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By Taylor Kovar, Kovar Wealth Management

Hey Taylor - Things being what they are, I’m looking to invest some money outside of the stock market. Got any hot tips for me? - Lee

Hey Lee - Alternative investments are always a strong bet, not just when the market is going through tumultuous times. There are so many ways to put your money to work outside of the traditional markets, but I’ll stick with three of my favorites for now.

    Timber. While the logging industry has certainly changed over the last couple generations to become more environmentally conscious, the demand for wood remains high. With farmed forests and access to so many unique types of lumber, you have inherent stability within this investing field. In addition to the importance of the material, you have a handful of ways to invest in the timber market. Buying acres of timberland is relatively straightforward, with value in the land itself as well as what the acreage produces. Many savvy investors go with timber-focused REITs to remove one degree of responsibility while still making money on the product. In any case, you can safely bet on timber to maintain value and weather financial downturns.
    Real estate. Buildings and land will fluctuate in value and consumer interest more than timber, but owning property means you always have an asset that typically increases its worth in the long run. If you have the time and means to buy a desirable vacation rental, you can create a steady flow of income in addition to the actual value of the property. You should at least consider some form of real estate, as few investments can deliver such long- and short-term rewards. Also, for the investor combating fears of market volatility, a physical piece of land or building can be an exceptionally comforting holding. As the old saying goes "They aren't making any more land!"
    Precious metals. Precious metals make for useful alternative investments. Like real estate or timber, the intrinsic value of a physical element provides stability and diversification for standard portfolios. Buying gold bullion will give you a concrete investment that’s excellent at value retention, while investing in precious metals ETFs or mining companies might allow you to escape a little market volatility while still enjoying the booms that come with economic progress. If you’re looking for a non-stock investment you can rely on for long-term sustainability and insurance, precious metals should rank high on your list.

If you want to see more options, you can check out my article on GoFarWithKovar.com about alternative investments for this year. There are plenty of options and hopefully you’ll find at least one of them exciting. Good luck!

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by John Stossel

        Coronavirus is frightening.
        I'm working from home, practicing "social distancing." Experts say it'll help "flatten the curve" so fewer people will be infected simultaneously. Then hospitals won't be overwhelmed.
        But the infection rate grows. Doctors and hospitals may yet be overwhelmed.
        It didn't have to get to this point.
        Coronavirus deaths leveled off in South Korea.
        That's because people in Korea could easily find out if they had the disease. There are hundreds of testing locations -- even pop-up drive-thru testing centers.
        Because Koreans got tested, Korean doctors knew who needed to be isolated and who didn't. As a result, Korea limited the disease without mass quarantines and shortages.
        Not in America. In America, a shortage of COVID-19 tests has made it hard for people to get tested. Even those who show all the symptoms have a difficult time.
        Why weren't there enough tests?
        Because our government insists on control of medical innovation.
        That's the topic of my new video.
        When coronavirus appeared, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made its own tests and insisted that people only use those CDC tests. But the CDC test often gave inaccurate results. Some early versions of the test couldn't distinguish between coronavirus and water.
        Private companies might have offered better tests, and more of them, but that wasn't allowed. The World Health Organization even released information on how to make such tests, but our government still said no. Instead, all tests must go through the government's cumbersome approval process. That takes months. Or years.
        Hundreds of labs had the ability to test for the virus, but they weren't allowed to test.
        As a result, doctors can't be sure exactly where outbreaks are happening. Instead of quarantining just sick people, state governors are forcing entire states to go on lockdown.
        At the same time, many people who show no symptoms do have COVID-19. Without widespread testing, we don't know who they are, and so the symptomless sick are infecting others.
        A few weeks ago, the government finally gave up its monopoly and said it was relaxing the rules. There would be quick "emergency use authorizations" replacing the months- or years-long wait for approval. But even that took so long that few independent tests were approved.
        So President Donald Trump waived those rules, too.
        Now tests are finally being made. But that delay killed people. It's still killing people.
        Other needlessly repressive rules prevented doctors and hospitals from trying more efficient ways to treat patients.
        For example, telemedicine allows doctors and patients to communicate through the internet. When sick people consult doctors from home, they don't pass on the virus in crowded waiting rooms.
        But lawyers and bureaucrats claimed such communications wouldn't be "secure," and would violate patients' privacy.
        Only last week did officials announce they would allow doctors to "serve patients through everyday communications technologies."
        Americans shouldn't have to ask permission to use "everyday" technologies.
        Now doctors fear that as more people get sick, hospitals won't have enough beds for the critically ill.
        But the bed shortage is another consequence of bad law. Critical access hospitals in rural areas are not allowed to have more than 25 beds. Trump has now announced that he's waiving those rules.
        In some states, there's a shortage of doctors or nurses. That, too, is often a product of bad law -- state licensing laws that make it illegal for professionals licensed in one state to work in another. Trump said he would waive "license requirements so that the doctors from other states can provide services to states with the greatest need." Then it turned out that he could only allow that for Medicare; he didn't have the power to override stupid state licensing rules.
        Fortunately, many states finally waived harmful licensing laws on their own.
        It's good that governments finally removed some rules.
        But the time that took killed people.
        Once coronavirus passes, America should leave those regulations waived.
        And we should repeal many others.
        John Stossel is author of "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media."
For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

