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When you receive your first Social Security check this year, chances are good it is going to look different from the check you received in December.

There are some good reasons the amount you get might not be the same as it was last year. Here is what you should know about how your SS check might have changed after the beginning of the new year.

1. You’ll receive higher monthly benefit checks

The first change is great news for retirees. The monthly benefit check in Jan. should be bigger than the one you got last year.

This increase in your benefits is because of a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). More Specifically, because of higher inflation, retirees will get a 5.9% raise this year. This is intended to help make sure you do not lose ground as prices increase on the cost of goods and services. It is the largest raise in decades due to inflation is spiking.

Do not expect the full 5.9% raise in each check, though. The Medicare premiums also increased. If you have premiums taken directly from your SS payment, you will notice some of that raise disappear due to your higher premiums.

2. There may be more taxes are taken out

When you apply for Social Security benefits, you could elect to have taxes taken from your checks, so you do not have to worry about paying the estimated taxes to the IRS. You can choose which amount you want the Social Security Administration to deduct 7%, 10%, 12%, or 22% of your benefit each month. If your benefit increases and you are having taxes taken out on a percentage basis, the SSA will obviously keep more of your money in 2022.

You might also want to change your withholding or ask the SSA to withhold money if you will be subject to paying taxes this year and you haven’t been in the past.

Provisional income is 50% of Social Security benefits, some non-taxable income and all taxable income. After your provisional income reaches $32,000 as a married joint tax filer or $25,000 as a single tax filer, know in advance that some of your benefits will be taxed.

You should Understand both of these changes is important to financial planning for 2022. So, when you receive your first Social Security check this year, be on the lookout for them.

Author: Scott Dowdy

Walmart has filed applications for cryptocurrency and trademarks, software to manage the crypto and other digital assets and for its online retail services.

Walmart (WMT) is joining in with a growing number of other retailers who now own established virtual retail stores and who have already developed non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, with plans to create its very own crypto.

The Bentonville, Ark., retail giant on December 30 filed for applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, including an application that is seeking to obtain a trademark for financial services for NFTs, crypto and blockchain tech; a financial exchange of digital currencies; creation of virtual currency and coins of value to be used by the online consumers; issuance of NFTs for use with blockchain tech and many other services involving cryptocurrency, NFTs, virtual currency and assets.

Walmart has also filed a trademark application for several downloadable software products for the digital marketplace, marketing, e-commerce, virtual reality, entertainment, tablet computers, video game consoles, mobile devices, fund transfers and payments, blockchain, crypto, virtual currency, digital currency, and various other software uses.

The retailer is also seeking a trademark for a virtual retail store that will hold all of its products, including appliances, electronics, outdoor and indoor furniture, toys, home decor, sporting goods, home improvement, apparel, video games, entertainment recordings, books, publications and most of its products that it sells on its shelves in its brick and mortar stores.

Walmart’s foray into the virtual retail world, cryptocurrency and NFTs follows the footsteps of other retailers that have already jumped into the virtual world. The Gap (GPS) has released its first NFTs this week on the Tezos blockchain, ranging in value from $8.30 to $415, which comes with a limited-edition Gap hoodie.

Nike (NKE) – Get NIKE, Inc. in October filed for an application with the Patent and Trademark Office to obtain a trademark on its virtual goods that are downloadable, including clothing, footwear and accessories for online use; entertainment services that will generate online non-downloadable products; retail store services that feature virtual goods.

Author: Scott Dowdy

Bitcoin (BTC) delivered the worst performance in 2021 of the last three years. And the crypto still trounced numerous stocks, with its price skyrocketing more than 60%.

But Bitcoin has gotten off to a rocky start in 2022 so far. Do not be surprised if Bitcoin lags behind quite a few other stocks this year. Here are two unstoppable stocks that have the potential of beating Bitcoin in 2022.

1. Innovative Industrial Properties

Innovative Industrial Properties shares have fallen a lot more than BTC’s price so far this year. However, I believe the downturn will be more temporary than anything else. IIP’s company is as strong as ever.

