Is It Worth Subscribing to Food Boxes?

Is It Worth Subscribing to Food Boxes?

Personally, I love cooking. But, it does take a lot of thought, planning, and prep work. After working long hours, the last thing I want to do is more work. I have little desire to cook, let alone think of recipes, so I usually resort to something easy. This usually consists of fast food, takeout, or some other highly-processed prepackaged item with little nutritional value. Recently, a friend of mine was raving about the healthy meals she got from her new meal kit service. To be honest, I balked when she told me how much she paid. However, after looking at my meals the past week I have been asking myself, is it worth subscribing to food boxes?

What You Get When Subscribing to Food Boxes?

Food boxes are becoming popular because they cater to people just like me. I really try to be health-conscious. But, shopping takes time and there are already too few hours in the day. Once COVID-19 spread, I developed even worse eating habits and had less motivation to get to the grocery store.

So, I began looking at the options and seriously considering subscribing to food boxes. The more I read, the more appealing the idea has become. Each week, you receive deliveries of fresh ingredients right to your door step. With various recipes and protein options, you can customize your food boxes to fit your palette and dietary needs.

The entire process seems too easy. Once you set your preferences for frequency, portion sizes, and recipes, the company delivers your ingredients as scheduled. The food box arrives in a cooler-style package with all the meat, produce, grains and unique spices to prepare the meal. However, reviewers noted that they typically exclude condiments like salt and pepper which you would expect to find in your average kitchen.

Each package also includes the recipe and step-by-step instructions to prepare the meals. After looking at the recipes my friend received, they were so simple to follow that even someone who has never cooked before would be able to make a gourmet meal.

What Are the Benefits of Meal Kits?

The first and most obvious benefit of subscribing to a meal kit service is the convenience factor. Not only do they select the recipes for you, but then they deliver it right to your front door. This means you spend no time waiting in line at the grocery store or scouring the internet for new recipes. It also removes the stress of planning and prepping from your shoulders. In fact, it requires no thoughts or decisions on your part whatsoever. All the work is done for you, and then is delivered directly to you in a tidy little package.

Then, of course, there are the health benefits. The meals they provide have much more nutritional value than the fast food diet I have been surviving on. The meal kit service would ensure that I eat better on a regular basis and reduce my dependency on takeout meals. Not only would it help me to maintain a healthier lifestyle, but food boxes also offer more enjoyable healthy food choices. Since you can customize your meal plan to your specific tastes and dietary needs, chances are that I would stick with it longer than other fad diets or stricter food regimens.

Lastly, subscribing to food boxes introduces you to new recipes. When I am able to find time to cook, I usually return to the same recipes again and again. Having the recipe and ingredients chosen for you could help get you out of your creative cooking rut. In addition to experimenting with new recipes, they may also include ingredients you don’t typically use. Ordering from a meal kit service could expand your horizons and teach you new ways to use ingredients you love.

What Is the Cost of Subscribing to Food Boxes?

The cost of these services is the biggest hang up for most people. If you break down the price of prepared meals versus what you pay if you bought food yourself, you will see exactly how much you are paying for convenience.

The average male aged 19-50 spends approximately $86.80 a week for groceries while females in the same age group spend $76.70. In comparison, most food box subscriptions average about $10 per person, per meal. If you do the math for one meal a day for a single person, it would cost $70 a week. That equates to about $300 a month and $3,650 annually. Furthermore, you would still need to buy groceries to supplement two more meals per day.

If you decide to subscribe to a meal kit service, the cost is comparable to dining out. However, expect additional costs if you have dietary restrictions or want to try specialty items. While the cost is manageable for smaller households, it gets expensive the more people you add. So, it may be affordable for a single or two person household, but not for larger families.

Is it Worth It?

So, here is the million dollar question: Is it worth the money? While many subscribers whole-heartedly say yes, it depends on how much you value convenience. Subscribing to food boxes saves you the time and hassle of planning and preparing elaborate meals, but comes at a steep cost. And don’t forget, you still have to cook the food yourself.

The sad truth is that you will always pay more for quality ingredients. And, portion sizes tend to be smaller, so there will be fewer leftovers than if you shopped for yourself.

However, if you are considering a subscription, why not do a trial offer? Many services offer huge discounts for the first month as well. That way, you could sign up for the cheapest package and try it out before making a commitment. And, even if you decide to cancel, you can still keep the recipes and recreate them later. That way, you can decide for yourself whether it is worth it.

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What to Do When the IRS Rejects Your Payment

What to Do When the IRS Rejects Your Payment

I can only speak for myself, but when given the choice of dental surgery or filing taxes, I would probably opt for the former. Every year when the tax filing deadline approaches, I fill with a sense of dread. Even when I receive a refund, I still hate doing the paperwork. However, this year a friend of mine had even more reason for her feelings of loathing towards the IRS. While she did her due diligence, she received notification that she owed money. She was about to find out what happens when the IRS rejects your tax payment.

The IRS Rejection Letter

This week, a friend of mine came across an unusual tax problem. Like a good citizen, she filed her taxes before the deadline (however, in the eleventh hour). Using Turbo Tax, she e-filed her return and indicated that she wanted to make a payment electronically. But, she only received confirmation that her return had been accepted, not that the payment had been taken.

Understanding that it takes time for the IRS to process these things, she waited for the money to be withdrawn from her account. Two weeks later, the money remained there untouched. Wondering if something went wrong, a slight panic was beginning to set in. Finally, she received notice from the IRS telling her they could not locate her account. Although she had used the same account for previous payments, the IRS could not accept her tax payment.

Tracking Down the IRS Rejection

The fact that the IRS rejected her payment was the most puzzling thing. The account had sufficient funds and had been used for other purchases just that week. So, there should have been no issues making a tax payment. However, the letter informed my friend of her failure to pay, listing “No Account/Unable to Locate Account” as the reason. This seemed vague and unclear, so we called the helpline at the number they provided to figure out what went wrong.

