Archives for April 2018

Tipping Chart: Low vs. Average vs. High Tipper Survey

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Tipping. Everyone’s got an opinion. The thing I hate most about tipping is the feeling of “I’m not doing this right”. To better understand it, I read a book about tipping by a veteran waiter. There are now several “tipping guides”, but I like Everything You Don’t Know About Tipping via Abnormal Returns because the author has a similar perspective. He’s not ranting about how tips should be abolished or how we should tip every person we meet 30%. He just wants to understand expectations and avoid the “dreaded Ambiguous Tipping Situation”. Am I under-tipping? Am I over-tipping? Should I tip at all? Here are the results:

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I put on my Weird But Earnest Guy Doing a Survey About Something hat and hit the streets, interviewing 123 people working in New York jobs that involve tipping. My interviews included waiters, bartenders, baristas, manicurists, barbers, busboys, bellmen, valets, doormen, cab drivers, restaurant delivery people, and even some people who don’t get tipped but I’m not sure why, like acupuncturists and dental hygienists.

Later in the post, the author explores how being a low, average, or high tipper means for your budget in terms of dollars. Keep in mind that the numbers are for New York City.

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I’m probably in the “low spender” range, as my little-kid lifestyle doesn’t include frequent visits to establishments that involve tipping. On the other hand, I have discovered the joys of tipping a skycap at the airport and seeing 3 car seats and multiple suitcases disappear at the curb. For the most part, I think that tipping on the “expected” level shouldn’t break your budget. These are mostly optional services; It’s not like you have to tip the grocery store cashier, the gas pump, or your landlord.

For me, tipping goes in the bucket of “I would change if I was omnipotent, but in reality I’m going to waste my life energy on it.” I simply aim to keep everyone happy (or at least satisfied) and move on with my day. This guide may not be perfect (there’s always someone with a gripe) but it helps.

Amazon Price Hike: Gift of Prime Membership Still $99

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

amazon200Amazon Prime has announced the following price increases to $119 per year:

  • Starting May 11, 2018, new members will be charged $119/year for an annual Prime membership and $59/year for an annual Prime Student membership.
  • Starting June 16, 2018, existing Prime members with an annual membership will renew at a rate of $119/year. Prime Student members with an annual membership will renew at a rate of $59/year.

You can still buy a Gift of Prime Membership for $99 ( applicable taxes). I assume this will also go up in price as of May 11th, but I’d buy it sooner rather than later. I debated for a while whether it was worth the trouble, but since I had 5 minutes this weekend I decided to save 20 bucks. Here’s the rundown.

  • You can cancel the auto-renewal of your Amazon Prime membership in your account. You’ll have to go through a lot of “Are you sure?” prompts. They make it feel like you’re canceling your membership right then and there, but again you’re just canceling your auto-renewal. Your Prime membership will still continue through your anniversary date. Mine was in October 2018.
  • Buy a Gift of Prime Membership for $99 ( applicable taxes) and send it to yourself or alternative e-mail. Note that if you try to apply the Amazon Gift of Prime when you have an active membership, it won’t work. You just get the exact value paid (including any taxes) in the form of an Amazon gift card. The goods news it that you don’t lose any value.
  • Set a calendar reminder of when your Amazon Prime year expires, and keep that e-mail with the gift membership link (perhaps in a special folder). If you apply the Amazon Gift of Prime the day after your current membership expires, then it will renew you with one year of Amazon Prime. You don’t need to start a new Amazon account or change your e-mail, everything will carry over from before. You’ll simply not have Prime for a day or less. Easy.

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Note that if you have an older grandfathered Amazon Prime that lets you have 5 household members share the benefits, you may not want that to expire.

Amazon Prime has a bunch of features beyond the faster shipping that are useful to me, as I don’t pay for Netflix video or Spotify radio subscriptions and use the Amazon Video and Amazon Music apps instead. There are also Prime-only deals throughout the year that save me money.

British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card Review – 100,000 Bonus Avios

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

British Airways Visa Signature Card

The British Airways Visa Signature Card is a co-branded travel card (issued by Chase) that is currently offering up to 100,000 bonus Avios if you make enough qualifying purchases as a new cardholder. Highlights:

  • 50,000 bonus Avios after you $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • +25,000 bonus Avios after you $10,000 in total purchases within the first year (for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios).
  • +25,000 bonus Avios after you $20,000 in total purchases within your first year (for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios).
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • In addition to the bonus Avios, you will also get 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $95 annual fee.

