Rules of Thumb in Real Estate Investing

Some people get into real estate investing because they see it as the closest thing to a risk-free investment as one can get. While it can be a profitable endeavor, it can also be very risky. Let’s try to understand how the market works. Never forget the recession, and the sayings floating around just prior to it such as “you can’t lose with real estate.” Here are just a few rules to keep in mind so you can have a positive experience with your first real estate investment.

Never Forget the 20% Rule

While it may not be possible every time, do your best to buy property at a price that’s at least 20% below market value. In doing so, you start off ahead of the game with equity already invested in the property. This may come in handy later, if you need to refinance or apply for a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

Vacancies Are Not Good Signs

If you’re looking for rental properties, be sure to pay attention to the rate of vacancies in the property and surrounding area. A high vacancy ratio of 20% or more indicates a problem that may cost you. Typically, if the vacancy ratio is more than 5%, you may have difficulty finding tenants. Conversely, a very low rate indicates that rental costs may be below the norm. This could present an opportunity to raise the rent.

Don’t Expect to Pay Out More Than Half on Expenses

By expenses, infer that to mean any cost other than the mortgage. These include the cost of vacancies, repairs, etc. If you expect to spend more than 50% of your rental income on these expenses, consider this a bad investment and move on. You’re better off finding a different property.

There’s Also the 1% Rule

This rule states that you shouldn’t charge less than 1% of the purchase price for rent. For instance, if the property was bought for $140,000, each unit should rent for $1,400 per month. That’s the minimum. Some real estate investors apply a 1.5% or 2% rule, because it maximizes cash flow. However, depending on your location and the demand for rental units, a higher ratio may not be feasible.

Real estate investing can be fun and profitable, but it also requires smart thinking to protect against and offset risk. By weighing your debt against your probable profit, you can determine the difference between good investments and poor choices. Remember, there will be other opportunities, so don’t rush into any investment. Trust your own judgment.  Although I don’t teach real estate investing personally, I can point you in the right direction towards some of the best coaches in the world. Ask me if you are interested.



5 of Today’s Most Underrated Musicians

In the highly competitive music industry, even musicians that experience a slight taste of success often seem to go unnoticed by much of the world. These five talents fit into this category, making our list of today’s most underrated musicians.

  1. Rationale a.k.a. Tinashe Fazakerley

Even with fans including Elton John and Katy Perry, this Zimbabwe native singer and producer’s powerful and unique vocal prowess and synth-pop sound with hints of African influences has eluded the mainstream. His 2010 release of two EPs and three singles failed to chart well, as did Saved released under the name Tinashe. However, critics and current fans predict he’ll be a household name and radio success very soon.

  1. Foxes

Louisa Rose Allen enjoys widespread acclaim in her homeland of England, and goes under the stage name Foxes for her singing and songwriting efforts. Even though she’s prominently featured on ‘Just One Yesterday’ by Fall Out Boy and ‘Clarity’ by Zedd, Foxes has yet to earn a solid global fanbase. We think this young up-and-comer’s incredible range and theatrical vocals can change the electro-pop scene in the near future.

  1. Holychild

Consisting of Liz Nistico and Louie Diller, Holychild is an LA based duo of singers, songwriters and musicians whose talents have yet to peak the music scene. You’d think with a record deal with Glassnote and their debut single ‘Running Behind’ being featured in the iWatch commercials, they’d be huge. Yet, it seems that perhaps the world isn’t quite ready for brat pop, but we’re optimistic Holychild will take off soon.

  1. Ella Eyre

Born Ella McMahon, this young British singer wows fans with her extensive vocal range and attracted the interest of collaborators such as Tinie Tempah and Wiz Khalifa. She was a top contender for the BBC Sound and Critics’ Choice Award in 2014, but her popularity seemed to fizzle. Rumor has it, she’s taking a brief respite to pen fresh material. Look for this underrated artist to resurface with a bang.

  1. Raury

Raury Deshawn Tullis released ‘Indigo Child’ in 2014 and signed a deal with Columbia Records. He placed in the top four on BBC Sound in 2015, but still lacks the success he deserves according to many critics. Many music experts attribute this lack of enthusiasm due to Raury’s style of New Age rap, a niche that has yet to catch on. With the world on the cusp of the unknown, it’s likely more people will soon appreciate his messages.

Which modern artists do you feel are severely underrated and under appreciated in mainstream music today? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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What is Ethical AI?

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The recent Neural Information Processing Systems conference in Long Beach, California drew in more than 8,000 attendees. Amid discussions about new technologies and coming trends, the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) brought the conference to a more somber note.

The Moral Issues Surrounding AI Tech

Kate Crawford delivered the keynote speech, drawing on her experience as a Microsoft researcher, and her chosen topic concerned the direction that AI technology is headed. Already, she noted that AI has had unexpected and negative impacts on people’s lives and suggested researchers have an obligation to address this growing problem. She pointed out that AI interfaces have already caused harms, either accidentally or intentionally.