We didn’t have to wait long to speak with an agent who cheerfully identified herself and answered all our questions. She sounded as if she had encountered this problem before and helped shed some light on the situation. Apparently, a number or character from the e-file forms didn’t match the information on the account exactly. When it is unable to verify personal information through the automated system, the IRS rejects your tax payment.

How to Pay the IRS after It Rejects Your Payment

One positive thing I can say about the IRS is that they make it very easy for you to pay them. They provide several ways to contact them online, by phone, or by mail. The letters from the state and federal government informing my friend of failure to pay also came with detailed instructions. Each one outlined where to make payments, step-by-step.

Making Payments Online

There are two separate websites where you can pay your outstanding debt to the IRS. The first is directly through their website at irs.gov/payments. From there you can choose to pay with debit, credit, or direct pay from your bank account. However, be warned that you must pay a convenience fee for both credit and debit payments. There are no fees for the direct pay option, but you will need your account and routing number to complete the transaction.

The second option is through the Treasury Department’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) site. Once you have enrolled and received confirmation, you can pay all taxes due using this system. They will also verify accounts or update the bank information for the account you want to use. Enrollment is free, and you can terminate it after you finish using it.

Making Payments by phone

The next option you have when the IRS rejects your payment is by phone. Although the information wasn’t included with the federal notification, the state revenue service provided a dedicated line for Taxpayer’s Assistance at (800) 742-7474. I followed the automated prompts which directed me to the specified lines to pay federal income, state income, and property taxes. As with online payments, credit and debit payments will require a convenience fee. However, in just a few minutes you can get your taxes paid and be free of the burden.

Mailing Payments

The last option is best for those who prefer the tried-and-true methods of paying your taxes. You can send a check or money order addressed to ‘United States Treasury’ to the following address:

Internal Revenue Service

PO Box 1211

Charlotte, NC 28201-1211

If you decide to mail your payment, be sure to include your tax ID (either your Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number), the tax form number, and the time period your payment is for.

Further Assistance When the IRS Rejects Your Payment

There is no shortage in the ways available to pay your taxes. Not only is it secure, but also fairly efficient. That is if all you need to do is make a payment. If you are seeking a refund or need to speak with an agent, you will need to call e-file Payment Services at 1-888-353-4537 to make payment plans or discuss specific problems. I didn’t have to wait long to speak to a representative. However, it was only a general helpline. So, the agent gave me yet another number to call.

To resolve the problem of the undeserved returned payment fee, my friend will have to dispute the charge. Although you might not think it worth your time to dispute a $20, you can pursue it on principle. If you choose to go this route, there is a dedicated line for IRS Customer Support at (800) 829-1040. If you call between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. you can submit your claim and attempt to refund the penalty fees.

Even though technology has made filing taxes much simpler and less daunting, it still makes mistakes. However, if you encounter a similar situation, you can rest assured that the IRS has people on hand to help you pay your taxes.

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Is Investing in Premium Domains Worth It?

Is It Worth Investing in Premium Domains?

Choosing a company name and the domain are important decisions, especially when you are launching an online business or e-commerce site. It is the first impression you make. If you are having difficulty finding a standard domain that fits your brand, then you might consider buying a premium domain name. However, some of them will cost you a king’s ransom. So you have to ask yourself, is it worth investing in premium domains?

What Are Premium Domains?

Premium domains are higher-value, more desirable domains with more branding potential. These domains are more likely to become popular, so they come at a higher price. While some of them are expensive, they are also more memorable and easier to find through search engines.

When it comes to premium domains, there are two different types. Aftermarket Premium Domains are ones which people already own that are for sale. Registry Premium Domains are ones which the registrar has determined to be more valuable. However, they are not yet registered to a company or an individual.

A domain can receive a ‘premium’ designation for many reasons. However, these are the most common attributes that help determine if it is a premium domain.

Length

Short names are easier to remember and more appealing to a wider public. In fact, the shorter the name, the better. Two-letter and three-letter names are almost always premium domains since they can be used for abbreviations.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The right domain name should draw higher volumes of internet traffic. If the domain contains a popular keyword or phrase that people frequently search, it makes the domain much more valuable. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find names that contain them. So, people are willing to pay more money for a premium domain that brings more people to their site.

Brandability

While this factor is more subjective, a domain’s branding and marketing potential also affect its value. Catchy and unique domains make for more effective branding campaigns. A brief and descriptive domain tells visitors or customers exactly who you are and what you provide. Therefore, it would make sense that domains with more brandability go for a higher price.

Desirability

Ultimately, a domain’s value is whatever people are willing to pay for it. Names that you would think nothing of could cause a bidding war. New companies and products are willing to pay top dollar for premium domains if it fit the image they want to portray.

When Are They Beneficial to You?

When deciding between a standard and premium domain, the primary question is how will it benefit you? If you are able to find a low-cost domain that fits your needs, then it probably doesn’t make sense to pay exorbitant rates for a premium domain. However, if a premium domain serves a specific purpose or meets an important business need, it may be beneficial to buy one.

Premium domains do offer certain advantages. First of all, investing in premium domains means you usually get a name that will be easier for people to remember. This is crucial when launching a new site or online business since you can build your brand around the domain.

Then, there are the technical advantages they bring. As a general rule, premium domains also have higher SEO rankings. When you have existing domain authority, as many premium domains do, it enhances your ranking in search engines. Your site will appear in the first few pages instead of being buried in the search results. This helps potential customers find you more quickly.

Although there are several benefits to owning a premium domain, only you can ultimately decide if it is worth the investment.

Is Investing in Premium Domains Worth It for You?

This sticking point for most people is that premium domains come at a higher price. Standard domains run between $10 and $30 while premium domains could cost you hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. It is a very personal decision, and warrants careful consideration. If you are looking at purchasing a premium domain, here a few questions to ask yourself before you make the plunge.

