Month: January 2018

Fear Not, China Is Not Banning Cryptocurrency

In 2008 following the financial crisis, a paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” was published, detailing the concepts of a payment system. Bitcoin was born. Bitcoin gained the attention of the world for its use of blockchain technology and as an alternative to fiat currencies and commodities. Dubbed the next best technology after the internet, blockchain offered solutions to issues we have failed to address, or ignored over the past few decades. I will not delve into the technical aspect of it but here are some articles and videos that I recommend:

How Bitcoin Works Under the Hood

A gentle introduction to blockchain technology

Ever wonder how Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) actually work?

Fast forward to today, 5th February to be exact, authorities in China have just unveiled a new set of regulations to ban cryptocurrency. The Chinese government have already done so last year, but many have circumvented through foreign exchanges. It has now enlisted the almighty ‘Great Firewall of China’ to block access to foreign exchanges in a bid to stop its citizens from carrying out any cryptocurrency transactions.

To know more about the Chinese government stance, let’s backtrack a couple years back to 2013 when Bitcoin was gaining popularity among the Chinese citizens and prices were soaring. Concerned with the price volatility and speculations, the People’s Bank of China and five other government ministries published an official notice on December 2013 titled “Notice on Preventing Financial Risk of Bitcoin” (Link is in Mandarin). Several points were highlighted:

1. Due to various factors such as limited supply, anonymity and lack of a centralized issuer, Bitcoin is not a official currency but a virtual commodity that cannot be used in the open market.

2. All banks and financial organizations are not allowed to offer Bitcoin-related financial services or engage in trading activity related to Bitcoin.

3. All companies and websites that offer Bitcoin-related services are to register with the necessary government ministries.

4. Due to the anonymity and cross-border features of Bitcoin, organizations providing Bitcoin-related services ought to implement preventive measures such as KYC to prevent money laundering. Any suspicious activity including fraud, gambling and money laundering should to be reported to the authorities.

5. Organizations providing Bitcoin-related services ought to educate the public about Bitcoin and the technology behind it and not mislead the public with misinformation.

In layman’s term, Bitcoin is categorized as a virtual commodity (e.g in-game credits,) that can be bought or sold in its original form and not to be exchanged with fiat currency. It cannot be defined as money- something that serves as a medium of exchange, a unit of accounting, and a store of value.

Despite the notice being dated in 2013, it is still relevant with regards to the Chinese government stance on Bitcoin and as mentioned, there is no indication of the banning Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Rather, regulation and education about Bitcoin and blockchain will play a role in the Chinese crypto-market.

A similar notice was issued on Jan 2017, again emphasizing that Bitcoin is a virtual commodity and not a currency. In September 2017, the boom of initial coin offerings (ICOs) led to the publishing of a separate notice titled “Notice on Preventing Financial Risk of Issued Tokens”. Soon after, ICOs were banned and Chinese exchanges were investigated and eventually closed. (Hindsight is 20/20, they have made the right decision to ban ICOs and stop senseless gambling). Another blow was dealt to China’s cryptocurrency community in January 2018 when mining operations faced serious crackdowns, citing excessive electricity consumption.

While there is no official explanation on the crackdown of cryptocurrencies, capital controls, illegal activities and protection of its citizens from financial risk are some of the main reasons cited by experts. Indeed, Chinese regulators have implemented stricter controls such as overseas withdrawal cap and regulating foreign direct investment to limit capital outflow and ensure domestic investments. The anonymity and ease of cross-border transactions have also made cryptocurrency a favorite means for money laundering and fraudulent activities.

Since 2011, China has played a crucial role in the meteoric rise and fall of Bitcoin. At its peak, China accounted for over 95% of the global Bitcoin trading volume and three quarters of the mining operations. With regulators stepping in to control trading and mining operations, China’s dominance has shrunk significantly in exchange for stability.

With countries like Korea and India following suit in the crackdown, a shadow is now casted over the future of cryptocurrency. (I shall reiterate my point here: countries are regulating cryptocurrency, not banning it). Without a doubt, we will see more nations join in in the coming months to rein in the tumultuous crypto-market. Indeed, some kind of order was long overdue. Over the past year, cryptocurrencies are experiencing price volatility unheard of and ICOs are happening literally every other day. In 2017, the total market capitalization rose from 18 billion USD in January to an all-time high of 828 billion USD.

Nonetheless, the Chinese community are in surprisingly good spirits despite crackdowns. Online and offline communities are flourishing (I personally have attended quite a few events and visited some of the firms) and blockchain startups are sprouting all over China.