By way of an example, Crawford pointed to a 2015 incident in which black people were labeled as gorillas by Google’s photo AI service. Since then, the problem of AI interfaces learning and applying stereotypes has increased in frequency, suggesting this is a growing problem. These incidents are especially troubling, considering the fact that organizations in every sector from finance to the criminal justice system have started to use AI technology.

Ms. Crawford, who also co-founded the AI Now Institute at NYU, is using her resources to look more deeply at how AI relates with society.

More Shared Their Concern Over AI Learning

While artificial intelligence is intended to learn and adapt by its very nature, researchers from Cornell and Berkeley Universities also raised alarms. They noted that AI systems will infer race and gender, even when those criteria are not fed into the system. They extrapolate a person’s ethnicity and economic status based on that individual’s residence and other factors, suggesting that data analysis may be flawed.

Currently, professionals in the field of AI research admit that the main problem is that AI has become the new black box. By this, they mean that they know it works, but they can’t explain exactly why it works. The key may be in the way AI is programmed, suggest some. By bringing a more diverse selection of programmers to the task, the artificial intelligence in question may also be more diverse.

In essence, the perspectives of the developers, either deliberately or subconsciously, interpret who the AI system views society. In view of the learning capabilities of AI systems, it seems everyone in society and in government is responsible for what AI learns about our society. This suggests AI is only mirroring our own shortcomings.


An Overview of Philanthropic College Courses

When people think of philanthropists, they usually think of billionaires like Warren Buffett or Charlier Munger. But being a philanthropist is not about donating billions, or even millions. It’s about donating any amount of time or money to a worthy cause.

Today, students in colleges across the United States are being taught how they can be philanthropists – without having millions in their bank accounts.

Experiential Philanthropy

This type of philanthropy is focused on taking a more hands-on approach. The class is given a set amount of money – usually ten thousand dollars. They then decide which local charities to give it to. Classes like this are now being given at about eighty schools in the United States.

The program began in 1999 at Northern Kentucky University. In the nineteen years since then, students have given away more than one million dollars through this class.

Philanthropy Lab

The Philanthropy Lab is an initiative that was created by Geoffrey Raynor, based on experiential philanthropy. It’s present in about 20 universities today. What makes this approach interesting is that it’s become popular in many colleges where the students come from a wealthy background – like Princeton and the University of Chicago.

But a student does not need to come from wealth to be enrolled, or even be seeking wealth. As long as they are interested in learning about how they can help solve critical issues through philanthropy, they are welcomed to enroll.

Do These Classes Work?

Over 600 students from Northern Kentucky University who took the experiential philanthropy class were surveyed. The results showed that a student who took the class was more interested in charitable efforts than a student who did not take the class. Additionally, the students who took the class were also more knowledgeable about local issues, as well as the charities in place to help correct them.

The survey concludes by saying that the classes are worthwhile, because it makes a student more interested and involved in philanthropy.

The Only Drawback

The obvious drawback for these types of classes is providing the money to donate. However, there are federal efforts, as well as established philanthropists, that make the funds available.

Students invest in education. Now, through this investment, they’ll know how to invest in their communities after graduation.



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The Logistics of Touring Shows

Live concerts and festivals can be immensely enjoyable events for fans and the musicians involved, but there are many unsung heroes that act behind the scenes who deserve much more credit than they get. I’m speaking, of course, about the stagehands.

Before the lights dim and the musicians make their way to the stage, there are, at times, hundreds of people behind the curtains working tirelessly to ensure that everything goes right, and that every single person in the audience revels in the show’s impressiveness. From instruments, to costumes, to sound equipment, to lights, a stagehand’s plate is often quite full. Combine that with the hassle of touring around the country, and the job itself seems that much more complex.

The first step in preparing for a show is transporting all of the necessary gear to either the main rehearsal spot or venue location. Transportation via local or cross-country trucking, or air freight is typically required depending on how much needs to be moved. Aside from instruments, microphones, and amplifiers, some bands tour with their own lighting systems, video screens, pyrotechnics, and more, making the workload that much larger.

It’s important to note that cutting corners in this line of work can have drastic consequences, as one missing piece of stage equipment could potentially ruin the entire show. For that reason, equipment managers and stagehands should know every single piece of gear required for the show just as, if not better than the band members themselves.

Similarly, experienced equipment managers know to always plan for the unexpected. Bands may add shows to their tour at the last minute, decide to play shorter or longer than originally agreed upon, or improvise in the middle of the set. Regardless of the event, those operating behind the scenes often prepare for this by remaining on their toes, and having more-than-enough equipment to accommodate for any unexpected act.

One of the lesser known aspects of behind-the-scenes operations in the music industry is just how close employees and musicians can become. After all, they are sometimes on the road together for months on end. Equipment managers and stagehands alike work alongside the band members themselves day and night to the point where friendships may begin to blossom. The bottom line is though their jobs might be tedious and exhausting, they are doing what they love to help others do what they love on a daily basis.

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