1. Is it in the budget?

Ask yourself, can you really afford the price tag on a premium domain? If the majority of your budget is going towards the domain, you should reconsider. You don’t want to go bankrupt before you even get off the ground.

2. Are there alternative names or other workable options?

Although a premium domain name is your first choice, is it the only choice? Try not to get hung up on more expensive options simply because it is a premium domain. If there is something more suitable or appropriate available, choose the cheaper option. Having some flexibility could save you a ton of money.

3. Do you have plans for monetization?

If you have plans to monetize, it might justify the cost of a premium domain. The site could pay for itself. Finding ways to earn money and attract more internet traffic could offset the expense.

4. Do you need to draw traffic?

Finally, how important is traffic to the success of your site? If you need a high-traffic site, a premium domain could help you reach those goals.

Where Can You Buy Premium Domains?

If you decide to invest in a premium domain, there are several ways to purchase them. You can buy them directly through domain registrars if no one owns them.

However, you can contact the owner directly to purchase a specific domain. If you aren’t sure who owns the one you want, you can look it up here to find the current owner. There are also dedicated marketplaces like DomainAgents and Afternic where you can buy them at set price points or make an offer.

Remember that online purchases always come with a risk. You have to trust that they will fulfill the sale and transfer ownership once payment is received. Marketplaces reduce the risk by using an open forum. And, of course, be wary of investing in premium domains that aren’t worth the price. Take time to evaluate your decision before investing in something you may not need.

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The Best Retirement Accounts to Start Saving

The Best Retirement Accounts to Get Started

Like so many other people, I was not concerned about saving for retirement in my 20s. I was already struggling to pay bills and avoid crushing student loans. Planning for retirement was the least of my concerns. Now that I am in my 30s and settling into my career, I am kicking myself for not starting sooner. However, it is never too late to begin. If you are late to the game, here are some of the best retirement accounts to help you start saving for the future.

The 5 Best Retirement Accounts for Beginners

If you don’t know where or how to begin saving for the future, it is always wise to seek professional advice. When I sat down with my financial advisor, he clearly explained the different investment vehicles available to me. After reviewing loads of information, these five types of retirement accounts seemed to be the best place to get started!

1. Employer Matching 401(k)

The easiest place to begin saving for retirement is through your current employer. Many companies offer employer matching 401(k) retirement plans for their employees. These are retirement savings plan to which your employer also makes annual contributions.

How much you earn depends on the amount you contribute and your employer’s matching program. Some companies match a percentage of your contribution, up to a set portion of your salary. The best plans match up to 100%. However, employers typically choose partial matching scheme. In other instances, the employer’s contribution is based on a pre-determined dollar amount, regardless of the employee’s earning.

While the level of benefits varies, you should always take advantage of employer matching 401(k)s. If you don’t utilize these accounts, then you are missing out on free money.

2. Solo 401(k)

Also referred to as one-participant-k, a Solo 401(k) is great for people who own their own business. Since self-employed individuals do not have access to employer sponsored retirement plans, it provides a great alternative savings vehicle.

To qualify for this type of retirement account, you have to be self-employed and the only employee. The rules state you can’t contribute to these accounts if you maintain any other full-time employees.

However, since you are both the employee and employer, a greater amount of your savings is tax-deferred. Furthermore, you can contribute more to a Solo 401(k) than other types of accounts such as SEPs and Simple IRAs. When options are limited, this is one of the best retirement accounts to get you closer to your retirement goals.

3. Traditional IRA

Traditional IRAs are retirement accounts that offer several tax advantages. Since you put in pre-tax dollars, your contributions are not considered taxable income. Any money you park in these accounts also continues to grow tax-free until you begin taking withdrawals.

These accounts give you incredible flexibility in how much and what kind of investments you can purchase. However, it does require you to manage your own retirement accounts and determine how you invest your money.

4. Roth IRA

When I asked which accounts best suited for my personal goals, my financial advised that I begin by setting up a Roth IRA. It is another retirement account that provides significant tax benefits and more flexibility in your retirement planning.

Since contributions come from after-tax dollars, you pay no taxes on your contributions or earnings once you begin taking withdrawals after retirement. Even if you take money before you are 59 1/2, there are no penalties or taxes if you take money from your original contributions. Unfortunately, you can only contribute $6,000 annually to these accounts.

While there are strict limits, Roth IRAs are a solid foundation to begin building your retirement savings on. Not only does this give you greater adaptability, but also more control over your money.

5. Life Insurance Plans with Cash Value

There are many types of life insurance available to you. In fact, your employer may offer life insurance benefits that have cash value. Investing in these accounts protects you against several kinds of potential risks as well.

Not only do Cash Value Life Insurance plans provide death benefits, but they also allow you to build its cash value that could help supplement your retirement accounts. Initially, your withdrawals first come from the premiums you paid, so they are not taxed. However, be careful not to let policies lapse because you could end owing a ton in taxes.

Life insurance plans are a good option for people who have already maxed out there annual contributions on other retirement accounts. It offers another way to build your nest egg and diversify your portfolio.

Why Should You Start Retirement Accounts

Although you will likely receive Social Security benefits after retirement, most financial advisors tell you not to rely on it as your sole source of income. Some analysts doubt there will even be any money left when millennials reach retirement age. However, one thing is certain. There are no guarantees that your benefits will cover all your expenses after retirement. So, it is important to start planning now and building your savings to fund your retirement.

There is no single correct approach to retirement planning. Your specific strategy will likely be determined why which types of accounts are available to you. As someone who is self-employed, I have fewer options and require more direct involvement. However, it is best to discuss your specific circumstances with a professional to determine the best course of action. Once you choose the best retirement accounts for your situation, max them out every year. Regular contributions can help you catch up and get you closer to your retirement goals.

While I will always regret not starting my retirement planning from an early age, it is never too late. The most important thing is to recognize that you can start saving now. The more time your money has to accrue compound interest, the more tax-advantaged funds you have to last you through your golden years.

