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derek has been a member since October 26th 2010, and has created 214 posts from scratch.

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AMA 85 – The Future of 3D Printing with Christopher Barnatt


The 3D Printing Revolution is about to transform our lives. While traditional laser and inkjet printers only make marks on paper, 3D printers build up solid objects in a great many very thin layers. Already pioneers are 3D Printing production tools, prototypes, jewelry, sunglasses, works of art, toys and vehicle parts. But this is just the beginning, with digital manufacturing destined to change how we create, transport and store a great many things.

Within a decade, some products may be downloaded from the Internet for printout in store or even at home. Already DIY enthusiasts are building their own 3D printers, while consumer models for the rest of us are just starting to arrive. Meanwhile doctors are learning how to 3D print kidneys and other replacement human organs.

In this book, futurist Christopher Barnatt explains how 3D Printing works, overviews the 3D Printing Industry, interviews some of its pioneers, and highlights how 3D Printing may help to save the planet. Also included is an extensive glossary of 3D printing terminology and a 3D printing directory.

Christopher Barnatt’s 2012 book, 25 Things You Need to Know About the Future, was reviewed by The Futurist as “an exciting, yet realistic and believable, vision”, and by New Scientist as “a worthwhile read for anyone curious to know what may await us”.

Check out this episode!

AMA 84 – Vodka Diplomacy with Phaedra Fisher

Phaedra Fisher visited Russia back in 1994, and witnessed the privatization and inflation firsthand. Her book, Vodka Diplomacy, explains her experience and life in Russia as several events unfolded.

Check out this episode!

Not a Student? Student Loan Debt Still Hits Home

Student debt still hits homeYou’re not a college student. You don’t have a child in college. But the escalating crisis of student loan debt still affects you, in ways large and small. In the spring of 2014 the total student debt load in the US had reached $1.1 trillion – and that burden of debt is stifling entrepreneurship, threatening the economic recovery and sparking fears of another recession.

The cost of college has been steadily rising over the past half-century or so. From lowly community colleges to prestigious Ivy League schools, institutions of higher learning have been raising tuition costs and other fees. At the same time, scholarships and grants from private and government sources have been drying up.

That means more and more students hoping to get the degree that would lead to a lucrative long-term career have had to turn to loans to get through school. Because the traditional government funded student loan programs still aren’t enough to cover all the expenses associated with college, private lenders have stepped in to fill the gap, with higher interest rates and shorter terms than the old standbys. Even Pell grants, which could support a lower-income student through a two or four year degree program at a community or small state school, are falling short, which means those students who can least afford another burden of debt are also turning to private lenders for help.

The result? On average, American students leave school with a debt load of about $30,000. And while increasing numbers of students are finishing degree programs later in life, the bulk of the burden falls squarely on the fastest growing segment of the US population: the so-=called “millennials,” people ranging in age from early twenties to early thirties.

In the traditional paradigm, these twentysomethings might have been expected to graduate, get a good job, marry, buy a house and settle down to raise a family funded by a solid career. But increasingly, economic circumstances paint a very different picture.

Student Loan Debt Stifles Economic Growth

Saddled with large amounts of debt, recent graduates are opting not to take on more – and that includes the “good debt” of a home mortgage as well as the general consumer debt of cars and other high-end purchases. Even with near record low interest rates, these young consumers are wary of taking on more debt – especially if they’re struggling with lower paying jobs than they expected to have with their degrees.

Fewer home sales and consumer purchases mean a sluggish economy overall. What’s more, the student debt problem also ripples through the world of employment, with serious implications for job growth and new startups. And that in turn affects the country’s global competitiveness and ability to innovate.

Student Loan Debt Crushes Employment Opportunities

The problem of student loan debt affects the job market – eve among those who don’t go to college. A recent study found a relatively large subgroup of individuals who could go to college but are choosing not to, precisely because they don’t want to take on the burden of thousands of dollars in debt. Instead, they settle for whatever lower-wage jobs they can get with less education. While some may advance to better opportunities and better wages, most don’t.

Another group often overlooked in studies of student debt includes those who enroll in college, but then drop out – usually after they’ve gotten financial aid to attend. These individuals are left in worse trouble than those who do finish. Not only do they end up without a degree and with limited job options, they’re faced with repaying the debt they’ve incurred.

Among students who do finish their degrees, competition in some fields is fierce, leaving many still stuck in low-wage jobs that aren’t connected to their field at all. The old cliché of the PhD driving a taxicab isn’t far from the truth. Limited financial options leave more and more of these new graduates living with family or friends in an effort to make ends meet.

For many, the threat of post graduation debt affects the choice of career, too. Students increasingly gravitate toward majors that promise higher paying jobs upon graduation, such as business or law, rather than the ones that lead to public sector or nonprofit work, like social services ad education. That leads to potentially damaging shortfalls in those key areas.

Even if they are able to land a reasonably well paying job in their chosen field, some of these graduates can expect to be paying down their loan debt for the rest of their working lives. Student loan debt isn’t discharged in bankruptcies, so many simply default – and the resulting blot on a credit report can chill any other efforts to take out a loan.

