Should You Invest Online or Through a Broker?

Are you going to invest some money in the stock market?  Congratulations, you are one of the estimated 48% of Americans who have decided to entrust their funds to the ups and downs of Wall Street.  If you’re new to investing, getting starting can seem overwhelming, but once you get yourself comfortable with a strategy that works best for you, handling your stocks won’t be much of an issue.

Perhaps one of the biggest questions people have about starting a stock account is if they can do it themselves or if they have to go through a firm.  While both are perfectly acceptable, what’s right for you will depend on your investment goals, amount you’re investing, and what you’re comfortable doing.

What you should know about investing through a broker

When you work with a financial advisor, stock broker, or investing firm, there are several benefits.  First of all, you’ll be able to work with people who know how the system works, what stocks perform well over time, and how to invest your money to reach your goals.  You won’t be left to do mass amounts of research on your own or learn the basics of investing 101 through trial and error.

Who Should Work With a Broker?

If you have a lot of money to invest, but aren’t sure how to go about creating a diversified portfolio, it’s a good idea to work with a financial advisor.  They can help you focus on your investing goals (long term vs. short term), identify some good stocks to buy, and manage your funds for you.


If you’re new to investing and don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, find a broker or firm in your area so you can go in and meet them face to face.  This will play to your advantage down the road when you want to move funds, cash out assets, or just make some changes in your investments.

The bottom line is this: brokers have the experience and expertise you lack and are better qualified to lead you in a direction that will benefit you.

Drawbacks to working with a broker:

My first stock account was set up on my behalf by the broker that works with my grandfather.  Anytime I wanted to access cash, I had to guiltily call the office and tell them I needed X amount, which meant they had to scramble a bit to figure out what stocks to sell.  I would have much rather had it set up so that I could access my money without a middleman.

On top of that slight inconvenience, any time you want to sell or buy stocks, there is a commission charge.  My particular broker charged approximately $35 per transaction per different kind of stock.  So if I was selling some of my ABC stocks, as well as my 123 stocks,  I was already paying $70.

DIY Online Investing

At some point, I decided that my son needed to have his own stock account.  I didn’t have much to start with, but I liked the idea of investing in a few particular stocks for the long-term more than letting his money (mostly from his birth and subsequent birthdays) sit in a savings account accumulating next to nothing in interest.

Instead of going through the whole process with a broker, I decided to try out online investing through a company I trusted, in this case Capital One.  I’ve worked with Capital One loads of times over the past decade and really liked their services.

I created his stock account and had it funded in about 2 business days.  Then I could buy stocks myself, simply by typing in the company’s stock market symbol.  It was easy for me to log in, see what the stocks were doing, add money to the account, and make adjustments as needed.  Plus, the commissions were considerably lower—only about $6.95 per transaction.

This worked for me because I wasn’t investing a whole lot of money and wanted an easy process that allowed me to make changes on my own, without feeling like “experts” were giving my choices a side-eye.  I also had done some easy research on what kinds of stocks I wanted, as well as the companies I liked and just wanted to buy a piece of.

Whether or not you decide to invest with a broker or with an online account, the stock market is going to continue growing, falling, making money, and losing money.  If you think you’re ready to open an account, check out your options carefully, weigh the decision, and then take the plunge.

Looking Into The Future: How Driverless Cars Will Shape 2020

Experiments on driverless cars began as early as 1920s and promising trials were seen in the 1950s. It is now expected that tangible results will be witnessed by 2020, when there’ll be have an array of driverless vehicles on the roads. Case in point- through a press release, Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan, announced that by 2020, Nissan will market autonomous-drive vehicles. Another manufacturer, Audi, announced that its next generation of Audi A8 limousines will be fully autonomous by 2020.
Evidently, by 2020, road traffic will be characterized by driverless cars. Subsequent effects include changes infrastructural planning; extinction and creation of new jobs, and more as explained:

Cheaper Infrastructural Investment

A report by an Australian telecommunications company, Telstra, showed that autonomous vehicles could potentially save the Australian government billions of dollars in infrastructure development. According to the report, conventional vehicles would require the capacity of the road network increased by approximately 250%, while driverless vehicles- which utilize space more efficiently- would require way less road capacity.

