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Apple CashIn 1977, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak incorporated a little start-up company called Apple Computer. For the first 25 years of Apple’s existence, they were simply a personal computer company, one which plugged millions of Americans in across the country.

For the last 15 years, however, Apple has been everything else. They’ve been music players, phone creators, watch makers, etc., and the success of the company has exploded to the tune of a $718B current market evaluation.

Strangely though, Apple has always (even now) hoarded cash.  The most recent quarterly report shows Apple (APPL) sitting on a whopping $245 billion in cash.  To put this into perspective, only one other US corporation has over $100 billion in cash, and that’s Microsoft — at just under $105 billion.

This means that Apple has more than double the amount of cash on hand than any other company in the United States, and this really isn’t new for them either.  For the last decade, Apple has led the US in cash hoarding, slowly and steadily increasing their cash reserves year over year by about 10 percent. For a company to have a third of its value come from cash is not uncommon. What is uncommon, though, is for a company to have $245 billion on hand, with no apparent plan or desire to spend it.

Apple is currently the highest-valued company on the NYSE. In fact, the amount of cash they have on-hand could buy all but about 15 current corporations.  So, will Apple ever actually decide to buy a few companies, and expand itself beyond the tech industry?  Let’s play around a bit.

Three Possible Landing Spots for Apple Cash

Netflix LogoNETFLIX – Years ago, when Netflix made its entrance, the stock price could be had at under $3 a share. Today, it’s a company valued at $61 billion, which does a whole lot more than deliver DVDs through the mail.  House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and The Crown are just some of the original programming Netflix is offering up today, and Netflix recently signed a music publishing deal with BMG Rights Management.  Emmy awards be damned, Netflix is coming after the Grammys!

So, how does Apple fit in?  Well, there might be a way for Apple to use its technology to enhance the current Netflix portfolio, in terms of streaming or making it more accessible on the iPhone or Apple Watch. The most likely reasoning for Apple to acquire Netflix, though, is simply expansion.  Just as Apple was tired of building computers only 15 years ago, they may have grown tired of building just computers, watches, and phones now. Perhaps they are looking to increase the breadth of the company.  With Amazon attempting to do a little of everything these days, Apple could consider something similar.

Tesla LogoTESLA – Shhhh, don’t tell anyone but Apple has likely been working on an electric car for a while now. Rumor has it that a few years ago, Apple purchased a lot of property in Sunnyvale California under the shell company name “SixtyEight Research.” Under the name “Project Titan,” Apple appears to be developing software for autonomous vehicles, and the hope is to have a release date somewhere around 2021.  If, however, things take a turn for the worst and Apple is not able to develop the software or the car they desire, I think a company like Tesla is a terrific fit for the Apple portfolio.

Not only is Tesla an automaker, but it’s also an energy company with the acquisition of Solar City. Imagine a day where you drive home in your Apple car, enter your home using a code on your Apple security system, and then power your entire house with a single, solar cell battery.  That’s the vision of Elon Musk (without the Apple part right now)… and if Tesla can deliver on their promise of an affordable T3, I truly believe the company will be Apple’s number one target for years.

Twitter LogoTWITTERTwitter is in a tailspin.  Quarter after quarter, the company continues to lose hundreds of millions of dollars with no end in sight.  For a website and a business that has some of the most frequented traffic online, it’s becoming more of a Shakespearean tragedy than a solid business model. CEO Jack Dorsey appears to have only one viable method for making Twitter profitable for investors: a sale.

Is there a way for Apple to swoop in and make Twitter a successful company?  Maybe.  And it’s clear that the constant talk of a Twitter sale is doing the company no favors; in the last three years, the company has gone from a $43 billion evaluation to just $11 billion. So, Apple may want to wait another few quarters and try to buy Twitter at an even lower price tag.

Working online for 10 years myself, I can only imagine the kind of revenue and potential a site would have when it drives millions of visits a day. I believe Apple is the kind of innovative company that could make Twitter a winner.

What the Future Holds

It’s somewhat concerning to me that a company of Apple’s size and magnitude is hoarding as much cash as they are.  We’ve gone from the original iPhone to the soon-to-be-released, $1,000 iPhone 8, and there hasn’t been as much innovation as you’d expect from the most valuable US company in existence.  Sure, the new iPhone might have a curved screen and will ditch their proprietary lightning port in favor of a standard USB charger (why, I have no idea), but it’s still just a phone.  It would be nice to see them go bigger and better on other technological advances and the acquisition of one of the three above companies could do the trick.

Besides, if Apple buys a company like Twitter and it still bleeds money, Apple will “only” be left with $230 billion.  I think they’ll manage.

