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What Conscious, Millennial Consumers Really Want, and How to Give It to Them

Quick Bit: If you’re a sustainable business owner, gaining the trust of this consumer base should be your top priority.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most brands just want to sell. They want profit, fame and the six-figure business, but they forget the most important thing: having a purpose to make an impact. They’ll do anything to get your email and bombard you with words telling you why you need things until you finally purchase while feeling miserable or anxious that if you don’t buy, you’ll lose out on something.

But if you’re reading this, it means you care. It means you’re probably starting (or already have) a business that does things differently.

What is a conscious consumer?

Conscious consumerism is not a trend. It’s the new way of consumption. Especially since the rise of millennials — who are more selective about the brands they choose to wear or to bring into their homes.

Millennials believe in their individual power to drive change, and according to a survey from Deloitte, over 44% of them have made choices about their work based on personal ethics.

A conscious consumer is more likely to reject a job offer, say no to a Black Friday sale or simply not follow a brand that doesn’t align with their ethics. They research before buying anything and are willing to wait, or even pay more, to spend their money where they think they are driving change.

Sustainable consumption is the future

Over the past couple of years, sustainable consumption has grown, which means that we can’t look at it as a trend or something that will go away. However, you do need to be very careful about greenwashing, which means claiming you’re sustainable when you’re not, because this could truly hurt your brand if you don’t have a solid sustainable marketing strategy.

Related article: 4 Ways to Avoid Greenwashing a Sustainably-Minded Brand

What conscious consumers really want

As a conscious millennial consumer, I can tell you that we’re tired of the same old sales urgency. In fact, sometimes we ignore it. We know what we want. We don’t need brands telling us that we are not good enough, or that our lives are not perfect.

Many conscious consumers are mindful, thought leaders and educated people who look for something when they need it. We look for solutions to help us remain balanced, centered and feeling complete, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel complete.

When we look for a brand, and our values align, it’s like the beginning of a love relationship for us. We become so loyal to a brand that goes an extra mile to drive change that we share about it on social, we talk about it with our friends and family and we spread the word about our conscious consumption because we feel like a part of the change.

Here’s what conscious consumers really want.

Transparency

No fluff, no lies, no blurbs without details. We want the facts. The nitty-gritty data. The pictures of the artisans you help, the sustainability reports listed on your website, the carbon footprint offsets you are trying to address. The factories you work with, and the picture of your production partners.

The list of BIPOC employees, the commitment to your fair wages. The video testimonials of the people that you impact. The true cost of your product (even with your markup) so that you can let us decide if we want to spend $100 on a cotton tee.

We’re not afraid to get to know you. We want to be obsessed with your sustainability efforts, and we probably know that it takes a ton of effort. We understand that pursuing sustainability is not an easy path and that you won’t be perfect. We get it. But we want you to keep trying every day to drive change.

Commitment to brand values

Your values are your soul. Like I mentioned before, conscious consumers pursue living their lives driving change, so when we find a brand is contradicting the values they say they pursue, we get mad.

Don’t make us mad. Instead, focus on defining what core values you can adhere to that will define your brand’s personality and transparency efforts. And when something goes wrong, don’t hide or ignore it. Remember the first principle (transparency) and tell us what you’re doing to improve.

We want to consume only what we need

Conscious millennial consumers don’t need to be told what we need. We need to understand what your product or service can add value to our lives — which are probably already valuable and centered.

Most of us don’t fancy a huge house, a massive wardrobe, and expensive gadgets. We don’t really care about society’s opinion about the stereotypes of what a perfect life looks like. We are even keen to try out meditation, mindfulness and minimalism.

With this in mind, gaining the trust of a conscious consumer requires a deep understanding of who we are, and why we care about the brands we support.

Related article: 3 Reasons Why No One Will Buy From Your Brand in 2030

No one’s perfect. Sustainability is a journey, and you need to take it one day at a time or you’ll lose your mind.

I suggest you follow these tips to make sure that you build a sustainable business step by step without being overwhelmed.

Listen before launching your next product

Yes, as a business owner your goal is to make money. However, when you learn to listen to what conscious consumers really want, you can learn to build a more profitable business.

This could mean raising your prices and making sure your storytelling enables the higher prices of your products. This could also look like adding new lines of business like a subscription model to enable circular consumption, recycling packaging, you name it.

Reverse engineer your content marketing message based on your “why”

Your purpose is the reason your sustainable brand will start to grow. You need to make sure your marketing message is clear and concise across all your channels.

Focus on intentional promotion and educating your conscious consumers about how to make the most out of their purchase, how to reduce their consumption habits and how to build a long-term relationship of trust with your brand.

Make them feel better about themselves — it’s that simple.

Never stop telling your story or journey

Your story is yours to tell. No one else can tell it for you. But you need to highlight it. Showing that you’re just a human being who started an incredible project that now transcends is so powerful.

The more you show how human you are, with the wins, the losses, the mistakes and the learnings, the more you’ll be continuously building trust with conscious consumers.

Related article: How to Tell Your Brand’s Social Impact Story

Sustainable storytelling can help you connect with conscious consumers

There will be good and bad stories down the road. You need to be patient. Maybe you’ll have one, two or even three years of losses before you actually get a return on your investment. Or, you could be lucky and have a quick turnaround if you partner with the right people who can help you along the way to make sure you have success.

Include your story everywhere you go. Never forget your purpose. Remember why you started and pat yourself on the back when you’re having a bad day. We’re not perfect, and nor will your brand be. But don’t be afraid to show the bad side too.

This will enable you to connect at a deeper level with your audience. It’ll show that you don’t care just about the sales or monetary aspect of what you do, but that what you do matters and changes lives.

Originally found on Entrepreneur.com Read More




The Armed Citizen(R)

Quick Bit: True stories of the right to keep and bear arms.

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A female homeowner in Anderson, Ind., called 911 in the early morning hours of Sept. 29 to report that she had shot an intruder. Her neighbor’s home security cameras captured a man wearing a mask parking in front of the home and looking through the front windows. The cameras also captured the sound of the masked man breaking in through the door, demanding money but also claiming to be the police. The homeowner was able to retreat to an upstairs bedroom, arming herself for protection from the intruder. When the man reached the bedroom, she shot him and ran to a neighbor’s house to make the 911 call. Upon arrival, officers found the 40-year-old suspect dead in the upstairs bedroom. (fox59.com, Indianapolis, Ind., 9/29/21)

Early in the morning on Sept. 15, employees of a Subway in Southeastern Albuquerque, N.M., were preparing the restaurant for opening when an armed man entered and attempted to rob one of the employees. Another employee, who was in a back room at the time, heard the commotion and came to the aid of the coworker. The armed employee shot the suspect, killing him, according to Albuquerque police. (foxcarolina.com; Greenville, S.C.; 9/15/21)

Around 5 a.m. on Oct. 12, an unknown man allegedly entered a residence in Perry Township, Ohio, and began assaulting the residents. One of the occupants was able to retrieve a firearm during the assault and shot the suspect four times before he fled in a vehicle. Officers later found him walking down a road and took him to a nearby hospital for treatment for his gunshot wounds. The homeowners were also taken to the hospital for evaluation. Once the intruder was released from the hospital, he was booked on suspicion of aggravated burglary and felonious assault. (daytondailynews.com; Dayton, Ohio; 10/13/21)