Significant Reduction In Road Accidents

90% of automobile accidents in the United States happen due to human error- leading to loss of $300 billion in damages and 30,000 deaths per year. To salvage this situation, driverless cars will reduce accidents by 90% and save the 30,000 lives which would otherwise have been lost in car accidents.
Driverless vehicles are also said to have the potential to reduce vehicle crashes in the U.S. from second to ninth place in lethality ranking.


An End To Middle Class Rockford, IL Jobs

Employment data analyzed from 20 different countries found out that millions of mid-skill and mid-pay jobs disappeared in just 5 years after a new technological invention. Going by this trend, technologists and economists have predicted that many jobs will likely be lost due to driver-less vehicles.

Emergence of Title Loans

It is unclear if people will need to take out title loans in Rockford. An industry change that big could impact the whole area and Rockford’s citizens.

Currently in Nevada, a self-driving truck is threatening the future of truck drivers. For now, the truck operates under the supervision of a human, but as the future of driverless cars seems bright, the need for a human supervisor will be unnecessary. To put it in perspective, 180,000 taxi drivers, 160,000 Uber drivers, 500,000 school bus drivers, and 160,000 transit bus drivers, leading to a total of 1 million workers are set to lose their jobs.

Luckily, these cars are set to actually lead to reemployment rather than unemployment, creating a different set of jobs. This means that people should train in new fields that will emerge by 2020.

Emergence of New Jobs

A new research carried out by KPMG surprisingly forecasts that driver-less cars will create 320,000 jobs in the United Kingdom. In a 2014 poll carried out by Open Roboethics Initiative (ORI), 3 key areas were identified as sources of jobs in the driver-less car era. Jobs in businesses involving autonomous cars, new infrastructure for autonomous cars, and autonomous car design and development were seen as fruitful by over 50% of the recipients.

Autonomous cars are therefore considered to have both good and bad effects. Just like previous technologies, they are facing some resistance- but it’s expected that humans will find a way of adjusting.

University of California Invested in Prisons?

University of California Invested in Prisons

Yes, people are beginning to wake up around the country. It is a long journey ahead of Americans when we will finally meet on one page in unity some day, but taking one small step for mankind is a start. The consciousness of the University of California possibly woke up one morning understanding that there is a crisis happening in the United States and they no longer want to be a part of the problem. Many want to believe the university decided they no longer want to feed the beast that has been growing for centuries. By pulling out their resources used to invest in building and maintaining prisons in America as opposed to nurturing education instead, the University of California just set the example that human lives are more valuable than their bottom-line figure. But, of course, they needed a little nudging to arrive to this level of humanity.


The growing number of student activists around the nation has been a beautiful feat to witness in my life time over the past few years. Their focus is not just on making money to live a fabulous, blinged-out lifestyle they see on television or zoned out on social media all day. There is a new generation of young people who are about justice for humanity and they are on a mission. It is as if the children from the 1960s reincarnated into the generation born just 20 years ago. Ever since the tragic murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was armed with a bag of Skittles to defend himself from a 32-year-old neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, young activists have been organizing by the thousands, achieving awareness around the country fighting every injustice that arises.


The University of California students discovered that the very institution they pay tuition to had invested well over $30 million in stock in for-profit prison companies. Anyone with a conscience and access to the news have seen countless men and women of color put away in prison for many, many years for crimes they either did not commit or for small petty crimes that deserved a slap on the wrist. Why have so many been falsely accused and charged? Investors such as the University of California needed to end the fiscal year with a healthy bank balance so they can possibly buy that new sports car, finally put that new addition onto their home, or maybe take that much-needed family trip across Europe while innocent people of color get ripped from their families for crimes they did not commit.


Student activists confronted the institution arguing that they were profiting from the over-criminalization of Black and Latino men and women. The African Black Coalition pointed out that the university had blood on their hands. They reminded them that prisons are centers for White Supremacists to dehumanize people of color for profit. It is modern-day slavery. And as much as many want to turn a cheek, refusing to believe that racism and slavery still exist in modern-day time, the University of California was investing in plantations called prisons. Wake up!