The cannabis-focused REIT has added 28 new properties just in Q4 of 2021. IIP now owns 103 properties throughout 19 states. The properties are all leased to cannabis growers.

While BTC’s fortunes are completely subject to the whims of its traders, IIP has better control over its stock performance. If the business could find more properties to lease and purchase, its revenue is likely to keep increasing. And if its earnings were to grow enough, its share price would almost certainly jump as well.

This might seem like a simple task for the company to accomplish. There are an additional 17 states that have legalized marijuana in some form where the business does not currently operate. The company also has plenty of other growth opportunities within its existing markets.

Perhaps the largest threat to IIP is that large cannabis reform on the federal level will be passed that attracts even more competition. However, such reform will more than likely be a net positive for IIP.

2. PayPal Holdings

The shift to digital payments is becoming an unstoppable force. PayPal Holdings (PYPL) is a top player in digital payments with about 75% of the leading 1,500 retailers in Europe and North America supporting its digital wallet. This helps make PayPal an unstoppable stock.

Granted, PayPal did not seem unstoppable this past year. Its shares dropped 19% during what was considered a bull market for most other stocks. A large part of the issue was that the company’s earnings growth slowed down when compared to 2020. But it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise considering the big spike in online buying with the forced pandemic lockdowns in the year prior.

Some of PayPal’s new features on its app (including the support for trading BTC and some other cryptos) are attracting users. PayPal can bounce back in a major way this year. And in the future, the stock has the potential to be truly unstoppable.

Author: Steven Sinclaire

In my view, some of the best stocks are the ones that have strong underlying companies and exceptional growth possibilities. They are the kinds of stocks that you could comfortably invest a large amount of money in with confidence that you will likely make market-beating returns in the future.

Here are two of my picks for the best stocks you can invest $10,000 in right now.

1. Nvidia

Find the strongest players in the quickest-growing areas. That is usually a great way to find the best stocks to purchase. There is no question Nvidia should be in this group.

One of those fast-growing areas is gaming. The company’s GPUs are the gold standard for powering gaming computers. The business seems likely to have a very big winner with its new RTX350 entry-level graphics card that will soon be released. Nvidia is also going to release a monster graphics card for the higher-end market segment.

The company’s GPUs are also more suited for AI apps running on servers located in data centers. This is actually an even faster expanding market for Nvidia than gaming is.

Then there is the metaverse. Nvidia already released Omniverse, its platform for 3D design and collaboration. CEO Jensen Huang believes that Omniverse Avatars has an addressable market of around $40 billion. The opportunities out there for Nvidia’s GPUs in the metaverse are even better.

Those are not Nvidia’s only potential drivers of growth, though. Its self-driving car tech might make the company a lot more cash over the next ten years and beyond.

2. MercadoLibre

Unlike Nvidia, MercadoLibre did not deliver great gains in 2021. Its shares dropped nearly 20%. But that helps make the stock’s valuation a much more attractive one considering its high growth prospects.

MercadoLibre’s terrible performance this last year was not due to underlying issues with its company. The company’s net earnings soared 72.9% on a constant-currency basis in Q3 of 2021. Earnings increased more than sixfold. And Q3 was a difficult quarter for year-over-year comparisons.

The future seems to be a bright one for the company. MercadoLibre’s e-commerce platform has been attracting new buyers. Retention levels are rising. The e-commerce penetration level in Latin America might double by 2025.

Don’t think of MercadoLibre as just an e-commerce business, though. Its Mercado Pago fintech and Mercado Envios logistics companies are rocking as well. The fintech opportunity should be highly attractive in light of the large amount of people in Latin America without any banking services.

Author: Steven Sinclaire

While the returns on some cryptos can be extremely high, the industry is rife with schemes and scammers.

With the value of ether up by almost 200% since this past year, investing in crypto can seem like the best choice.

But as anyone that has been around a lot of crypto bros could tell you, it comes with high volatility and high risk: crypto is the asset class that has posed the largest risk to investors.