        A recent report by Chris Stewart has shed new light on some of the educational problems faced by black youth. The report is titled "The Secret Shame: How America's Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunity for All." Stewart is a self-described liberal and CEO of Brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists who want to hold progressive political leaders accountable.
        The report asks, "So how do we explain outstandingly poor educational results for minority children in San Francisco -- which also happens to be one of the wealthiest cities in the country?" "The Secret Shame" reports that progressive cities, on average, have black/white achievement gaps in math and reading that are 15 and 13 percentage points higher than in conservative cities. For example, in San Francisco, 70% of white students are proficient in math; for black students it's 12% -- a 58-point gap. In Washington, D.C., 83% of white students scored proficient in reading compared to 23% of black students -- a 60-point gap.
        Yet, three of the 12 conservative cities researchers looked at -- Virginia Beach, Anaheim and Fort Worth -- have effectively closed or even erased the gap in at least one of the academic categories studied, achieving a gap of zero or one. "The politically conservative Oklahoma City has even turned the tables on our typical thinking about race-based gaps," says Stewart. Black students in Oklahoma City even have higher high school graduation rates than white students.
        Had the "Secret Shame" study analyzed other cities, it would have found that educational outcomes for most black youngsters is a national disgrace. As of 2016, in Philadelphia, only 19% of eighth-graders scored proficient in math, and 16% were proficient in reading. In Detroit, only 4% of its eighth-graders scored proficient in math, and 7% were proficient in reading. In 2016, in 13 of Baltimore's 39 high schools, not a single student scored proficient on the state's math exam. In six other high schools, only 1% tested proficient in math. Only 15% of Baltimore students passed the state's English test.
        National Assessment of Education Progress tests (also called the Nation's Report Card) give further testament to the tragedy. In Philadelphia, 47% of its students scored below basic in math and 42% scored below basic in reading. In Baltimore, it was, respectively, 59% and 49%. In Detroit, 73% scored below basic in math and 56% in reading. Below basic means that a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his or her grade level.
        Then there's gross fraud practiced by the education establishment. High school graduation rates for black students range from a high of 84% in Texas to a low of 57% in Nevada and Oregon. However, according to ACT data, the percentage of black students judged to be college-ready in English, math, reading and science ranges from 17% in Massachusetts to only 3% in Mississippi. One concrete example of this fraud is the fact that Baltimore's Frederick Douglass High School has a graduation rate of 70% while not a single student tested proficient in mathematics and only 3% did so in reading.
        "The Secret Shame" report didn't say why the black/white achievement gap was smaller in conservative cities compared to their progressive counterparts. But permit me to make a suggestion. An Education Week article reported that in the 2015-16 school year, "5.8% of the nation's 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student." The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics show that in the 2011-12 academic year, there were a record 209,800 primary- and secondary-school teachers who reported being physically attacked by a student. A National Center for Education Statistics study found that 18% of the nation's schools accounted for 75% of the reported incidents of violence, and 6.6% accounted for half of all reported incidents. These are schools with predominantly black student populations. My guess is that part of the reasons black academic achievement is greater in conservative citie!
 s is that schools are less tolerant of crime whereas schools in progressive cities make excuses.
        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

