The Number of Americans Who Have Less Than $500 in Savings Is Pretty Crazy

Unless you’re a Kardashian or a member of Trump’s cabinet, money is a daily annoyance. Maybe you’ve got the day-to-day bullshit expenses (Netflix, Apple Music, weed) down to a fine science, but what if you’re hit with an unexpected bill of, say, $500? According to a new Bankrate report published by CNN Money, many Americans wouldn’t have enough in savings to cover it. Also, what the hell is this “savings” thing they’re talking about?

Nearly six in 10 Americans couldn’t pay a $500 or $1,000 “unplanned expense,” the report found. Just 41 percent of adults have enough in these mysterious “savings accounts” to handle sudden expenses of this magnitude, while just over 20 percent say they’d throw it on a credit card and another 20 percent would make cuts to their respective budgets. A whopping 11 percent, much like myself, would have to ask friends or family for help.

Though Bankrate retirement analyst Jill Cornfield told CNN Money this shows the persistence of an “American problem,” there’s a pair of not-so-depressing stats tucked inside the latest report too. Last year’s report found that just 37 percent of Americans, as opposed to this year’s 41 percent, could handle a sudden expense of $500 or more. Furthermore, young people (a.k.a. millennials) are currently considered the “most financially prepared” to handle money-related surprises. Regardless of demographic, finance experts recommend setting up an “emergency fund” in anticipation of these expenses.

The report also suggests cutting back on daily essentials such as coffee and alcohol, but that’s just not going to happen. Sorry.

Royal Caribbean Will Pay You to Quit Your Job, Travel The World and Take Instagrams

Have you ever spent the day scouring your city for that perfect shot, when the sky is a dreamy pink and the setting sun bounces off the glowing skyscrapers in just the right way? Then, after a days worth of work and only a few dozen likes to show for it, you think to yourself “Damn. If only had gotten paid for that.” If so, then put down your smartphone, and listen up.​

Royal Caribbean is looking to hire a master Instagrammer for a paid summer “intern-ship,” for which you’ll be required to snap and post eye-popping shots from a three-month trip around the world. Okay, now that you’ve regained consciousness, here’s how it works:

If you’re over 21 and have “extensive knowledge of all 23 filters,” you can earn £3,000 (almost $3,700) as an amateur photographer on three cruise ships that’ll take you all over the globe—for free. All you have to do is position yourself as a “hybrid between a photographer, documentary maker and a storyteller” to land the summer job of your dreams.

If the panel of travel experts happens to choose you, you’ll be tasked with posting three photos on Instagram each day; one of a breathtaking view, one of an awesome person found on board, and one of a mind-blowing experience. If that sounds like something you’d be into, just post your most incredible travel photos from now until January 31 and include @RoyalCaribbeanUK and #ExtraordinaryExplorer in the caption. 

Just make sure you send us a postcard. 

Keep Stalling Florida… Colorado Sold $1 Billion Worth of Legal Weed in Under a Year

Despite all of the controversy surrounding marijuana’s health benefits and the pros and cons of federally regulated cannabis, there’s one unshakeable, undeniable fact about weed: It rakes in cash — fast. New data from Colorado’s Department of Revenue shows that in 2016, the state sold over $1 billion worth of weed and related products in the first ten months of this year.

According to The Cannabist, which analyzed the tax data released by the state in October, recreational and medical marijuana shops in Colorado have sold $1.1 billion worth of weed and related products in 2016 altogether. It’s a slight increase over the state’s total sales in 2015, which amounted to $996,184,788.

Consider that the sale of marijuana for any purpose has only technically been legal in Colorado since January 1, 2014 (while it’s been legal since 2012 to possess up to an ounce before then, it was only after that date that weed could be sold to anyone over 21 in specialty stores). That means that Colorado has brought in over $2 billion worth of weed-related revenue in less than two years — and 2016 isn’t even over yet. On Monday, cannabis industry attorney Christian Sederberg told The Cannabist that he expects to see $1.3 billion in sales by the end of this year.