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Former President Barack Obama signed an order into law back in March 2010, which later became known as Obamacare. He did so with the hope that it would revolutionize the way Americans handled their healthcare.  However, if Obamacare was to ever survive, it required a large number of healthy individuals to sign-up for healthcare.

To “persuade” healthy individuals to sign up for plans, Obamacare included a mandate. This required everyone in the United States who didn’t have other healthcare to sign up for healthcare on either the state or government exchanges… or else.

trumpcare

This meant that if you had healthcare from your employer, you were covered. If you signed yourself and/or your family up on the exchanges, you were covered. But if you currently had no health insurance, and did not have an employer that offered it to you, then you either had to sign up for healthcare on the exchanges or face a financial penalty. In 2016, the penalty for not having health insurance was $695 per adult, $347.50 per child, OR 2.5% of your adjusted gross income (whichever number was higher), with a maximum amount per family of $2,085.

Now, on its face, that amount might make you think, “Geesh, I better get health insurance.” The sad reality of the mandate, though, was that it wasn’t punishing enough.  Let’s take a healthy individual, who hypothetically needs to pay $500 a month in health insurance premiums. Many of them would rather just pay the $695 one-time penalty than fork over $6,000 for health insurance premiums in a given year.

Related: Another Insurance Giant Pulls Out of Obamacare

The end result was tens of millions of Americans still declining to sign up for Obamacare, which meant the amount of money in the health insurance pool was far lower than what was predicted.  To compensate, health care providers increased the costs for existing exchange owners, sometimes as much as 115% year over year.  Hanging by a thread, the law needed Hillary Clinton to be elected president in order to survive. Instead, it was given Donald Trump.

Obamacare Mandate

Goodbye Obamacare Mandate

It may feel like Donald Trump has been president for four months and not four weeks. However, if you can think all the way back to President Trump’s first executive order, it was one to remove the enforcement of the Obamacare mandate. To put it simply, President Trump ordered the U.S. government to defer to the individual, rather than the government, should a dispute arise regarding the enforcement of the mandate. This didn’t really mean much the day he signed it because its implementation was unclear. However, last week the IRS put out a statement that said, “If you don’t answer the healthcare question on your tax return, we will still accept your return.”

Wait… what?

So, Line 61 of your 1040 tax return will ask if you had healthcare coverage for more than 9 months in the 2016 tax year.  Before this change in policy, you had three options to answer the question:

  • You can check YES, and show proof of coverage
  • You can check NO, and expect the penalty amount above to be included in your return
  • You can check EXEMPT, and show proof of exemption

Now, there’s a fourth option for every US taxpayer:

  • Naa Na Naa Na Naa Naa, I’ll never tell you

To be clear here, there is no guarantee that if you leave the question unanswered, the IRS will simply look the other way.  The IRS has not explicitly said they will be avoiding all Obamacare penalties for the 2016 tax year. However, considering they’ve decided to allow taxpayers to leave this question blank, it’s highly unlikely that they plan to create more work for themselves and audit individuals who choose to avoid the question.

Thus, in one stroke of the pen, the mandate is done. This all-but-means that Obamacare has been effectively killed, and the need for a replacement healthcare plan is of great urgency.

What Will a Trumpcare Mandate Look Like?

Knowing that the end is near for Obamacare (you might say it’s already here), the next logical question is: Will there be a Trumpcare mandate and, if so, what will it look like?

Well, I’m here to tell you that a gentleman by the name of Tom Price proposed a conservative healthcare plan back in 2015…and wouldn’t you know it, he’s just been confirmed as the new Health and Human Services Secretary. Without getting into specific detail about the entirety of the plan, I’d like to focus squarely on his idea for how to make a mandate work in the future.

The crux of Obamacare, and the part that Republicans have always hated, was that it forced people to buy health insurance, even if they didn’t want it. But you see from the text above that the only way a national healthcare plan would work is if everyone contributed, healthy or otherwise. So, how can a Republican plan provide enough money so that those with Obamacare do not lose coverage AND people that don’t want health insurance don’t have to buy it?

Tom Price proposed two main ideas:

  • This should not be national health care. It should be private and sold across state lines, which is expected to increase competition and lower prices.
  • Pre-existing conditions should be included, so long as the consumer has had 18 consecutive months of healthcare coverage.  If someone without healthcare suddenly gets sick and tries to buy coverage, they can be charged appropriate rates based on a previous medical condition. Also, their current healthcare costs can potentially be increased by 50% annually, for up to three years.