A man in Jefferson County, Mo., awoke to someone knocking on his door. The homeowner asked who was there, but did not recognize the responding voice. The person on his porch started shaking the door handle, trying to gain entry. The homeowner armed himself with his revolver and opened the door to find two masked men standing on his porch, according to court documents. One of the men allegedly reached inside the door and sprayed mace. The homeowner fired at the men, closed and locked his door, then called 911 to report the incident. A 36-year-old man was found dead on the porch. During the initial interview at the property, deputies noticed a suspicious vehicle driving away. They stopped the vehicle and found that the occupants had different stories of why they were in the area. This is when one of the deputies noticed that the passenger’s shirt had a red substance on it that was thought to be blood, connecting them to the attempted forced entry. Both occupants were arrested on outstanding warrants. The passenger is now facing second-degree murder charges since a death occurred during the attempted burglary, as well as first-degree burglary and third-degree assault. The homeowner was not arrested or charged. (stltoday.com and fox2now.com; St. Louis, Mo.; 9/16/21)

A little after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13, an unknown man reportedly broke into an Atlanta, Ga., home through a window and then armed himself with two large kitchen knives. The suspect then tried to stab a wheelchair-bound resident. Another resident heard the commotion and retrieved a firearm. The armed homeowner shot the intruder in the stomach and arm, and he fled. Officers found the 36-year-old wounded suspect nearby and rushed him to a local hospital where he underwent surgery and was listed in stable condition. Authorities indicated the man would be charged with burglary once he was released from the hospital. (fox5atlanta.com, Atlanta, Ga., 10/14/21)

A couple sleeping upstairs in their Newport Beach, Calif., home heard unusual noises coming from their front door. The male homeowner armed himself and went to investigate. He found a man on the stairs, yelled at him to identify himself, and warned him not to come further up the stairs. The intruder did not answer except to charge toward the homeowner, who fired a single shot, striking the assailant in the chest, killing him. An investigation after the incident revealed that the intruder had been a resident in a local detox center and had claimed to be hearing and seeing “demons.” The home he broke into was only a few doors down from the detox center. The homeowner defending himself and his wife has been cleared of all charges. (Orange County Register; Anaheim, Calif.; 10/11/21)

Originally found on NRA Read More




Beat Winter Boredom: Add These 20 Fun Things to Your Holiday Season Bucket List

When it comes to the changing of the seasons, it’s all about the anticipation. I’m just as likely to say that summer is the best time of year in April as I am to name fall my favorite season in August. There’s really nothing better than the build-up. Just hearing the phrase “winter is on its way” makes me long for cozy nights by the fire in furry slippers, sipping on a cup of hot cocoa. I know you’re feeling it too. Of course, the holidays require an entirely separate set of tasks to prepare. But between all the decking of the halls and trimming of the trees, we can still dedicate time to checking a few things off our winter bucket list. So, to celebrate the cozy season, I’ve compiled a list of things to do during winter from sunup to the (very early) sundown.

In our mile-a-minute, largely digital world, I’m all about seeking and carving out moments of intention. I’ve always believed that presence is one of the best gifts we can give—not only to others but to ourselves as well.

Having a winter bucket list handy is key when I’m tempted to spend a precious hour scrolling through my phone or bingeing my latest Netflix fave. I’ve loved the recent social media trend sharing illustrated lists of monthly and seasonal to-do’s. With the pressure to always be “doing,” it’s refreshing to know that there’s a collective rebellion to relax, play, and have a little fun. Because I feel it too: It’s tempting to write out the tasks that have to get done. However, isn’t it about a million times more inspiring to focus instead on all that we want to do? Because while it can seem indulgent to fill our winter days with tasks that feel optional, carving out time for our passions is what makes each moment memorable.

While winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21st, there’s no reason you can’t get started on all the many meaningful activities you have planned this season. So if you’re looking for a little inspiration, look no further. I’m sharing my winter bucket list below. If you have a few must-do’s of your own, keep the inspiration coming and let me know what you’re up to in the comments!

feature image by Kristen Kilpatrick

Curl Up With Your Favorite Book or Magazine

There is nothing, I repeat nothing better than spending a winter weekend bundled under blankets and cozying up to your latest read. Make the moment more indulgent by brewing yourself a cup of tea and keeping your (elevated) stretchy pants on all day. Get ready for a literary escape.

Make a Winter Playlist (or Listen to a Favorite)

While I’m always quick to say that words of affirmation are my love language, playlist-making is a close second. Filling your Spotify queue with songs that set a vibe is a cozy and creative activity anyone can easily get lost in for hours. Want to skip ahead and listen to mixes that have already been curated? Check out our go-to holiday playlist for all the songs your season needs.

Find Your Favorite Seasonal Candle

I’ve been known to burn through candles on a weekly basis. There’s something about a soft and subtle scent that brings a little beauty and brightness to any room. Plus, the impact is nothing short of stunning. We’re all about filling our homes with candles that use only clean, all-natural ingredients. If that’s true for you too, consult our list of the best non-toxic candles here.

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Learn to Knit

I’m always thankful that I was taught to knit at a young age. There’s nothing I love more than busying myself with days upon days of perfecting my purl stitch. Not only is it an ideal wintertime activity, but lucky recipients will be grateful to be gifted one of your homemade creations. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend a simple scarf for your first project (try this pattern on for size). There’s also no shortage of how-to videos on YouTube for any and every knitting question you might have. Another easy point of entry? Purchase one of the many knitting kits on the market for everything you need to begin.

Take the Time to Reflect on Your Intentions

It’s never too early to be thinking about all you want to bring into your life in the new year. While there’s been a collective shift away from restrictive resolutions, getting clear on our intentions is a great way to maintain focus. Take the time to journal or vision board about what feels true for you at present. Do you want to take your career in a different direction? Looking to invite more friends and loved ones into your life? Have a creative passion you want to pursue further? Getting quiet and clear on all that you want for yourself is the first step in making your dreams happen.

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Spend a Weekend Away

There’s nothing like a change of scenery to inspire a new perspective. It can look like going to the woods to unplug and recharge, booking a weekend getaway just for you, or taking a staycation in your town. Whatever you need to disconnect and look inward, give yourself exactly that.

Sort Through Your Clothes

Dedicating a Saturday or Sunday to organizing your closet will always mean a weekend well spent. Clearing out space for the clothes you actually wear is a simple way to save yourself from energy-draining decision fatigue. The Marie Kondo craze may have died down, but you can still practice the art of identifying what sparks joy. For me, that means saying goodbye to all the jeans I haven’t worn in two years (seriously), and letting all my sweaters, dresses, and skirts take center stage. 

Every good clean-out begins with a little reflection. Get realistic about the clothes that help you feel your best. Keep those and donate the rest.

Write a Letter

It’s time to bring the art of letter writing back into style. You don’t have to be a writer to enjoy a little self-expression by putting pen to paper. Simply pick a recipient and get started. Dedicating a couple of pages to sharing what’s new and on your mind is a meaningful way to catch up and connect. You can even purchase a stationary set to inspire you to start.

Cozy Up With Homemade Hot Cocoa

Fuzzy socks, faux fur blankets, and a roaring fire. There are a million ways to warm up throughout the winter, but in my book, nothing beats a decadent cup of hot chocolate. You can mix up a single mug just for you or go all-out with a hot cocoa bar full of all the fixings. Head here for all the cocoa inspo you could ever want—or try this boozy option for an after-dinner treat.

