Dear Moneyist,

My mother is retired and lives in Florida. She still owes money on her home. Five years ago her boyfriend Jerry moved in with her. He has no assets (house or car) and lots of debt, which is the reason my mom says she won’t marry him. My mom has always said her house is her inheritance to me and my brother and that hasn’t changed, but things have changed a little with Jerry in the picture.

My mom is worried what will happen to him if she dies first. She says she wants him to be able to stay living in the house until he wants to move out or passes away.

I like Jerry, but I’m worried about the financial burden on me and my brother. We don’t have a lot of money and I’m worried that we would end up having to pay for the mortgage (if it’s still not paid off), keep up the house repairs, home owners’ association fees, etc. He could end up living there for years.

Don’t miss: This woman made a life-changing decision after her husband gave $600,000 to a cult

The house itself is probably worth around $180,000 right now. Jerry has a son that lives a few states away, but I’m not sure if he would take on his father. I would never allow Jerry to be homeless, but I don’t have the income to support the house while he lives there. He has a small retirement, but that wouldn’t be enough for him to continue living there. Also, if he paid the mortgage would that entitle him to the house?

My mother doesn’t have a will and I’ve been on her for years about doing one. She is looking into options for what to do about Jerry before making one. Can you help us decide what would be best for all of us?

Trying to be a supportive daughter

Dear Daughter,

This is a conversation for your family. Starting now, his son should be included in this discussion.

It’s not feasible for Jerry to live in your mother’s home, if you are responsible for the mortgage payments, and all the other expenses. I don’t think that’s fair to anyone, and I hope Jerry and his son agree. I have one caveat: It’s your mother’s home and, if she pays off the mortgage, it’s her choice whether she wants to give Jerry the right to live there until his death. But even in those circumstances, your family, Jerry and Jerry’s son should discuss the property’s upkeep and taxes, and who is responsible for them.

Don’t miss: My late partner left me with survivorship rights on our home — but her son wants to charge me rent

Here are some steps your mother can take today with the help of an attorney:

• Put the house in a qualified personal residence trust. Your mother would be able to stay in her home, but remove it from her taxable estate. You can read more about that here.

• Your mother can give Jerry tenancy in common with no survivorship rights, and specify the terms under which he could still live in her house if she should predecease him.

• A “life estate” gives Jerry the right to live there for the rest of his life and, when your mother dies, you would inherit the property. But there are some tax caveats.

Don’t miss: This woman’s father was murdered and, on her lawyer’s advice, she signed the family’s properties over to her sister

It may be in Jerry’s son’s interests to help his father live independently — with financial help. His choices: (i) pay for separate accommodation for his father (the most expensive option), (ii) convert a room in his own home into a bedroom for his father (the most “inconvenient” option if Jerry’s son values his space and is comfortable with his father living alone in another state) or (iii) pay for the upkeep on this home for his father until his father is no longer able to live independently (the best compromise for both father, son and your family).

The best prediction of future behavior is past behavior. Your mother wants to protect herself when she is here. She won’t marry Jerry because she sees the bad financial decisions he has made, so she should understand your reasons for making provisions in the event she predeceases him. We don’t know the cause of those debts. It may be that they were due to an unexpected medical issue or some other event. Whatever the cause, you have a strong case to protect your mother from his financial mistakes, and also an argument that he could not be trusted with a lump sum.

Also see: My daughter earned millions at Google, but her boyfriend has student debt — should she get a prenup?

You have the opportunity to craft an arrangement that is both compassionate and realistic, while ensuring that your mother’s name alone remains on the deed of the house. I would, however, caution against Jerry (or his son) paying the mortgage. If the mortgage is not paid off and your mother predeceases Jerry, then I suggest you come to an arrangement with Jerry and his son where he pays minimum costs to maintain the house. It may be that Jerry and your mother live a long and happy life together.

Jerry may pre-decease your mother and you won’t have to concern yourself with these what-ifs. They may even decide to marry. If they do, I’ll be here for a whole new set of questions.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

Would you like to sign up to an email alert when a new Moneyist column has been published? If so, click on this link.

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Getty Images

Regardless of your income or net worth, there’s one estate planning move you should probably make right now: check the beneficiary designations.