The spending hurdles are relatively high, but you get a year to make the bigger numbers and you’ll rack up a lot of Avios which I can then use to book multiple award tickets together. The Avios reward chart is now based on how far you want to travel in terms of miles. So what can you do with all those points?

Redeem awards domestically on partner American Airlines. Within the US, it’s usually easiest to find flights on partner American Airlines. There are no fuel surcharges when booking with American. Seating availability will be limited, but if you are flexible there is decent inventory.

  • Los Angeles to Honolulu, Hawaii using only 25,000 Avios points roundtrip. I ran a quote in Fall and it cost $659 broken down to $621 fare and only $38 in taxes. So in this case you could save $621 in exchange for 25,000 points, which is 2.5 cents per point. You can also do JFK to LAX for 25k points roundtrip.
  • Shorter-distance flights can be a good deal as well. Round Trip from Chicago to New York City is only 15,000 Avios points + about $30 in taxes. Charlotte, NC to New York City is only 9,000 Avios roundtrip. Los Angeles to Las Vegas is also 9,000 Avios roundtrip. Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon is 15,000 Avios roundtrip.

Finding partner awards on BA.com is better than is was in the past, so try it first. Type in your to/from cities within the US, choose to book flights with Avios points, and then click to include partners:

If you have the flexibility, you can also search for additional dates for more available seats. You may find more space going business class in the US.

Use the American Airlines AA.com website and look for “MileSAAver” awards. Record the exact flight dates and numbers, and then call at British Airways at 1-800-452-1201 to book them. If you can’t find the same flight on BA.com, they should waive the phone book fee (they did for me). Don’t be discouraged if you have to use this method, especially if you aren’t flying nonstop. Also, call back and talk with a different agent if they aren’t helpful initially.

Beware of fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. Don’t use Avios for a economy British Airways flight from USA to Europe, because you’ll still be subject to taxes and fees on award redemptions, which are often half the entire cost of the ticket. I ran a quick search for a random New York City (JFK) to London (LHR) flight that cost $1,050, the taxes and fees alone were $650. You can get the $400 “fare” for 40,000 Avios points, but that’s only 1 cent a point value.

Note the following language:

This product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.

Bottom line. The British Airways Visa credit card has brought back their sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 Avios if you make qualifying purchases. 100,000 Avios is enough for 4 economy tickets from the West Coast to Hawaii (or West Coast to NYC) roundtrip on American or Alaska Airlines. Look at your award options, make a plan for the redeeming the Avios points, and see if this offer works for your travel needs.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Alternative Offer: 3% Cash Back During First Year

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Chase Freedom UnlimitedThe Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card usually offers an upfront $150 sign-up bonus along with flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases (no caps). However, it looks like they are testing out this alternative offer where instead of an upfront bonus, they will offer you 3% cash back on every purchase during your first year (no caps). Highlights:

  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on every purchase during your first year.
  • After that, earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.*
  • Earn a $25 bonus after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase within this same 3-month period.*
  • No annual fee.

The lesser-known perk of this card is that you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points, which are in turn redeemable for cash back at a rate of 1 points = $0.01. Ultimate Rewards points are worth collecting because of their flexibility. (I hope Chase doesn’t forget this fact.) Ultimate Rewards points can be easily transferred between different Chase credit cards that also earn those points.

If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1 points = $0.0125 statement credit towards travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal. This is the equivalent of getting 3.75% back towards travel on every dollar you spend for a year. You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards points to other programs like United miles, Hyatt points, or Southwest Rapid Rewards points on a 1:1 ratio.

If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1 points = $0.015 statement credit towards travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal. This is the equivalent of getting 4.5% back towards travel on every dollar you spend for a year. You can also transfer Ultimate Rewards points to other programs like United miles, Hyatt points, or Southwest Rapid Rewards points on a 1:1 ratio.

If you charge a lot of money on your credit card, this can become a good value. Let’s say you spend $20,000 a year, that’s $600 cash back or $750 toward travel (with Sapphire Preferred) or $900 towards travel (with Sapphire Reserve). You could also transfer to 60,000 United miles with either Sapphire Preferred/Reserve. And so on.