The students protested and won a historic victory, causing other institutions and big businesses to shake in their suits because they know this new crop of young activists are on a mission and will not stop until justice is served and change occurs. Corrections Corporation of America and The Geo Group were sold and confirmed by University of California president Janet Napolitano who was also the former secretary of Homeland Security and Governor of Arizona. Interesting and frightening all at the same time.


The university claims the students did not pressure them to sell their stocks. They reported the stocks were performing poorly. I am still hoping that the university had developed a conscience recently and did this for humane reasons and not fluctuating dollar figures. Maintaining that only $30 million made up their $100 million portfolio, I am still believing there was a good soul in there somewhere saying,”Stop breaking up families, destroying the lives of young Black and Latino children by unjustly locking them up, and murdering them behind bars.” The institution is also sticking to their story that they have no say in who gets convicted, prison sentences, prison treatment, etc. They were simply just funding the operation.


The $5 Million Cover Up

Hand coming out of a monitor and stealing money

When I was asked to a write an article on economics and justice, the first thing that came to mind was the good ole Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel. Here is a man who earned a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet that he claims taught him how to move his feet very quickly in the political arena. Moving his feet quickly is an understatement. Emanuel has played the shell switcheroo game that hustlers have played for decades on innocent, naive people everyday on the streets of Chicago. Conning them to pick which shell their money has disappeared under, the hustler makes off with a wad of cash and no justice served for those that have lost their money.


Emanuel’s days of hustling, however, have come to an end. The economics behind moving the city’s resources from one shell to the next, devastating Chicagoans as 50 Chicago public schools shut down, leaving parents of Black and Latino children left to figure out where their children will receive an education, somehow the world-class city found millions of dollars from somewhere to fund a sports complex. Emanuel, like many of the hustlers on the street, slept and ate well at night not giving a second thought to the families affected by their game.


The biggest Emanuel hustle yet, at the expense of justice for a young life taken, cost the city of Chicago $5 million. How many public schools could have benefited from $5 million? Emanuel is probably lying awake at night calculating the lives he could have possibly saved with that $5 million check he signed in 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s

blood. The check dripping in cold blood was signed over to the mother of slain McDonald to keep quiet about her son’s murder by Chicago police officers. McDonald, a ward of the state, was not in the care of his own mother at the time of his demise, but she accepted the check anyway. A hustler like Emanuel, McDonald’s mother has possibly been living high off the hog without a thought to serving justice for McDonald who had his entire life ahead of him.


Over a year ago McDonald was executed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for no reason. Van Dyke, along with fellow officers, gave inaccurate accounts of what happened on that cold night on the south side of Chicago. Stating that McDonald lunged at them in a life threatening manner, Van Dyke put two bullets into the teenager bringing him down. While McDonald lay on the ground, Van Dyke reloads and fires 14 more shots into McDonald’s lifeless body. Unfortunately for Van Dyke, the murder was captured on dash cam as well as a Burger King surveillance camera. Fellow officers deleted the files from the Burger King camera, but they forgot to delete the camera that recorded them deleting footage from another camera.


Emanuel, running for office at the time of young McDonald’s murder, somehow figured that the release of the video capturing the shooting would be damaging to his election, he allegedly signed off on a very expensive cover-up. Officer Van Dyke was allowed to continue receiving a paycheck. Prosecutor Anita Alvarez allegedly aided in the cover-up as well. Had Emanuel demonstrated justice on behalf of a youth who was a ward of the state, the city would have fallen in love with him. He would have been a hero and saved his city $5 million.


The situation did not play out that way, however. Now under investigation for a heinous cover-up, the release of the video 13 months later has caused thousands to march in the streets of Chicago for the past several weeks protesting, demanding for Emanuel’s and Alvarez’s resignation. Superintendent Garry McCarthy was forced to resign by Emanuel. This was not enough for the people of Chicago.


