Three Mobile Apps to Help You Manage Debts and Save

It’s personal finance month here at Eazl and we wanted to share some mobile finance apps we love with you. If you want to learn about managing your credit and money, getting started with investing, and buying a house, go to here to save 40% on Eazl’s new financial empowerment class.

• Acorns automatically invests your spare change. Every time you make a purchase with a card connected to the app Acorns rounds it up to the next highest dollar and automatically invests the difference in a portfolio of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that you select based on your risk preference. When you want to take money out, you withdraw and however much you take out is sold from your portfolio. Acorns costs $1/mo. and is available to people in the US and Australia. Link: https://www.acorns.com

• Digit makes the decision to save for you. It’s an automated savings tool that connects to your checking account, analyzes your income and spending patterns, and then makes micro withdrawals–sometimes as little as $1 or $2–to set aside for you. When you want to access the money, you just text the app and the money comes right back into your checking account. It costs $2.99/mo. and it only works with US banks. Link: https://digit.co

• You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is a budgeting tool that doesn’t let you create budgets around money you don’t have – it forces you to live within your actual income. If you get off track it will help you see what you need to do differently to balance your budget. It also has a built-in “accountability partner” and online classes to help you get started. YNAB costs $50/year and it works everywhere but some direct data import functions only work in North America. Link: https://www.youneedabudget.com

FYI–nobody paid us to share these apps with you!

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How Social Media is Changing Credit Scores

LifePower, the Financial Empowerment Series from Eazl, just launched!☆

The credit system is one of the core systems of our society and it tends to lag behind social changes. There’s a perfect storm of social media platforms, big data, and fintech startups who are changing how we build credit and get credit scores.

Problems with the System:
Credit scoring systems are designed to predict the likelihood of future repayment by a borrower and currently, the credit scoring industry has problems…

Problem 1: There is currently a near-monopoly in the system. Three companies who set the credit scores of everyone in most of the developed world: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian

Problem 2: Older models are becoming outdated. Specifically, more companies are running credit checks for all sorts of reasons and each inquiry lasts for 2 years on your credit score. The problem is that too many inquiries drive down your credit and also, these frequent credit checks are insecure. Last year, Experian lost the SSNs and much more for more than 15m t-mobile customers. Additionally, credit ratings agencies give people a boost for having the same job for 5 years straight. That’s a problem in a world where 40% of the US workforce will be freelancers by 2020.

• Social Credit Scoring:
Today, live in a world where we share tons of personal data on social media platforms. Soon, credit scoring will likely include information from our use of platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. Instead of analyzing our past behavior to predict our creditworthiness, models will work to build an idea of who we are based on the patterns we reveal about ourselves on social media.

• Real World Examples:
One example of a company leveraging social credit scoring is Germany-based Kreditech, a company that uses more than 20,000 datapoints from social platforms and other sources to determine the creditworthiness of people with no prior credit history. Recently, the World Bank made an investment in Kreditech because social credit scoring is likely to help millions of people get access to the global financial system.

Key takeaway: Your interactions online are already starting to have an impact on your financial health.

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Explained: ISPs, Your Data, and Internet Privacy

Recently, the US Congress has made moves enable widespread data collection from Internet users in the United States. Internet service providers (ISPs) see this as a big win. Why? How are they going to use your data? Here it is explained:

What’s an ISP?
Internet Service Providers or ISPs handle all of your network traffic– meaning they can see everything you browse, watch, click on, and more unless it’s encrypted. Even when it is encrypted, they can still see most of what you’re doing online.

ISPs are different from web companies like Google because you can use the internet without Google but you can’t use the internet without an ISP.

Who Regulates ISPs?
Last year while Barack Obama was in office, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC created major privacy rules for ISPs that gave consumers more control over what’s collected and how it’s used. The rules were slated to go into effect this year but now, those rules will never go into effect.