Major blockchain firms such as NEO, QTUM and VeChain are getting huge attention in the country. Startups like Nebulas, High Performance Blockchain (HPB) and Bibox are also gaining a fair amount of traction. Even giants such as Alibaba and Tencent are also exploring the capabilities of blockchain to enhance their platform. The list goes on and on but you get me; it’s going to be HUGGEE!

The Chinese government have also been embracing blockchain technology and have stepped up efforts in recent years to support the creation of a blockchain ecosystem.

In China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), it called for the development of promising technologies including blockchain and artificial intelligence. It also plans to strengthen research on the application of fintech in regulation, cloud computing and big data. Even the People’s Bank of China is also testing a prototype blockchain-based digital currency; however, with it likely to be a centralized digital currency slapped with some encryption technology, its adoption by the Chinese citizens remains to be seen.

The launch of the Trusted Blockchain Open Lab as well as the China Blockchain Technology and Industry Development Forum by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology are some of the other initiatives by the Chinese government to support the development of blockchain in China.

A recent report titled ” China Blockchain Development Report 2018″ (English version in the link) by China Blockchain Research Center detailed the development of the blockchain industry in China in 2017 including the various measures taken to regulate cryptocurrency in the mainland. In a separate section, the report highlighted the optimistic outlook of the blockchain industry and the massive attention it has received from VCs and the Chinese government in 2017.

In summary, the Chinese government have shown a positive attitude towards blockchain technology despite its enforcement on cryptocurrency and mining operations. China wants to control cryptocurrency, and China will get control. The repeated enforcements by the regulators were meant to protect its citizens from the financial risk of cryptocurrencies and limit capital outflow. As of now, it is legal for Chinese citizens to hold cryptocurrencies but they are not allowed to carry out any form of transaction; hence the ban of exchanges. As the market stabilizes in the coming months (or years), we will see undoubtedly see a revival of the Chinese crypto-market. Blockchain and cryptocurrency come hand-in-hand (with the exception of private chain where a token is unnecessary). Countries thus cannot ban cryptocurrency without banning blockchain the awesome technology!

One thing we can all agree on is that blockchain is still at its infancy. Many exciting developments awaits us and right now is definitely the best time to lay the foundation for a blockchain-enabled world.

Test Your Credit Score Knowledge

Credit profile, score, assessment: if you’re thinking of taking out a home loan, these are important terms you’ll need to learn more about.

What is a credit score?

All credit active people have a profile. This is a summary of your history with every credit provider you’ve ever dealt with, and serves as a record of how well you’ve managed your accounts like loan repayments, overdue debts, how often you’ve asked for credit and the kinds of loans or credit you’ve applied for, and the frequency of your applications.

How it works?

Credit reporting providers summarise your profile into something called a credit score. The score is between 0 and 1200, where the higher the number, the more likely you are to be able to repay a loan. Lenders look at your credit profile and score to find out about your credit history and behavior, and assess if you are able to take on a new loan. This information reassures lenders that you’re good at paying money back to those you’ve borrowed from – i.e. you are a ‘low risk’ client.

A good score not only makes you more likely to get approval on your home loan application – but it also means you’ll qualify for a better interest rate. Of course, the other side of the coin is that if you have a poor score, you will be less likely to qualify for any new loans. This protects the lender and those with low scores from taking out additional loans and overextending themselves and getting into more debt. In short, you’ll need to have a good credit score rating for your home loan application to be approved.

It’s therefore a good idea to first find out what your credit score is before applying for a loan, and to give yourself time to improve it before approaching a lender.

How to check your score?

A great place to start your research is ASICs MoneySmart site. You can get a free credit score assessment from a number of online providers, which are listed on the MoneySmart site.

How to improve your score?

Improving your credit score starts with looking at your current financial situation and ways to improve it. Getting into a good credit position before you apply for a loan can help increase the likelihood of you getting approved.

You can improve your score by:

  • lowering your credit card limits
  • consolidating multiple personal loans and/or credit cards
  • limiting your credit enquiries
  • paying your rent and bills on time
  • paying your mortgage and other loans on time
  • paying your credit card off in full each month

To avoid any surprises, be prepared and know your credit score.

credit repair after bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is something that no one needs to experience in their lives. Generally, individuals declare bankruptcy when they know there’s no other option to them. A man’s explanations behind declaring bankruptcy can shift incredibly, from losing an employment and having medical problems, to just running up excessively in debts without having the capacity to pay it back.

In this post, we will deal with some tips to follow for credit repair after bankruptcy.

