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Firefox Private Network: Free Browser-Based VPN Encryption During Beta

If you’re like me, you take advantage of all the free WiFi you can get to avoid having to pay too much for a big cellular data plan. Coffee shops, airports, libraries, hotels, conference centers, etc. The problem is that (as Mozilla puts it) if a “Wi-Fi connection is free and open to you, it’s also free and open to hackers”. The solution to this problem is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that acts like a secure “tunnel” between you and the service you are reaching. The VPN tunnel keeps other folks from peeking in on your e-mail passwords, website visits, exact location, and so forth.

Firefox promotes itself as a privacy-focused web browser alternative, and its newest feature is called Firefox Private Network, which bakes VPN encryption into the browser itself. While it is in beta testing, this feature is free to all Firefox for desktop users in the United States. They do plan on charging for it at some point in the future. However, I think this presents a good opportunity for more people to become more familiar with using a VPN and see that it isn’t very complicated.

While I don’t necessarily feel everyone “needs” a VPN, I have used one myself for many years. Even if I only occasionally work in public spaces with shady WiFi, I figure that paying a few bucks a month is worth avoid a bigger cellular data plan and it allows me to connect to that free airport WiFi with peace of mind. Some people use a VPN 24/7 as they don’t want Comcast/Spectrum/AT&T/Verizon collecting their internet data either.

I’m not a VPN expert, but I switched to NordVPN about a year ago because they hade a good deal for a 3-year subscription at $2.99/month (deal ends Monday 9/16). There is also 1 year at $5/month. I switched from Encrypt.me, which also worked fine but it costs a lot more at $10 a month or $99 a year. Instead of renewing at $99, why not get 3 full years from NordVPN for only $108? I have also heard good things about Private Internet Access which starts at $3.33 a month, but I haven’t actually used them myself. (NordVPN and PIA are affiliate links, Encrypt.me and Firefox PN are not.)

If you use a traditional VPN service (not the Firefox version), they usually allow you to change your IP address location so that for example you can use Netflix even when you travel temporarily internationally. It also helps me do some website testing as I can see how different sites load if I was visiting from Europe, Asia, etc. Which reminds me, if you are self-employed or run your own business, a VPN can be a worthwhile tax-deductible business expense.

Reminder: Nobody Can Predict Future Interest Rates (Especially the Experts)

The financial prediction industry is simply mind-boggling to me. There is zero long-term memory or accountability. You can make all the predictions you want about the stock market, gold prices, and interest rates, and nobody remembers your bad calls. You get a contrarian call right, and all of a sudden you’re on all the TV interviews and news articles.

Allow me to remind you of what the Wall Street Journal’s panel of economists predicted in January 2019 as to what interest rates would look like the rest of the year (WSJ source). I have updated the chart with the current rates (click to enlarge). This was less than 10 months ago!

Apologies for the sloppy graphics, but you can see that 10-year rates dropped down to 2% in July, down even further to 1.5% at the beginning of September, with a slight bounce up to around 1.75% today. Not a single prediction was even close to reality.

When I was stocking up on 4% APY 5-year CDs last year, I was reading comments like “Why lock in such a low rate? You’re going to see much higher rates soon!”. Now, all of the comments are “You better lock in that 3% CD before rates drop further!”

Predicting interest rates even only as far as the next 12 months, is incredibly hard. You can’t do it reliably. Nobody can do it reliably. You might get it right, but that is called luck and not skill.

Individual investors don’t have an advantage in predicting future rates, but they do have their own set of special advantages. As an individual investor, you can purchase certificates from any FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union if the interest rate is better than the comparable US Treasury. Over the last couple of years, I was able to buy multiple 5-year CDs at 4% APY when the 5-year Treasury was well below 3%. You have to act decisively, but any individual can do it. Pension funds and other institutional investors can’t.

I have a ladder of 5-year CDs. Each year, I buy a 5-year CD when a compelling interest rate arises. I don’t care about the rate direction, as long as I get about 1% above US Treasuries. After 5 years of doing this, you will have a ladder of CDs such that each year one CD is maturing and you can simply reinvest the funds each year. If I managed to put one year of expenses into each rung of this ladder, I now have 5 years of expenses in the bank, fully-insured and ready to go in case of financial emergency. An extra 1% on each $100,000 is $1,000 a year. That’s real money.

If this sounds like too much trouble to open accounts at multiple banks, you can always still with a Total US Bond fund (like AGG or BND). You’re essentially buying an ladder of bonds. BND has an average effective maturity of 8 years and average duration of 6 years. You might also buy it automatically inside a Vanguard Target Retirement Fund. Just keep buying it and ignore any talk about “The Fed”. Keep the chart above in your mind.

Landed: Shared Equity Down Payment Program For Educators

Home ownership continues to be a goal for many people, but downpayment requirements also keep rising with housing prices. I previously posted about Unison, which offers downpayment assistance in exchange for a percentage of any future upside (or … [More]

Southwest Credit Card Bonuses Toward 2019/2020 Companion Pass (60k/80k Points)

New 60,000 limited-time offer, 80,000 point business card bonus. Southwest Airlines offers a unique feature called the Companion Pass, which lets you pick one person to fly with free when you book either paid or award flights (including to Hawaii!). … [More]

NetNewsWire 5.0: Free RSS Reader for Mac

If you like things old-school and still follow blogs and news sites using RSS s, you may be interested to know that the NetNewsWire RSS reader name has gone back to its original creator and there is a new version now available as a free, open … [More]

British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card Review: 100,000 Point Bonus

Updated with new Reward Flight Statement Credit. The British Airways Visa Signature Card is a co-branded travel card (issued by Chase) has brought back their bonus offer of up to 100,000 total Avios points with a split spending hurdle. Here are the … [More]

Causes of Wealth: Reality vs. News Coverage

Our World in Data has a very in-depth page on Causes of Death from around the world. Then they asked: Does the news reflect what we die from? What if they compared what we read in the news and the raw data? Here is a chart that compares actual … [More]

Top 10 Best Small Business Credit Card Bonus Offers – September 2019

Updated September 2019. Do you have small business income or work as an independent contractor? Uber/Lyft, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Airbnb? You are eligible to open a small business credit card, which keeps your personal and business expenses … [More]

American Express Business Platinum Card: 100,000 Point Limited-Time Offer

Limited-time offer + new perks added. The Business Platinum® Card from American Express is the ultra-premium AmEx business card with a big annual fee and a very long list of perks, including the best airline lounge access program (Delta Sky Club + … [More]

Mint Mobile B3G3 Promo: 6 Months of Unlimited Talk, Text, 8 GB Data For $60 Total ($10 Per Month)

Offer end date announced to be Monday, September 9th. In my own phone, I use Mint Mobile to keep my cell phone costs low. They use the T-Mobile network, which means if you have a compatible phone switching just involves swapping in a new SIM card. … [More]

Walmart / Target Car Seat Trade-In Events: $30 Gift Card / 20% Off Discount

Got an old car seat that you don't use anymore? Need a bigger one? Both Walmart and Target are running car seat trade-in events this month in celebration of National Baby Safety Month. This is a good option for those with expired car seats (they … [More]

Bonus Delta SkyMiles for Washington State Residents

Back again for the 2019-2020 season. If you are a resident of Washington state and age 18+ (as indicated by your Skymiles account), you can register at www.12status.com and receive the following perks from Delta Airlines: 1 bonus mile for each … [More]

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