The Laquan McDonald murder cover-up is laced in economics, to say the least. We are still waiting on the justice…which may or may not ever come. It was already paid for.


Practical Approach to In-Store Credit Card Offers

How to Take a Practical Approach to In-Store Credit Card Offers During the Holidays

We hear it almost anytime we purchase an item at a store that offers an in-store credit card, “Would you like to apply for our store credit card?” Most major retailers such as Home Depot, Target, and Kohl’s offer a credit card that can only be used in that particular store. During the holidays, it might seem like a good idea to get that additional 20% off for opening up a store credit card. Experts say that consumers should definitely be cautious during the holiday season, as the idea of getting a store credit card might be enticing. You can buy all your gifts at one location, and not have to spend any money up front. Here are some tips to stay practical with credit cards during the holiday season.

Create a holiday budget

Not only do we have to spend money on gifts throughout the holiday season, but consumers must purchase food and decorations as well. All of this adds up, and a budget can be really helpful in spending conservatively during the holiday months. Create a budget for how much you would like to spend in total, for all gifts you must purchase. It might be easier to first create a list of who you need to purchase presents for, and determine how much can be spent on each person. Also be sure to budget for holiday food supplies. Are you hosting a holiday and need to supply food for a large number of people? Or are you attending another location where you only have to bring one or two food items? The earlier you know your holiday plans, the better you can prepare a budget for the cost of food. Every year stores come out with new decorations, which you might be tempted to buy. If you know that you spend money every year on a couple of new items, go ahead and budget for how much you can allow yourself to spend this year. Always remember that after holiday decoration sales provide consumers with the best savings!

Now is a store credit card worth it?

After creating a holiday budget, you can better determine if an in-store credit card is right for you. If you slacked in the holiday savings department, and need extra money for the holiday season, an in-store credit card might be a great option. You can also explore layaway options, which allow you to pay for items throughout an extended period of time. Financial experts warn consumers of high interest rates, especially for in-store credit cards – just like taking on title loans or personal loans. If you must apply for an in-store credit card during the holiday season, make sure it is for a store that has a variety of items. Target is a great place for an in-store credit card because they have items you might need for gifts, decorations, and food. Try not to max out an in-store credit card, and look for holiday savings deals for that particular store.

It can definitely be hard to stay practical when it comes to money during the holiday season. Sometimes we rush and wait until the last minute, and by that time it might be too late. Always make sure you are using your best personal finance judgement when it comes to applying for a credit card, even during the holiday season!

World’s Richest Countries in 2050

Predicting the future is complicated process, particularly when it involves assessing the future economies of the world. It requires a systematic and comprehensive analysis of different critical economic variables and infrastructures. Some of the factors taken into consideration in predicting future per capita income and GDPs of different countries include rule of law, fertility rates, democratic institutions and education systems.

After carefully analyzing the economies of 100 countries, HSBC eventually came up with a list of countries whose economies are predicted to be among the most advanced in 2050. Of course the list is largely made up of countries whose economies are already flourishing. There are however, a couple of startling revelations- the Philippines, for instance, is predicted to grow at a considerably rate that it will jump from the 43rd biggest economy to the 16th by the year 2050.

To give you a better idea of the whole issue, here are 4 of the richest countries in 2050:

  1. China $25.33 trillion

The current world’s most populous nation is expected to be the richest country in 2050. Its persistent push to modernize its economy, and the absorption of Macao and Hong Kong into its overall economic system will predictably propel its economy to the top spot in the next couple of decades.

China’s Achilles heel is the one child policy, which will significantly reduce the overall working population by 2050. By that time, it’s expected to be the second most populous country.

  1. United States- $22.27 Trillion

The United States, which currently holds the top spot as the world’s biggest economy, will remain in that position for a couple of decades until it’s ultimately overtaken by China. At the moment, it’s economy is twice as big as the next richest country- Japan. Over time however, due to a sluggish income per capita growth, the top spot will be relinquished to Asian countries. As a matter of fact, the United States, along with Norway and Luxembourg are the developed countries which are expected to experience the slowest income per capita growth.