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Should You Quit Your Job after an Inheritance?

Should You Resign after an Inheritance?

Let’s imagine you just have just come into a lot of money. No matter the circumstances, you have a rare financial opportunity. So, what do you do first? Do you pay off your debts? Invest it? Or do you finally splurge on something you have always wanted? Perhaps you want to quit your job or make a career change? Many people have the urge to resign after an inheritance, especially if they are unsatisfied with their current employer. However, there are a few very important things to consider before you tell your boss off and quit your job.

Reasons Not to Resign after an Inheritance

1. You Will Still Have Bills to Pay.

Even if your net worth suddenly and drastically increases, you will still have bills to pay. Keeping your current job ensures that will continue to have money coming in. Therefore, you do not have to use any of your inheritance to cover these expenses. Not only will you have your current cost of living to maintain, but there are several other major life expenses to consider. Mortgage payments, property taxes, and education costs would greatly reduce your wealth if you do not have another source of income.

Your company’s health insurance plan could be reason enough not to resign after an inheritance. Healthcare costs will be a huge financial responsibility at any stage of life, so it is important to think about unforeseen medical expenses and conditions that could affect you later on.

2. Inheritance and Estate Taxes

Speaking of taxes, you should not forget about the inheritance and estate taxes. Although most inheritances are too small to qualify for federal taxation (more than $11.7 million), there are some states that collect taxes at lower thresholds.

Reasons Not to Resign after an Inheritance

While it is possible that you will not be responsible to pay these taxes, you should check the local laws or consult a financial advisor before you go spending your inheritance. State laws vary and some determine taxes at much lower amounts than the federal government. If you are unfortunate enough to live in one of the states that levy inheritance or estate taxes, or worse yet both, it could cost you a huge chunk of the total sum.

3. Inflation

A million dollars is a lot of money. But, it is not as much as you would think. Furthermore, it only depreciates in value thanks to inflation. Most people often overlook how much inflation will affect their dividends, retirement accounts, and savings over time. However, the rate of inflation will greatly impact your buying power and the real value of your retirement dollars. Therefore, it benefits you more to continue working and contributing to your retirement accounts, especially if your employer matches your annual contributions.

4. Social Security Benefits

Lastly, if you quit your job after an inheritance, it could affect how much you receive in Social Security benefits. When you stop working, you no longer make contributions into the system. Since your benefits are calculated based on how much you contribute during your lifetime, it would greatly reduce the amount you receive. So, if you leave your job during your peak earning years, you are minimizing this safety net should your financial plans fail.

Ways to Maximize Your Inheritance without Resigning

You do not want to a cautionary tale of someone who lost a fortune due to irresponsible spending. Instead, most people who have inherited large amounts of money choose to view it as a way to grow their wealth and financial security. With a well-thought out plan and proper management, you can maximize your inheritance instead of wasting it. Most people do not know how to utilize or manage large amounts of money. So, find someone who can offer sound advice and help you plan ahead.

First, you must protect your principle amount and preserve capital to last you for years to come. That means living below your means and not blowing your money on extravagant purchases. Once you cover your monthly expenses, you will need to make a plan for the money you do not need to survive. Then, you can determine the best investment strategy which allows you to live off interest and dividends.

Lastly, set some aside for yourself. After a huge windfall, financial experts actually advise you to spend some on yourself. This does not mean you should go crazy, but psychology suggests that small indulgences prevent you from making foolish financial decisions. If you want to pursue personal ambitions, go back to school, or travel, you can pay yourself a salary while you do it. As long as you create a budget, there is no reason why you can’t live a little and enjoy your inheritance.

Deciding to Resign after an Inheritance

Receiving a large inheritance can change your life. If you are considering to resign from your job, take time to evaluate the full financial impact. There is no need to rush the decision, so seek professional advice to assess your circumstances. You can park your money in high-yield accounts and let it accrue more interest as you weigh your options.

However, if you really hate your job or want to consider another career, look at less extreme alternatives before making decisions you can’t undo. You could work fewer hours as you explore other pursuits. Or, perhaps take personal leave before completely walking away. Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from a stressful situation to gain perspective. Ask yourself how you could use this money to bring more joy and fulfillment to your life.

Deciding to never work again is a huge lifestyle change. Keep in mind that it may not be the best decision for you. Some people discover they really do not want to fully retire and need something to keep them active. Instead of making a rash decision and leaving your job, fully examine all the ways you could use it to build greater financial freedom.

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How the Drought in Taiwan Is Affecting the Tech Industry

How the Drought in Taiwan is Affecting the Tech Industry

Severe Drought in Taiwan Drying Out Production

For those who are closely watching the global chip crisis, all eyes are currently on Taiwan. As a resident of the R.O.C. myself, I have both personal and financial stakes as the severe drought conditions in Taiwan persist. The country is facing its worst drought in over 50 years. This leaves tech manufacturers and policymakers with some difficult decisions in the days ahead.

Not only do I worry about my friends still living there as reservoirs dry up, but I have also heavily invested in several Taiwanese tech companies. The island is home to some of the world’s largest producers of semiconductor chips, which are responsible for approximately two-thirds of the global supply. However, the drought may further aggravate chip shortages and affect production as the government enacts even tighter water restrictions.

How Severe Is the Drought in Taiwan?

Water is a precious resource, especially in places like Taiwan where supplies frequently fluctuate. The country depends on typhoon season to fill its reservoirs, but it has faced several water shortages in recent years. Current reserves are quickly drying up since no major storms hit the island last year to replenish its water supply.

When I lived there in 2015, we faced similar conditions. Previous droughts led cities to shut off supply two days a week in order to conserve water. But, experts say this is the worst drought Taiwan has faced in recent memory. The water levels in Taiwan’s reservoirs have not been this low in 56 years. Right now, 16 of the islands’ 19 reservoirs are below 40% capacity. Of these, seven are under 10% and steadily declining. At this rate, some regions of Taiwan could be without water in the next 30 to 60 days.