“Before you hop into the crypto craze, think about the cryptos and other financial products that might be nothing more than the public facing Ponzi schemes,” said Joseph Rotunda.

The reason has to do with the regulatory rules that have a difficult time catching up to the high number of new cryptos (often released by people with zero finance background) releasing onto the market. The success of BTC and ether are usually used to produce a type of craze around a new concept that is still misunderstood by a lot of people.

A crypto advocate, Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis has proposed a bill that would set clear guidelines on crypto regulation and taxation in December.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are used to receive ownership of online content. NFTs are another cryptocurrency subcategory currently getting a lot of investor attention — while more popular ones such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club could sell for millions, but fake ones are appearing online already. (Based predominantly on the ETH network, most NFTs are selling for ether.)

Other high-risk trades include anything that has to do a popular Self-Directed personal Retirement Accounts scheme, promissory notes, and social media investment offers.

To minimize your risk, the agency suggests people do their own research on founders, carefully study domain names (there are scammers that will copy a popular site by adding only one letter) and usually avoid grandiose promises to “make a million dollars” tomorrow.

“Investments in crypto trading programs, interests in cryptocurrency mining pools, securitized coins and crypto depository accounts should be seen for what they truly are: very risky speculation along with a high risk of loss,” said Rotunda.

Author: Blake Ambrose

When the Covid pandemic took hold in March of 2020, Keith Arnold and his wife, Stephanie Bonin, co-owners of a restaurant in Denver, worried they might face financial disaster.

The crisis forced them to close Duo Restaurant, which serves a farm-to-table contemporary American cuisine.

There was no plan as to what might happen next, as federal and state support addressing the pandemic wasn’t implemented at that time.

They temporarily laid off 12 of their 15 employees.

At the time, Bonin knew she and her husband wouldn’t get unemployment checks. While their staff would receive the benefits, it wouldn’t match their weekly tips and paychecks.

“Their livelihood depended on us,” Bonin said. “That was keeping us up most nights.”

“How are we going keep them working?”

Bonin started a petition asking for $2,000 each month in aid to every American during the pandemic.

Today, that online call to action continues to draw support, having just over 3 million signatures. has created a video of personal testimonies of individuals who say they are in need of more federal help.

The milestone comes as the omicron variant is making some small businesses close and schools to question whether children should keep attending classes in person. Meanwhile, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are discussing what support may be implemented — particularly for businesses like restaurants.

Dems’ BBB proposal has failed to pass on Capitol Hill. That bill would have authorized additional monthly child tax credit payments, though Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has called for a more strict targeting of that support.

Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stated in an interview this weekend that even more help for Americans might be added to the upcoming federal funding bill.

Bonin and Arnold have recently closed down the Duo Restaurant for a week around the holidays after half of their kitchen staff tested positive for Covid-19.

While they lost around $30,000 in income for that week, they still had to pay about $9,000 toward their payroll because of their paid leave mandates.

If they are forced to close down again, the loss in income will add more financial strain on the restaurant.

Bonin and Arnold, who manage the restaurant virtually from Brattleboro, VM, are also grappling with other Covid uncertainties as parents to their two daughters, ages 9 and 14.

Aid through PPP, which they credit with helping keep their restaurant stay in business in the early stages of the pandemic, is no longer available. Enhanced federal unemployment benefits and stimulus checks dried up this past year. This month, the child tax credit payments stopped coming in.

The uncertainties of the pandemic during the past two years, have kept the petition popular, Bonin said.

“I think that is what 3 million people have been saying, which is, ‘We just need some certainty. We need to have something we are able to plan on each month,’” Bonin said.

Author: Blake Ambrose

Now looks like a great time to buy Bitcoin (CRYPTO:BTC). It currently trades at almost 40% below its all-time high, but the optimism coming from institutional investors — a group that is increasingly bullish on BTC– could be translated into 10X gains (or more) in the coming years. Here is what you should know.