With today’s relatively generous $11.18 million federal estate tax exemption, estate planning is only a concern for the rich. Right? Wrong! In fact, regardless of your income or net worth, there’s one estate planning move you should probably make right now: check the beneficiary designations for your life insurance policies, bank accounts, brokerage firm accounts, retirement accounts, and so forth. If you’ve not yet turned in the proper forms to designate beneficiaries, do it now. If your forms are out of date, refresh them.

The consequences of failing to take these simple steps can be dire. If you don’t believe it, consider the following trifecta of real-life horror stories.

Don’t miss: New York launches tax investigation into Trump after N.Y. Times report

Horror story No. 1

A 2012 Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision reversed an early District Court decision by finding that a pension plan administrator didn’t abuse her discretion in determining that a deceased plan participant’s stepsons weren’t considered his “children” under the terms of the plan. Therefore, the deceased participant’s siblings, rather than the stepsons, were entitled to inherit the plan benefits. Source: Herring v. Campbell, 5th Circuit 2012.

Factually, John Wayne Hunter died in October of 2005. He had retired from Marathon Oil Company, where he was a participant in the company pension plan. The plan allowed Hunter to designate a primary and secondary beneficiary. Hunter designated his wife as the primary beneficiary but failed to designate any secondary (contingent) beneficiary. After his wife died, he failed to designate a new primary beneficiary. Under the plan’s terms, when a participant died without designating a valid beneficiary, the deceased participant’s benefits were distributed in the following order of priority: (1) surviving spouse, (2) surviving children, (3) surviving parents, (4) surviving brothers and sisters (siblings), and finally (5) participant’s estate.

After Hunter died, the plan administrator considered, and rejected, the possibility that Hunter’s two stepsons might qualify as “children” who would therefore be entitled to all of Hunter’s benefits. Instead, the plan administrator distributed the benefits, which totaled more than $300,000, to Hunter’s six siblings.

The stepsons sued, claiming they should have inherited the benefits. Evidence presented in the resulting Texas District Court proceeding showed they had a close relationship with Hunter. His estate had been left to them, and Hunter referred to them as his “beloved sons” in his will. The stepsons claimed they were in fact Hunter’s children because, by his actions, he had “equitably adopted” them.

The evidence seemed to indicate that Hunter probably did intend to leave his benefits to the stepsons, and the District Court took their side by concluding that the plan administrator had abused her discretion by failing to consider the stepsons’ equitable adoption claim. However, the plan administrator wasn’t ready to give up the fight. She appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

The Fifth Circuit found no error in the administrator’s interpretation that the term “children” for purposes of the plan meant biological or legally adopted children as opposed to un-adopted stepchildren. As to the stepson’s claim that they had been equitably adopted by Hunter, the Fifth Circuit found that nothing required the plan administrator to incorporate the theory of equitable adoption into the plan’s definition of “children.”

Therefore, the District Court’s decision was reversed, and all of Hunter’s pension benefits went to his six siblings.

Horror story No. 2

How would you feel if you died and your ex, who you intended to get nothing further after your recent divorce, was allowed to collect all your company pension benefits and the proceeds from your company-provided life insurance? Probably not very good if you wanted your son and daughter from an earlier marriage to get the money. Unfortunately, the dad in this case failed to change the beneficiary designations for his pension benefits and life insurance after the divorce, so his ex-wife remained the named beneficiary. Two months later, dad was killed in a car crash. The Supreme Court ruled that the beneficiary designations trumped state law that would have automatically disinherited the ex. So the ex got the money, and the kids got the bills for an expensive and unsuccessful legal fight. Source: Egelhoff v. Egelhoff, Supreme Court 2001.

Horror story No. 3

In yet another real-life case, an ex-wife collected $400,000 from her ex-husband’s company savings and investment plan even though the ex-wife had specifically waived any interest in the plan under the divorce agreement. Believing the divorce agreement was the last word on the subject, the ex-husband failed to turn in the form required to officially change the plan beneficiary from his ex-wife to his daughter. He died seven years after the divorce. The plan document stipulated that beneficiaries could only be changed by submitting the form. The Supreme Court ruled that the hideously out-of-date beneficiary designation trumped the divorce agreement. So the ex-wife got the $400,000 and the daughter got stiffed. Source: Kennedy Estate v. Plan Administrator for the DuPont Saving and Investment Plan, Supreme Court 2008.