Conservation

To conserve the supply, the government announced restrictions to ration its reserves to over a million residents and businesses. Earlier this spring, officials required its most important technology and industrial parks to cut water usage by an additional 11%. Unfortunately, government officials may have to decide between further limiting supplies to its two most important sectors: technology or agriculture.

Continued conditions promise to further strain the local economy. However, the questions remains as to who will have priority access to water. With Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. accounting for roughly 4.5% of the national GDP and its increasing dependence on foreign imports of food, decisions must be made about resource allocation. Officials also warn that things will only get worse. Without significant rainfall, there will be stricter water rationing for all.

How Will the Drought Affect Production and the Global Chip Shortage?

It is not only investors who are questioning how the drought in Taiwan will affect the global stock markets. Automakers, tech manufacturers, and world leaders are also concerned about a shortage of components if water restrictions impact Taiwan’s manufacturing and exports.

Semiconductor chip producers require massive amounts of water. They use it to clean wafers at every step of production, etch patterns, polish layers, rinse all the components, and maintain health standards at the facilities. In 2019, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, used 156,000 tons of water per day, accounting for 10.3% of that region’s water consumption. As these chips become more complex with added layers, manufacturers will require even more water for production processes.

Billions of people around the world require semiconductor chips to operate their cars, smartphones, computers, and gaming consuls on a daily basis. Since Taiwanese wafer-fabrication factories make up 65% of global revenue, the future of Taiwan’s tech industry may be in peril. Analysts are unsure if companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Micron Technology Inc., United Microelectronics Corp., and Vanguard International Semiconductor Co. will be able keep up with growing demands without sufficient water supplies.

How Are Industry Leaders and Officials Responding to the Drought in Taiwan?

Continued patterns of extreme weather and water shortages have industry and government leaders questioning how climate change will further affect production in the future.

Manufacturers’ response

In the face of the growing shortages, chipmakers are looking for solutions. Some are searching for alternative sources of water, including a new desalinization plant near Hsinchu. But, constructing new facilities, conservation measures, and limited resources will likely increase production costs. Furthermore, higher costs will also inhibit these companies’ manufacturing capabilities.

Although industry spokesmen remain stoic in the face of adversity, Taiwan’s manufacturers are preparing contingency plans for worst-case scenarios. The three major technology parks have already been trucking in water to ensure they have at least a two day supply on hand at each factory. However, facilities can only receive about 20 tons per delivery. Tankers and other sources provide a meager 20% of necessary water supplies should the government enact more extreme restrictions. Many producers are reusing as much water as possible and even using groundwater from construction sites. Unfortunately, none of these measures provide long term solutions.

Government response

Over the last few decades, government officials have taken several steps to address Taiwan’s water concerns. Their primary focus has been on improving infrastructure to retain its water reserves. Replacing aging pipes has been one of the most successful ways to reduce leakage. Since 2010, Taipei City reported a 9% decrease in water loss due to leakage. Furthermore, policymakers strongly support the private sectors’ efforts to construct more desalinization plants to reduce industrial dependency on national supplies.

Lawmakers have also suggested increased rates for heavy consumption. While Taiwan boasts the lowest prices for water in Asia, critics say this has contributed to the problem. So, some officials have proposed an additional surcharge for customers using more than 10,000 metric tons each month. Their hope is that increased rates will make everyone re-evaluate their daily water consumption.

An Uncertain Future

No one can say for certain how long the drought will last, when stricter limitations will occur, or how much it will impact production. This puts Taiwan and its manufacturers in a precarious position. The government is doing everything it can to ensure the tech manufacturing industries stay up or running. With recent contracts to supply chips to German, Japanese, and American automakers, the country’s economic growth depends on it.

Amid all this speculation, one thing is certain. If the water supply is not replenished soon, there will be ever greater stress on the country’s water supply and global chip demands. The Taiwanese government will have to choose to ration water to households or businesses supporting its economy.

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How To Politely Request Payment for Money Owed

How to Politely Request Payment for Money Owed

Money is an uncomfortable topic for many people, especially when it comes to asking for payment. However, you have no reason to feel guilty or uneasy, especially if terms were already discussed. Every business expects payment upon completion or delivery of services. Therefore, it is not rude to request payment since you are merely asking for what you deserve. But, there is something to be said about how to politely request payment for money owed.

Politely Requesting Payment for Money Owed

When it comes to politely requesting payment for money owed, written communication is often best. It allows you to gather your thoughts, carefully choose your words, and review it to be certain you clearly convey your message. However, it can be difficult to find the right words to express yourself at times, especially when emotions are running high.

That’s why a well-drafted template can help you get what is owed sooner. These scripts follow communication etiquette to help you maintain a high level of professionalism, even when clients don’t observe the rules themselves. Here are a few ways to politely request payment while still being direct and precise with your message.

Email Timeline to Politely Request Payment for Money Owed

People who work with several clients, such as contractors and freelancers, schedule reminders at regular intervals to request payment. Automated responses allow you to remain professional and demonstrate that your request is strictly business, not personal. It also establishes a clear timeline and record of each attempt you make to politely request payment for money owed.

One Week before the Deadline

This message is a courteous reminder to the client that payment is coming due. Not only does it provide advance notice, but it also gives them time to gather any documents or funds.  Your tone should be friendly but reiterate the terms that both parties agreed to. Keep it brief and include a copy of the official invoice as well. This shows that you diligently track your expenses while gently letting them know you expect payment.

Due Date

This email should still be friendly since payment is not overdue. However, it should also have a clear call to action. You want to be informative, but also concise with your message. It’s your official notice that you expect payment. So, attach another copy of the invoice, just in case the client had difficulty accessing it from previous emails.

One Week after the Deadline

Once the deadline has passed, your correspondence requires a firmer tone. However, you can still remain polite and give clients the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, late payments are usually just an oversight. People make mistakes, so frame your message as if you are doing the client a favor by trying to help them avoid penalties for late payment. Include the invoice once again in case documents were lost or deleted. You can be firm while still politely requesting payment for money owed.