Restrictions. This card is subject to “5/24” restrictions, which means that your application will be automatically denied if you have opened 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months (check your credit reports). Our household strategy is to have one person only apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else. There is also this language on the consumer card:

This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Bottom line. This is a alternative sign-up bonus for the Chase Freedom Unlimited. It is worth considering if you plan on charging a lot of purchases onto your credit card in the next 12 months, and you have either a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

Mint Mobile: Unlimited Talk, Text, and 2 GB LTE Data For $15/Month + Free SIM

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

A few readers pointed out Mint Mobile (formerly MintSIM) as another T-Mobile MVNO with cheap plans. Their unique proposition is that they offer discounts if you prepay in advance for 3, 6, or 12 months. Buy in bulk, save money. Right now, they are also offering a new customer promotion: their lowest pricing with initial 3-month purchase a free SIM card ($5 shipping). It’s not a free trial, but you might be paying $45 for a single month of service right now. The plan options:

  • Unlimited Talk/Text and 2 GB LTE Data for $15/month for 3 months + Free SIM card ($45 total paid upfront).
  • Unlimited Talk/Text and 5 GB LTE Data for $20/month for 3 months + Free SIM card ($60 total paid upfront).
  • Unlimited Talk/Text and 10 GB LTE Data for $25/month for 3 months + Free SIM card ($75 total paid upfront).

After you run out of LTE high-speed data, you still get included “unlimited” slow data (128kbps). All plans also include free international calls to Mexico and Canada.

You can bring your own unlocked GSM phone including both Android and Apple iPhones. You can check BYOP compatibility here. Here are their full plan options:

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I haven’t tried Mint Mobile. To be honest, I was initially wary about paying for a year of service when these MVNOs can have questionable support and may shut down at any time (remember RingPlus?). However, Mint Mobile (MintSIM) has now been around since August 2016, are a subsidiary of UltraMobile which as been around since 2012, and they seem to have decent user reviews. Please share your experiences in the comments.

Bottom line. MintSIM is a T-Mobile MVNO that provides deeply-discounted cellular service if you prepay for up to 12 months upfront. Right now, you can get the lowest pricing but only commit to 3 months, get a free SIM card.

Betterment Review 2018: Customized Asset Allocation, Human Financial Advisors

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

bment1707_0Updated April 2018 with custom ETF allocations. Betterment is an independent hybrid digital/human advisor that will manage a diversified mix of low-cost index funds and help you decide how much you’ll need to save for retirement. (By independent, I mean that they are not tied to a specific brand of funds like Vanguard or Schwab). Betterment is also an RIA, which means they have a legal fiduciary duty to keep client interests first. They frequently announce new features and improvements, so I will work to keep this feature list updated.

Diversified portfolio of high-quality, low-cost ETFs. Their portfolios are a diversified mix of several asset classes including: US Total, US Large Value, US Mid Value, US Small Value, International Developed, Emerging Markets, US Corporate Bonds, US Total Bond, Inflation-Protected Treasuries, Muni Bonds, International Bonds, and Emerging Market Bonds. For the most part, Vanguard and iShares ETFs are used.

The traditional Betterment portfolio has a more pronounced tilt towards the size premium and value premium than the cap-weighted indexes. You could argue the finer points of whether this will really create higher risk-adjusted returns, but overall it is backed by academic research. Betterment has also added a Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) portfolio option.

In April 2018, Betterment added Flexible Portfolios which lets you manually adjust the percentages of each asset class. As a DIY investor with assets spread across multiple accounts, this customization has been something I’ve been waiting for. This option is currently available only to clients with $100,000+ in assets.

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Both the SRI and Flexible Portfolio options will work with Tax Loss Harvesting and Tax Coordination features (see below).

Free access to human advice for everyone. In July 2017, Betterment announced that all of their customers can message a licensed financial experts. Digital members (0.25% annual fee) can ask questions any time via their mobile app. Digital members should expect an answer in approximately one business day. Betterment Premium members (0.40% annual fee) have unlimited e-mail and direct phone access to “Certified Financial Planner professionals”. From their press release:

Our experts can assist with deciding which funds to move to Betterment, setting goals (like saving for college, a house, or retirement), and identifying which Betterment tax features may be right. They can also help you make important investment decisions, like choosing risk levels, amounts to invest, and types of accounts.