Student Loan Debt Affects US Global Competitiveness

The student loan crisis isn’t just choking the economy at home. Much of the country’s job growth comes from startups and new small businesses. But recent graduates coping with heavy debt loads may not want to – or be able to – take on the additional debt needed to launch a business. That means that good ideas go undeveloped, key innovations never get off the drawing board, and bright thinkers don’t get the support they need to keep the country ahead of the curve in a competitive global market.

A Turning Tide?

Recognizing the problem is the first step toward fixing the problem, and new – and old – efforts to tackle the student loan debt problem are trying to do just that. New programs aim to help money strapped students understand the loan process. Lower cost online programs aim to make the cost of an education cheaper. Some colleges have even (gasp!) scaled back on some fees and charges, and made more scholarship aid available.

Still, that $1 trillion in student debt won’t go away quickly. As Jason Hartman says, awareness is the key to making changes — and it doesn’t take a college degree to see that student loan debt affects us all.

Read more from The American Monetary Association:

The Future May Be Brighter Than You Think: Here’s Why

Bitcoin for Real Estate: A New Frontier

The American Monetary Association Team

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The Future May Be Brighter Than You Thought: Here’s Why

AbundanceIn a world of shrinking resources and stagnant salaries, it’s easy to believe we’re living in bad times with no hope of a recovery. But a look at the bigger picture, as revealed in a new book based on research from all over the world, suggests that we’re living in a time of unprecedented abundance – and things are only going to improve.

The future is better than you think,  say authors Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler in their new book, Abundance, which argues that, taken overall, the human beings on this planet right now are actually living in times of unprecedented abundance, and that the future doesn’t have to be feared. They’ve got the statistics to prove it, with charts showing everything from the narrowing gender wage gap to the number of people in countries around the world who are finishing college now.

A Century of Improvement

Diamandis and Kotler point out that in spite of current predictions about the decline and fall of cultures and governments, most areas of life have taken a major upswing in the last century or so. Their conclusions range from the obvious (there were more deaths in war in 1918 and 1940 than in our current cycles of armed conflict) to the surprising – a correlation between a reduction in armed conflict and expanding Internet use.

The data, presented on the duo’s website, come from a variety of different studies and analytical frameworks developed by various institutions such as the US Census Bureau. USA Today and university think tanks from round the world. While some is a little esoteric –there’s been a decline in the cost of human genome sequencing and an upswing in the number of people who shower daily in the winter – taken as a whole, the stats and trends offered by Diamandis and Kotler paint a picture of a rapidly changing, but also vastly more abundant world than the ones our parents or grandparents lived in.

Since 1900, the average human lifespan has increased by a stunning 36 years or more, and the whirlwind pace of technology means that people in just about every part of the world have the opportunity to become better informed than ever before – and able not just to receive information, but to create it and share it with the click of a mouse.

Physical comforts are more widely available than ever before, too. That observation about the percentage of people (75) who take a shower in the winter now as opposed to the 1950s (18) speaks to a variety of things including access to indoor plumbing, heat and water.

Technology Feeds Abundance

Another indication of abundance in the world is the number of photographs taken, from zero in the 1850s to thousands today. Add to that the data showing a dramatic increase in the number of people who are able to use the Internet and you have a profile of a population that’s literate and tech-savvy. People make more money and have more leisure time than at any time in the past century and more.

And, the authors argue, because technology and innovation advance exponentially, not linearly,that means that the future could be very bright indeed.

Should Investors Wear Shades?

The takeaway for investors? While no one’s advising a head in the sand approach that ignores the realities of current economic conditions and the struggles of people around the world to simply survive, and the ongoing political and social issues that need to be addressed, there’ this look backward sheds a strong light on the future, with implications for building wealth in real estate.

People are better educated than ever, with unprecedented round the clock access to the most widely available of all commodities, information. And that’s good news for investors in a rapidly growing rental market, where new opportunities become available on a daily basis and there’s always something new to learn. Networking is only as far away as the touch of a button, so it’s easier than ever to stay educated and informed – two of the most important things an investor needs to be successful, as Jason Hartman says.

These gains aren’t likely to vanish. And if you’re hoping to get started in income property investing, the strides we’ve made over the last hundred years or so mean that new doors are opening to learn about investing, make new decisions – and turn more profits. In an abundant world, everybody benefits – and three’s always enough to go around.  (Top image: Flickr/KevFowler)

Source:

Diamantis, Peter and Steven Kotler.  Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think.” AbundanceHub. Abundancehub.com. 6 July 2014

Read more from our archives:

Bitcoin for Real Estate: A New Frontier

The US: The Last Superpower Standing?

The American Monetary Association Team

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Bitcoin For Real Estate: A New Frontier

AMA7-7-14In spite of outcry from government banks and cyberpolice worried about connections to Internet crime, the Bitcoin just keeps on trucking, with more and more sellers accepting the digital currency. But the growing use of Bitcoin for buying real estate is raising concerns about the digital coin’s staying power and stability.