  1. India- $8.7 Trillion

By the time we get to 2050, India will be a clear demonstration of how increased population growth positively impacts the economy. Unless they introduce stringent family planning laws, India’s population will progressively increase and eventually even surpass China- which has already imposed childbirth control laws. With such a high population, the country’s workforce will propel its economy past other huge economies including Germany, Britain and Russia.

  1. Japan- $6.43 Trillion

Even with the current challenges Japan experiences with a reduced fertility rate of 1.3 children per person, and an increasingly aging population- the country is expected to still be among the world’s most elite economies by 2050. It will however, drop two places from position 2 to 4- mainly due to a predicted population drop of 25 million. Fortunately for them, they are implementing effectual strategies to cater to the aging society and deal with a shrinking workforce.

Other countries that made the list of the top richest economies by 2050 include: Russia, Germany, France, United Kingdom, and a host of other European countries.

Thousands Using Russell Simmons’s Rushcard Penniless More Than a Week

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of Run DMC founded RushCard, a cash advance card that lets people get their paycheck two days early. RushCard takes a customer’s paycheck, charges them a fee and pays them two days in advance of their paycheck.

Thousands of people woke up to discover that their RushCard accounts were frozen, leaving them without access to their money. Many were without their money more than one week later. The company issued an explanation on their website that they were trying to get the system back up after a technical malfunction while it transitioned to its new payment system with MasterCard.

Users of the service are often financially vulnerable, living from paycheck to paycheck. They rely on this type of service to get them through the week. According to users, people are locked out of their accounts, missing money and can’t get through to anyone at RushCard’s customer service hotline for an explanation.

Reviews started pouring into the Consumer Affairs website with complaints and frustration that they couldn’t feed their children or their gas and electricity were cut off.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has decided to investigate RushCard and issued the following statement on their Facebook page:

“It is outrageous that consumers have not had access to their money for more than a week. We are looking into this very troubling issue. Consumers increasingly are relying on prepaid products to keep their funds, make purchases, and manage their money. Customers who are still affected by this situation should consider stopping their direct deposit, so that they can get their next paycheck by check or have it deposited in another account. Consumers can also ask anyone who has charged them a late fee on a payment affected by this delay to waive that fee. More generally, all consumers using prepaid cards should watch the transactions on their accounts, and report any problem promptly to the prepaid card issuer. The Bureau accepts consumer complaints at or by phone toll-free at 855-411-2372.”

In the meantime, Simmons has been tweeting RushCard customers assuring them he will fix it:

Russell Simmons


Still working through all @RushCard issues. Will not stop until every account is working properly.

And just as the end of the month approaches and millions of subscribers need access to their money to pay rent and other bills, Simmons has announced that he’s creating a “multi-million dollar” fund to compensate customers who were locked out of their accounts by the technical issues the company underwent.

Simmons spoke with the Associated Press (AP) and assured them that he and RushCard will make sure that every customer facing financial hardship from RushCard’s technical problems receives the help they need.  “This whole situation has been devastating for them, and we want to make sure they are made whole,” he said.

He also told AP that the the multi-million dollar fund set up to help the affected customers comes from his own pocket.


Fostering Economic Diversity Before College

After the New York Times released its ranking of top colleges based on efforts to promote economic diversity, the country began to talk in volumes about why economic diversity is still important, and why colleges should be looking toward it. Universities are absolutely a tool for creating class mobility, but the idea of economic diversity in schools should start before students reach the arguably already privileged halls of a college campus.

Louisville, KY figured that out a long time ago, and their income-based integration system serves as a model for what promoting economic diversity starting from the beginning can do.

The Louisville Example

Louisville’s system started as a desegregation effort, and remains such to this day. The city adopted a bold measure that busses urban and suburban students across the lengths of Jefferson County, KY to balance out the racial and economic compositions of the local schools. Though the area contains census tracts wherein more than half the population lives in poverty, the city isn’t struggling to support underperforming inner-city schools.

Met initially with vocal protest, the Louisville system eventually won residents over as fears regarding confrontation with different races and economic classes failed to be realized, and today it largely embraced and fought for, even with some of its inconveniences.