The moral

Of course, beloved stepchildren and divorces aren’t the only scenarios where failing to turn in or update beneficiary designation forms can cause big problems for someone’s intended heirs. You face the same basic issue if you’ve become disgusted with one of your offspring because he has decided to become a professional Frisbee golfer. Or you might want to leave more of your life insurance benefits to an adult child who just had triplets and a bit less to your childless heirs. Bottom line: when your circumstances change, your beneficiary designations may need to change too.

Warning: Don’t depend on your will or living trust document to override outdated beneficiary designations. As a general rule, whoever is named on the most-recent beneficiary form will get the money automatically if you die — regardless of what your will or living trust papers might say.

Special advice if you’re married

If you’re married and have accounts set up with you and your spouse named as joint owners with right of survivorship, the surviving spouse will automatically take over sole ownership when the first spouse dies. If that’s what you intend, great. Still, you may want to name some secondary beneficiaries to cover the possibility that your spouse dies before you do. Note that in the nine community property states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin), you will usually need your spouse’s consent to make beneficiary changes because assets accumulated during your marriage are generally considered to be owned 50/50.

Turning in beneficiary forms can also help you avoid probate

Beyond just ensuring that your money goes where you want it to go, another advantage of designating individual beneficiaries is that it can help you avoid probate — because the money goes directly to the named beneficiaries by “operation of law.” In contrast, if you name your estate as your beneficiary and then depend on your will to parcel out assets to your intended heirs, your estate must go through the potentially time-consuming and expensive process of court-supervised probate.

The last word

If you don’t have any minor children, keeping your beneficiary designations up-to-date can sometimes eliminate the need for a will (if you do have kids, you need a will to designate a guardian for them). The key words here are up-to-date. So it’s a really good idea to check your designations at least once a year or whenever significant life changes occur. For example, when grandchildren arrive, you may want to name them as secondary (contingent) beneficiaries if their parents (your adult children) pass away.

In any event, you can usually conduct a beneficiary checkup and make needed changes in just a few minutes. Even better, beneficiary forms can often be accessed and submitted online. But if you wait, it could be too late — as the unlucky folks in the aforementioned horror stories can attest.

Sidebar: Beneficiary to-do list

Life insurance policies, annuities, IRAs and other tax-favored retirement accounts, employer-sponsored benefit plans: Fill out and turn in beneficiary designation forms to establish or change beneficiaries.

Bank and brokerage firm accounts: Fill out and turn in transfer on death (TOD) or payable on death (POD) form to establish or change beneficiaries.

529 college saving accounts: Fill out and turn in beneficiary change form if you want to change the account beneficiary.

Name secondary beneficiaries: Naming a primary beneficiary isn’t enough. Name one or more secondary (contingent) beneficiaries to inherit your money if the primary beneficiary dies before you do. Sadly, this is a common occurrence that must be taken into account.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Market pessimists love to rally around overseas market drops and squawk about how they’ll take down U.S. stocks, but often times, the other side of the trade ends up winning out, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Wednesday.

“Whenever you see these contagion stories, unless there’s some direct connection to the U.S. banks — and there rarely is — you need to treat these pullbacks as buying opportunities,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Cramer began by reevaluating the recent turmoil in Turkey, during which President Tayyip Edrogan seemingly challenged the independent nature of Turkey’s central bank as it tried to stabilize the slide in the Turkish lira.

The lira’s initial decline was caused in part by U.S. President Donald Trump escalating tariffs on Turkey, which, combined with the central bank’s action, set the bears into a frenzy centered on how the currency crisis could affect U.S. securities.

But “the thing about Turkey is that it’s kind of been a slow motion train-wreck for ages,” Cramer said. “The iShares MSCI Turkey ETF plunged from $46 in January down to $26 coming into August, so it was hardly news that the sick man of Europe was in trouble.”

Even so, the bearish panic sent the Turkey ETF down from $26 to $19 in the second week of August. At the same time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell roughly 500 points.

I warned you here that it would be a buying opportunity,” the “Mad Money” host said. “Of course, this latest Turkish crisis turned out to be totally overblown, just like all the other recent crises. Instead of contagion from Turkey, you caught a beautiful bottom in the Turkish stock market, [with that] ETF rallying back to $23.”

Investors with conviction also managed to catch a recovery rally in the Dow, which has rallied over 1600 points since the Turkish market bottomed, he said.

But what frustrated Cramer most was the fact that the bears got out unscathed after starting all this panic. And, despite the fact that Turkey’s crisis is now worsening, they’ve moved on to warning about how Italy’s budget problems could hit U.S. markets.