That weed is bringing in the green is, of course, no surprise: The immense profits that the cannabis industry can potentially bring in have not escaped investors like Peter Thiel, whose company The Founders Fund has spent $70 million backing Privateer Holdings, a cannabis-focused firm. According to a February analysis by ArcView Market Research, a leading marijuana investment and research firm, national legal cannabis sales amounted to $5.4 billion in 2015 and were expected to grow to $6.7 billion by the end of 2016.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and in Washington D.C., and recreational marijuana is legal in eight of those states. If sales in these states follow the same trends as those in Colorado, it’s likely that national sales will far surpass those predicted by ArcView, which made its projections before the election ushered legalization into several new states.

Whether having concrete evidence of the massive profits cannabis can bring in will be enough to persuade indecisive politicians to say yes to legalization, however, remains to be seen. President-Elect Donald Trump, for one, has been vague on his stance on federally legalized marijuana; wh

Americans To Spend $8.4 Billion On Halloween

If you’ve noticed more Halloween decorations and candy on store shelves, there’s a good reason for that: Americans are expected to spend an average of $82.93 per person celebrating Halloween this year, or a total of $8.4 billion.

Every year, the National Retail Federation checks with consumers to find out how much we plan to spend on upcoming holidays. This year’s Halloween survey shows that our spending has hit a record high after plummeting during the recession.

As you might imagine, the biggest slice of the predicted total goes to costumes, at $3.1 billion. Candy is a close second at $2.5 billion, and people expect to spend almost as much on decorations at $2.4 billion.

People also plan to spend $390 million on greeting cards, which are apparently a thing.

By the way, while 47% of adults said that they planned to dress in costumes, 16% said that they plan to dress their pets in costumes.

Sorry Techies, Florida Court Says BitCoin is Not Real Currency

A Miami judge has dismissed charges against a Florida-based bitcoin seller after he was indicted in 2014 on illegal money transmission and money laundering charges.

Judge Teresa Mary Pooler sided with the defense’s argument that bitcoin doesn’t constitute a form of money within the confines of Florida’s legal system, stating in a ruling issued today that Michell Espinoza doesn’t qualify as a money transmitter as argued by the prosecution. The case was tried in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida.

Observers say that the ruling exposes how state statutes don’t account for bitcoin and digital currencies – a gap that could ultimately lead to legislative action both in Florida and beyond.

The case dates back to late 2013, when a task force involving the Miami Police Department and the US Secret Service began investigating bitcoin trading activity in the area. Espinoza was contacted by Detective Ricardo Arias and Special Agent Gregory Ponzi via bitcoin marketplace LocalBitcoins, arranging several meetings between January and February 2014.

It was during those meetings that undercover agents indicated that they intended to purchase stolen credit card numbers with the digital currency. Espinoza was ultimately arrested during a planned sale of $30,000 in bitcoin, after selling $1,500 in bitcoin to the agents.

Yet in her ruling, Judge Pooler rejected the idea that Espinoza was engaged in any illegal activity as it related to both the money laundering and money transmission charges.

On the latter point, she said that the statute as it exists today accounts for financial intermediaries (citing Western Union in particular), whereas in her view, Espinoza was an individual selling his bitcoins directly.

Pooler wrote:

“This court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning.”

Elsewhere in the ruling, Pooler suggested that lawmakers in Florida may want to move to address how the statutes, as they exist today, do not account for bitcoin and digital currencies.

“The Florida Legislature may choose to adopt statutes regulating virtual currency in the future,” she wrote. “At this time, however, attempting to fit the sale of bitcoin into a statutory scheme regulating money services businesses is like fitting square peg in a round hole.”

Espinoza did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Bitcoin not money, judge rules

In her ruling, Pooler argued that, at present, it is difficult for the court to accurately define bitcoin.