Perfect Your Cookie Recipe 

A Christmas cookie in each hand is my idea of balance. Think things can’t get cozier once you have your greenery hanging and all the ornaments are put out? Think again. There’s little that’s warmer and inviting than the smell of cookies emerging from the oven. Pick your pleasure: Classic chocolate chip, Santa’s favorite slice-and-bakes, or any of the many mouth-watering options the internet can provide. Don’t forget to share the delicious results!

Bake a Loaf of Bread

Just because it’s no longer March 2020 doesn’t mean you have to give up your bread-baking habit. Intimidated by the thought of kneading and resting your dough? Try this simpler-than-simple focaccia recipe. Not afraid to experiment with yeast and get your hands dirty in the process? Pull out this recipe for crunchy, crispy, and perfectly chewy artisan bread.

Start a Scrapbook

Turn back time and have a little analog fun. Print out pictures, gather up mementos and curate a collection of meaningful objects that make you smile. Scrapbooking combines the best of Pinterest and Instagram all into one relaxing activity. Gather up your materials (a blank book, paper, scissors, and really anything your ready-to-craft heart desires) and dive in.

Try a Virtual Class

Indulge your inner lifelong learner. Online classes are a great, low-stakes way to pique your curiosity, expand your mind, and build new skills. Airbnb Experiences offers a range of courses in everything from Argentine empanadas to learning to meditate with a Japanese Buddhist monk. Want to get creative with a range of artistic and technology-based mediums? Skillshare has an online library with thousands of classes to choose from. School’s in session.

Practice Kindness 

When we’re caught up in our own problems, concerns, and stressors, it’s easy to write off outward acts of kindness as an afterthought. But is there really anything more gratifying than bringing a little good to the world? Rather than going for a one-off, grand gesture of kindness, try to focus on incorporating small, compassionate acts into your everyday life. This can look like covering coffee for the person behind you, texting a friend to let them know they’re on your mind, or simply smiling, being gracious, grateful, and present for the people you’re with. Looking for more ways to make someone’s day? Let our list full of ideas for random acts of kindness inspire you.

Pull Out the Puzzles

Craving some downtime but can’t imagine staring at another screen? Thank goodness for puzzles. With a resurgence of interest in activities that support our desire to disconnect, it’s no wonder the good old-fashioned puzzle is making a comeback. The hobby has been shown to improve overall brain health and is an easy way to slip into a state of flow. Take on the challenge of completing one on your own or get a group together for a few extra helping hands. Get our recs for puzzles to do with your little ones or try one of these for an option that’ll keep you occupied for hours.

Try a New Workout (or Fall for a New Physical Activity!)

With the temps dipping, it can be hard to find the motivation for exercise. Keep your body guessing by switching things up in your current workout. Add resistance with weights or a band or even challenge yourself to stay present throughout the hardest parts (instead of wishing it was over already). You can also embrace the season and brave the cold with a winter sport. Can’t get enough cardio? Try cross-country skiing (if the snow permits). Want to improve your coordination and balance? Lace-up your skates and get out on the ice.

Seek Out a French Vibe in Your City

If you’re craving the romance of Paris in the winter but can’t make the trip, you can always aim to bring the essence of France to you. For me, a Parisian vibe means quaint cafés, restaurants that do rustic elegance with ease and making trip after trip to all the museums. Map out and make a day of seeing and experiencing the spots that capture the best of Paris in your city—and if you’re in Austin, check out our guide to the best French-inspired restaurants, cafés, and more here.

Have an At-Home Spa Day

Because we all deserve some self-care. Take the time for some solo rest and relaxation or invite over your friends for the ultimate girls’ night in. Pull out the nail polish, brew a little tea or pour some wine, and do whatever it is you need to recharge. Stay in, bliss out.

Host a Game Night

I’d put game night at the top of my list of reasons to gather. Supply the snacks or make a low-key meal. Ask guests to bring over their favorite game and stock up on a few yourself. Just be prepared—with the right group-and-game combo, things might get heated.

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Make a Mug of Hot Cider

While plenty of people will be warming up with a mug of mulled wine, I’m all about the cider. A little sweet, a little spicy, cider’s right up there on my list of go-to winter beverages. There’s something about that first hot heavenly sip that hits just right. Check out these 9 cider recipes that’ll warm you right up.

Originally found on Camille Styles Read More




6 Ways Small Businesses Can Win With Big Corporations

Quick Bit: There are many areas where it pays to be the small guy.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many people are afraid to start their own businesses because of the big corporations that already dominate the market. They believe that there is no way a beginner could possibly stand any chance with those business behemoths, let alone emerge victoriously. But that isn’t quite the truth, and there are many areas where it pays off to be the small guy.

Here are six advantages you will have over big corporations as a small business owner.

1. You can make changes and innovate quicker

Big corporations have a problem. There are so many layers involved in their decision-making process that they can’t react quickly enough to the changes around them. And those changes are happening constantly. Before they get the required approvals, they are often too late to the party, and the benefits they end up getting from those innovations aren’t as significant as they could have been.

As a small business, you can react to any changes in the market as they are happening. Often, you might even be the only person in charge, meaning that you can potentially make any changes you want to your strategy the moment you conceive them. While that doesn’t mean you should make rash decisions, the possibility of being agile makes you better off in most situations where implementation speed matters.

Related: How Small Businesses Are Solving Big Business Challenges

2. You can build more personal relationships with your clients

Some humans prefer to interact with other humans, not faceless corporations. Unfortunately, it won’t be possible with big businesses that have thousands of people working under them. For them, it wouldn’t be humanly possible to build a personal relationship with every client, and if they did, it probably wouldn’t be the best decision financially.

On the contrary, as a small business, you can meet every client on a more personal level, whether it is through your team members or directly as the owner. In some cases, the number of clients interacting with your business will be so low that not taking the time to meet them personally might backfire on you, and some will choose one of your competitors who will treat them as friends, not clients.

3. Your teams can work closely together

This is similar to our previous example, only this time, I am talking about communication within the company. With smaller teams and fewer departments, your employees can develop better relationships as they work closely together, knowing each other on a more personal level.

When instead of writing lengthy emails to let your colleague know about a project you are working on and waiting a few hours for their response, you can just turn around and ask them directly because they are sitting next to you, the flow of information will be significantly improved.

4. You are on a tight budget

How is having little money good, you might be asking? The answer is simple — you can (and have to) get more creative than your competitors who have the money because you need to make sure that every dime gets spent in a way that will directly benefit your business. It means that you can’t experiment with 10 different ways to solve a given problem, but rather work harder on the one you choose and make sure it will work well because you only get one shot at this.

While that doesn’t mean that big corporations aren’t creative when they have tons of money to burn through, it does mean that they are more likely to settle on a solution that is just okay because they can fix it any time they want. You, on the other hand, need to get it right immediately, and if you don’t, there will be no second chances. It is often those limitations that create the best solutions.

5. You can take more risk

This one is tricky because, as I mentioned in the previous point, big corporations have more money and should be more likely to take risks. After all, their losses won’t be as significant, right? Well, not quite. Even though they have more money, they also have more people to please and so they won’t be able to make risky decisions that might hurt the shareholders.

But because you own the business, you are often the only person directly influenced by any decisions made, even the most significant ones. It might sound like a grim reality, but the truth is that it is much better to be responsible only for your own fate than knowing that whatever you do might change the lives of thousands or even more people.