Something that a person having declared bankruptcy thinks about the most is probably that how worse this action will prove on their future credit score. All things considered, your credit score is one of the most vital things that decides the kind of loans or Visas you can qualify for.

If you are seeking help regarding credit repair after a bankruptcy, here are 5 tips that can help you repair your credit quicker:

1. Bankruptcy can appear on your FICO report for considerable amount of time:

It’s implied that going into bankruptcy can cause your FICO assessment to quickly plunge. What’s more, it can stay on your credit score report for a longer time than you think.

2. You MUST really be more financially sound after your bankruptcy:

Looking at this logically, you are in reality MORE reliable after your bankruptcy release than you were already. All things considered, you now have the monkey (your loan) off your back and you have a greater number of assets than you had before paying your bills.

3. After the release, each loan or debt you owe should return to $0 on your report:

After your release, you have the privilege (ensured by government law) to have the balance of every debt to appear as $0 on your credit report. Actually, you have the privilege to question any cards that still demonstrate your old balance.

4. In some cases, you can still keep a credit card even after bankruptcy:

Trust it or not, you can really keep at least one of your old (pre-bankruptcy) credit cards after discharge. Keeping in mind the end goal to do as such, you have to reassure the balance with them and go into another understanding. The majority of creditors will consent to do this since they would rather not want to bear the loss.

5. Buying a house post bankruptcy:

You can purchase a home subsequent to bowing out of all financial debts. Inside 1.5 to 2 years after your release, many individuals routinely can meet all requirements for a credit with a similar loan terms as they would have in case they had not filed. What’s critical at this stage is your pay, any installment or down payment, and how reliably you paid your home loan (or lease) previously.

You can consider these above-mentioned 5 tips for credit repair after bankruptcy. To help you more, here is the manner by which you need to go for credit repair after bankruptcy.

Distinguish all the high interest instruments including credit cards, unsecured loans, and several other – Delve into every one of your investment funds, and if required, get some cash from your companions to pay these things off. Keep in mind that they are great cash eaters and would not give you a chance to rest in peace, even in your post-bankruptcy days. So it’s better to clear these up first.

Talk to your creditors for some help in return of some payment – You need to accept that the lenders have nothing to do with the reality of you struggling against bankruptcy. Cash is everything for them and that is exactly what you can take advantage of. Furthermore, for profit, they might wish to work with you, only if you can convince them with the enthusiasm for making some sort of payments to them in return of their favor.

Avoid taking any loan for some time – You could well be enticed to obtaining another credit now of time. Unless the circumstance is extremely demanding, attempt and abstain from doing as such. Keep in mind your pre-bankruptcy days! Why did you fall into so much inconvenience? Do you want to suffer the same pain and stress once more? Clearly not, as the vast majority would answer it, and realizing that, you would do well to avoid any sort of loan or other credit instruments.

Credit repair after bankruptcy is difficult but possible. For most piece of it, you would understand that cash does not have a noteworthy influence in this process. It does, however, what is more critical is your will to make the most of it. It is really tough to live stress-free once you filed for bankruptcy. Yet, individuals who can do that and can productively deal with their money related commitments are seen coming out of the zone sooner than the rest.

Why My Bankruptcy Lawyer Is Better Than Yours

Hiring a bankruptcy lawyer is a great way to feel less overwhelmed by the entire process of having to go through bankruptcy. Without professional help, it’s often a scary thought to try to figure out what you’re going to deal with. By finding a qualified attorney who can help you to get through the experience and learn what to expect, what you need, and what you will get from the entire process, you will be much better prepared for bankruptcy than you might have thought possible. Filing for bankruptcy is a serious step, requiring excellent advice and the right representation.

Here’s how to find, and then choose, the best bankruptcy lawyer for you.

My Lawyer Practices Specialization

You’ll want to ensure that the lawyer you choose specializes and works often on bankruptcy cases. Some attorneys work on just about every single kind of case you can think of. When you choose an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy, you’ll be sure to get service and results that can only come from a true expert. The laws and specifics of handling a bankruptcy case change all the time, so the more your bankruptcy expert specializes in the bankruptcy process, the better chance you’ll have of having a great experience. Choosing an attorney that works almost exclusively with the bankruptcy process is the best way to get the service and results you want without all of the stress.

My Lawyer Is Accurate and Consistent

Excellent work means your attorney has attention to detail. He or she will really listen to you and personally handle data entry for your important paperwork. The difference between having an ‘average’ lawyer and an excellent lawyer is the difference between losing a car or home and keeping your valuable things protected. It is the difference between your case being a mess requiring extra cost and taking extra months, and having your case completed quickly and painlessly.