“Nothing in our frame of reference allows us to accurately define or describe bitcoin,” she wrote.

She goes on to write that the digital currency “may have some attributes in common with what we commonly refer to as money” before going on to highlight its distributed nature, price volatility and adoption by merchants as characteristics that differentiate it from other kinds of currency.

“This court is not an expert in economics, however, it is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, that bitcoin has a long way to go before it is the equivalent of money,” she wrote.

Pooler noted in her ruling that the state could move, via legislative action, to craft a specific legal definition for bitcoin – a move she indicated could prevent further cases like this from potentially impacting otherwise innocent people.

“There is unquestionably no evidence that the defendant did anything wrong, other than sell his bitcoin to an investigator who wanted to make a case,” she wrote, adding:

“Hopefully, the Florida legislature or an appellate court will define ‘promote’ so individuals who believe their conduct is legal are not arrested.”

Legal experts weigh in

Legal observers say that the case highlights apparent gaps in Florida’s legal system as it relates to bitcoin, and, perhaps, the US more broadly.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw attorney Marco Santori, who called the ruling “quite unexpected among the legal community”, believes that the Espinoza outcome will likely be cited in the future if the government brings future cases like it.

“It’s absolutely going to be used as precedent in other cases,” he said.

Santori went on to note that the ruling highlights a split between regulators in Florida and the court on the question of bitcoin regulation.

He told CoinDesk:

“Right now, we’re left with a real split in Florida. We’ve got a regulator that says, you need a license to do direct purchase and sale of bitcoin in Florida. But we’ve got a judicial system that refuses to convict anybody who does that.”

Baker Marquart attorney Brian Klein said he thinks the ruling could go as far as dissuade similar cases in the future as well.

“This decision will reverberate throughout the country and hopefully cause federal and state prosecutors to think twice before pursuing similar criminal charges,” he said.

Drew Hinkes, a lawyer for Berger Singerman LLP, said he sees the legislative actions focused on digital currencies advocated by Pooler taking place.

“The Court also correctly noted that while Florida’s money laundering statutes do not apply cleanly to bitcoin, the Florida Legislature has the ability to provide ‘a much needed update to the particularly language within [the money laundering] statute,'” he said, adding:

“I would not be surprised to see legislation addressing virtual currencies in the coming years.”

Study Finds That People Who Value Time Over Money Are Happier

Though money – or the lack thereof – is often cited as one of the most stress-inducing aspects of life, a new study has found that those who value time over money are generally happier compared to those who would rather amass more wealth.

These findings suggest that it doesn’t really matter which of the two a person has more of – instead, it’s all about a person’s mentality toward the two, with the person who values their time more than their money being more likely be happier despite the amount of green in their wallets.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) asked more than 4,400 people a simple question – which would you rather have more of: time or money? The participants were then asked questions designed to gauge their level of happiness, reports Brian Resnick for Vox.

The team found that most people – 64 percent of those questioned – wanted more money, but those who wanted more time were generally happier. This suggests that it’s not so much about what people have – it’s about which one they want and, therefore, deem more important.

“What matters is the value people place on each resource,” the team writes in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. “Beyond the amount of these resources people have, happiness is linked to the resource people want.

Interesingly, the team found that the demographics that wanted more time were different in many ways to those interesed in more money. On average, the older participants were, the more likely they were to favour time – which makes sense, seeing as they were more likely to have the ultimate time sap in their lives: kids.

Older participants were also more likely to work more, and therefore have more money, which could explain why they coveted free time more.

The Washington Posts Christopher Ingraham brings up a great question about this point: “Could happiness be less a function of wanting time, and more a function of having money?” For the answer, he turned to one of the study’s leaders, Hal Hershfield, from UCLA.

“By statistically controlling for already existing levels of wealth, we show that choosing time over money has a positive effect on happiness over and above wealth,” Hershfield told Ingraham in an email.

