Should You Invest in Renewables?

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The upside

The market for green energy isn’t going away anytime soon. Estimates suggest that global energy consumption will increase 40% in the next twenty years, as global populations grow and energy becomes an increasingly necessary part of everyday life. Fossil fuels can only carry so much of that weight.

Additionally, as the threat of climate change rears its ugly head, people are becoming more and more environmentally conscious, meaning that those that can afford to make the switch are already trying to figure out how to incorporate renewable energy into their lives.

What green energy companies will see the most growth? Hydropower will most likely come out on top. A single dam can create a lot of energy, and unlike solar or wind energy, productivity is not at the mercy of the weather.

However, solar and wind power will also see strong growth. Together, they are expected to generate 16% of the world’s power by 2030, up from 3% today. Solar will likely do especially well in areas that lack modern grid infrastructure, as well as with individualists who want to become self-sufficient, due to the strong and still-emerging market for roof units. Analysts expect to see more than 100 GW produced by roof units in South America alone by 2030.

The downside

Currently, green energy is still very dependent on government subsidies. Companies are still trying to figure out the most effective ways to make use of renewable energy, which means that many people are holding off on changing their energy plans until the industry has become more cost-effective.

In the meantime, green companies are in a precarious position. Some governments are more supportive of green energy than others, and a change in government to a less green-friendly administration can seriously damage the industry, at least in the short term.

The takeaway

Investing in green energy in the short term is a risky move. Even if the stock seems to be going up now, government actions can hit the industry hard, and the current U.S. administration does not seem to be as eager to subsidize renewables as the previous.

However, as far as long-term investments go, green energy looks good. The fact that the industry has not entirely come into its own yet suggests that it has lots of room to improve, and there’s no doubt that there will be demand. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewable energy will count for more than 60% of the energy produced by 2030, while non-renewables will fall out of favor.

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Some Words of Wisdom from Famous Athletes

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According to writer Jason Fell for Entrepreneur, “The world of sports is a lot like business.” As someone who has an interest and experience in both sports and finance, I can totally see the truth in that statement. In business, there is this constant drive to get ahead, to prove yourself, to work hard, to be the best at what you do, and to work as part of a team. In sports, the objectives are much the same.

In a way, sports players can be thought of as entrepreneurs. Many of them came from humble backgrounds and it was their hard work and dedication that go them to where they are now. No one becomes a famous and successful athlete overnight, and as fun as it is to watch Michael Phelps slice through the pool at the Olympics or Tom Brady make a touchdown in the Super Bowl, the spectator doesn’t see all the training and commitment that goes into each athlete’s performance before any game. Because any professional athlete has had to overcome challenges to get to where they are, many of them have offered some wise advice about motivation and accomplishing goals. Here are some of my favorite motivational quotes from famous athletes:

1. “If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?” – Joe Namath, Hall of Fame Football Quarterback (1965-1977)

2. “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

And

“Practice like you’ve never won. Play like you’ve never lost.” -Michael Jordan, retired American professional basketball player

3. “You can’t always be the strongest or most talented or most gifted person in the room, but you can be the most competitive.” -Pat Summitt, late American women’s college basketball head coach

4. “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get.”

And

“If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” – Michael Phelps, 28-time Olympic medalist (swimming)

5. “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” -Muhammad Ali, late American professional boxer

6. “Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.” -Arnold Palmer, professional golfer (1954-2006).

7. “There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” – Derek Jeter, Longtime Yankees Shortstop (1995-2014)

8. “You find that you have peace of mind and can enjoy yourself, get more sleep, and rest when you know that it was a one hundred percent effort that you gave–win or lose.” -Gordie Howe, Canadian professional ice hockey player (1973-1980)

9. “My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.”- Hank Aaron, retired American Major League Baseball Player (1954-1976)

10. “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back…play for her.” -Mia Hamm, American Professional Soccer Player (1987-2004).

Your Menu Is Lying To You

Nicholas Fainlight- Your Menu Is Lying To You

If you’ve ever looked at a menu and thought your eyes were tricking you, you may be right.

In 2016, Mental Floss published a list of ways that restaurants manipulate their menus to trick patrons into purchasing certain items. You might think that you wanted to pay inordinate amounts of money for a surf & turf dinner, but in reality, your restaurant of choice might have crafted their menu to ensure your eyes went to that entree first.

Pulling all sort of tricks and practices out of the hat, many menus are designed to capture the heart, stomach, and wallet of those who delight in dining. And with science and technology creeping into our everyday lives, it should come as no surprise that there is a science to crafting the perfect menu.

So how do they do it? The obvious tactics are innocent and similar to what is stated above; certain menu items, appetizers, specials or entrees are positioned high on the page or written in bold fonts to catch the eye of patrons. As menu engineer Gregg Rapp states in the findings, there’s one spot in particular the eyes will go to everytime. “The upper right is where a person will go on a blank sheet of paper or in a magazine.”