Reading between the lines, Digital members get “licensed financial experts” while Premium members get “Certified Financial Planner professionals”. This suggests that while Digital members will still get fiduciary (client-first) advice, Premium members will get priority access to the more-experienced advisors in exchange for paying their higher fee.

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Retirement planning software with external account balances. RetireGuide is Betterment’s retirement planning software, first launched in April 2015. This service links your external accounts from other banks, brokerages, and 401k plans (similar to Mint and Personal Capital) in order to see your balances without having to manually input them. According to their methodology guide ], they don’t analyze your transactions to estimate savings rate, they are just pulling in balances.

Example questions: How much do I have invested elsewhere? Am I saving enough money? How much estimated income will I have in retirement? Your future Social Security income is estimated for your based on your chosen retirement age and birthdate. You can change many of the variables as you like.

Account types. Betterment now supports taxable joint accounts, trust accounts, 401k rollovers, Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and Inherited IRAs.

Tax-efficent asset location. Tax-Coordinated Portfolio will place different asset classes in your taxable accounts vs. tax-deferred accounts (IRAs, 401ks) for a higher after-tax return. In addition, if you have multiple types of accounts at Betterment (i.e. both IRA and taxable), it will manage multiple accounts as a single portfolio, placing assets that are taxed more into more favorably taxed accounts (like IRAs). Note that this only works across accounts that are held at Betterment. It does not adjust for non-Betterment accounts. This is called their Tax-Coordinated Portfolio (TCP).

Use dividends and new contributions to rebalance. They will use your dividends and new contributions to rebalance your asset classes in order to minimize sells and thus minimize capital gains.

Daily tax-loss harvesting. Betterment’s Tax-loss Harvesting+ (TLH+) software monitors your holdings daily and attempts to find opportunities to harvest tax losses by switching between “similar but not substantially identical” ETFs. If you can delay paying taxes and reinvest them, this can result in a greater after-tax return. The exact “tax alpha” of this practice depends on multiple factors like portfolio size and tax brackets. You can read the Betterment side of things in their whitepaper. Here is an outside viewpoint arguing for more conservative estimates.

My opinion is that there is long-term value in tax-loss harvesting and especially daily monitoring to capture more losses. However, I also think it’s wise to use a conservative assumption as to the size of that value. (DIY investors can perform their own tax-loss harvesting as well on a less-frequent basis. I do it myself, but it’s rather tedious and I’m definitely not doing it more often than once a year. I would gladly leave it to the bots if it was cheap enough.)

Invest your excess cash automatically. Automatic contributions are good, but perhaps you don’t want to commit to a set amount each month. (Ideally, you do commit to a set amount, and this service invests more money on top of that.) Called SmartDeposit, you link your checking account and choose your Checking Account Ceiling and Max Deposit amount. If your checking account balance goes above the ceiling, Betterment will automatically sweep over money and invest it for you. Betterment will account for future scheduled deposits so you don’t over-contribute.

Fee schedule. Betterment has a fee structure with two tiers.

  • Betterment Digital. No minimum balance. Digital portfolio management and guidance. Unlimited access to “licensed financial experts” via mobile app with ~1 business day turnaround time. Flat fee of 0.25% of assets annually. The management fee on any assets over $2 million is waived.
  • Betterment Premium. $100,000 minimum balance. Digital portfolio management and guidance. Unlimited access to “CFP professionals” financial experts” via e-mail or phone. Includes more in-depth advice on investments outside of Betterment. Flat fee of 0.40% of assets annually. The management fee on any assets over $2 million is waived.

In my opinion, the main concern of any outside advisor is the same: you are handing over control to someone else. Betterment could change their investment philosophy, their pricing structure, and feature set in the future. Digital advisors are constantly changing, and some of their new features could be great or it could just be a fad.