ISPs want to be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission or FTC instead of the FCC. That’s because they say that the FCC is stopping them from innovating. The FCC tends to write rules that govern the current marketplace while the FTC tends to provide broad guidelines that lay out what constitutes harm and deception of consumers.

What’s at Stake?
There are two things at stake here: our privacy and money from the growing online advertising industry. Currently, Google and Facebook are the largest sellers of digital advertising. ISPs want some of that money and they plan to make it selling your browsing data to advertisers and other companies. One thing they really want to do is help advertisers figure out who you are across all your devices like your computer, tablet, phone, and TV.

Innovation with your data could get weird. For example, ISPs could sell your data to HR technology firms who decide not to hire someone because they don’t like something in their browsing history or insurance providers could use purchased browsing data to deny coverage for someone because it looks like they’ve been on WebMD trying to self-diagnose a health issue.

Currently, ISPs are able to opt you into data collection schemes by default. However, opting out of these schemes can be difficult because ISPs don’t want you to do it.

Now you decide: by letting ISPs be collect and sell your data by default, does this support innovation or does it abuse consumers?
Answer in the poll now and leave your comment below.

Further reading on this issue:
• Google’s Terms of Use state that Gmail users: “give Google (and those [Google] work[s] with) a worldwide license to use … create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services) … and distribute such content.” See http://bit.ly/2oemAJr.

• Here’s a transcript of Obama’s speech at the FTC on the internet and personal privacy

• This is a pro-privacy pressure group in Washington and this is a think tank that believes that personal data in the open is good for the economy

• Here’s a podcast episode about this issue from NPR

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Does the Government Hate Freelancers?

As tax time comes in the US, Eazl has a question: does the government hate freelancers? Should we rework the tax code to make sense for self-employed people? Have your say! Answer the poll at the end of this video or leave your comment.

• The New 40%: Freelancers and self-employed people represent the fastest-growing portion of the labor market in the US and in many countries around the world. There are currently 55mm freelancers in the US and by 2020 freelancers will be 40% of the work force [1]. This trend will only continue as millennials and Gen Z are the largest groups who opt in to the freelancer work style.

• Support for Big Business: Meanwhile, governments around the world continue to flow money towards massive corporations. For example, the CATO Institute found that $10bn in farm subsidies went to publicly-listed industrial agriculture businesses, $4.4bn in special financing was directed towards Boeing, and Walmart has received more than $150mm in land grants and financing at the expense of US taxpayers. [2]

• 43.3% Tax Rate: Now that it’s tax time, freelancers are cutting relatively huge checks to federal and state governments… and taxes on self-employed people are rising. In her Piece for the Huffington Post, Nancy Humphries shows that freelancers who make under $110k annually pay an effective tax rate of 43.3% in the US [3]. That’s a higher rate than most billionaires! The US isn’t alone in raising taxes on self-employed people. The UK just passed a hugely controversial law requiring self-employed people to pay higher National Insurance Contributions [4] which many self-employed people say makes it even harder to survive.

Sources:
[1] See https://www.slideshare.net/upwork/freelancing-in-america-2016/1
[2] See https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa592.pdf
[3] See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-k-humphreys/selfemployed-pay-highest-_b_2397853.html
[4] See https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/09/self-employed-nics-increase-budget

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Viri Vlog: VIRI is Dead (+ What We Learned)

Well, it’s over. It was a fun ride, VIRI. In this vlog, you’ll find out why we decided to kill VIRI (and return our investors’ money) and what we learned from this experience.

What’s next? Bigger, better, stronger Eazl. Soon, Davis, is going to launch an equity crowdfunding vlog where you will see how we’re organizing communities around local entrepreneurs, helping them create jobs, and improving communities where people live . Our goal is to create a small business revolution and keep putting power into the hands of individuals. Ludell is going to be working on Eazl’s first physical space!

Link mentioned in this video:
How I Built This Podcast

Note: if you have full access to VIRI’s files, you will continue to have access to those files.