More manipulations of the eye include elements of imagery. Simply put, the more appealing an entree looks, the more likely you are to order it. The proof is in the pudding with this approach – or should we say, in the salad?

During one experiment run by Iowa State University, researchers tried out a digital menu with some hungry campers at a YMCA. The campers who were offered the salad with an accompanying picture were 70% more likely to order it. On the flipside, if there are too many images on a menu, people tend to view the food as more likely to be of a lesser quality.

Restaurants can even trick you into spending more money by adding “decoy” items. For instance, if you had to choose between a $200 entree and a $55 entree, the odds are that you’ll choose the $55 entree.

As the Mental Floss article states, “On menus, perspective is everything. One trick is to include an incredibly expensive item near the top of the menu, which makes everything else seem reasonably priced.”

Other tricks include writing out prices to focus on the meal and not the price, using detailed and fancy language to represent high quality items, and even making you reminisce on your childhood.

So before you order the prettiest, most descriptive, and most moderately priced item on the menu, remember these tips, and make sure what you ordered is really what you want.

Future Trading 4-Part Series

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Futures trading is an area of the stock market that I’ve been fascinated with for as long as I can remember. Essentially, it’s about predicting the future movement of the market for various commodities. But it’s much more complex than that and varies from regular stocks in several ways. That’s why I thought it would be beneficial to provide a guide covering the main points of futures trading so that anyone with an interest can gain a deeper understanding. In this intro to futures trading, I start by defining the subject, then cover leverage, risk, and stops and rolls.

If this all sounds interesting, then start from the beginning with Futures Trading 101. You can find the full series on my website, NicholasFainlight.com.

 

Fun Winter Activities That Won’t Break the Bank

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When you finally have some free time after hours of hard work, it can be tempting not to spend all your hard-earned cash. It seems like just about everything enjoyable costs money. Want to see a movie? That will run you about $20. Dinner and drinks? $40.Concerts, unless you find a free one, can run you over a hundred dollars. Finding an affordable activity to do with your friends in the wintertime is even more of a challenge, because you’re cooped up inside most of the time where you always seem to fall into the same routine and getting outside to do something tends to cost money (skiing, snowboarding, tubing, a spa retreat…they’ll all cost you). As a college student, I understand the paradoxical need to save money while wanting to have a good time as well.

So what are you supposed to do to avoid feeling bored and restless, or worse yet, overwhelmed, from all the work you have to do for school or your job? Believe it or not, scrolling through your social media profiles on your phone or parking yourself in front of the tv are not the only options. There are plenty of free and affordable activities that will offer you a fun outlet without breaking the bank! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Get crafty: There are no limits to exercising your creativity, so try out a craft or DIY project if you feel like your creative bug has been in hiding for too long. The materials you’ll need to work from home, such as paint brushes, pencils, markers, paper, and paint will cost you if you don’t already own them, but if you buy good quality materials, they should last you awhile. You could even just get a coloring book and colored pencils- adult coloring has been scientifically proven to reduce stress. Or if you’d rather ease into an artsy activity or would prefer to get out of the house, check out a paint and wine class with your friends. They usually run around $35 a seat, but you’ll get to take a beautiful painting home with you! Plus, some craft stores offer free classes and events. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, try taking on a DIY project in your home, such as painting or redecorating a room.
  • Go rock climbing: Rock climbing is a great indoor winter activity, and for the price of a movie and snacks, you can get a day pass to spend all day honing your climbing skills. Do a search of rock gyms in your area to find one close to you! You’ll learn trust and responsibility as you learn how to belay your friends as they climb and trust them to do the same for you. Plus, rock climbing is a great workout. You can develop some serious arm and leg muscles from all that climbing.
  • Give snowshoeing or ice skating a try: Some winter activities, such as skiing and snowboarding (especially if you plan a whole vacation around them!) can be pricy, but there are other activities you can enjoy for free or very little money right in your own backyard! Okay, maybe not literally in your backyard, but you can probably find a local indoor or outdoor skating rink, which shouldn’t cost you more than $10 for admission and skate rental, or you could skate on a frozen pond or lake if you check that it’s safe. Another idea is snowshoeing, which can look a little like skiing, except instead of coasting downhill, you are gliding over the snow as you walk through it instead of sinking into it. It’s a form of hiking.
  • Take a winter hike: Along those lines, take a winter hike! Hiking isn’t just an activity reserved for the warmer months. Find a local trail for something convenient and affordable, or if you happen to be located within a reasonable distance of a national park, you can enjoy the tranquility of exploring their plethora of trails in the off-season.
  • Take a swim: I don’t mean a polar bear plunge into frigid water! But if that’s what you’re into, go for it. Luckily, if you’re a swimmer like me, you don’t have to give up your swim game in the winter. Fit in some practice sessions at your local gym’s indoor pool and reward yourself afterwards with a dip in the hot tub. If you live near one of the United States’ 1,661 natural hot springs, even better!
  • Bake or cook something: The best kinds of activities are the ones that involve food you get to eat! You don’t have to be a good cook or baker to enjoy spending some time in the kitchen- cooking/baking is made easy with the abundance of recipes available online and through sites like Pinterest. Find a recipe with a few simple ingredients and give it a whirl! You’ll probably surprise yourself with what you can make.
  • Play it old school with a board game: Video games, unless you already have a collection, can be expensive! Not to mention, you don’t need me to tell you (I’m sure your mom already has) that it’s not good to stare at a tv screen all day. Plus, video games (unless they’re mmos) can be kind of isolating. So put on your social skills and your thinking cap, and have a game night with friends or family! There are so many great games out there. Looking for something challenging? Check out The Settlers of Catan or Risk. Something humorous? Can’t go wrong with Cards Against Humanity or Rotten Apples. The years of enjoyment you can get out of a board game or card game are well worth the down payment.
  • Explore your area as a tourist would: Even if you’ve lived in your hometown (or wherever you currently reside) for several years, there are probably still some local attractions you haven’t gotten around to checking out. Even if they’re kitschy tourist traps, it can be fun to approach your town from a new perspective. Check out museums, parks, galleries, or attractions that you’ve never been to and you could be in for a pleasant surprise. Groupon and LivingSocial are great resources to find fun activities in your area at a bargain price.