6. You can focus on your mission more than making a profit at any cost

Most big corporations aren’t focused on serving their target audience, as they used to in the beginning and instead focus on making a profit for their shareholders. While there is nothing wrong with this, it is how big companies (especially the ones that are publicly traded) work. It creates a great advantage for you as a small business owner with a mission.

You can now focus on making your clients happy, even if it means generating less revenue in the short term. Even though it will pay off in the long run, big corporations can’t take this approach. They need to keep bringing in profits constantly while you can think more long-term, while also putting your present success on hold to maximize it later down the road.

Related: How to Compete with Big Corporations and Win

The bottom line

You don’t always want to be the biggest fish in the pond. Of course, there are some advantages to having more money and resources, but with great power come great limitations. As a small business owner, you will often be more agile and able to adapt to whatever the market brings, and there will be plenty of opportunities to seize every year.

Related: 4 Ways Small Businesses Can Compete Against the Major …

Originally found on Entrepreneur.com Read More




Christmas Wreath Charcuterie

This Christmas wreath charcuterie board is the perfect festive touch to any holiday party! It’s stunning and delicious! Plus, it’s super easy to make and all of your guests will be so impressed!

If you are looking for more holiday appetizers to make this Christmas season then try out these Christmas Cornflake Wreaths, this AMAZING Cranberry Salsa, and these delicious homemade Madeleines!

Christmas Wreath Charcuterie

This wreath isn’t meant to be hung on your door… it’s meant to be eaten! Which is the best kind of wreath in my opinion! I LOVE a good charcuterie (shar-koo-tuh-ree) board! They are SO delicious and you can literally make them for any occasion. I love how fancy they look and how you can put whatever you want on them to make them just what your party needs! This board is no exception! Filled with Christmas colors and delicious cheeses, fruits, and meat… It’s going to catch the attention of each and every one of your guests!

The best part about this is that it’s SO simple to make but it looks like a million bucks! I have included the step-by-step instructions to take you through exactly what you need to do to make this on your own at home. Once you are done, you will want to make a charcuterie board for everything! And you can! I love to make them with kid-friendly snacks for my kids to eat after school. They think it’s so fancy and they love it! There is no right way to make this so get creative and go crazy!

Cheese to Use for a Christmas Wreath Charcuterie

I like to start out building up a charcuterie board with my cheeses. As I said, feel free to use whatever items that you want on your board! Here are the cheeses that I used on this board:

Garlic Herb BrieEnglish Cheddar CheeseCranberry CheeseCranberry Cinnamon Goat’s Milk Cheese

If you love cheese and want to add in some more or these cheeses aren’t available then you could also try manchego, provolone, and pepper jack! You can’t go wrong with using more cheese!

Meats To Use on a Christmas Wreath Charcuterie

I didn’t load up this board with too many meats! But the beauty of these boards is that you can do that and use only exactly what you want! I used one specifically because I knew that I could form it into a gorgeous flower! For this board I used:

Italian Dry Salami

If you want to add in more meats and less cheese and fruits then I suggest using some pepperoni, prosciutto, Spanish chorizo, or capocollo!

Next Comes the Fruit!

The key to making a Christmas charcuterie wreath turn out so festive are the colors that you put on it! And the most color that you will get will be from the fruits that you pick! I picked some bold colors so that they would really pop on my board. Here are the fruits that I used:

StrawberriesGrapesPomegranateCranberriesBlueberries

I especially like to add fruit to a charcuterie board not only because it’s a classic ingredient but because of the great taste and texture. It’s nice to have some juicy, fresh taste to complement all of the savory meats and cheeses!

Don’t Forget the Nuts, Crackers and Sweets!

The final ingredients that you add to this board really take it to the next level in taste and texture! Adding in the nuts, crackers, and chocolates will be what set your board apart, and finish it off before you are ready to garnish! Here are the nuts, crackers, and sweets that I used:

PistachiosCandied pecansBaked crackersGhiradelli peppermint bark squares

This part of the board is a big mixture of salty and sweet which is so important! Using both makes it so that they will go with everything else on the board! If you would like to add more of these things then you can try using some chocolate whoppers, wheat thins, walnuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts!

Let’s Put it All Together!

Now that you’ve gathered all of the ingredients for this board, it’s time for the fun part! To put it together and make this Christmas wreath charcuterie board! It’s so pretty and delicious! It will definitely be the star of the party!

Add cheese: In a circular shape, start assembling your board by adding the cheeses.Arrange the meat: Then, you want to add the meats. I used a small cup and arranged the salami like a flower.Place the fruit: Add in your fruits Add in the rest of the ingredients: Fill the board in with chocolate, nuts and crackers.Garnish: Add the rosemary in the center and outline the wreath. Then, add some sprigs in the outside edges.

Make it Your Own!

Like I said before, the best part about a Christmas wreath charcuterie is that you can do whatever you want to make it your own! Here are some more ideas that you could use to make it festive and just perfect for your get-together!

Use shapes: I love using cookie cutters to make different shakes out of the cheeses! For this board, I cut out the cheese in the shape of a star and then filled it with pomegranate seeds. It really made them stand out! You can do this or even cut up smaller pieces in the shapes of stars of Christmas trees! Then you can really make it your own! Change up your crackers: A good way to bring in some more flavor and texture is to add in more crackers. I like to use Trader Joe’s Savory Thin crackers, Wheat Thins, or Triscits. Make it seasonal: Depending on what season you are making this for you can totally change it up! In fact, try this Halloween one or this fall one for next year! You can even make these for smaller occasions like mix together some goldfish, fruit snacks, fruit and veggies for your kids for an after school snack. These are SO fun to make!

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Christmas Wreath Charcuterie

This Christmas wreath charcuterie board is the perfect festive touch to any holiday party! It’s stunning and delicious!
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword Christmas charcuterie
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Alyssa Rivers

Ingredients

Meat

Italian Dry Salami

Cheese

Garlic Herb BrieEnglish Cheddar CheeseCranberry CheeseCranberry Cinnamon Goat’s Milk Cheese

Fruit

StrawberriesGrapesPomegranateCranberriesBlueberries

Nuts

PistachiosCandied pecans

Chocolate

Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark Squares

Crackers:

Baked crackers (any kind)

Garnish

Rosemary sprigs

Instructions

In a circular shape charcuterie board, start assembling your board by adding the cheeses.
Next, add the meats. I used a small cup and arranged the salami like a flower.
Add in your fruits.
Fill the board in with nuts, chocolate, and crackers.
Add the rosemary in the center and outline the wreath. Add some sprigs to the outside edges.

Originally found on The Recipe Critic Read More




Beat Winter Boredom: 20 Fun Things to Add Your Winter Bucket List

When it comes to the changing of the seasons, it’s all about the anticipation. I’m just as likely to say that summer is the best time of year in April as I am to name fall my favorite season in August. There’s really nothing better than the build-up. Just hearing the phrase “winter is on its way” makes me long for cozy nights by the fire in furry slippers, sipping on a cup of hot cocoa. I know you’re feeling it too. Of course, the holidays require an entirely separate set of tasks to prepare. But between all the decking of the halls and trimming of the trees, we can still dedicate time to checking a few things off our winter bucket list. So, to celebrate the cozy season, I’ve compiled a list of things to do during winter from sunup to the (very early) sundown.