The best analogy I can think of is comparing this idea to your auto insurance policy. If you’ve just signed up for auto insurance and get into a big accident, your insurance provider is likely to increase your rates substantially. However, if you’ve been with your auto insurance carrier for years, you likely have small (or large) accident forgiveness, so your rates are not increased. Similarly, if you’re healthy and have avoided buying health insurance for years and then get sick, don’t expect to walk through the door with a low-cost health insurance policy.

Resource: 15 Auto Insurance Discounts You May Be Missing

Now, this is not to say that the healthcare proposal Congressional Republicans put forward will include a mandate specifically like the one above. It is simply an idea on how to go about getting people to pay for health insurance, without forcing them to pay for health insurance. You can bet any plan that we see proposed in the next few weeks will receive extreme scrutiny from tens of millions of Americans, so the benefits and drawbacks will be widely known.

Make sure that when the dust settles, you’ve done your research on whatever 2018 health insurance looks like, and do the best for you and your family. Something tells me you won’t be short of options.

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So, you’re thinking about adding some plastic to your wallet. You want to take advantage of as many bonuses and offers as possible, and you definitely want to earn cash back where you can. You may even be thinking about travel hacking, where you open a number of new accounts in order to reel in a number of introductory point, mile, and cash back offers. Where do you look first?

524 rule

Chase offers a wide variety of credit cards with different perks, including low-fee balance transfers, travel rewards, rotating cash back categories, and even 5% back at Amazon. They are one of the more prominent card issuers, and frequently issue large sign-up bonuses to encourage new customers. Chase, however, has an interesting rule that makes them stand out when it comes to travel hacking.

The 5/24 Rule

You may have heard about their 5/24 Rule, especially if you’ve spent any time researching card hacking.

Simply put, if you’ve opened up 5 new accounts in the last 24 months, you’ll be denied for most Chase credit cards. This rule is all but inflexible, even with calls to customer service to beg them to reconsider. This is unfortunate, as it could lead to you missing out on some of the largest sign-up bonuses seen on credit cards to-date.

One important note: there are numerous reports that being pre-approved in a Chase branch for these cards leads to approval for the card. Anecdotally, I traveled to New York City last November and was approved in-branch for the Chase Sapphire Reserve at 12/24 accounts. So, this work-around could be a possibility if you live near a Chase branch.

Check Out Its Brother Card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you’re considering taking on the travel hacking game (beware: it requires strong organization skills and a lot of attention to detail!), Chase should be high up on the list of issuers to pursue. You’ll be applying for credit cards regularly, so you’ll quickly exceed the limitations for the 5/24 rule. For example, in the last 24 months, I’ve applied and been approved for 15 cards. In the world of travel hackers, that’s not even on the high side of new accounts.

Cards Not Under 5/24

The following cards are reportedly not under Chase’s 5/24 rule:

  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa (I was approved last month at 13/24)
  • British Airways
  • Fairmont
  • Hyatt
  • IHG
  • Ritz-Carlton
  • Disney (both Rewards and Premier)
  • AARP
  • Marriott Business (note: there are conflicting reports on this but I was approved last October at 11/24)

Note that these credit cards will still result in a hard pull and the opening of a new account. So, if you’re interested in them, you should prioritize them after you’ve put yourself past the 5/24 threshold.

Which Card First?

First of all, a disclaimer: if you’re getting into travel hacking, here’s the criteria you need to meet:

  • Have an excellent credit score (I would put this at 720+, if not 740+)
  • Pay off your credit card statement balances in full each month
  • Be disciplined and organized with your money
  • Be able to meet the minimum spend on a new credit card without being financially irresponsible
  • Be unafraid of spending time doing research — there are no shortcuts here!

I would prioritize Chase cards as follows:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
  2. Chase Sapphire Reserve
  3. Chase Ink Preferred
  4. Chase United MileagePlus Explorer
  5. Chase Marriott Rewards
  6. Chase Freedom
  7. Chase Freedom Unlimited
  8. Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

Note that there are more than 5 on this list, so you’ll have to do some research as to which card is right for you. The Chase Sapphire and Ink lines earn Ultimate Rewards points. These offer flexible and valuable redemptions across a number of airlines and other travel partners. The Chase Freedom line offers cash back perks as statement credits. The other branded cards like United and Marriott offer brand-specific points and miles.

I’ve prioritized the United and Marriott cards ahead of the Freedom cards for a few reasons. First, it’s possible to change your credit card to the no-fee Freedom cards after some time. So, if you’re a Sapphire Preferred cardholder and you’d like to discontinue paying the fee, it’s possible to change that card over to a Freedom.

Second, the bonuses for those two branded cards are relatively valuable at the moment. The United offer at 50,000 miles is higher than it was in 2016. The Marriott points are now eligible to transfer to Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express at a good rate (3:1).

