It’s very likely that you are aware or have heard of the term VPN (Virtual Private Network), although you probably don’t use one. If that is indeed the case, it might be entirely prudent to use a VPN at some point, even if you aren’t doing so right now.
Virtual Private Network Explained
A Virtual Private Network or VPN is essentially a group of computers working together as a private network that extends to a public network. These days, there is no bigger public network than the Internet.
A physical network of computers at a workplace or a private home usually involves the sharing of files, folders, and other resources across multiple computers. A ‘virtual’ private network could be understood as a virtual clone of a physical network. However, a VPN does a lot more than the simple task of sharing files and resources.
Any good VPN service provider offers encrypted connectivity options to the internet. Computers and mobile devices that you connect to the internet via a VPN service will in most cases create a secure and encrypted tunnel that will protect your privacy.
VPN and its Many Applications
Over a decade ago, VPNs were originally installed as servers by companies to enable employees to work from home. To this day, businesses connect to data centers via VPNs and employees can gain access to a files and resources on a network even when they aren’t on the same LAN (local area network). A VPN connection (here) works as an encrypted, secure tunnel between the employee’s computer and the company’s VPN server.
There are plenty of ways in which your computer or mobile device can be used over a secure connection, which a VPN encrypts to ensure nobody is snooping in on you. They are and by no means limited to:
Privacy in a post-Snowden world has struck a chord in mainstream consciousness like no other event before. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some of your own internet habits has been tracked and monitored in the past.
Insecure public Wi-Fi networks at the airport or a café are just some of the many avenues where cyber-criminals, state surveillance, and other such operators keep a watchful eye on what you do online. However, a VPN connection takes care of your privacy and online safety by encrypting your network traffic and keeping you safe while you’re online.
Activists and journalists routinely use VPNs to circumvent state censorship implemented by geo-blocking. VPNs were and are to this day, hugely successful in countries with internet censorship. For instance, the infamous “great firewall” of China is routinely bypassed by users in China through the implementation of VPNs.
Those with a habit of downloading data through P2P (peer-to-peer) applications such as BitTorrent clients and other means will particularly appreciate the privacy provided by VPNs. With encrypted web traffic, inbound and outbound transfers during P2P sharing cannot be monitored by your ISP nor a trigger-happy law-firm.
Being a Global Citizen
We don’t blame you for being annoyed that popular music-streaming services aren’t available everywhere in the world. Netflix still isn’t available in Asia nor Africa, with only certain parts of Western Europe having access to the popular video-streaming service. Perhaps it’s YouTube that’s blocking certain videos, blaming your geographical location for it.
All of these hindrances and more can be circumvented altogether with a VPN connection that is routable through multiple server locations all over the world.
In many ways, all of the above factors represent a means to internet freedom.
It has to be reiterated that the most significant perk of having a VPN connection is the encryption it brings to your internet-connected devices, ensuring your privacy and security online.
Images from Shutterstock.
Trading 101: Moving Averages and Moving Average Strategies
What are Moving Averages?
Moving Averages are among the most popular trend indicators in Technical Analysis. They provide a simple, yet powerful visualization of the ongoing trends in an asset. They are used for a wide variety of reasons, primarily for trend following and reversal strategies.
Simply put moving averages are connected points calculated for every day (or whatever the timeframe is). The calculation itself is simple; you take a given number of previous days and calculate their average. Of course, you don’t have to do the calculations yourself. All basic charting software and trading platforms do the math for you and plot the moving average (or up to dozens of averages for that matter) on the chart of the asset.
How to Interpret Moving Averages?
How have various asset classes performed during previous wars
North Korea, the dictator ruled nation has been threatening the US and its allies with a possible missile attack, which may also have a nuclear warhead on it. The experts are divided on the actual capability of North Korea to undertake the attacks, however, its leader, Kim Jong-un leaves no opportunity to provoke the US and its allies.
- Stocks perform better than average when the conflict starts
- Gold rallies before the start of the conflict
- Bonds have underperformed stocks during previous wars
- The US dollar has fallen on few occasions during a conflict
- The current war, if it starts, can severely impact electronic goods
- The US national debt is likely to balloon if US involves itself in South Korea’s reconstruction after the war ends
Though North Korea’s military prowess is nothing great to write home about, it can still cause extensive damage to millions of civilian lives and the economy of its neighbor South Korea, to some extent Japan and the US territory of Guam. However, in this article, we shall restrict ourselves to the impact of the war on various asset classes and the world economy. We shall use the historical evidence to arrive at our conclusion.