What’s truly astounding about the desegregation efforts, though, isn’t the distribution of the school children, themselves, it’s what they get from being in integrated schools. Multiple languages are a common occurrence in Louisville classrooms, and in 2011 more than half of the District’s fourth grade students scored at or above a proficient level in math. It’s well documented that as poverty levels in school increase, students’ academic performance decreases. The Louisville model helps prevent that by design.

It’s not a perfect model, and even in the modern age it’s been met with some resistance, even at the governmental level. The facts support, though, that a socioeconomically integrated primary school system creates adventitious learning environments for students that would otherwise be segregated based on economic class structure.

Why Starting Early Matters

So why is it so important to start addressing economic diversity in schools early on? Because low-income students that have the opportunity to attend schools that aren’t inherently low income are statistically more likely to be ahead of their peers stuck in economically segregated schools.

Dr. Myron Orfield published an astounding comparison between Detroit and Louisville, two cities of similar size and composition with the former fighting against desegregation and the latter pushing for it. It really comes down to this, though.

Without an effort to address the matter early on, schools will inherently realign themselves based on class lines. This, in many cases, prevents those students who might benefit from greater economic diversity in college from even getting to college, as they were never provided with the resources or educational training to get them there.

So yes, economic diversity in colleges is important, but that’s also putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Economic diversity in universities will take hold much better if it’s addressed before the students ever have to start applying for college. Create opportunity in the form of diversity early on, and it won’t have to be a matter for debate later down the road.

Is the Uber Economy the Solution for Job and Financial Security?

A recent article in the New York Times points to the growth of businesses like Uber that act as the intermediary of services between the provider and the customer. The “New Gig Economy” as the New York Times call it, is nothing more than the independent contractor or freelancer of decades past—with a tech twist.


One in three workers, or 53 million Americans, are now freelancing according to the comprehensive survey “Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce.” This number is expected to increase to half of the workforce by the year 2020.


Technology today makes it possible for workers to shift from the traditional office workplace to remote locations, offering a flexibility unheard of 20 years ago.


Freelancing is a great solution for workers in search of control over their schedules or how much income they want to earn, but will this “New Gig Economy” offer Americans the job and financial security they search for?


As with all questions addressing the entire population, the answer is, it depends. Freelancers are a special breed requiring strong skills to compete in a virtual world, discipline to get the work done without any supervision and the marketing and networking skills necessary to promote and market themselves to make freelancing successful.


Historically, industries like the hospitality industry that have shifted from traditional employer-employee relationships to franchise-based business with outsourced staffing have not fared well. According to the Times “Gig Economy” article, the hospitality industry has suffered an increase in labor law violations with a decrease in wages in the last 15 years.


If there is a lesson from the hospitality industry, it’s that freelancing is not the ideal solution for all but is perfect for talent willing to sell themselves as a valuable commodity.


As the freelancing economy grows, businesses will adapt. For companies, workers will move from one of the company’s largest fixed costs to a variable cost that companies can adjust up and down as needed.


This may provide job growth but comes with many pitfalls. Once talent shifts from a fixed cost that must be planned for, to a variable cost, talent will have trouble finding job security as employers adjust their employee levels.


And while freelancers may find a per-project payment deal better compensation than a negotiated, hourly wage, there are several costs a freelancer has to absorb, which were once the expense of the company.


One of the biggest costs for a freelancer is the self-employment tax rate of 15 percent that covers unemployment and Medicare. Other expenses include income taxes, health insurance, retirement, home office expenses, business taxes, insurances and more. Freelancers used to earning $20 per hour in a traditional workplace as an employee would have to earn double that to cover their increased expenses, since the liability has passed from the employer to the independent contractor.


The most successful freelancers will work for several employers and diversify to absorb any changes in income. Maintaining and building multiple work relationships is almost a full-time job in itself.


But for those interested in working in the new gig economy, the rewards are great. Freelancers build their own niche based on their interests and talents, set their own hours and location, decide on how much they want to work and with proper planning, take control of their finances and future.