Two Weeks after the Deadline

By this point, it is clear there is a breakdown in the chain of communication. Either they have not seen your emails, or they are intentionally ignoring them. If the client has not responded, ask for confirmation that they have received previous notices. Requesting a reply greatly improves the chances they will respond. The message should be direct and emphasize that payment is overdue, but still allows some deniability. Since it is the second reminder, the tone should become more serious as your look for a solution.

One Month after the Deadline

After a month of waiting for payment, you will need to take a tougher approach. This final notice must be more direct and clearly show that you will not tolerate non-payment. You can also include that failure to pay could have other repercussions, like late fees or pausing future work.

Even if you are growing impatient, stay polite and professional. However, they need to know that you will not forget about payment or let it go. Be certain to avoid threats and accusations though, because they make defensive and less cooperative. Maintaining politeness gives you a better chance of collecting payment.

Verbal Contact for Money Owed

If you have made several attempts to collect payment via email, it is time to directly contact the client. In general, most issues can be resolved with a short conversation. Furthermore, it is more difficult to avoid the topic when you call or speak to them in person. It means they can no longer hide in anonymity and must give an immediate response.

For those who feel anxious about confronting a client about payment, prepare a short script to politely bring up the topic. Speak clearly and straight to the point, but don’t let your emotions overpower what you say. You also want to give them a chance to explain and make things right. You may discover that they never received your emails, invoices, or were too embarrassed to tell you they couldn’t pay. Either way, you are more likely to get an answer and work out a payment plan if that is the issue. Lastly, be sure to follow up with email summarizing your conversation for your records.

Requesting Payment for Money Owed after a Refusal

If a client refuses or ignores your requests, it is time for more drastic measures. However, you need to keep your cool at all times. Don’t resort to threats or give into anger. Instead, try becoming annoyingly persistent. If you make it impossible to ignore you with daily reminders, they will soon realize you are not going to give up on collecting payment. Your persistence will often pay off in the end.

Unfortunately, there comes a point when you exhaust all polite means to request payment and must cut ties. If you still want to receive payment, you may need to turn it over to a collection agency. This is usually reserved for more serious situations involving large sums of money. If you go this route, they will also ask for any documentation you have, including the written agreement and all requests for payment. Be advised they will take a percentage, but receiving even a portion of the money owed is better than nothing.

In most cases, late payment is usually due to poor time management. It is not usually malicious or intentional. Some people are just terrible at keeping schedules and need reminders. However, polite correspondence speaks volumes to your professionalism and builds a better reputation in both your personal and professional life.

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What Does the Future Hold for Autonomous Vehicles?

What Does the Future Hold for Autonomous Vehicles?

Although we are still years away from full maturation of the AV market, the future is here. Self-driving vehicles are hitting public roads, testing new automated driving software. While developers are still perfecting their technology, huge strides are being made in autonomous vehicles. In fact, Intel and Strategy Analytics estimate that the industry will be worth $7 trillion by 2050. And, with the cost of technology dropping, they could be commercially available sooner than you expect. This leaves many investors like myself asking, what does the future hold for autonomous vehicles?

Who is Leading Autonomous Vehicle Technologies?

Three AV Developers to Watch

If you have been following the news, there are some exciting advancements happening with AV technology. However, there have also been several deaths during beta testing and an unfortunate accident involving a pedestrian. So, industry watchdogs are calling for stricter safety standards to ensure they operate safely. As developers continue to improve their AV technologies, here are three companies to watch.

1. Alphabet inc. (Nasdaq: Goog and googl)

What first started as Google’s pet project has grown into one of the industry leaders. Waymo first launched in 2018. Since then, it has logged millions of miles with its autonomous vehicles. On average, the data shows that their cars can complete 13,219 miles in automated mode before needing manual intervention. With a combination of sensors, short-range lasers, radar, and lidar technology, their vehicles have a 360-degree view that can detect and track moving objects in a 300-meter radius.

Now, they even operate a fully driverless fleet of vehicles in the Phoenix area. Through the Waymo One app, users can now call for a car that does not require a human driver. While safety remains a huge concern, Waymo is forging ahead. In addition to their self-driving ride-share program, it also hopes to break into local and long-distance transportation.

2. Tesla Inc. (Nasdaq: TSLA)

Company CEO Elon Musk has made several ambitious claims about Tesla’s Level 2 AV technology. He hopes to transform the driving industry with the addition of its Autopilot feature to electric vehicles. Although they have yet to use lidar technology, it utilizes cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors in conjunction with it software and computing platform.

They have also been testing a beta version of its Full Self Driving (FSD) on public roads. Select customers can also purchase it, creating an even larger pool of software testers. However, recent tragedies have brought a harsher look upon the program’s safety features and protocols.

3. XPeng Inc. (Nasdaq: adr, NYSE: xpev)

This EV maker, backed by Alibaba, has made several announcements that pose a serious threat to its competitors. During a recent press event, XPeng sent a fleet of 15 sedans on an eight-day trip along the eastern coast of China. After completing the 3,600 km (1,864 miles) trek, executives claim it surpasses Tesla’s Autopilot software in several areas.

Just this week, XPeng also showcased their newest model at the Shanghai Auto Show. The P5 will be the world’s first smart EV to include its automotive-grade lidar tech. Its XPILOT 3.5 autonomous driving technology has a total of 32 sensors. It incorporates 2 lidar systems, 5 mm-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 13 high-res cameras. Although pricing is not yet available, you can be certain it will be a major player in international AV markets.

What Safety Concerns Exist for Autonomous Vehicles?

Despite recent safety failures, manufacturers hold that automated vehicles are statistically safer than human drivers. They claim this technology will reduce fatal car crashes by removing human elements like negligence, drowsiness, and drunk driving. However, several fatal crashes involving pedestrians and onboard operators leave consumers skeptical.