This suggests that people, despite differences in income, are happier when they value time over money.

The new findings seem to back up a previous study from earlier this year that found similar results. David Nield reported for us back in January:

“Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada recruited more than 4,600 participants and found an almost even split between those who prioritised their time and those who prioritised their wealth, but the older participants were more likely to favour time over money. The team also found that those who put time first tended to be happier overall.”

Similar results were found in the recent study, but were taken a step further to control for factors like age and wealth.

There’s an important note that needs to be made here, though. The study doesn’t mention whether or not they surveyed people living below the poverty line.

It stands to reason that a person struggling to pay for their basic living conditions – water, food, somewhere to sleep – would be tremendously happier with financial security than a bit more free time – a point that’s backed up by another study from earlier this year that found a physical link between poverty and childhood depression.

So what’s the takeaway here? The study suggests that if you want to become a happier person – and you already make enough money to provide the essentials – you should start placing more value on time because those who do are happier. After all, it’s arguably much easier to control your spare time than it is your bank account.

‘Been Caught Stealing’, Banks Making $17B A Year From Fees For Overdrafts & Insufficient Funds

Overdrafting your checking account might only hit you for $35, but when that happens a few hundred million times each year, it really adds up. A new report estimates that banks in the U.S. are now making $17 billion a year from fees for overdrafts and insufficient funds.

The report from the the Center for Responsible Lending suggests that financial institutions continue to engage in abusive overdraft practices and that reforms to the system are overdue.

CRL looked at data such as consumer-submitted narratives from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation related to approximately 778,800 households.

In all, the report found that consumers pay nearly $14 billion in overdraft charges each year, and that number jumps to $17 billion when you include fees for non-sufficient funds.

“CRL’s analysis confirms that overdraft abuses continue, carrying an enormous annual price tag for consumers as a whole, and with devastating effects on individuals,” Peter Smith, a Senior Researcher at CRL and the report’s co-author, said in a statement.

Through the analysis of CFPB narratives, CRL found that even consumers who attempted to avoid a negative balance and subsequent fees were subject to disproportionately harsh overdraft fees.

The typical bank overdraft fee averages about $35. CRL found that when a customer incurs one overdraft fee, several subsequent fees follow.

“This costly practice places bank account holders with modest or low balances in jeopardy of involuntary account closures, which lead to checking account blacklists that make re-entry into the banking mainstream very difficult,” the report states.

In fact, CRL found, based on FDIC information, that over a million adults who once had bank accounts are now unbanked, primarily due to high or unpredictable fees.

While some banks and financial institutions have revamped their overdraft practices — doing away with fees on student accounts, discontinuing the reordering of transactions, and declining transactions rather than letting them go through when balances are too low — CRL found that the overall fee-heavy model remains typical in overdraft situations.

“Though these are encouraging developments, the abusive overdraft model continues to dominate the checking account market,” the report states. “And it will likely continue to do so until unfair practices are reined in and a level playing field replaces the existing race to the bottom.”

Based on the report, CRL provided several policy recommendations for federal regulators to consider when looking at protecting consumers from unfair and costly overdraft fees:

•  Rein in Excessive Fees: These fees bear virtually no relation to the cost to the institution of covering the overdraft.

• Stop the Onslaught: Limit overdraft fees to one fee per month and six per year, and prohibit predatory posting practices. Once an account has gone negative and the customer has incurred an overdraft fee, the customer should have sufficient time to bring the account back to positive before being charged additional fees.

• Regulate Overdrafts Through Installments: Overdraft fees have long enjoyed a regulatory pass in many respects. When financial institutions pay a customer’s transactions when the account lacks sufficient funds, the financial institution is extending credit to that customer, and the product should be regulated as such.