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How Supporters Get Money from Community Owned Businesses

☆ Learn how Eazl is organizing communities with equity crowdfunding at or join the Facebook group at ☆

Part 1 of 4 in the Community Owned Business Series
Community Owned Businesses (COBs) are funded and partially owned by neighbors and other people who support the launch of a small business through an equity crowdfunding campaign.

What’s Equity Crowdfunding?
Equity crowdfunding is like Kickstarter but instead of a reward, supporters get a small ownership piece in the campaigns they support. Learn the basics of equity crowdfunding here.

The Community Percentage
Community Owned Businesses operate with one slight difference to other small businesses: a small percentage of gross revenue is diverted into a community dividend pool. For example, if Joe’s community owned coffee shop gets $90,000 in sales over a 3 month period, his business might have agreed to put 2% of those sales or $1,800 into a dividend fund for the business’ supporters.

Ongoing Money to Supporters
Supporters of community owned businesses receive a proportional amount of the community dividend pool as a check from the businesses they support on a semi regular basis. For example, if you put $500 into a campaign that raised $20,000 to launch a new small business, you might receive $45 every three months as a dividend for your support.

Learn how you can get involved in the community owned business movement here and stay tuned for the other three parts of this four-part series:
Part 2: How to Turn Supporters into Advocates
Part 3: How to Sell a Small Business with Equity Crowdfunding
Part 4: Community Owned Businesses as a New Asset Class

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Are Voice Assistants Bad for Young Children?

Roughly 25 million voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home are expected to sell in the US in 2017 and researchers are noticing that infants who grow up around these devices are having developmental challenges. For example, kids who grow up with voice assistants tend to have less regard for people’s feelings because they’re used to interacting vocally with an object without emotions. They also tend to place less value on developing vocabulary because it’s more efficient for them to retrieve information from Google Home or Alexa with simple commands.

Also in this Brain Boost:
• The First Ever 3D Printed Building was Printed this Week
• San Francisco CTO Captures Some Crazy Job Search Data

Links mentioned in the video:
• Apis Cor’s 3D printed building video
• Jeff Kolesky’s technical job search data analysis

⍾ Build Your Own Artificially-intelligent Twitter Bot in a New Project-based Course from Eazl

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Viri Vlog: We’re Going to Break the Rules

Tomorrow, we’re going to be pitching to a group of angel investors in Chicago… and we’re not going to make a pitch deck. Instead, we’ve beefed up the VIRI business case (you can access it at here), will print out out, and will have a more “conversational” approach with investors.

In the next update, we’ll try to put some footage of our pitch on the vlog for you guys.

If you’re interested in learning more about Alderman John Arena, check out this link.

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Using Equity Crowdfunding to Launch Small Businesses

Despite all the hype about startups and disruption, entrepreneurship is actually on the DECLINE. Here’s how we can fix that.

The Problem: Entrepreneurship is on the decline. See the non-partisan Economic Innovation Group’s report with some dramatic statistics on the subject.

The Funding Gap: On a recent fundraising trip to Silicon Valley, Eazl’s founders realized that part of the problem is that most angel investors and VCs want to invest in the next Facebook or Snapchat. But where does that leave startups that only need $30,000 to launch a grow into a solid business?

The Solution: Equity Crowdfunding, a new financial technology, would enable people in the community to own a small piece of local businesses, to get dividend payments from those businesses, to increase their property values, and to provide local job opportunities. See how this technology works in a short, free mini-course from Eazl:

Our team at Eazl is building this movement. If you’re interested in participating send us an email at care@eazl.co.

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Viri Vlog: Female Founders of GoSafe

Make innovation a HABIT! In this video, meet Pratyusha Mudrakarta and Elizabeth Rebello, the cofounders of GoSafe. They’re winners of multiple Chicago innovation awards and pursuing master’s degrees in information technology.

Collaborate and earn Eazl points (redeemable for cool stuff!):
• What are some cool ideas for convenient wearable devices?
• Which launch market would you choose?
Community features on the EazlBlog

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