The principles of supply and demand

With its release in 2009, BTC has become the first modern crypto. It wowed the entire world with blockchain tech, a record-keeping system managed by a decentralized network of crypto miners rather than a centralized institution such as a bank. To that end, BTC acts like electronic cash, letting people transact digitally without having to use a bank or use a credit card.

However, the importance of BTC’s popularity should not be overlooked. Despite being the oldest crypto, it continues to be the leading crypto, with a market capitalization of around $800 billion. That implies strong demand for the coin, which is noteworthy in light of the limited supply. Specifically, Bitcoin’s source code imposes a hard limit of 21 million coins, meaning it is a finite asset. And basic economics tell us that when demand is higher than supply, the price of an asset will increase.

Despite the recent crypto crash, I do not think the current troubles will hinder long-term demand for BTC. In fact, there is a catalyst at work that might significantly increase demand in the future.

Institutional adoption

A new study from Fidelity shows that 52% of institutional traders own digital assets, and BTC is the most popular digital asset owned by those big money managers. More importantly, the study indicated that 71% of institutional investors have plans to diversify into digital assets. Which means they are starting to become increasingly bullish on crypto.

Another report recently released indicates that 62% of institutional traders without current exposure will buy crypto in the next year, and 82% of institutional traders plan to boost exposure to digital assets by 2023. In all cases, that increasing demand for digital assets will be a tailwind for BTC, driving its price up over the long run.

As a final thought, Cathie Wood thinks institutions will eventually invest 5% of their money into crypto– a sizable number, since institutional traders now have over $100 trillion in assets under management. To that end, Wood thinks the price of BTC will reach $500,000 by 2026, implying an increase of over 1,000% from its current price. That is why now looks like a great time to purchase this cryptocurrency.

Author: Blake Ambrose

Tilly’s (NYSE:TLYS) is headquartered in Irvine, CA. Like many other non-essential companies, it was devastated during the pandemic when it had to close its doors to in-person shopping.

That being said, Tilly’s is rebounding from the pandemic stronger than ever, reporting record profits and sales. Management thinks that momentum will continue throughout this year. Here is why Tilly’s could be a surprising growth stock in 2022.

Tilly’s is thriving

In the nine months ended October 30, Tilly’s net sales were 22.5% higher than they were during the same time in 2019. That is impressive, considering the Covid pandemic is still spiking today. Tilly’s is a brick-and-mortar accessories and apparel retailer with 243 stores open throughout the U.S. but mainly concentrated in Texas, Florida and California. Its products are made for young adults and pre-teens.

Management should be commended for the excellent job they did managing the company during the pandemic and ensuing supply chain shortages that have followed. Companies worldwide are reporting difficulty securing enough supplies to meet existing consumer demands. Those like Tilly’s that have secured the inventory they need reap the benefits of supply troubles at competitors. For instance, if the industry is short on supply, there will be less promotional activities like discounting.

Indeed, in its most recent quarter ended October 30, Tilly’s announced a gross profit margin of 37.2%, the highest since becoming a public company. The highest gross profit margin it had reached in the last decade was 32.2% in 2012.

Another benefit of having enough inventory when your competitors have fallen short is attracting disappointed customers. That might have played a big advantage for Tilly’s during the holidays. While Tilly’s holiday quarter figures haven’t been released yet, there is reason to believe their sales were robust. As of October 30, Tilly’s had inventories of $87 million, which is up from the $66 million it had during the same time last year. What’s more, the management team gave an update on its comparable net sales through November 30, saying it grew by 19.6% when compared to the year prior.

Tilly’s is in expansion mode

Tilly’s plans to open 15 to 20 new stores this year. That is an accelerated pace of new stores opening from 2021 when the business opened just five new stores. Tilly’s most certainly has the balance sheet to fund this expansion, with $155.6 million in securities and cash with no debt to its name. All in all, Tilly’s might be a surprise growth stock for 2022.

Author: Blake Ambrose

So, you might think you know everything you need to know about Social Security? If that’s the case, congratulations — you are part of the minority when it comes to your knowledge of the country’s biggest retirement benefits program.