How does the US stock market perform during wars?
The US has fought several wars since 1960 as shown above. While a few ended quickly, others have been a long-drawn affair. Notwithstanding, Barron’s has outlined the effect of the following seven major hostilities on the Dow Jones Industrial Average since early 1980s.
|01||The US invasion of Grenada||1983|
|02||The US invasion of Panama||1989|
|03||The first Gulf War||1991|
|04||The US bombing of Kosovo||1999|
|05||The US War of Afghanistan||2001|
|06||The second Gulf War||2003|
|07||The US bombing of Libya||2011|
The markets hate uncertainty; a proof of this is the average 0.6% drop in the Dow a month prior to the start of the conflict.
However, once the conflict commenced, the Dow quickly turned direction, rising 4% in the first month. The rally did not stop there. Over the next three months, the Dow rose an average 6.7%, and the gains swelled to 7.2% after six months of the start of the conflict.
Therefore, if history repeats itself, a war between the US and North Korea – if it were to happen – will not start the next bear market.
How does gold perform during wars?
Gold is considered as a safe haven during times of uncertainty. Therefore, the yellow metal has rallied from about $1260/toz to about $1360/toz levels, as tensions escalated between North Korea and the US.
But, will gold continue its rally if the war starts?
Economists at Capital Economics have analyzed gold’s performance since 1985, during military conflicts, acts of terror and political tension.
They established that “over the past forty odd years, the price of gold has on average risen by 4.1% in the six months prior to a conflict turning into a full-blown war. However, it barely moved in the months following the event. This makes sense as gold thrives in periods of elevated uncertainty and the start of an armed conflict partly erases that.”
Performance of long-term bonds during wars
Though bonds are also considered as a safe haven investment, their performance has lagged their historical average during wars, according to a study by the CFA Institute. The possible reasons are an increase in inflation during war times and the second is the higher borrowing by the government to fund the war. Due to these two, bond prices fall. Therefore, selling out of stocks and buying bonds fearing a conflict might not prove to be a good strategy. The only aberration was during the gulf war when bonds beat stocks, albeit marginally.
How does the war affect the US dollar?
The evidence of the past three decades shows that the US dollar weakens during war, according to Kathy Lien, Managing Director of FX Strategy for BK Asset Management. The US dollar fell 5% when the Libyan war started and fell 9% during the first three months of the second gulf war. The dollar was weak even during the first gulf war.
However, this time, the situation is more complex and a lot of currency movements will depend on whether China actively involves itself in the war or remains neutral. The Australian dollar, the New Zealand dollar, and the Japanese Yen will see large moves if China supports North Korea directly during the war, else the movement in the currencies is likely to be comparatively subdued.
“As the tensions grow the dollar will suffer and the actual announcement of war could take USD/JPY to 105 but if it’s a swift victory the pair would also recover quickly,” said Kathy.
Though historical evidence gives us some idea about the possibilities, every new war is different because it involves different nations and affects different asset classes.
What sectors will be affected if a war with North Korea takes place?
North Korea, in itself, can’t impact commodity prices. However, it is surrounded by nations that are major consumers of commodities. China is one of the major consumers of commodities, however, it is unlikely that the war will impact China’s consumption materially.
South Korea is a major importer of coal and exporter of steel. Both these commodities will be majorly impacted because South Korea will be severely affected if a war breaks out. Similarly, liquified natural gas prices will be affected, as Japan is its largest importer in the world.
The seaborne trade will also be severely affected because China, South Korea, and Japan receive about one-third of the global seaborne crude supplies. Similarly, 84% of the world’s iron ore and 47% of the metallurgical coal reaches the shores of these three nations through the seaborne route.
The agricultural commodities will also be affected because China is a major importer of rice and soybeans while Japan is of corn.
Economic costs of the war
War has both a direct and an indirect impact on the economy. South Korea is a hub for manufacturing liquid crystal displays, semiconductors, and cars. A war will impact these activities, leading to a shortage across the globe. The alternative suppliers can’t bridge the gap in such a short span of time. Therefore, prices of various electronic products are likely to rise significantly, which will impact the developed economies, including the US.
“U.S. spending on electronic items, including smart phones, cameras, tablets and computers accounts for roughly 1 percent of the consumer price inflation basket. If a war in Korea caused prices of these items to double, it would add 1 percentage point to U.S. inflation,” a report by the research consultancy Capital Economics warned, reports CNBC.