“Sowing fear is just so easy to do. It’s always news when someone says the banks could be in danger, isn’t it?” Cramer said. “Beware the bears; their righteous indignation will almost always lead you astray — Turkey, Italy, who knows what’s next? No one ever calls them to account for being wrong.”

So the next time you hear about how some exogenous worry in a foreign market will directly affect your holdings in the U.S., think twice before you ring the register, the “Mad Money” host suggested.

“I say we quarantine these guys when they scream contagion. They don’t deserve the platform,” he said. “Unfortunately, many journalists love controversy, which is why they’ll never let these bogus bearish stories go to waste. The best you can do is prepare yourself so you know what to do the next time someone starts shouting ‘contagion’ in a crowded theater.”

Questions for Cramer?
Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC

Want to take a deep dive into Cramer’s world? Hit him up!
Mad Money TwitterJim Cramer TwitterFacebookInstagramVine

Questions, comments, suggestions for the “Mad Money” website?

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

One of the Federal Reserve’s chief goals may be to curb inflation in the U.S. economy, but when it comes to wage inflation, the central bank should be careful how it proceeds, CNBC’s Jim Cramer warned on Wednesday.

“In short, the Fed should be careful what it wishes for” as it decides how many interest rate hikes to put through as the economy heats up, the “Mad Money” host said. “Why not let this economy run? Would it really be so terrible if we went over their precious 2 percent inflation target?”

If Friday’s nonfarm payroll report from the U.S. Labor Department reveals higher-than-expected job creation, it could spur the Fed to act quickly to stop inflation and stifle wage growth in the process, Cramer said.

“That brings me to the real issue here: there’s been almost no wage inflation in this country for decades. Income inequality is a serious problem, and it’s a problem that the Fed has absolutely had a hand in creating,” he said. “How the heck are working people supposed to catch up if our central bank slams on the brakes every time wages start going higher?” he continued.

The “Mad Money” host pointed out the various downward pressures on wage growth, including the rise of cloud-based technology and automation and the growth of price-slashing giants like Amazon.

“When I look at Amazon, I’m seeing a company that’s working to control wage inflation by embracing automation at its warehouses and eliminating monthly bonuses and stock grants,” Cramer said. “Even with this pay raise, Amazon is one of the most powerful deflationary forces on earth. I defy you to think of a company that’s done more to lower prices.”

For more of Cramer’s analysis, click here.

The stocks of Western Digital and Micron have been dragging on the semiconductor space, logging double-digit declines since their early 2018 highs, so Cramer felt he needed to investigate the weakness.

“The semiconductor space is important,” he said on Wednesday. “Chips are in nearly everything these days and they need to be ordered early in the production process, so a downturn in the semis is often a leading indicator for the broader economy.”

Western Digital, formerly a pure play on hard drives, got into the semiconductor industry after its 2016 acquisition of chipmaker Sandisk. It specializes in NAND chips, a type of flash semiconductor used for data storage.

Micron deals in two types of chips, flash and dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, chips, which end up in various electronic devices including computers.

But Cramer argued that there is “a fundamental difference” between Western Digital and Micron. Western Digital’s business is largely driven by flash memory chip sales, whereas the majority of Micron’s business comes from dynamic random-access memory chips, an entirely different market.

That difference was enough for Cramer to recommend one stock over the other. Click here to find out why.

Market pessimists love to rally around overseas market drops and squawk about how they’ll take down U.S. stocks, but often times, the other side of the trade ends up winning out, Cramer said Wednesday.

“Whenever you see these contagion stories, unless there’s some direct connection to the U.S. banks — and there rarely is — you need to treat these pullbacks as buying opportunities,” he told investors.

Cramer began by reevaluating the recent turmoil in Turkey, during which President Tayyip Edrogan seemingly challenged the independent nature of Turkey’s central bank as it tried to stabilize the slide in the Turkish lira.

The lira’s initial decline was caused in part by U.S. President Donald Trump escalating tariffs on Turkey, which, combined with the central bank’s action, set the bears into a frenzy centered on how the currency crisis could affect U.S. securities.

But “the thing about Turkey is that it’s kind of been a slow motion train-wreck for ages,” Cramer said.

Still, the bears had their way. Click here for Cramer’s take on how you could’ve profited from the panic.

