous Waste
Did you know batteries, electronics, and appliances are considered hazardous waste? As a result, they need to be disposed of properly to avoid harming the environment. To keep toxic compounds from leaching into soil and water, here’s how to dispose of these products.
E-waste is anything electronic, and consists of the following:
- Cell phones
- DVD (and VHS) players
- Monitors (TV and computer)
- Reusable batteries
- Stereo equipment
- Video game consoles
Appliances are another category of waste, whether they’re functional or not. Since refrigerators and air conditioners can contain chlorofluorocarbons or toxic insulation, they should be left intact before proper disposal. Here’s a look at the types of appliances that should not be put in your curbside bin for trash collection:
- Air conditioners
- Toaster ovens
Any appliances manufactured before 1979 may be a risk to the environment and should be disposed of at recycling facilities that can remove hazardous compounds.
Finally, fluorescent lights are considered hazardous waste due to the mercury they contain. This means that compact fluorescent bulbs and tubes should be disposed of at designated drop-off points so mercury doesn’t leach into the soil.
Disposing of E-Waste
Now that you know what E-waste is, how do you safely dispose of it? Maybe you’ve upgraded some of your electronics, or your TV had an unfortunate run-in with a toddler. Whatever the reason for getting rid of electronics, you have options for doing so responsibly.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has programs in place for electronic recycling. Keeping these items out of landfills is so important for future generations. As a result, an organization can become a certified electronics recycler via the EPA by demonstrating safe handling and disposal practices concerning e-waste.
Big brands such as Audiovox, Logitech, and Yamaha are involved in electronic recycling, both in production and what they refer to as the end-of-life stage. Manufacturers are working on creating products that are easier to recycle, so when the time comes to dispose of them, there are fewer toxic chemicals to worry about.
If you can’t bring your electronics to a designated drop-off for recycling or disposal, look into programs like Call 2 Haul that will come to your home or business for pickup.
A Note on Battery Waste
If you’ve used up alkaline, manganese, carbon-zinc batteries, they can be thrown away in your regular trash bin. These are your household batteries, such as AAs or 9-volts. However, you can recycle these items to keep them out of landfills.
Any battery that requires recycling or special disposal should be labeled as such since they contain lead and/or cadmium. This includes cellphone batteries, laptop batteries, and car batteries.
Sings of Lead Poisoning
Exposure to lead (in batteries or paint, for example) may cause the following health issues:
- Brain damage
- Kidney damage
For battery recycling, Call2Reycle.org is an excellent resource.
Disposing of Appliances
Sometimes you purchase a home with 1970s appliances and you need to get rid of them so you can make room for the ones moving in with you. Or maybe you’re taking advantage of rebates for upgrading your appliances to more energy-efficient models. Whatever the case, you’ll eventually need to dispose of an appliance.
In most areas, it’s illegal to throw an air conditioner in the trash due to ozone-depleting coolant. Whether a window unit or one that services an entire building, it needs to be handled with care. A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician can drain your AC unit if you intend to scrap the metal. Or, a certified junk removal organization can take the whole unit for you. If you intend to transport the AC unit yourself for disposal or recycling, do so with care to avoid puncturing refrigerant lines that haven’t been drained.
Fridges and Freezers
The Health Department or the Department of Public Works usually offers fridge and freezer pickup for as little as $10. Refer to the EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal program for a partner near you, and apply for rebates if you’re purchasing Energy-Star Rated appliances.
Keep in mind that everything in a fridge or freezer is usually recyclable. From the glass shelving to the refrigerant, all of it can avoid a landfill and be reused. With that being said, please don’t take apart your refrigerator yourself and part it out; doing so can be dangerous if not done properly.
Check with your city to see if microwaves can be scrapped and recycled if broken. If yours is still in working order, you might be able to donate it to a shelter or an organization like the Salvation Army.
Washers and Dryers
Unless your washer and dryer are completely trashed, it’s likely they can be donated to an organization or individual who doesn’t mind the mileage. List your items online for free if you want them gone quickly. If you’re purchasing new appliances, it’s possible the company supplying the new ones also takes care of disposing of the old ones.
Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) and Their Risks
Appliances with coolants usually contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which can deplete the ozone if released. This is why air conditioners, fridges, and freezers shouldn’t be tossed in landfills.
The ODS gasses can be found in water coolers, and dehumidifiers as well. If any of these types of appliances are improperly broken down for recycling or disposal. The various ODS is not only released from coolant lines but from insulation as well. ODS gasses in the atmosphere eventually break down and release chlorine and/or bromine, which are the main culprits that hard the ozone layer. As the ozone layer is depleted, the Earth is exposed to harsher UV radiation.
