What I'm Reading This Weekend (December 9-10)

Dec 08, 2017
Current Events, Retirement, Cryptocurrencies, Behavioral Finance

Thanks to Beth Tallman for curating such a great set of informative articles. Enjoy!

  • Bitcoin crossed $16,000 (that's over 50% in less than a week); when will the bubble burst. WSJ still trying to figure out what's behind the meteoric rise (as am I). What's a Cryptokitty, anyway?

Even for bitcoin, which is notoriously volatile, the upward lurch was jarring, astounding outsiders and thrilling those who have piled into the digital currency in recent weeks. The rally has been sparked by the collision of bitcoin’s sudden faddish reputation and the anticipation of institutional investors entering the market for the currency for the first time.

  • It's the blockchain, stupid! With all the bitcoin craze, the importance of the blockchain is often lost. Bloomberg educates us here: 

Blockchain technology might also be used one day to produce new kinds of central-bank money. Central-bank digital currency could start to replace the electronic payment systems that financial institutions use with each other. A more radical idea is to use digital currency, issued and supervised by the central bank, at the retail level to replace physical cash.

  • This WSJ article with either reassure you that your money is safe at your bank or scare the bejesus out of you: 

The effort, which went live earlier this year and is dubbed Sheltered Harbor, currently includes banks and credit unions that have roughly 400 million U.S. accounts. The effort requires member firms to individually back up data so it can be used by other firms to serve customers of a disabled bank.

  • Once again, our friends at Visual Capitalist deliver with this infographic (see segment of the infographic showing present and future for payments) about the history of payments and the current disruption in established payment systems (look for future blog post with ways to use in the classroom): 

The current payments landscape is moving at a blistering pace. Mobile payments, for example, is a market growing at a 39.2% annual clip, and it will be worth nearly $3 trillion by 2020. At the same time, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the growth in the blockchain world. Every day, new technical problems are being solved, coin market caps are hitting new highs, and Bitcoin is dominating the news cycle.

  • Facebook accounts at 6 year olds. Really? This NYT article could kick-off a great classroom debate: 

But on Monday, Facebook introduced an app, called Messenger Kids, that is targeted at that age group and asks parents to give their approval so children can message, add filters and doodle on photos they send to one another. It is a bet that the app can introduce a new generation of users to the Silicon Valley giant’s ever-expanding social media universe.

  • You have heard quite a bit recently about the "Amazon effect" and its crushing impact on retailers. Time's Money has an article showing how established retailers are fighting back. Welcome to the omni-channel strategy:

You may have noticed what’s called the “omni-channel strategy” trickling into the places you already shop. Sportswear giants Adidas and Nike have recently unveiled massive, immersive retail experiences, with basketball courts, treadmills, and soccer practice zones. Outdoor activewear brand REI has outfitted stores with rock-climbing walls and has added mobile offerings like hiking-trail apps and instructional videos for the gear it sells. Last year, as competitors’ sales dipped, REI announced record revenues.

  • Teachers will get a chuckle from this Economist article which tackles the question whether the internet is ruining language:

OMG, the kids and the internet are ruining the English language, amirite? The sentiment is so common that it hardly bears a reply, except maybe “meh”. There is certainly plenty of terrible writing on the internet, plagued by indifferent spelling, punctuation and grammar and a lack of any attention to clarity. There is also lot of brilliant writing online. 

  • Buy local is a growing phenomenon when it comes to food purchases. The St. Louis Fed shows the economic impact of locally produced food: 

Among its findings was that consumer demand may be driving the recent growth in the regional food industry. One analysis found that a majority of consumers across the income spectrum are willing to pay more for locally sourced foods...

  • Got debt? This AICPA survey shows how it's hazardous to your health and relationships too:

The old saying goes, ‘money can’t buy happiness.’ It should also say ‘and debt can make you anxious, keep you up at night and cause problems in relationships.’ That’s according to a new telephone survey of 1,004 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The survey found nearly three-quarters of Americans (73 percent) are living with debt driven by factors such as everyday expenses, a lack of income, mortgage costs and student loans, reflecting the far-reaching potential impact of debt upon society.

  •  What is the largest Social Security check you can get? The answer might surprise you (from WaPo):

The average Social Security benefit currently being paid out to a retired worker is about $1,372 per month, or $16,464 per year. However, many Americans who have earned relatively high salaries throughout their careers get much more. In fact, the maximum possible Social Security benefit that can be paid in 2018 is...[read the article to get the answer]

  • You have made it this far without being distracted...so I thought you would like to read about how distractions may be causing a hit to your productivity (Economist):

Distractions clearly affect performance on the job. In a recent essay, Dan Nixon of the Bank of England pointed to a mass of compelling evidence that they could also be eating into productivity growth. Depending on the study you pick, smartphone-users touch their device somewhere between twice a minute to once every seven minutes. Conducting tasks while receiving e-mails and phone calls reduces a worker’s IQ by about ten points relative to working in uninterrupted quiet. That is equivalent to losing a night’s sleep...

About the Authors

Beth Tallman

Beth Tallman entered the working world armed with an M.B.A. in finance and thoroughly enjoyed her first career working in manufacturing and telecommunications, including a stint overseas. She took advantage of an involuntary separation to try teaching high school math, something she had always dreamed of doing. When fate stepped in once again, Beth jumped on the opportunity to combine her passion for numbers, money, and education to develop curriculum and teach personal finance at Oberlin College. Beth now spends her time writing on personal finance and financial education, conducting student workshops, and developing finance curricula and educational content. She is also the Treasurer of Ohio Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.