With CyrusOne fresh off its best quarter in history, some investors are wondering why the data-center-focused real estate investment trust decided to expand internationally. But President and CEO Gary Wojtaszek said his reasoning was simple.

“Data is global,” Wojtaszek told Cramer in a Wednesday interview. “If your kids play Fortnite, they’re playing against kids all around the world, so data is flying around the world. Our customers, which are predominantly Fortune 1000 customers, are deployed everywhere globally. So if you really want to be helpful to the customers’ needs, you have to have a global platform, and if you don’t, you’re really in an inferior position.”

Beyond that, the data center business is “accelerating” as major tech companies spend more on expanding data storage capacity for their growing businesses, which fuels CyrusOne’s core business, Wojtaszek said.

“If you talk to any of the FANG companies or even the broader group — there’s about a dozen companies that are really kind of driving this industry — everyone’s capital expenditures are up dramatically,” the CEO said, referencing Cramer’s well-known acronym for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, now Alphabet.

“We look at all the success that we’ve had in the States over the last decade and we feel really comfortable that we’ll be able to export that same success internationally, because all the growth internationally is coming from all the customers that we serve here,” Wojtaszek continued.

Click here to watch his full interview.

The auto industry is seeing a shift in consumer purchases, with more and more people opting to buy used cars rather than pay up for new ones. Naturally, Cramer wanted to steer investors in the right direction.

“If you want to see the biggest winner here, look no further than Carvana, the online used car dealership,” the “Mad Money” host said. “This stock has pulled back pretty dramatically from its recent highs, but get this: it’s still up more than 500 percent from where it bottomed a few days after its IPO roughly 18 months ago, and it’s given you a terrific 185 percent gain just for 2018.”

Carvana’s premise is simple. Rather than asking customers to physically go to car dealerships and spend their time fielding salesmen and filling out paperwork, the company puts all the relevant information on its website, letting people do research, secure financing or buy a car online. Once they buy, they can pick up the car from a Carvana “vending machine,” an automated garage that simplifies the pickup process.

The stock, however, has run a lot, and even though it’s not yet expensive, investors shouldn’t put their hard-earned bucks towards investing in the stock if they don’t have some money to lose, Cramer said.

“I would only buy Carvana for speculation as the stock’s a real wild trader,” he said. “You need to be prepared to be building your position gradually on the way down if it keeps falling.”

“Even after its near[ly] 25 percent decline from its recent highs, the stock remains hot, hot, hot. So, yes, you have my blessing to buy it here, just don’t be too aggressive and don’t buy it all at one level,” he added.

In Cramer’s lightning round, he zoomed through his take on some callers’ favorite stocks:

Sirius XM Holdings Inc.: “I have been behind this stock, literally, for $3 and a half and now I am starting to cool. I did not like the Pandora acquisition. You’ve got Tencent, you’ve got Spotify and now you have XM. No. It’s too competitive for me. I’m now saying don’t buy – that’s a major change for me.”

New Relic Inc.: “This stock’s ridiculous. It’s come down. Remember, it’s up 54 percent for the year, but it has come down mightily, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m getting real interested in [CEO] Lew Cirne’s company. I think the stock in the $80s is a buy.”

Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust own shares of Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet.

Questions for Cramer?
Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC

Want to take a deep dive into Cramer’s world? Hit him up!
Mad Money TwitterJim Cramer TwitterFacebookInstagramVine

Questions, comments, suggestions for the “Mad Money” website?

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

German app-only bank N26 has launched in the U.K. and is eyeing another expansion to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2019.

The Berlin-based firm, which is backed by Chinese tech giant Tencent, German insurer Allianz and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, said on Thursday that its services are now available in Britain, on a limited basis.

Initially, a select number of “early adopters” will be given access to the app in the U.K. More than 50,000 people who have signed up to a waiting list for the U.K. launch will be on-boarded on a phased basis, and a broader launch is planned for next month.

N26 offers a mobile banking app and a Mastercard debit card, operates without a single physical branch and doesn’t charge fees on transactions. However, it said a fee of 1.7 percent will be charged on cash machine withdrawals for U.K. users when traveling abroad with its standard account.

It has a number of products on its platform, including a basic current account, a premium account called N26 Black, overdrafts, savings and loans. But features beyond the basic account won’t be offered to U.K. users until after the launch, N26 said.

The company has been around since 2013, making it one of the oldest so-called digital “challenger banks” trying to compete with bigger lenders.