Bottom line. Betterment is an independent digital advisory firm with nearly $10 billion in assets, which means they aren’t tied to any specific brand of funds like Vanguard, Fidelity, or Schwab. Their main differentiators from the other independent firms (see my Wealthfront review) are (1) access to human advice available to all customers and now (2) the ability to customize your target asset allocation ($100k+ in assets). Other notable features include: Retirement planning software that syncs with external accounts, tax-loss harvesting, tax-coordinated portfolios (when you have both IRA/401k and taxable at Betterment), and SmartDeposit which automatically invests excess cash from your checking account.

Special offer. Open a new Betterment account and you can get your management fee waived for up to 1 year, depending on how much you roll over or deposit within 45 days of account opening. Here’s the breakdown:

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Audible Returning Trial Members: 2 Free AudioBooks + $10 Amazon Gift Card (Targeted)

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

dalioIf you’ve already done a free trial of Audible.com and gotten some free audiobooks… Amazon might like to offer you another trial with two more free audiobooks a $10 Amazon gift card! This offer may be targeted and appears to be open to those who have been an Audible member or participated in an Audible trial in the past.

  • The first 60 days are free including 2 free audiobooks. After that, it’s just $14.95 per month.
  • Don’t like a book exchange it for another.
  • In two weeks, you will receive an email with your $10 Amazon.com gift card.
  • No commitment. Cancel anytime and keep all your audiobooks.

The two books that I plan to listen to are Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio and Born Standing Up by Steve Martin.

Reader Question: Tracking Asset Allocation Across Multiple Investment Accounts

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

portpie_blank200Here’s a reader question regarding my most recent portfolio asset allocation update. It has been edited for clarity and to remove personal details by request:

Thank you for posting the quarterly finance updates. I would like to do something similar to track the returns by asset class but unfortunately, I have my funds across multiple accounts. Some of my funds are in Roth, Rollover IRA and a 401k from current employer. My wife has her funds in similar retirement accounts. How do I consolidate all my investment funds to get a holistic view and correct asset allocation? Also, how do I get Vanguard funds when my 401k options are limited?

First of all, everything may look neater in my updates, but I also have my funds spread across multiple accounts. My wife and I have funds spread across Roth IRA, Traditional IRA (at least temporarily), 401k/403b, Self-Employed 401(k), taxable brokerage accounts, savings bonds, and bank CDs.

Here are the details on how I do my quarterly update.

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  1. I pull up my custom Google Spreadsheet and make a fresh duplicate of the most recent worksheet. I change the label to a brief datestamp so the labels aren’t too wide. “17.12” indicates December 2017, “1803” indicates March 2018, and so on. I keep all my old snapshots as tabs. This is handy because I can go back and remember what my portfolio looked like back in March 2009, for example.
  2. I log into each individual account one-by-one directly at the provider website. I could use an aggregator, but I do this just to make sure my addresses/passwords are correct in my trusty password manager and everything looks right. No new sub-accounts, no errors, new secure messages, etc. I pull up my holdings and type in the balances manually into the proper asset class cell. The spreadsheet adds them up.
  3. For most of my funds, the asset class is readily available. For example, I know that the Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index fund is going under “Emerging Markets”. If you aren’t sure or if the fund includes multiple asset classes (Target Retirement fund, LifeCycle fund, etc), you can either use a service like Personal Capital (free registration required) for a quick-and-easy analysis or Morningstar X-Ray (free TRP registration required) for a manual-but-deeper analysis.
  4. For the most part, the spreadsheet does the rest. The pie charts automatically update to show me my overall holistic breakdown. It shows me how far off I am from my target values, both in terms of percentage and dollar amounts.

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When your 401k options are limited, here’s how I would pick the best choice available. I would start by narrowing it down to the cheapest index funds available. Look at all the expense ratios. These days, at least one should be under 0.30%. You can verify using the ticker symbol on Morningstar. For example, for a while my best 401k option was a proprietary S&P 500 index fund. So I bought that, and adjusted my holdings elsewhere. Later on, they added Vanguard Total International Stock index fund and a Schwab brokerage window. There are probably 10-15 other funds on the menu that I have no interest in owning. A Target fund might be the most reasonable choice. Remember to roll your 401k over to an IRA when you switch employers.