In our mile-a-minute, largely digital world, I’m all about seeking and carving out moments of intention. I’ve always believed that presence is one of the best gifts we can give—not only to others but to ourselves as well.

Having a winter bucket list handy is key when I’m tempted to spend a precious hour scrolling through my phone or bingeing my latest Netflix fave. I’ve loved the recent social media trend sharing illustrated lists of monthly and seasonal to-do’s. With the pressure to always be “doing,” it’s refreshing to know that there’s a collective rebellion to relax, play, and have a little fun. Because I feel it too: It’s tempting to write out the tasks that have to get done. However, isn’t it about a million times more inspiring to focus instead on all that we want to do? Because while it can seem indulgent to fill our winter days with tasks that feel optional, carving out time for our passions is what makes each moment memorable.

While winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21st, there’s no reason you can’t get started on all the many meaningful activities you have planned this season. So if you’re looking for a little inspiration, look no further. I’m sharing my winter bucket list below. If you have a few must-do’s of your own, keep the inspiration coming and let me know what you’re up to in the comments!

feature image by Kristen Kilpatrick

Curl Up With Your Favorite Book or Magazine

There is nothing, I repeat nothing better than spending a winter weekend bundled under blankets and cozying up to your latest read. Make the moment more indulgent by brewing yourself a cup of tea and keeping your (elevated) stretchy pants on all day. Get ready for a literary escape.

Make a Winter Playlist (or Listen to a Favorite)

While I’m always quick to say that words of affirmation are my love language, playlist-making is a close second. Filling your Spotify queue with songs that set a vibe is a cozy and creative activity anyone can easily get lost in for hours. Want to skip ahead and listen to mixes that have already been curated? Check out our go-to holiday playlist for all the songs your season needs.

Find Your Favorite Seasonal Candle

I’ve been known to burn through candles on a weekly basis. There’s something about a soft and subtle scent that brings a little beauty and brightness to any room. Plus, the impact is nothing short of stunning. We’re all about filling our homes with candles that use only clean, all-natural ingredients. If that’s true for you too, consult our list of the best non-toxic candles here.

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Learn to Knit

I’m always thankful that I was taught to knit at a young age. There’s nothing I love more than busying myself with days upon days of perfecting my purl stitch. Not only is it an ideal wintertime activity, but lucky recipients will be grateful to be gifted one of your homemade creations. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend a simple scarf for your first project (try this pattern on for size). There’s also no shortage of how-to videos on YouTube for any and every knitting question you might have. Another easy point of entry? Purchase one of the many knitting kits on the market for everything you need to begin.

Take the Time to Reflect on Your Intentions

It’s never too early to be thinking about all you want to bring into your life in the new year. While there’s been a collective shift away from restrictive resolutions, getting clear on our intentions is a great way to maintain focus. Take the time to journal or vision board about what feels true for you at present. Do you want to take your career in a different direction? Looking to invite more friends and loved ones into your life? Have a creative passion you want to pursue further? Getting quiet and clear on all that you want for yourself is the first step in making your dreams happen.

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Spend a Weekend Away

There’s nothing like a change of scenery to inspire a new perspective. It can look like going to the woods to unplug and recharge, booking a weekend getaway just for you, or taking a staycation in your town. Whatever you need to disconnect and look inward, give yourself exactly that.

Sort Through Your Clothes

Dedicating a Saturday or Sunday to organizing your closet will always mean a weekend well spent. Clearing out space for the clothes you actually wear is a simple way to save yourself from energy-draining decision fatigue. The Marie Kondo craze may have died down, but you can still practice the art of identifying what sparks joy. For me, that means saying goodbye to all the jeans I haven’t worn in two years (seriously), and letting all my sweaters, dresses, and skirts take center stage. 

Every good clean-out begins with a little reflection. Get realistic about the clothes that help you feel your best. Keep those and donate the rest.

Write a Letter

It’s time to bring the art of letter writing back into style. You don’t have to be a writer to enjoy a little self-expression by putting pen to paper. Simply pick a recipient and get started. Dedicating a couple of pages to sharing what’s new and on your mind is a meaningful way to catch up and connect. You can even purchase a stationary set to inspire you to start.

Cozy Up With Homemade Hot Cocoa

Fuzzy socks, faux fur blankets, and a roaring fire. There are a million ways to warm up throughout the winter, but in my book, nothing beats a decadent cup of hot chocolate. You can mix up a single mug just for you or go all-out with a hot cocoa bar full of all the fixings. Head here for all the cocoa inspo you could ever want—or try this boozy option for an after-dinner treat.

Perfect Your Cookie Recipe 

A Christmas cookie in each hand is my idea of balance. Think things can’t get cozier once you have your greenery hanging and all the ornaments are put out? Think again. There’s little that’s warmer and inviting than the smell of cookies emerging from the oven. Pick your pleasure: Classic chocolate chip, Santa’s favorite slice-and-bakes, or any of the many mouth-watering options the internet can provide. Don’t forget to share the delicious results!

Bake a Loaf of Bread

Just because it’s no longer March 2020 doesn’t mean you have to give up your bread-baking habit. Intimidated by the thought of kneading and resting your dough? Try this simpler-than-simple focaccia recipe. Not afraid to experiment with yeast and get your hands dirty in the process? Pull out this recipe for crunchy, crispy, and perfectly chewy artisan bread.

Start a Scrapbook

Turn back time and have a little analog fun. Print out pictures, gather up mementos and curate a collection of meaningful objects that make you smile. Scrapbooking combines the best of Pinterest and Instagram all into one relaxing activity. Gather up your materials (a blank book, paper, scissors, and really anything your ready-to-craft heart desires) and dive in.

Try a Virtual Class

Indulge your inner lifelong learner. Online classes are a great, low-stakes way to pique your curiosity, expand your mind, and build new skills. Airbnb Experiences offers a range of courses in everything from Argentine empanadas to learning to meditate with a Japanese Buddhist monk. Want to get creative with a range of artistic and technology-based mediums? Skillshare has an online library with thousands of classes to choose from. School’s in session.

Practice Kindness 

When we’re caught up in our own problems, concerns, and stressors, it’s easy to write off outward acts of kindness as an afterthought. But is there really anything more gratifying than bringing a little good to the world? Rather than going for a one-off, grand gesture of kindness, try to focus on incorporating small, compassionate acts into your everyday life. This can look like covering coffee for the person behind you, texting a friend to let them know they’re on your mind, or simply smiling, being gracious, grateful, and present for the people you’re with. Looking for more ways to make someone’s day? Let our list full of ideas for random acts of kindness inspire you.

Pull Out the Puzzles

Craving some downtime but can’t imagine staring at another screen? Thank goodness for puzzles. With a resurgence of interest in activities that support our desire to disconnect, it’s no wonder the good old-fashioned puzzle is making a comeback. The hobby has been shown to improve overall brain health and is an easy way to slip into a state of flow. Take on the challenge of completing one on your own or get a group together for a few extra helping hands. Get our recs for puzzles to do with your little ones or try one of these for an option that’ll keep you occupied for hours.

Try a New Workout (or Fall for a New Physical Activity!)