Tired of Living Amongst Polkers? Teleport App Helps You Choose Which City You’d Be Happy Living In

Teleport, Inc is a free web app working to completely change the process of moving abroad. With their software, they allow you to browse basic details of over 100 cities around the world, virtually exploring the most optimal locations and helping to streamline the task of preparing (and executing) the actual move. Aiming to make “physically rearranging the human population” that much easier, Teleport is working towards a future of global free movement.

Asking a series of questions about budget, income, housing requirements and the like, Teleport operates similarly to an online dating site, but at the end of the questionnaire instead of potential mates, you get potential homes. Their data helps make the research for an upcoming relocation much more basic, refining choices down to the perfectly personalized preferences. Focusing on helping people and businesses connect around the world, the company seeks to create a diverse worldwide workforce.

Designed by some of the entrepreneurs behind the explosively successful Skype, the team is now working to encourage diversification of job opportunities and potential applicants, no matter what the geographic separation between the two is. As their company site explains, they “strive for a culture as fluid, diverse and borderless as the world [they’re] serving.”

app

Target Raises It’s Minimum Wage To $10 To Stay Competitive with Walmart

In the retail business, good employees are apparently becoming harder to find. Joining its main competitor, Walmart, Target will reportedly raise its lowest wage to $10, starting new employees at that rate or higher, and raising the pay of current employees who earn less than $10 to that level.

The report comes from Reuters, which reported the story based on conversations with people familiar with the plan but not authorized to speak with the press about it.

If this sounds familiar, you may remember that Walmart gave current and starting employees a similar boost to $10 earlier this year.

In other big boxes further down the strip mall, the same trend is happening:Costco raised its wage floor to $13 last month. Last year, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods raised their minimum pay level to $9 per hour.

Changing the status of some but not all employees can lead to resentment: last year, when Walmart began a series of pay raises for employees, they found that employees who earned more than $10 per hour and had earned raises through promotions or good performance resented newer employees who were hired at a higher rate, or who received automatic raises and longer-serving, higher-paid employees didn’t receive anything extra in their paycheck.

To prevent issues like that, the source that told Reuters about the planned raises said that employees who earn over $10 would be eligible for merit raises and potentially a change in their pay grade depending on their performance and experience.

Target would not confirm the news about planned raises when Reuters contacted the company. “We pay market competitive rates and regularly benchmark the marketplace to ensure that our compensation and benefits packages will help us to both recruit and retain great talent,” a Target spokesperson said in a statement.

Target’s last company-wide pay boost was last year, when they set a minimum of $9 per hour.

Legal Weed Sales Expected to Top $20 Billion by 2020 Because Everyone Loves Weed

With both Washington and Colorado (and Oregon too!) reporting record-setting weed hauls in 2015, the fact that the increasingly green industry surrounding the legal consumption of weed is now projected to get even greener should came as little surprise. However, according to an ArcView Market Research study quoted by Fortune, the next few years could bring about a dramatic power shift in the industry to the tune of $21.8 billion.

Legal weed sales jumped 17 percent in 2015 for a total annual intake of $5.4 billion, with current projections placing 2016 somewhere in the neighborhood of a very bragworthy $6.7 billion. “It is undeniable that cannabis is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S.,” Giadha DeCarcer, CEO of cannabis data analysis company New Frontier, tells Forbes. “With nearly a dozen states debating changes to their cannabis laws in the coming year, 2016 will be the tipping point in which a majority of U.S. states transition from cannabis prohibition to some form of regulated legal market.”

That shift, according to experts, will result in a profound boom for the burgeoning weed industry by 2020. In fact, annual sales are projected to top $21.8 billion in just four short (and high) years. “A lot of people in the business and finance world, in particular, have kind of taken a ‘wait and see’ approach to the cannabis industry,” ArcView CEO Troy Dayton tells Fortune, adding that this is the year all of that could (and most likely will) change.

Sadly, this national shift toward a more enlightened approach to all things weedwill most likely have very little immediate impact on those way down in the Deep South. Stay strong, red states.