If I were just getting into travel hacking, I would be going straight down this list. You may be put off by the Ink Preferred being a business card, but applying for a business card isn’t as daunting as it might seem. Many people run small self-owned business through eBay selling or Etsy shops, and it’s perfectly reasonable to have a business line of credit for those expenses. The process is nearly exactly the same as a personal application; you’ll just need to provide some information about the type of business you operate.

To 5/24-ers and Beyond

My advice to the unfortunate folks who are past 5/24: don’t worry about it. While some of these bonuses are stellar (the previous Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus at 100,000 points was great while it lasted), the sheer number of other card issuers and bonuses means that there’s no shortage of great perks to be had.

Lately I’ve been focusing my efforts on airlines like Delta and American, as well as Membership Rewards points through American Express. New cards are constantly being rotated in and out. So, it’s more important to be able to jump on the higher bonuses when available, than to worry about getting back under 5/24.

Best of luck out there, and happy travels!

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Starwood Preferred Guest American ExpressThe Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is continually one of the best-reviewed cards from this issuer. Card owners are also the most likely to rate high on customer satisfaction surveys. This is probably due to the fact that the card offers excellent incentives and a low interest rate.

NEW LIMITED TIME OFFER (Ends 4/5) – New cardmembers of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express have the opportunity to receive a limited time bonus offer. This includes 25,000 Starpoints® after spending $3,000 in purchases during the first three months, and 10,000 Starpoints® after spending an additional $2,000 in the first six months. Points can be redeemed at more than 1,300 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries, and over 150 airlines with SPG Flights.

This welcome bonus offer is not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months.

The normal rewards program for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is fairly straightforward. It offers points on the following:

  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels
  • Earn 1 Starpoint® for all other purchases

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) is the rewards program associated with the Starwood network of hotel brands. The participating hotels include Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, Four Points by Sheraton, Element, Meridien, Aloft, The Luxury Collection, and St Regis, for a collection at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries. The points members earn can be redeemed for hotel stays, upgrades, and flights from over 350 airlines with SPG Flights without blackout dates. At many of the hotels, you can redeem Starpoints for the hotel’s amenities and luxuries designed for guests, often unique to each location. Note that some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers a decent variable purchase APR, currently 15.74% – 19.74%. There is an annual fee of $95 associated with this card, like most American Express cards. However, there is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then the annual fee of $95 commences for year two.

With an excellent rewards program and big perks from American Express, many customers choose this card as their number one credit card. For more information or to fill out an application, visit the secure Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express application page. Terms and Restrictions apply.

  • Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

Important Note! The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that offers change frequently. Therefore, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit or charge card prior to applying.

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Buy It Right or Buy It Twice: When It’s Worth Paying More for Quality

by Aliyyah Camp
buyright

Whether or not you should pay more for quality is a decision that comes up often when shopping. The answer varies depending on the product.For some purchases, paying more is a giant waste of money which would be better spent elsewhere. For other items, it’s well worth the additional investment up front to ensure a […]

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Humana: Yet Another Player Pulling Out of Obamacare

by Abby Hayes

After pulling out of a merger deal with Aetna, major insurance company Humana announced that it will drop out of the Affordable Care Act exchange in 2018. The company had already been scaling back its plans available on the exchange. For 2017, it was only selling policies in 11 states. Although Humana has been a […]

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A Sign of the Times: Amazon to Begin Accepting Food Stamps

by Stephanie Colestock

There are over 44 million Americans currently receiving SNAP benefits, better known as food stamps. This financial assistance was designed to provide nutritious food to qualifying citizens, and about 54 percent of beneficiaries are children and the elderly. However, there are a number of struggles that SNAP recipients can face as far as actually spending these […]

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Am I Required to Report My (Unconventional) Income to the IRS?

by Luke Landes

Ah, taxes. They’re unavoidable, often painful to think about, and take a nice chunk out of everything that we earn. (Thanks, Uncle Sam.) If you are a W-2 employee, your employer skims your taxes off of your paycheck, so you never even see that money — but what if your income sources are more, ahem, […]

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Trump Nixes the Fiduciary Rule Today… Is This A Good Idea?

by Stephanie Colestock

If you’ve been paying attention to financial news, you’ve probably heard mention of the fiduciary rule. This rule was approved last year under the Obama administration, with the goal of increasing transparency within the investment realm. It was designed to force advisors to suggest investment products to their clients that were more affordable, rather than […]

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The Latte Factor: Your Spending Reflects Your Priorities

by Luke Landes
latte

The concept of the Latte Factor is one of the most divisive in personal finance. Money gurus get so worked up over whether the Latte Factor is a valuable lesson in money management, that one might think the issue were as important as the national debt. Most of the time, passionate responses pertaining to the […]

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