My Lawyer Has the Experience

You want someone who does a lot of cases, but is personally handling your case. Ask how many cases the lawyer files each year. Now, some firms will say “thousands of cases” because they are ‘factories’ and the lawyers don’t do the cases personally but instead push off this important legal work to paralegals and other non-lawyers. If your lawyer files a lot of cases, that is great! Just make sure he or she personally handles the cases. I am generally in New York and New Jersey, but I know one great attorney who works with me in my California office. He files thousands per year but he manages and personally does each of his cases. He is very rare. The more questions you ask, the better for you!

My Lawyer Knows His or Her Practice

Most importantly, however, hiring a bankruptcy attorney will ensure that you get the proper footing in dealing with the legal process. There are a lot of myths that seem to cloud up California laws regarding bankruptcy, and if you are not well-versed in the legal process, you might overlook important facts. For example, bailing out of debt could be tackled through Chapter 7, while avoiding a foreclosure is best addressed with Chapter 13. Dealing with these types of bankruptcy declaration ensures preparation of a heap of legal document – a task that is more efficiently achieved by someone familiar with the system.

Remember who you choose to handle your case is your business (and make no mistakes about it, bankruptcy law is a business). But having the right representative on your side, fighting for you, makes a tremendous difference in how easy the process is, and how you come out on the other side, so make sure you choose the right attorney for you.

Three Ideas for Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Your taxes have just been filed and now it’s time for spring cleaning – clearing out the dirt and clutter in your homes and work space to allow for a chore-free summer. Why not also use this opportunity to “clean” up your finances? With a little annual clean-up and our three ideas, you can keep your current financial situation well-organized, streamlined and up-to-date.

Clear the document clutter

We are all human and sometimes accumulate piles of important documents and statements. Now is the time to look through your financial documents and consider which to keep and which to discard. Keep recurring documents, such as investment and bank statements, property and casualty insurance renewals or social security and retirement statements, for one year. You need only keep household bills and credit card statements until you have a record that the bill was paid (unless you need these statements as evidence for tax filing or proof of purchase). Shred all outdated and unnecessary statements.

Try organizing your saved documents into a folder with the newest date on top. This way, if you go looking for a specific document, you won’t shuffle through a year’s worth of back up. Maybe, you prefer storing everything digitally. If so, consider naming folders starting with the year, followed by the two-digit month and ending with the name of the institution or document. This keeps the files sorted in an easy, chronological order. Remember, all electronic files should be backed up regularly, whether stored locally or in the cloud. These days, there are plenty of that will sync your devices and securely back up your storage.

When you pare down and keep only what is necessary – for tax purposes and tracking financial records – you’ll have less clutter and a better understanding of what is in your possession.

Consolidate retirement accounts

How many retirement accounts have you accumulated? Throughout your career, you may have switched employers and acquired multiple retirement accounts. You’re not alone: Many people have aging 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement accounts of convenience. Talk about financial clutter! Now is a great time to consolidate these. IRAs, SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs can all be consolidated into a single IRA. (Roth IRAs can only combine with other Roth IRAs.) Old 401(k)s can also be rolled into your IRA. When distributing an old 401(k) into your IRA, be sure to review the investment options and expenses in the 401(k) as compared to what is available in your IRA. Combining multiple accounts, may save you fees and most certainly will save you paperwork. Most importantly, you and your advisor can more easily and strategically invest your retirement account for today and the future. When it comes time to take withdrawals, calculations and taxes will be much easier as well.

Update your critical information

Finally, as you begin to clear the financial clutter, you may have various accounts and people who have changed since the last time you organized. That’s why this is a great time to record all your critical information in one central location. We like to call this your critical records organizer. If you already have your information in one organizer, maybe your information is outdated or professionals have changed. Use this spring cleaning time to review the information and make updates. If you have never organized your important information, you should include all your current account numbers, access information and professional contacts. You might like to keep this information in hard copy or choose a mobile app (such as 1Password) or cloud-based document service (such as Dropbox). Creating a central location of this information is not only useful for you each year, it might become critical for your family. You might have account information and professionals in your life that you interact with, but the rest of your family may not know how to contact. Once you update and organize your critical information, remember to let the important people in your family know where they can find this information for the future.

Spring cleaning your finances doesn’t have to be an exhausting process. By keeping important account statements in one place, tossing recurring documents, and shredding unnecessary or outdated personal paperwork, you can clear the document clutter in your life. Consolidating multiple accounts that have lingered over time, will bring you fresh confidence and control over your nest egg, and updating your information in a central location keeps you protected for the future.

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