With the temps dipping, it can be hard to find the motivation for exercise. Keep your body guessing by switching things up in your current workout. Add resistance with weights or a band or even challenge yourself to stay present throughout the hardest parts (instead of wishing it was over already). You can also embrace the season and brave the cold with a winter sport. Can’t get enough cardio? Try cross-country skiing (if the snow permits). Want to improve your coordination and balance? Lace-up your skates and get out on the ice.

Seek Out a French Vibe in Your City

If you’re craving the romance of Paris in the winter but can’t make the trip, you can always aim to bring the essence of France to you. For me, a Parisian vibe means quaint cafés, restaurants that do rustic elegance with ease and making trip after trip to all the museums. Map out and make a day of seeing and experiencing the spots that capture the best of Paris in your city—and if you’re in Austin, check out our guide to the best French-inspired restaurants, cafés, and more here.

Have an At-Home Spa Day

Because we all deserve some self-care. Take the time for some solo rest and relaxation or invite over your friends for the ultimate girls’ night in. Pull out the nail polish, brew a little tea or pour some wine, and do whatever it is you need to recharge. Stay in, bliss out.

Host a Game Night

I’d put game night at the top of my list of reasons to gather. Supply the snacks or make a low-key meal. Ask guests to bring over their favorite game and stock up on a few yourself. Just be prepared—with the right group-and-game combo, things might get heated.

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Make a Mug of Hot Cider

While plenty of people will be warming up with a mug of mulled wine, I’m all about the cider. A little sweet, a little spicy, cider’s right up there on my list of go-to winter beverages. There’s something about that first hot heavenly sip that hits just right. Check out these 9 cider recipes that’ll warm you right up.

Originally found on Camille Styles Read More




4 Ways to Begin Investing in Yourself

Quick Bit: Here’s how busy leaders can start investing in one of their most valuable assets.

Full Story:

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In business, much of the focus is on financial investment, but some of the best advice for success is to start investing in yourself. The grind can be exhausting and wear you down if you let it, but regular investments in your well-being make you more resilient and capable so you can keep up — and even excel.

Then again, stopping to make time for self-investments may sound nearly impossible. To start investing in yourself first, get personal, then practical and, finally, look to improve your performance.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Investing In Yourself Is the Best Investment You’ll Ever Make

1. Start small

When you first begin analyzing where you can invest in yourself, keep your goals small. Sorting through the millions of ways to nurture personal relationships, change lifestyle habits or improve nutrition can get overwhelming, so to start, focus on only a few, easy investments. An investment in becoming the best version of yourself teaches you to see yourself as a gift — you come to believe in yourself and what you can contribute, which translates into your role in business.

Starting small means your personal investments can be simple, such as a Saturday afternoon alone to read a new book or try out a new recipe. Make it a habit to stretch every morning, or start a basic exercise routine. This can improve memory and focus as well as your ability to carry out basic tasks. In my schedule, I make a commitment to a daily walk. Making a schedule with your investment in mind, adding it to your to-do list or even having it on the calendar will encourage you to make it happen.

2. Start private

Starting with small, personal investments means you can make your first attempts to invest in yourself in private and without judgment. Give yourself 30 minutes to play an instrument, knit or engage in another hobby you can do alone. When work takes us away from what we enjoy, we can grow resentful and unhappy about our jobs and the moments we miss when not at home. Allowing yourself the time to practice whatever brings you joy, on the other hand, will invigorate your life.

When you invest in bringing yourself these personal joys, you give yourself a gift. My children are my foundation for investing in myself, and I make it a goal to see them at least once every week. Even if it gets hard to free up time, I know that keeping the commitment will bring me joy. My daughter sends me a photo of my grandson at least once a day, and I pause and take that moment to bask in the happiness of it, no matter what’s going on around me. The more small, personal joys you can appreciate in a day, the more gratitude will come across in everything you do.

Related: Why Entrepreneurs Should Keep Investing in Themselves (And Not Just Their Businesses)

3. Be practical

Before you start taking on every personal investment that you can list, remember that another key to investing in yourself is to be practical. Be reasonable with yourself — no one can do it all.

Some of the best investments are in ways to make your life easier, free up time or take away unnecessary stress. I hate to shop, but I have to eat, so I signed up to get my groceries delivered to my door whenever I need them. Investing in these services left me with one less unpleasant task to consider each week, and I found more time to dedicate to running my business.

Practical investments free up energy for you to put into more productive activities, so if something no longer gives you joy, drop it or find someone else to handle it. Getting my hands dirty in the garden used to bring me so much happiness until I hurt my back and could no longer manage it without pain. Still, seeing a well-kept garden in my yard lets me sustain that joy, so I hired a gardener to keep it up, and I reap the benefits of my investment. Trade-offs like this return double because they give back time and still bring joy.

Related: When to Invest in Your Weaknesses (and When to Save Your Time and Energy)

4. Branch out

Making small, private investments in yourself constructs the sturdy foundation of confidence that you need to then reach out and involve others, be it a coach or a group, formal or informal, or just your best friend at work. Create a space in which you feel safe enough to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to criticism. Beyond just personal investments to treat ourselves well and make life more practical, when we invite others into our self-investments, we can better identify opportunities to improve our performance.

Once we invest in our personal strengths, we need to push them to the limits so they can grow. A group provides an opportunity to give and take. A coach comes in to stretch and challenge you. I’ve had the same coach for over a decade. He listens to every word I say without judgment — a rare trait in any relationship, and certainly not found in a boardroom. At the same time, he would never let me make excuses for not getting things done. Investing in a coach strengthens one’s sense of self, giving your self-perceived best that extra push it needs to really want to excel and then do it.

Truly investing in yourself is never done in complete isolation. Nurturing healthy relationships gives us more stability in uncertain times — both financially and emotionally. I make a point to kiss my husband every day, and we try to have at least one date each month because these mutual gestures of care remind us of the strong support we have in one another. Investing in being your best self means scheduling time to invest with the people you love — your children, your spouse or your friends who are as close as family — because those relationships bring out the best in you.

Originally found on Entrepreneur.com Read More




What Is a Joint Loan?

A joint loan allows you to get a loan with another person, known as a co-borrower, who shares ownership of the loan and responsibility for repayment.

Mortgages and auto loans are commonly joint loans, but you can also get a joint personal loan. Joint personal loans are good options for borrowers whose credit scores or income are too low to qualify. Adding a co-borrower may also get you better terms, such as a lower annual percentage rate or higher loan amount.

Joint vs. co-sign loan: What’s the difference?

Joint loans are similar to co-sign loans, which also involve two people on one application. It can be easy to confuse them; here’s the difference:

A co-borrower:

Has their name on the loan agreement or title.

Helps make payments toward the loan.

Is equally responsible for loan repayment.

A co-signer:

Lends their good credit.

Has no right to the loan money.

Must repay the loan if you can’t.

Both joint and co-sign loans can increase your chances of qualifying for a loan, but co-borrowers have more investment in and ownership of the loan than co-signers.

For example, if you and a co-borrower are approved for a $50,000 personal loan, you both have access to the funds and are responsible for the monthly payment. On the other hand, a co-signer would pick up monthly payments for this loan only if you fail to repay.

How to get a joint loan

You can get a joint personal loan from some online lenders, banks or credit unions if both parties are members. Here are the steps to obtain a joint loan:

Check eligibility requirements. Pay close attention to the lender’s credit score and debt-to-income ratio requirements. For example, LendingClub requires a higher credit score for the primary borrower in a joint loan, and a shared DTI under 35%. Like regular unsecured personal loans, lenders also consider the income and credit histories of you and your co-borrower.

