How to invest, where to live, an ATM that dispenses big Macs, and the rain

Free Big Macs… from an ATM?

OK, this is a bit peculiar. Do you recall last week, McDonald’s was introducing their special sauce in a jar and giving away from jars of the stuff? Well, now they’re giving away the entire Big Mac. You walk up to a kiosk… essentially an ATM. You order your Grand Mac (new size or Jr. Big Mac, and the ATM delivers you a piping hot burger…. for free! There has to be a catch, right? Sure. Here’s the catch: To get a Mac Jr. or a Grand Mac — both new sizes — customers will have to enter their Twitter handles on the machine’s touchscreen. Before they can even take a bite out of a burger, the machine will generate a tweet from their personal account that reads: “Check out the new Big Mac.”

Well, that’s not much of a catch. McDonald’s claims that burger machine is not an attempt to eliminate the need for humans to take your order; it seems to be more of a marketing tool. Given that employees are now making $15/hour at some McDonald’s you’d have to think that this type of delivery method may well be in our future.

If you want your free burger, perhaps you’d better get in line now. They’ll only be available at one location: The “customized digital Big Mac ATM” will be at a Boston location, 540 Commonwealth Ave. in Kenmore Square. The free eats will only be available between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m


Let it Rain

While much of the rest of the country takes rain for granted, those of us in the west are well aware of how the rain affects us. Here in California, we’ve had a fair amount of rain lately. So much so that the drought has been lessened… not eliminated, but dramatically lessened. Check out this image to see just what a few months of rain has accomplished:

Source: KQED and Planet Labs 

Watch this quick video to see more of the before and after images:

There are drought categorizations: exceptional, extreme, severe, moderate, and none. Today, for the first time since January 2014, no part of the state is considered to be in exceptional drought according to a federal estimate and very few with extreme.


Live it up

Where you live matters. WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 40 key indicators of family-friendliness. Our data set ranges from “median family salary” to “housing affordability” to “unemployment rate.”

Top Five:

  • North Dakota
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska

Bottom Five

  • Nevada
  • Louisiana
  • District of Columbia
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico

Keep it Simple

Christine Benz at Morningstar suggests that you shouldn’t over-complicate your investment portfolio. I completely agree. She discusses the pros and cons of investing in Target Date funds. These funds allow you to invest your money in one fund and the fund managers tweak your portfolio as time passes. As you age, they move more of your money into less volatile investments — moving more of your money from stocks to bonds.

I agree that you should keep your portfolio simple, but instead of paying the fees for the management — granted these fees are relatively modest — I would rather manage this allocation myself. That said, there are many people who lack the disciple to adjust as appropriate.


But I want my refund now!

The IRS has opened the doors to begin receiving 2016 tax returns, but some early filers may find they are left waiting weeks before their refund arrives. That’s thanks to a new law intended to reduce cases of tax fraud.


Surprise! Millennials aren’t as addicted to social media as others

Sure, Millennials are the ones who are associated with social media. You see them walking down the street staring at their phones. A group sitting in restaurants not talking to one another, just looking at the phones, presumably updating their followers on Facebook, Instagram, etc. about their meal. Well, here’s a surprise. The 18-34 year old Millennials are not the biggest users of social media.

Apparently it’s the Gen-X generation that’s the biggest user of social media. The Gen-X generation — those aged 35 to 49 — doesn’t get mentioned all that much these days. They’re the generation between Millennials and Baby Boomers.

While they might be the biggest users, the difference is not all that great. Gen-Xers spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes a week for Millennials. It’s not a huge difference, about a 7.5% difference, but perhaps it’s enough to allow the Millennials to make fun of their elders a bit. As you might expect, Baby Boomers spend less time — significantly less time — on social media than their younger counterparts. Older folks, Baby Boomers and the generations before them, spend an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week on the networks.


Planes, trains, and automobiles

Want to crush the value of your home, buy a house that’s too close to a freeway, a train station, or worst of all, an airport. Homes in close proximity to these and several others could hurt the value of your home.

This may be the case in most parts of the country, but here in Los Angeles, it’s tough not to live near a freeway. Granted, the article is suggesting that those who live within 0.1 miles of a freeway will see a 9.5% discount compared with comparable homes located a greater disctance from these noise and air pollution makers.

Also, here in LA, some of the most desirable locations are relatively close to LAX, but they are outside the boundaries mentioned here. The article suggests that homes within two miles of an airport will see a 13.2% discount in value compared to comparable homes. Let’s compare.

Manhattan Beach is 5 miles from LAX. The average home price in this wealthy LA suburb is $2,284,400. Compare that with El Segundo, the town in between LAX and Manhattan Beach, has an average price of just $1,124,000 — that’s about half the price of its wealthier neighbor. Is that the reason for the price differential? Perhaps, but the size of the homes in these two towns is also significantly different. Regardless, it’s a reasonable assertion that if you live very close to these things, the value of your homes will likely be less than those who live in comparable areas, but further away.


Invest or pay down debt?

What should you do with your money? Invest it or pay down debt? Everyone has an opinion. I agree with Peter Lazaroff. The two most important things you can do are: contribute to your employers retirement plan and pay down debt with high interest. Do those two things, plus pay the mortgage, plus pay the utilities, before you do anything else. Them figure out what you’ll do with the rest.


For your bookshelf…

A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market

The incredible true story of the card-counting mathematics professor who taught the world how to beat the dealer and, as the first of the great quantitative investors, ushered in a revolution on Wall Street.

This is an extraordinary book that all investors should study, and is also fascinating in terms of human interest and mathematical analysis. Almost everyone has heard of Warren Buffett and most investors know of John Bogle, but Edward Thorp remains better known as the mathematics professor who figured out how to beat casinos than as the investment manager who either invented or perfected many of the great quantitative investing strategies over nearly fifty years.

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Stress-Testing Your Savings: Your Financial Guide to Navigate to and Through Retirement

When you feel sick, you go to the doctor. You don’t wait until the last
minute, when your illness has escalated to a life-threatening disease. You should treat your financial situation in the same way―start planning now to secure your future.

In Stress-Testing Your Savings, author Keith Gebert presents advice you can take action on today to diagnose your economic ailments and begin the journey to financial wellness. With over ten years of experience in the financial industry, Keith understands where many people struggle. Rather than consulting with a professional, so many families attempt to manage their own finances in addition to their busy lives at work and home. The result is often an inadequate, cookie-cutter plan that fails to account for their true needs.


Charts of the day

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