A recent study published by the Nationwide Retirement Institute discovered that many Americans do not know enough about some of the most basic parts of Social Security. The new study was based on a survey that was conducted by The Harris Poll for the Nationwide Retirement Institute.

“It is indisputable that Americans in all generations need more education on Social Security,” Tina Ambrozy, stated in a media release. “Unfortunately, we are failing to close that knowledge gap and correct many of these misconceptions that could have costly consequences. Financial professionals should help their clients better understand retirement security within America and plan properly to get the most from their Social Security benefit.”

Here are five things a lot of Americans do not know about Social Security:

1 — Age of Eligibility: Two in five respondents do not know the age of eligibility to get full benefits.

2 — Payments: Just over half of those that are not already getting Social Security checks (51%) do not fully understand how much they will receive in Social Security income.

3 — Spousal/child benefits: 30% do not know that Social Security might offer benefits for children and spouses.

4 — Inflation protection: Over a third (37%) incorrectly think that Social Security benefits aren’t protected against inflation.

5 — No adjustments: 45% of Americans make the mistake of thinking that if they claim SS benefits early, their benefits will increase automatically when they are at full retirement age, or they do not know this is false.

The study discovered that many Americans are not educating themselves on Social Security because they really don’t think it will still be around when they are ready or need to claim the benefits. Seven in 10 Americans ages 25 and over worry that the SS program will be out of money sometime in their lifetimes. And this is especially true about millennials (77%) as well as Gen Xers (83%).

Author: Blake Ambrose

In November, Shiba Inu (Shib) Games project head Shytoshi Kusama said on Medium that “the future of gaming is Shib Inu.” Could Shib be a big metaverse winner?

Metaverse mania

Ever since Facebook announced it was changing its name to Meta Platforms in late Oct., we have seen a type of metaverse mania. The interest shown by Investors relating to stocks that might profit from the metaverse has soared.

Gaming tokens with their own “metaverses” have also seen huge booms. Decentraland jumped more than sixfold in just a few weeks. The Sandbox went up well over 8 times.

But while these metaverse cryptos were soaring, Shib was dropping. The meme coin was completely missing out on the metaverse craze. However, it seems that this will only be a short term situation.

Kusama’s Medium article released on Nov. 26 laid out his vision for Shib’s future. He asked: “What is Shib Inu becoming? How can Shib Inu grow into more than anyone thinks possible?” And his answer was that Shib’s destination is the metaverse.

Two big steps forward

Shiba Inu has taken two big steps forward in achieving Kusama’s vision. First, William Volk was added to the team as a consultant to lead the development.

Volk boasts an impressive record of creating games. He served as VP of technology for Activision Blizzard. He was over the creation of many successful games during his time with the business. Volk has also worked with many other gaming businesses during his long career.

Kusama’s Medium article hinted that an AAA gaming studio had been lined up. On Dec.7 as well, the identity of that studio has been revealed. Playside Studios said that it had agreed to an eight-month contract with Shib Games to “create a multiplayer Collectable Card game which is planned for release on multiple platforms.”

Playside ranks as the biggest publicly traded video games creator in Australia. It has created more than 50 games, including some with major studios such as Warner Bros., Pixar, Nickelodeon and Disney.

A monster metaverse winner?

The game that Playside is creating for Shib Games will target mobile users and won’t be based on the blockchain. However, Kusama said the game will only be licensed to the Shib decentralized team to add into the Shibarium layer-2 solution that was built on the Ethereum blockchain. Ultimately, this will transform into the “Oshiverse” — Shib’s own metaverse.

These efforts might put to rest some of the criticisms that Shib does not have any competitive advantages. Kasama claims that Shib “is positioned to be a top player in the gaming landscape this year.” That is probably a bit of a stretch, considering that the first game being created by Playside is not scheduled to be released until the first quarter of 2023.

On the other hand, Oshiverse might truly offer unique capabilities that help set it apart from its competitors. Will Shiba Inu be a big metaverse winner? Maybe eventually. But it is a waiting game for now.

Author: Steven Sinclaire

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