Pre-qualify with multiple lenders. Both you and your co-borrower can pre-qualify — check your estimated rate before committing to a loan — with most online lenders and some banks. Pre-qualifying does not affect your credit score.

Compare lenders and apply. Assess the APRs, repayment terms and potential fees, including origination and late fees, associated with each joint loan offer.

Applying for the loan. Once you select the best offer, you’ll have the option to add a co-borrower to the loan application. Lenders may ask for contact, personal and financial documentation when you apply for a loan.

Once you confirm the details of the application, lenders will do a hard credit check, which will temporarily dip your credit score. Upon approval, you both have to consent to the loan agreement.

Here are a few lenders who offer joint loans:

Lender

Minimum credit score

Loan amount

5.0

NerdWallet rating NerdWallet’s ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula takes into account factors we consider to be consumer-friendly, including impact to credit score, rates and fees, customer experience and responsible lending practices.

4.49% – 20.49%

$5,000 – $100,000

4.0

NerdWallet rating NerdWallet’s ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula takes into account factors we consider to be consumer-friendly, including impact to credit score, rates and fees, customer experience and responsible lending practices.

7.04% – 35.89%

$1,000 – $40,000

4.0

NerdWallet rating NerdWallet’s ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula takes into account factors we consider to be consumer-friendly, including impact to credit score, rates and fees, customer experience and responsible lending practices.

Does not disclose.

5.99% – 28.74%

$1,000 – $35,000

How do joint loans affect your credit score?

A joint loan will show up on your and your co-borrower’s credit reports, and all loan activity — like on-time or missed payments — can impact your credit score.

For example, on-time payments can help you build credit so long as the lender reports payments to credit bureaus. On the other hand, missed payments by you or your co-borrower can hurt each of your credit scores.

Pros and cons of joint loans

Pros

Increase your chance of qualifying. Borrowers with high debt-to-income ratios or low credit scores may elevate their chances of qualifying by applying with a co-borrower with higher income and stronger credit. You may also qualify for a higher loan amount and lower rate.

Share the cost of repaying. You don’t have to shoulder the cost of a personal loan alone since the co-borrower is equally responsible for repayment.

Cons

Can be on the hook for the entire loan. If the co-borrower fails to pay their share, then you’re responsible for the entire loan.

The potential for credit score dips. Because you both equally own the loan, if either of you misses a payment, the other person’s credit can take a hit.

Could lead to a damaged relationship. If either person fails to pay and negatively impacts the other, it could lead to a strained relationship.

Is a joint loan right for you?

A joint loan may be the right choice if:

You cannot qualify for a loan by yourself because your income or credit is too low to meet lenders’ requirements.

Adding a co-borrower allows you to get a lower rate or larger loan.

On the other hand, if you can qualify for a loan with monthly payments that comfortably fit into your budget yourself, you may not need a joint loan.

Frequently asked questions

Originally found on Nerd Wallet Read More




Passive Investing: What It Is and How It Works

What is passive investing?

To understand passive investing, think of the saying, “slow and steady wins the race.”

Passive investing is when you buy securities that mirror stock market indexes, then hold them long term.

“And the goal of you investing this way is that you basically want to replicate the returns of that particular market index,” says Rianka R. Dorsainvil, a certified financial planner and co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners, based in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Like fine wine, the longer you hold your investments, the longer they have to mature and give you decent returns.

It’s a popular type of investing. According to a 2021 Gallup Investor Optimism Index, 71% of U.S. investors surveyed said passive investing was a better strategy for long-term investors who want the best returns. Of those surveyed, only 11% said “timing the market” was more important to earn high returns. A majority — 89% — said “time in the market” was more important.

Active investing vs. passive investing

So what’s the difference between passive and active investing?

In active investing, you research individual companies and buy and sell stocks in an attempt to beat the stock market.

In passive investing, you buy a basket of assets and try to mirror what the stock market is doing.

The type of investing you choose depends on what your goals are, says Christopher Woods, CFP and founder of LifePoint Financial Group, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

For example, he says if you’re investing in a retirement account where you’re planning to hold investments for 20 years or more, passive investing may be a better option because you won’t incur the same fees as you would if you were frequently buying and selling.

“If you think about the cost savings in a passive investment over the course of 20 or 30 years, it’s significant,” Woods says.

How much risk you’re willing to take also plays a role. If you run at the sight of stock charts or can’t handle the suspense that can come with active trading, passive investing may eliminate the sweaty palms and accelerated heart rate.

So, what are the pros of active investing? The biggest advantage is that active investors can handpick their investments, says Kashif A. Ahmed, a CFP and president of American Private Wealth LLC, based in Bedford, Massachusetts.

“Not everything in an index is worth buying,” he says.

Investors ready to put in the work and research individual stocks may prefer to choose where they put their money. What rewards could they reap from all that hard work? Potentially winning big and beating the market.

Pros and cons of passive investing

Pros

Lower maintenance: Constantly tracking the performance of your investments can be time consuming. As a passive investor, there’s no need to check your portfolio several times a day because you’re in it for the long haul. You don’t have to worry about trying to predict the winners and losers in the stock market — you’re simply riding the wave.

Steady returns: According to Morningstar’s active/passive barometer report, passive funds outperform active ones in the long term. In the past 10 years, only 25% of active funds beat passive funds.

Lower fees: Passive investing doesn’t require as much buying and selling as active investing, which can mean lower expense ratios — the percentage of your investment that you pay the fund. “I’ve seen anywhere from 1.5 to 1.25% in fees for a fund that we can replicate in an ETF for 0.2%, and so that’s a drag on the return of the investment for the investor,” says Dorsainvil.

Lower capital gains taxes: Every time you sell shares for a profit, you likely pay capital gains taxes. Passive investors hold assets long term, which means paying less in taxes.

Lower Risk: Passive investing can lower risk, because you’re investing in a broad mix of asset classes and industries, as opposed to relying on the performance of individual stock.

Cons

Limited investment options: If you invest in an index fund or buy an exchange-traded fund, or ETF, you can’t handpick each investment or drop companies you don’t think are worthwhile because you don’t own the underlying stocks directly.

May not get above market returns: Because your goal is to match the market average, you may not achieve above-market returns.

Passive investing strategies

There are several ways to be a passive investor. Two common ways are to buy index funds or ETFs. Both are types of mutual funds — investments that use money from investors to buy a range of assets. As an investor in the fund, you earn any returns.

Because index funds and ETFs let you invest in holdings from various industries, passive investing can help you diversify, so even if one asset in your basket has a downturn, it shouldn’t affect your entire portfolio.

Index funds

Index funds can be a good option for the passive investor. They simply track the rise and fall of the chosen companies/assets within the index.

One difference between index funds and ETFs is that you can only buy and sell index funds at set prices after the market closes and the index fund’s net asset value is announced.

Index funds do require periodic rebalancing because index providers are continuously adding and dropping companies. Rebalancing is a part of portfolio management that ensures your investments still align with your goals.

ETFs

ETFs, also a type of mutual fund that tracks an index, are another way to get into passive investing. They might be a good choice for investors who want to be a little more hands-on when managing a passive portfolio.

The primary difference between ETFs and index funds is you can trade ETFs during market hours like stock. ETFs cut out the middleman, the mutual fund company. Instead of the money you invest in ETFs going to mutual fund companies to invest, you buy the fund from other investors who are selling shares they have.