Bitcoin’s splashy entrance into the real estate market came with the announcement in the spring of 2014 that the owner of a Southampton, NY property priced at nearly $800,000 was wiling to accept cash in traditional funds for the property or the equivalent in Bitcoin.

The German-born owner of that Southampton property isn’t the only one willing to take the controversial virtual currency for a real estate transaction. Sellers in Indonesia and Latin America, where Bitcoi is big, are also letting buyers know they’re willing to take Bitcoin for real estate.

But the volatility of Bitcoin has housing professionals worried. About the implications not just for these sellers, but for the housing industry as a whole – and for the investors working to build wealth through income property investing.

Bitcoin’s Rocky Road

Too see why, let’s look back at the Bitcoin. You’ll find numerous articles about it right here in our archives, because Jason Hartman’s watching its progress. Bitcoin was created back in 2009 as an experimental digital money that anyone cold use, anywhere in the world, without connections to any bank.

The Bitcoin’s popularity spread, especially in countries whose own currencies were unstable, and as it gained traction among larger groups of merchants and sellers willing to take payment in Bitcoin it became a legitimate commodity in the world’s money markets. Prices fluctuated wildly, at some points reaching as high as $200 per coin.

But with that newfound celebrity came troubles. Bitcoin exchanges were accused of money laundering, and the anonymity of the coin made it ideal for use in illegal transactions everywhere in the world. State banks and monetary authorities issued stern warnings and refused to deal in Bitcoin.

The hostility of major financial institutions and governments toward Bitcoin and other digital currencies like it have triggered fears among some Bitcoin supporters of a major effort to kill the coin entirely. But others point to the continuing spread of the coin into areas like real estate as evidence that it’s here to stay.

Bitcoin for Real Estate?

But while conducting a transaction like buying real estate with Bitcoin seems simple, it comes with complications beyond the initial exchange.

The Southampton seller says he included the Bitcoin option to broaden the range of potential buyers and give buyers an additional option. And as long as the Bitcoin sale is treated like a cash sale, real estate professionals point out that it could work. After all, the only requirement for a successful Bitcoin transaction is that both parties agree on the price and the terms.

But the very anonymity of Bitcoin makes it hard to create safeguards around such as sizable exchange. Bitcoin is backed by nothing, and its value fluctuates wildly. A hundred thousand dollars’ worth of Bitcoin today may be worth a hundred, or a thousand, in the next few months, leaving the seller with no return at all.

Credit checks on Bitcoin buyers of real estate are also useless. Since Bitcoin transactions don’t appear on anyone’s FICO report, it’s impossible to verify a buyer’s reliability. And there’s no recourse if the deal goes sour. That’s another reason Bitcoin is loved by illegal traffickers of all kinds.

Another obstacle in using Bitcoin to buy real estate is the number of ancillary transactions that go along with any kind of housing sale. Inspections, title searches and transfers, legal fees and permits are all al pert of buying am investment property – and those entities probably wont accept Bitcoin, so funds for those transactions will have to be carried by the parties involved, even if the main sale is done via Bitcoin.

For now, Bitcoin transactions for real state have been limited to relatively expensive properties, ones that could equally easily be purchased with cash. And cash is still king n some kinds of real estate purchases, pushing out those buyers who have to work with lenders to take out a mortgage.

As Bitcoin continues to make inroads into the world of real estate, should investors get on the bandwagon? The answer depends on a lot of considerations. If you’re a Bitcoin enthusiast who wants to help promote its use, there’s a growing list of sellers willing to meet you halfway.

How Does Bitcoin Work?

Experts point out that sellers willing to tae Bitcoin for property – or any other high-end purchase – may want to consider immediately rolling those Bitcoins over into the purchase of some other tangible thing, such as another property or other substantial item. That ensures some protection against a Bitcoin crash and burn that leaves you holding a virtual wallet full of nearly useless virtual money.

If a property you want can only be had by Bitcoin, it’s relatively easy to get some. Bitcoins can still be “mined” – produced using the complex algorithms that set the number of Bitcoin circulating. If you don’t have the patience, computer power or expertise to mine Bitcoins simply engage or sell something for Bitcoin or pull out your real wallet and buy some Bitcoins from an exchange.

Bitcoins are then added to your online wallet and then transferred to the seller’s account when the deal is done. Fees for Bitcoin transactions typically run much lower than those charged by banks and other institutions.

What happens to your Bitcoin stash come tax time? The IRS and other authorities continue to grapple with how to classify them, but for now they’re being treated as property, not as assets. That’s another consideration in large volume Bitcoin sales.

Should you buy real estate with Bitcoins? Well, maybe. The cybercurrency’s road to complete acceptance in the financial world is still a rocky one. But as more and more sellers opt for Bitcoin purchases, digital money has already altered the way real estate business is done.  (Top image: Flickr/btckeychain)

Read more from The American Monetary Association:

The Stimulus Fades, But Interest Rates Stay Low

Successful Investors Use Their Heads

The American  Monetary Association Team

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