According to Western Elite, a dumpster rental company located in Nevada landfills already release enough greenhouse gasses each year to equal the exhaust of over 20 million cars. We don’t need to add ODS gasses into the mix by improperly trashing appliances.
Disposing of Light Bulbs
Depending on where you live, recycling light bulbs might be required. Since CFL bulbs may contain mercury, it’s very dangerous to toss them in the regular trash. A broken bulb exposes sanitation workers and the environment to toxic chemicals.
Thankfully, it’s pretty convenient to bring spent CFL bulbs to a hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes. Both usually have receptacles for collecting lightbulbs to prevent mercury contamination or poisoning.
Dangers of Mercury Exposure
Mercury is a neurotoxin, which means it can poison nerve tissue. As a vapor, it is invisible and odorless, so exposure can occur without knowledge. While a very useful element, it is toxic and any amount of exposure can be harmful. Since mercury can travel through the body via the bloodstream, it can easily affect the nervous system, the lungs, the kidneys, and the brain.
Signs of Mercury Poisoning
- Vision and hearing impairment
- Difficulting speaking or walking
- Numbness in hands, feet, or mouth
- Coordination problems
- Muscle fatigue
- Rashes on the skin
- Impaired cognitive function (memory, mood)
When you know better, you do better. Hopefully, this information and the resources provided will make it easier for all of us to dispose of hazardous waste in safer ways.
Making The Leap From Small-Sized Business To Medium-Sized Business
Over the years, the confidence of small businesses has grown to an all-time high. In fact, most of the respondents to the National Small Business Association’s survey admitted they anticipate economic growth, while some others said they felt very confident about the future of their business.
With this, clearly, the future is bright for business owners.
It doesn’t matter the current size of your business. It’s advisable to plan and structure to prepare for the future.
A little proactivity when it comes to growing your small business will pay off in the long run. Here are 6 tips on how to grow your small business.
- Improve your homepage:
Besides making signing up or purchasing easy and improving SEO, ensure your homepage looks as great as possible.
Think about this: 96 percent of prospects visiting your website aren’t ready to purchase something. And your homepage is most likely where they will land after clicking on your link.
If they find your homepage to be cluttered or hard to navigate, they’ll move elsewhere. Also, if your web copy is bad or doesn’t show any value of your products or services, they’ll be turned off.
Most times, a simple change can boost your revenue tremendously.
- Pay attention to Analytics:
Many companies, particularly tech giants like Amazon and Facebook, realize the value of utilizing data. And you should, also.
A report in The Economist notes, “the world’s most precious resource is no longer oil, but data.” luckily, unlike oil, any company can benefit from data.
As a small business owner with social media pages and a website looking to grow, you can employ free digital tools to gain insights into your customers.
For example, Google Analytics shows page visits, how your audience arrives at your page, bounce rate, and average time on site, which can provide insights into where to focus your marketing efforts.
- Invest in systems:
We already know you’re a pro at this business ownership stuff. However, if you’re trying to handle everything by yourself, you might end up limiting yourself for potential growth. A business powered by systems is one that can handle the multi-layered demands of growth.
Having robust systems such as powerful e-commerce software or a solid CRM in place can help you focus on the important aspects of growth and expansion while the money keeps rolling in.
Inspect your current operations to see what parts are monotonous or repetitive and make it your aim to outsource or automate as much as possible so that you can pay close attention to small business growth.
- Make a plan to grow your business:
There are several ways to grow your small business, from optimizing your website for mobile to email marketing campaigns to encouraging online reviews.
The main thing is first to have a plan that you can execute. Unluckily, nearly half of businesses do digital marketing with no clear strategy.
The ideal way to grow your small business is never to become self-satisfied and always be tested. Identify your audiences’ needs, test your hypothesis, iterate, and then test again.
- Focus on scalability:
When time, money, and expertise are in short supply, you may feel tempted to go with the cheap (or quick) fix. And investing in basic solutions that don’t need a huge learning curve or financial investment can seem like the right option.
Things aren’t always what they seem.
Definitely, your dream solution may have an intimidating learning curve or be a stretch. However, ending up in a patchwork maze of several inefficient and inexpensive systems that only appear economical will end up costing you more money in the future.
- Always have a backup plan:
When you’re a solopreneur, you’re usually able to pivot when things don’t go as planned. However, as your business grows and becomes more sophisticated, these quick adjustments will prove more difficult.
Ensure you have a plan in place for emergencies or unforeseen situations so that you can deal with the inevitable obstacles in the journey.
With growth comes fear. Sometimes it may feel easier not to take the risk and stick with the status quo. However, you’re prepared for this. You’ve concluded the groundwork, and your foundation is strong and steady. You’re set to meet your growth goals.
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