Statistics show that most accidents involving autonomous vehicles are the result of other drivers’ failure to follow traffic laws. However, industry watchdogs like the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are calling for more accountability. Many want to impose stricter standards that require AV pilot software to outperform human drivers. They want the software to incorporate more intelligent technology to improve decision-making, detection, and response to other drivers.

Other unpredictable factors create significant safety threats as well. Weather conditions, poor infrastructure, traffic congestion, and the behavior of other drivers are just a few that come to mind. In many instances, AV systems still require an onboard pilot to take manual control when reacting to unexpected environmental factors.

What Does the Future Hold for Autonomous Vehicles?

The million-dollar question for investors is what the future looks like for autonomous vehicles. Although no one has a crystal ball, experts can offer insights into how this technology could transform our lives. In his research brief “Autonomous Vehicles, Mobility, and Employment Policy: the Roads Ahead,” MIT professor John Leonard takes a hard look at AV technologies. He discusses both the current progress that has been made and future applications as the software becomes more reliable.

Current AV Technologies

Presently, most operating systems would best be described as driver assistance. While there are many more Level 2 and Level 3 automated vehicles, most still need a human driver on board. Leonard believes it will likely be another decade before fully automated Level 4 vehicles become widespread.

However, you can be certain that manufacturers will be racing to perfect technologies after Amazon, FedEx, and UPS committed to electrifying their fleet of delivery trucks.

The Future of Autonomous Vehicles

AV technology could potentially be one of the biggest technological breakthroughs of our generation. It has limitless applications in several industries such as trucking, delivery, and rideshare services. However, its success will be largely dependent on consumers’ acceptance of electric cars and driverless technology. You can be certain though that affordability and government incentives will speed up the transition.

It will also have a huge impact on the job markets and labor requirements to support the new technology. Although some fear it will reduce the number of human jobs, developers believe that it will merely change the nature of the jobs they need. With proper workforce training, the driving and transportation workers will be able to transition into support services. While much is left to speculation still, there will be a huge demand for technical and maintenance staff, call center and dispatch operators, and engineers.

The growth and application of AV technology will likely be a gradual expansion on a regional basis. Once developers determine when and where it will be most profitable, they will continue to target specific types of transportation. However, a slow rollout will probably be the most effective way to gain consumer acceptance. Not only will it allow manufacturers to improve the safety features, but it will also help ease critics’ concerns.

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How Long Can You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

How Long Can You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

No one looks forward to reviewing their monthly credit card statements. But, what should you do if you find an unauthorized charge? Although frustrating, the good news is that these kinds of mistakes are reversible. If you disagree with a charge on your credit card, or believe it was an error, you will have to dispute credit card charges with your card issuer.

What is the Timeframe to Dispute Credit Card Charges?

Disputing a Charge

When it comes to errors on your credit card statement, the sooner you act the better. You typically have 60 days to dispute credit card charges. The deadline applies to both fraudulent charges and contesting purchases that did not meet expectations. However, you should check the information included in your card member agreement or look it up online in case your credit card company has a different policy.

Keep in mind that the clock starts from the day your credit card company postmarked your statement or made it available to you online. Therefore, waiting for a hard copy of your statement could cost you valuable time. If you wait too long, you will be on the hook for the charges.

Appealing the Results of an Investigation

If you have already submitted your dispute, the credit card company must also adhere to strict deadlines. Once they receive your claim, the company has one month to respond or acknowledge it. They have an additional two billing cycles to conduct an investigation into the matter. Once the company completes their investigation, they must notify you in writing with the results and final decision. If the company chooses not to remove the charge, you have 10 days to respond. Otherwise, the law views it as a closed case with no further recourse.

When Should You Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

Although there are several situations in which you should dispute credit card charges, they usually fall under one of these categories.

Unauthorized Charges

An unauthorized charge is any purchase made without your permission. While this is usually the result of someone stealing your card, it also happens if a friend or family member uses your card without your express permission. In the most serious cases, unauthorized charges may indicate that you have become a victim of fraud or identity theft.

Billing or Clerical Errors

You should also dispute any charges due to billing or clerical errors. This covers a wide range of mistakes including mathematical errors in the amount charged, repeat transactions or double charging, and failure to post credits or payments to your account.

A Merchant Provides Unsatisfactory Services or Products

Lastly, you also can dispute charges if your purchase did not meet your expectations. As long as you have already contacted the merchant and attempted to resolve the problem about the transaction, your credit card company can help you dispute these charges. Furthermore, they can assist you with refunds on items that were damaged or never arrived. Unfortunately, this service is limited only for purchases of more than $50.

How Do You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

When you find unauthorized charges, you will need to contact your credit card company to remove it. Oftentimes, it’s a simple process since most companies have a zero-liability policy. This means you are not responsible for any unauthorized charges. However, there may be different processes for handling disputes depending on the credit card company.

Call the credit card company directly.

The easiest way to dispute a charge is by calling the number on the back of your card. You can speak directly with a customer service agent and report the charge. In most instances, they will remove it and file the dispute on your behalf. If necessary, they can follow up with you by email. However, if it requires more action, this is also a good chance to find out what the company needs from you to proceed.

Submit your dispute in writing.

Many experts advise that you also write a letter including details about the charge. You have to be careful when using the issuer’s website or app to file a dispute. Sometimes there are arbitration clauses that limit your rights to dispute a credit card charge in the fine print. Submitting your dispute in writing is a good way to follow up any phone conversations and establish a paper trail.  Furthermore, a letter preserves rights to dispute charges that online options might eliminate.

Additionally, the credit card may also request more documentation from you. This would be a good opportunity to include copies of your statement, receipts, police reports, and any other relevant information. Make sure to keep the original documents for yourself, but send copies of everything to Billing Inquiries. It is also wise to use certified mail and ask for a return receipt in case you need proof later on.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

The best thing you can do for yourself is to know your rights. The Fair Credit Billing Act outlines all of the consumers’ rights when disputing a charge. There is a standardized procedure everyone must follow, including creditors. Any deviation from the process could result in a dismissal of the claim.