If inflation rises sharply, the Central Banks will be forced to raise interest rates, jeopardizing the fledgling global economic recovery.
Additionally, if South Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) falls by about 50% due to war, it will reduce the global GDP by 1 percentage point, according to the report.
Once the war ends, South Korea will need huge capital to rebuild its infrastructure. If the US involves itself and ends up spending the same amount as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, then the federal debt will reach 105% of GDP, the economists at Capital Economics warned.
Though historical evidence suggests that the equity market returns are better than average during a war, the situation might be different this time because of the nations involved. Any jolt to the weak economic recovery across the globe will dent the confidence of the investors. Therefore, we don’t expect the stock markets to rise substantially during the war.
Gold’s performance is somewhat neutral and it can be used to protect the value of the portfolio. Therefore, selling some overvalued stocks and buying gold might be a good strategy if a war seems imminent.
Legally Slash Your Taxes with Flag Theory – Part 1
Legally Slash Your Taxes with Flag Theory – Part 1
There are lots of different ways to earn money. You can get a job and set aside part of your paycheck every month, for example 33% as we advocate here on Hacked. You can also set up your own business and create something of lasting value for yourself. But what if your country doesn’t respect your right to keep your hard-earned money? With the power of freely available information online these days, you can legally avoid these high taxes and even grow your money through the use of Flag Theory.
What is Flag Theory?
Flag Theory is a concept that allows open-minded and forward-thinking entrepreneurs to increase their income all while keeping their assets safe from unreasonable taxation, declining currencies, and inflation. It is essentially taking your business and establishing it in a place where you are “treated best”.
A ‘flag’ is a place in the world where you have setup a part of your life, and the goal of this is to diversify your affairs, both personal and financial, so that not one country has control over you or your money, thus keeping them safe for your own personal use.
An advantage of this is that if you put parts of your wealth in different locations around the world, you will not be tied down to one government who can control how you spend your money. Instead, as a foreigner in the country your money is held, you will not be liable to pay their taxes and other fees, allowing you to keep your savings intact. This will give you the freedom to choose what you want to do with your hard-earned money.
The concept is indeed not a new one, but with power of the internet, cheap travel, and globalization, it has become increasingly relevant for ordinary people with small businesses who want to maximize their freedom. In this two-part series, we will explain how you can take advantage of this concept previously known only by the millionaires and billionaires of society.
History of Flag Theory
The term ‘Flag Theory’ was originally coined by the famous American investor Harry Schultz. His book Tax Exile was controversial when it first came out as it advised people on how to legally skirt around the tax laws implemented by the US Government.
The original theory started out with three flags, and the idea got picked up and popularized by an author hiding behind the pseudonym William G. Hill through a book series published during the 1980s and 90s. These books were sold through classified advertising through The Times in order to avoid any backlash.
Later in the 80s, Hill together with Schultz published a book called: PT: A Coherent Plan for a Stress Free, Healthy and Prosperous Life without Government Interference, Taxes or Coercion. This book had seven editions throughout its publication.
The duo was not done, and in 1993 published another book titled: PT2: The Practice: Freedom and Privacy Tactics: A Reference Handbook. What these two books had in common was that they were aiming to help people plan their finances a lot better than what was perceived to be ‘normal’ at the time.
Why should you use Flag Theory?
Before you decide that Flag Theory is not for you, think about this; with Flag Theory, you can achieve goals you have never thought possible. This can include legally decreasing or even eliminating the taxes you pay, allow you to move freely around the world, reclaiming your privacy and preserve and even generate more wealth from your business.
Original Three Flags
In the original theory, there were three flags that were meant to help people accomplish these objectives:
- Flag 1: Second passport. Find a country that does not tax income earned outside of their borders and establish your citizenship there.
- Flag 2: A safe and secure place for key assets. Establish your business in a stable, low or no tax country to help you maximize your profits.
- Flag 3: A legal address in a tax haven. Property in said country.
Later on, WG Hill added an additional two flags and came up with the term “Flag Theory”. The additional flags were:
- Flag 4: Asset Haven. This is where you keep your money. Ideally a place where there is relatively low to no taxes on capital gains.
- Flag 5: Playgrounds. When you have money, you are free to spend it however and on whatever you like. Playgrounds can refer to a place or country that will allow you to spend your money how you see fit, without having to pay ridiculously high consumption taxes like sales tax or VAT.
In the next part of this series, we will cover the modern concept of flag theory and how young entrepreneurs from all over the world right now are taking advantage of this to grow and protect their money.
Featured image from Shutterstock
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