Another perk of using ETFs for passive investing? They’re often cheaper to buy than index funds. You can buy one for the similar amount of a single stock, yet have more diversification than an individual stock would give. You can buy ETFs for stocks and bonds, as well as international ETFs, and you can diversify by sector.

Robo advisors

If you want to buy and hit the snooze button, you can use a robo-advisor. They use computer algorithms and software to choose investments that align with your goals. You can also get the best of both worlds as many robo-advisors offer both index funds and ETFs. Automatic rebalancing is also often included with your account.

Active management

It is possible to use passive investments, yet still actively manage your portfolio, Ahmed says. The primary way to do this would be through diversification.

“You might say, well I want my portfolio to be X percent large cap American, X percent international, some emerging markets, some sectors, and you decide the percentage and how you want to slice up your pizza. … Then you can use index ETFs to build that portfolio. And then actively rebalance it and trade it.”

Another way to actively manage a passive portfolio is through direct indexing. This is when you own the stocks in an index directly, and it’s possible because you can buy fractional shares of a stock. With direct indexing, you can manage your portfolio yourself and customize the index in any way you like.

That said, it’s not always easy to choose the investments in your portfolio, so if you need help, consider reaching out to a financial advisor.

Originally found on Nerd Wallet Read More




The Disunited States of America

Two years ago, I walked into a cafe in Florence and said “Can I get an espresso?” The waitress replied, “No, no, here we say buongiorno first. We smile. And only then we order. Try it, it is nice.” That is a civil place. It was not America. America has become an uncivil place.

Almost all of us are convinced this is a broken place; the problem is we differ violently over what is broken, never mind how to fix it. A lot of us are sure our schools are broken. This is a very fundamental thing for a society, as schools teach kids how to live with each other (“values.”) Fundamental things being broken is bad.

But we can’t even come close to agreeing which books to read in English class, never mind whether the whole education system is simply an expression of systemic racism, baked into everything from whose history to tell, to the role of demanding precision in math, to which historical figure’s name is on the school building. These are very big, very fundamental unresolved societal problems. I don’t know of other countries with such problems. I don’t know of any place so unhappy with itself it resorts to intellectual incest as a palliative.

The result is schooling by ideology. The wealthy now choose among private schools tailored to their needs. Middle class families buy their homes based on the public school that comes with them. In urban areas, public education now means warehousing poor kids of color, the school more a place to pass on food and used clothes than knowledge. American children get very different content in their educations, never mind qualities of education. All very separate and very unequal, an idea once rejected by a more civil society. I really thought we had that one beat.

One thing schools used to universally try to do was teach “citizenship,” the role an individual plays in a democracy. The concept must have failed, because few of us believe our elections have much to do with democracy. Too many people have simply given up to the point where if more than half of eligible voters show up for a presidential election it is newsworthy. The election outcome is only fair when our person wins.

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The system for choosing a winner has become so complex few of us fully understand it, from registering to vote to redistricting to the Electoral College. The result is a large number seeking ways to manipulate the rules (some justifying modern manipulations because of past manipulations they find unjust), and a large number giving up and voting based simply on social media propaganda. That describes a dying democratic system.

People claiming to want to fix democracy, by using direct election, packing the Supreme Court, or ending the filibuster, are simply whores in a nice dress trying to sell something as progress that will aid only their candidates. The con doesn’t matter, because we no longer expect the truth. Nobody is troubled when the president lies about how many Americans are abandoned in Afghanistan, or asks when the two weeks to flatten the curve will end, or how they can be a valued customer when a company leaves them on hold for 45 minutes.

All of this bleeds over into how we interact with each other. Never mind street fights over Black Lives Matter or scrums at school board meetings. We don’t know how to discuss things, never mind disagree, because we don’t just hate ideas, we have been taught to hate the people who hold those ideas. Commentary is just name calling and junior high-level mocking. Disagreements end with one word pronouncements–racist! fascist!–instead of better ideas put forward.

We’re alone together, loneliness our default state. We avoid physical contact or even proximity with each other, even loved ones, all made so much worse by the dystopian cures for Covid.

We don’t share things. We don’t speak to one another about small problems, we call the manager. When we run out of big issues we spelunk for microaggressions. The range of topics of conversation closes down more and more for fear of offending someone, facing a summons to human resources, or a lawsuit. We discard real world friends on “social” media over the smallest thing. The most common response to an invitation to coffee, or a job application, is ghosting.

We got rid of landlines because their primary purpose morphed into demanding we listen to ads at inconvenient times. Our cell call screening is spoofed so the phone’s primary purpose is to force us to listen to robo ads. Email is a struggle to use because much of it is forced advertising. We don’t check our voicemail because most of it is just forced advertising. We’re afraid to click on an article about insurance for fear our social media will be clogged for days with forced ads.

Our entertainment is mostly social justice memes childishly presented and force-fed to us. There is no way to opt out. We can no longer just ask to be left alone.

We work minimum wage retail jobs that require getting used to suburban women screaming at us because some item in the weekly ad wasn’t in stock. We join in classist gladiatorial sport, testing how businesses care so little about their employees they’ll fire them if one of us makes a scene.

We video everything in hopes of settling matters by embarrassing someone virally. People devote hours to digging through years of history to find something politically incorrect to destroy a life.

Complete strangers profanely yell at us because we aren’t wearing a mask, or have the wrong mask, or are wearing it improperly in their opinion. People we don’t know accuse us of wanting to kill their children with a virus we don’t have.

Others accuse us of hating them, or wanting them dead, if we make a bad word choice (even with the best of intentions, it seems purposefully hard to keep up) to describe their gender or race. Everyone not only thinks this behavior is OK, they believe it to be righteous. They assume ill intent on our side. No more of the sticks and stones rhyme, words are violence now.

Force us together and we bite. Road rage is our national sport. We refer endlessly to “communities” which are just anonymous associations of people online who claim to have been victims of something similar. Our discourse often begins with “As a…” to make clear the separateness of being one gender or another, or of having had the same disease. Our differences become the fuel of victimhood and we loathe solutions that make our victims feel less special. The most spoken sentence in America is now “You have no idea what it’s like to be me because I’m a…”

More often than not the conclusion is violence. In a typical year past, the FAA saw 150 cases of bad passenger behavior. But in 2021 so far the number has jumped to 1,300, ever more remarkable since the number of passengers remains below pre-pandemic levels. Cabin attendants have become less civil alongside their passengers. What they take in abuse they return in passive aggressiveness.

Lack of civility spills over into communal living settings, like condo associations, which come up with increasingly complex rules on how to interact with one another as a stand-in to civility. Boards, elected to handle simple community business like renewing landscape contracts, have turned into bitchy little Vaticans. They create pages of rules about masks and gym use. The answer always seems to try to quantify civility instead of asking for it. As the rules multiply, the residents divide into those with the vice principal’s voice (backed up by the condo’s jailhouse lawyers) versus those who stopped reading after page 49 and just don’t care.

I’ve always loved the line from the Simon and Garfunkel song “Mrs. Robinson” that asks, “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?” as the best example of what writers are supposed to do: show, not tell. The line summed up a feeling in America that a better time had passed. We are singing the same song today. Who wants to live like this? Judging by our actions, Americans. Ciao!

Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.

Originally found on American Conservative. Read More