        Sen. Bernie Sanders said: "I believe that health care is a right of all people." He's not alone in that contention. That claim comes from Democrats and Republicans and liberals and conservatives. It is not just a health care right that people claim. There are "rights" to decent housing, decent food, a decent job and prescription drugs. In a free and moral society, do people have these rights? Let's begin by asking ourselves: What is a right?
        In the standard usage of the term, a "right" is something that exists simultaneously among people. In the case of our U.S. Constitutional decree, we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness imposes no obligation upon another other than the duty of noninterference.
        As such, a right imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess simultaneously. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. Again, that right imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference.
        Sanders' claim that health care is a right does impose obligations upon others. We see that by recognizing that there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy who gives resources to government to pay for medical services. Moreover, the money does not come from congressmen and state legislators reaching into their own pockets to pay for the service. That means that in order for government to provide medical services to someone who cannot afford it, it must use intimidation, threats and coercion to take the earnings of another American to provide that service.
        Let's apply this bogus concept of rights to my right to speak and travel freely. In the case of my right to free speech, it might impose obligations on others to supply me with an auditorium, microphone and audience. It may require newspapers or television stations to allow me to use their property to express my views. My right to travel freely might require that others provide me with resources to purchase airplane tickets and hotel accommodations. What if I were to demand that others make sacrifices so that I can exercise my free speech and travel rights, I suspect that most Americans would say, "Williams, you have rights to free speech and you have a right to travel freely, but I'm not obligated to pay for them!"
        A moral vision of rights does not mean that we should not help our fellow man in need. It means that helping with health care needs to be voluntary (i.e., free market decisions or voluntary donations to charities that provide health care.) The government's role in health care is to protect this individual right to choose. As Senator Rand Paul was brave enough to say, "The basic assumption that you have a right to get something from somebody else means you have to endorse the concept of theft."
        Statists go further to claim that people have a "right" to housing, to a job, to an education, to an affordable wage. These so-called rights impose burdens on others in the form of involuntary servitude. If one person has a right to something he did not earn, it means that another person does not have a right to something he did earn.
        The provision by the U.S. Congress of a so-called right to health care should offend any sense of moral decency. If you're a Christian or a Jew, you should be against the notion of one American living at the expense of another. When God gave Moses the Eighth Commandment -- "Thou shalt not steal" -- I am sure that He did not mean, "Thou shalt not steal -- unless there is a majority vote in the U.S. Congress."
        Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

       Freelance jobs are "feudalism," says California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
        She persuaded California's legislature to pass a new law reclassifying freelance workers as employees. That means many people who hire them must now give them benefits like overtime, unemployment insurance, etc. Politicians said it would help freelancers a lot.
        Of course, much of the media agreed. Vox called it "a victory for workers everywhere"!
        Sigh. Young reporters just don't understand that stifling economic freedom always creates nasty side effects.
        Actually, more understand now, because they got a very personal lesson. Once the bill passed, Vox media cut hundreds of freelance writing jobs.
        When Gonzalez was asked if she felt bad about that, she sneered, those weren't "real jobs."
        The arrogance of politicians! People choose jobs. Freelancers like flexibility. Politicians have no right to say certain jobs aren't good enough.
        "You're thinking you're helping us, but you're not," says musician Ari Herstand in my new video. He says the anti gig-work law could "crash the California music economy."
        Why? Before the law passed, if he played a gig where he'd hire a drummer, bassist and guitar player, "I just cut (each) a check for $200. Now, I have to take that drummer, put him on payroll, W2 him, get workers' comp insurance, unemployment insurance. I have to pay payroll taxes. I also have to now hire a payroll company."
        All to hire musicians for one just night. The paperwork alone might cost more than the music.
        The anti-gig-work law originally targeted rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, because unions claimed the companies abuse drivers.
        But now many rideshare drivers are upset because the law takes away their freedom.
        "I liked being independent!" said one. "I don't want a boss to tell me when or where to drive."
        Herstand says Uber and Lyft drivers would often tell him: "I'm a photographer and this is my fourth side gig. I want to do this when I want to do this, and if now I'm an employee, and I'm W2'd, they're going to dictate my hours. I don't want that. (The law is) preventing us from doing what we want to do."
        The law upset independent truck drivers, too. After some nosily drove big rigs in front of the legislature, they got an exemption from the law. Other politically connected professions, like lawyers and realtors, got exemptions as well.
        Now Herstand's working on getting an exemption for musicians, too.
        "Why is that good law?" I asked him. "An exception for whoever is clever enough to get to the politicians?"
        "It's definitely not the solution," laughed Herstand. "'Write us out of this law and help us out? Here's money for your next campaign.' No, that doesn't seem like that's a way to legislate."
        But that's how it's often done. The more rules politicians pass, the more money they extract from people who are regulated.
        Now other politicians want to copy California's law. New York, New Jersey and Illinois have their own versions of gig economy bills. The House of Representatives wants to nationalize the law. And, this week, Democratic front-runner Joe Biden cluelessly said such a law "will give workers the dignity they deserve."
        Democrats do what unions ask them to do. Politico points out that just a few years ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called gig work "a great service for people, giving people jobs. I don't think government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth." He even joked that Uber drivers might earn more than he does.
        But now he wants to outlaw most gig work and calls it "exploitive, abusive!"
        It's no surprise that Gonzalez's biggest political donors are unions. She talks a lot about "protecting our union jobs." But now that her bill is killing jobs, she wouldn't agree to an interview.
        Neither would the California unions, or any of 75 law professors, political scientists, sociologists, etc., who published a letter in support of the law.
        Yes, we contacted all 75.
        Herstand says that's because the law now embarrasses its supporters, but politicians won't repeal it because "no politician ever wants to admit they did something wrong."
        John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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