Another way to avoid unauthorized is by making it a regular habit to check your statements regularly and monitor your accounts using online banking. When you see a discrepancy, you can take immediate action on charges you do not recognize or did not make. You can also set notifications and alerts. If you respond to an issuer’s alert, it makes a much stronger case for removing disputed charges.

Finally, keep records of everything. Take detailed notes of every interaction with the credit card company and merchants. Be sure to write down names, ID numbers, dates, times, and a summary of your conversations. If it ends up in legal action, you will have everything prepared to support your claim. In all likelihood, you won’t need it. But, it is better to be prepared for anything, just in case.

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5 Reasons to Max Out Your Roth IRA

Reasons to Max Out Your Roth IRA Contribution

Time is your greatest asset when you invest with a Roth IRA. The earlier you begin investing, the greater your dividends will be during your retirement years. So, it is easy to understand why you would want to take advantage of accounts that let you build your tax-free retirement funds. There are many reasons to max out your Roth IRA this year, not the least of which is the extension for your 2020 contributions.

The Advantages of Maxing Out Roth IRA

When it comes to starting your retirement fund, the Roth IRA is one of the best options available. When you fund a Roth IRA, you capitalize on an important tax break if you contribute your after-tax dollars now. While traditional IRAs give you immediate tax breaks on your tax return, a Roth IRA lets you make withdrawals tax-free after retirement. A Roth IRA also gives you more control over your money since you choose the amount to invest.

One attractive feature of the Roth IRA is that you can maintain it indefinitely. Since there are no Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), you are not required to make withdraws once your reach a certain age.

Additionally, you can withdraw what you put in at any time.  You only pay a penalty if you prematurely take out the earnings in your account. So, there is no need to pay taxes if you only withdraw what you put into it.

A Roth IRA is especially good for young savers who will likely be in higher tax brackets after retirement.  Thanks to compounding interest, you get the most of your money when you max out your Roth IRA from an early age. Therefore, the sooner you start funding a Roth IRA, the more time you have to accumulate assets.

The Restrictions for a Roth IRA

These types of accounts have several restrictions on them because they have the greatest returns. These limits are put in place because Roth IRAs offer such a strong incentive to invest and take advantage of them. Here are some of the most important restrictions you should be aware of, but you can find a more comprehensive explanation here that outlines every detail of contribution rules.

Making Contributions

Although you can contribute to your Roth IRA at any age, you must have earned income for the year. However, if your income exceeds the set limit, you are ineligible to make any contributions for the year. If you do qualify, you can only contribute a maximum of $6,000 annually. If your earned income is lower than the threshold, you can only match the amount made after taxes.

There are no minimum contributions required, but you cannot exceed the yearly maximum threshold. The only exception to this rule is for people over 50 who can make a catch up contribution totaling $7,000. Keep in mind though, you can only make your annual contribution up until the tax filing deadline.

Making Withdrawals

When it comes time to make withdrawals, there are no penalties for the sum you have put in. However, you cannot make withdrawals on any earnings the account has generated for at least five years. There is a 10% penalty if you withdraw the earnings within the first five years of opening and funding the account.

To start receiving distributions from your Roth IRA tax and penalty free, you must meet one of the following conditions:

  • You must be at least 59 1/2 years old.
  • The distribution will be used to help purchase, build, or rebuild the first home for an account holder or qualified family member.
  • The account holder becomes disabled.
  • The assets are being distributed to beneficiaries after the account holder’s death.

My Contributions for 2020

With a Roth IRA, you are investing in higher-quality assets so you earn even more tax-free income. So, it makes sense to max out these accounts first. Especially now, when you have an extra month to get your contributions for an extra month thank to the extended tax filing deadline.

When I returned to the U.S. last year, I began investing by setting up my first retirement account with a Roth IRA. Unfortunately, I fall under a weird caveat of restrictions placed on foreign earned income. Although I had been working in country for a few months of the 2020 fiscal year, I am only able to match watch I earned domestically. This amount was less than limits set for maxing out a Roth IRA, so I will not be able to make a full contribution for 2020. However, it will give me a good head start for 2021.

5 Reasons to Max Out You Roth Contribution This Year

Any financial advisor can provide a long list of reason why it is a good idea to begin investing sooner rather than later. However, here are five great reasons you should max out your Roth IRA contributions for 2020 as well.

1. The IRS extended the tax filing deadline this year.

Now is the best time of all for maxing out your Roth IRA contribution. This year, you have an extra month for 2020 contribution thanks to the filing extension deadline until May 17.

2. You can begin accruing tax-free income for retirement now.

Retirement may not be on your mind if you are just starting your career, but it is never too early to begin investing in your future. Every dollar you contribute today equates to more tax-free income available to you in your golden years.

3. With time on your side, compounding interest is reason enough to open a Roth IRA.

Since you are unable to easily access the earnings from a Roth IRA, it encourages the account holder not to make withdrawals. If the principle amount remains untouched, compounding interest will drastically increase your initial investment. If you have time on your side, compounding interest is your best friend.

4. You never know when circumstance will change.

At some point in your future, you may not qualify for Roth IRA contributions. So, it is wise to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

5. A Roth IRA protects against increased taxation rates.

Taxes are most people’s biggest expense after retirement. Therefore, maxing out your Roth IRA means you keep more of your money since withdrawals are tax free.

Furthermore, if you add more money now, a Roth IRA protects you against increased taxation rate. Other retirement accounts like 401(k) and traditional IRAs will be heavily taxed when you withdraw. However, the money you add to your Roth IRA would be unaffected by any future rise in taxation rates.

As you can see, there are several good reasons to max out your Roth IRA this year. Contact your financial advisor with and specific questions about how to set up and take advantage of these retirement accounts.

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