Amazon Prime: Buy Sample Box, Get Equal Credit Towards Similar Products

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

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Updated with new Snack and other sample boxes. Amazon Prime members can buy sample boxes that come with a credit towards a future purchase in that specific product category. Right now, you can buy a snack sample box for $9.99 and then you’ll get an equal $9.99 credit towards a future purchase of any eligible items in that category. You’ll still get Amazon Prime free shipping. Here are the currently available sample boxes along with the eligible products:

Due to the way this deal is structured, I choose to view it is a “free box of goodies” if you would already otherwise purchase something on their eligible item lists. That way you’re not buying something you don’t need anyway.

The sample boxes do go out of stock for extended periods of time, so if you see something you like, I would buy it now. A week after your product ships, you will receive an email with instructions on how to use your promotional credit.

Georgia Tech Online Master’s Degree Update: Computer Science $7,000, Data Analytics $10,000

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

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Maybe I’m foolish, but I remain hopeful about the potential of software leading to more affordable, accessible education. In 2014, Georgia Tech launched an Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) with the goal of offering an accredited, top-tier education at a surprising price of $7,000. The program has been regularly ranked in the Top 10 by U.S. News & World Report, and the traditional residential program costs $28,000 two years of tuition (out-of-state, not including housing).

OMSCS offers the same lectures from the same professors, the same homework assignments, and the same exams. A few other top universities have online versions of their masters programs, but they charge the same tuition as in-person ($40,000+). The diploma is exactly the same as those of on-campus graduates, with no special “online” designation.

Would there be enough interest from qualified candidates? Would it remain financially viable? Would the online program cannibalize from the traditional on-campus program? Would employers discriminate if they found out that this was an online degree? Would the careers prospects be different due to the lack of in-person networking opportunities?

EducationNext recently published an article An Elite Grad-School Degree Goes Online addresses some of these questions. InsiderEd has a an article Online, Cheap — and Elite that summarizes the findings.

Analyzing the first six cohorts of the online program, from spring 2014 to fall 2016, the report found that the typical applicant to the online program was a 34-year-old midcareer American, while the typical applicant to the in-person degree was a 24-year-old recent graduate from India.

Of the 18,000 students who applied to the in-person and online degrees, less than 0.2 percent applied to both, the report said.

Students admitted to the online program typically had slightly lower academic credentials than those admitted to the in-person program, but they performed slightly better in their identical and blind-marked final assessments — a finding the study hailed as “the first rigorous evidence that we know of showing that an online degree program can increase educational attainment.”

Overall, the program has been a success in terms of expanding access to high-quality computer science education. Total enrollment is now over 6,000 students. The questions about career effects will be addressed in future studies.

In 2017, Georgia Tech announced a new Online Masters Degree in Analytics for under $10,000. This is also a nationally-ranked Top 10 program where the traditional in-person tuition ranges from $36,000 for in-state students to $49,000 for out of state. The data analytics program is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the College of Engineering, College of Computing and the Scheller College of Business.

1.1.1.1: Free DNS Server for Faster Internet, Better Privacy

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Every time you visit a domain like mymoneyblog.com, you use a DNS server to find its “address”, specifically IP address. However, your internet service provider (ISP) may be logging every single request then selling this data to other advertisers. CloudFlare and APNIC partnered to create 1.1.1.1, an alternative free DNS resolver that doesn’t sell data to advertisers. It also uses CloudFlare’s network of servers to even faster than other DNS servers, even Google’s version.

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Better privacy and faster internet? Sounds good to me. The main concern is that this is a private effort and you have to trust that they will maintain this unprofitable venture. I’ll try it out while it lasts. Learn more here. Installation directions (you must change a few settings) here.

Target Car Seat Trade-In Program: 20% Off Car Seats and Strollers

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

targetcarseatIn the market for a new car seat or stroller? Target is running their Car Seat Trade-in Event from Sunday, April 22 through Saturday, May 5, 2018. Simply bring in an old car seat or car seat base into a Target store and they will give you a 20% off coupon toward a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller. Coupons can be applied to both in-store and online purchases through May 19, 2018.

Certainly, re-use if you can, but car seats actually “expire” after 5-6 years or any sort of accident. The plastics degrade over time (it sits in your car all day) and may no longer handle the extreme stress of a car accident. All car seats made after 2009 should be marked with an expiration date by the manufacturer. In addition, many places don’t accept car seats for recycling. Target will recycle your car seat “to create new products such as grocery carts, plastic buckets and construction materials such as steel beams and carpet padding”.

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