Bonus idea: Volunteer! Volunteering can be hard work, so you may not necessarily think of it as fun, but the fulfillment you get from helping others will stay with you and is more worthwhile than the transient fun any other activity can provide. Check out VolunteerMatch.org to find causes you care about in your area, and reap the benefits that volunteer work provides! As much of a service as you may provide to someone else through volunteering, you’ll also be doing a service to yourself as you gain valuable experience in your field of interest, and it looks great on a resume!

 

Everything You Need to Know About the Michael Phelps Foundation

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about how Michael Phelps still has big plans even after his retirement, looking to get involved in startup culture and continuing with his sponsorship deals from multiple companies. Michael Phelps has a lot going for him to keep him busy, but as I forgot to point out in my post on where he’s headed next, he is also a huge philanthropist. It’s good to hear that he’s not just letting fame and fortune go to his head and is using his wealth to make a difference.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Phelps discussed how he “wants to become a global champion for the causes that mean the most to him-swimming and the well-being of children.” Phelps is already well on the way to accomplishing that goal with his foundation, the Michael Phelps Foundation, which he established in 2008. Phelps used the $1 million bonus from Speedo after his record-breaking eight gold medals in Beijing to start the foundation, whose main initiative, the im (I am) program, is to promote water safety for children. According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. Children between the ages of 1 and 14 are the most at-risk.

The foundation’s mission is to “promote healthy, active lives, especially for children, primarily by expanding the opportunities for participation in the sport of swimming.” It includes two other main initiatives in addition to the im Program, including the Level Field Fund and Caps for a Cause. The mission of all these initiatives is largely the same: the promote healthy lifestyles and provide equal opportunities for participation in sports.

The im program, named after Michael Phelps’ signature Individual Medley event, fulfills this objective by promoting healthy and active lifestyles for children of all ages and abilities through health and wellness education, water-safety courses, swimming lessons, and recreational swim activities. The program was launched in six Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2010, and is now partnered with the Special Olympics to extend its reach to children of all intellectual and physical levels. The Michael Phelps foundation is also partnered with the Level Field Fund to offer swimming grants to swimmers of exceptional ability to ensure that their opportunities are not limited by their financial situation. Through Caps for a Cause, non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting healthy and active lifestyles can apply to receive a baseball cap signed by Michael Phelps to auction off at their fundraising events.

There are many ways to get involved with this wonderful organization, including attending or contributing to the Golf Classic fundraising event, held annually to raise money for the Foundation. There are also plenty of opportunities to volunteer through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Special Olympics teams. You can also make a donation directly to the organization or simply join the conversation about drowning awareness on social media.

Five Superb Sports Memoirs

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Many celebrities are multitalented individuals. In addition to being great singers, actors, athletes, comedians, etc. there have been a lot of celebrities who’ve put out some pretty great autobiographies as well. Admittedly, some may have ghost writers helping them with the writing, but even if that’s the case, at least some of what makes the page comes from their own minds, and the thoughts and ideas are largely their own, if not the words themselves.

In my opinion, sports memoirs are some of the most enjoyable autobiographies to read because so many athletes came from humble backgrounds before stepping into the spotlight and inspiring fans. Many had to overcome major obstacles and adversities to get to where they are today, and have put their heart and soul into their sport. Theirs are true triumph over tragedy stories. If you’re a fan of sports (or even if you’re not) and are looking for a little inspiration in your life, check out my list of five excellent memoirs from some of the world’s most beloved athletes on my website, http://nicholasfainlight.org/