The company expects to expand into the U.S. in the first quarter of 2019. Although it has a banking license recognized in Europe, N26 isn’t authorized in the same way by regulators in the States. So it is partnering with an American lender — which hasn’t yet been disclosed — in order to enter the country.

The U.S. expansion was originally planned to take place before the end of this year, but Chief Executive Valentin Stalf said he is “happy” with the new time-frame.

“I think it’s always — if you look at products’ release cycles and so on — it’s very hard to predict,” he told CNBC in an interview. “I think currently we’re very confident to do that in Q1.”

But amid all the growth in the fintech industry, many players are struggling to turn their big ideas and competitive pricing into profit. Virtually none of the digital challenger banks make more money than they lose. Even rival firm Revolut, which broke even for the first time last December, said last month it posted a £14.8 million ($19.3 million) annual loss in 2017.

Stalf, 33, said N26 could break even by the second quarter of 2019 as it has reached a point where it can soon become a profitable company.

“For us I can say, if we want to break even, we can do that in Q2 next year,” he said. “It depends on how much we can put into growth.”

N26’s business model is more “advanced” than other rivals,” Stalf said. And, for him, its growth can only continue to accelerate.

“We see this big opportunity of taking our business to 50 million — maybe 100 million — customers over the next five to 10 years,” he told CNBC. He said N26 is signing up 5,000 to 6,000 customers every day.

The company disclosed Thursday that it now has 1.5 million people signed up to the platform, a 50 percent increase in the last four months. The U.K. is the 18th market the fintech upstart’s app is available in.

Stalf said the firm also wants to launch an initial public offering (IPO), and said there was a possibility a stock market listing could happen in the next “three to five years.”

“An IPO is definitely something we would like to do. I think it’s too early now to say when it is going to be. But we are preparing our company in a way that we can do it,” he said. Several European firms have gone public this year, including Dutch payments start-up Adyen, Swedish music streaming service Spotify and British peer-to-peer lender Funding Circle.

Earlier this year, the company raised $160 million in a funding round led by Tencent, which owns the social network WeChat and its accompanying payment service WeChat Pay, and Allianz. It has raised a total of almost $213 million so far, but has not disclosed a valuation figure. That injection of capital was seen as a “confirmation” of the firm’s success, Stalf said, and set the stage for an eventual float.

One of its aims is to turn banking into more of a marketplace, where it adds more products from competitors to its platform. This approach is similar to that taken by British rivals Monzo and Starling.

What sets it apart from those competitors, according to Stalf, is the N26 app’s slick design and simple user interface. The company’s chief said that its app was recently featured by U.S tech titan Apple on its German website while promoting the new iPhone models.

The digital banking challenger’s arrival in Britain comes at a trying time for the country’s relationship with the rest of Europe.

Politicians in both Westminster and Brussels have been engaged in tense negotiations about their future ties over trade, security and more as the U.K. prepares to withdraw from the European Union in March 2019.

Both sides are trying to secure a deal that will see at least some alignment between Britain and the EU continuing beyond Brexit, but an overhanging risk that the two sever ties without an agreement remains worrying for businesses.

Asked whether N26’s expansion to the U.K. was timed with Brexit in mind, Stalf said: “I think that wasn’t really related to the Brexit, and if you look at our rollout, we’ve been to Germany, Austria, then we rolled out to all the euro markets in Europe, and now we’re rolling out to the first multi-currency market in the U.K.”

He added that N26 was looking to broaden its footprint to other European countries that do not use the euro, like Sweden and Denmark, before it enters the U.S.

And N26 is a bank with global ambitions, its chief said, adding it could enter markets beyond Europe and the U.S. “in the next maybe 12 to 24 months.”

“I think the U.K. is the next step, but I think what we think is really about building a global bank the world loves to use which is really kind of our mission.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Here's why quitting Facebook is so hard

Here’s why quitting Facebook is so hard

Facebook says it has not found any evidence “so far” that its attackers accessed third-party sites through Facebook Login.

It’s a sliver of good news about a massive data breach that the company first disclosed last week. Attackers accessed as many as 50 million accounts in the largest such breach of Facebook’s network.

“We have now analyzed our logs for all third-party apps installed or logged during the attack we discovered last week. That investigation has so far found no evidence that the attackers accessed any apps using Facebook Login.” said Facebook’s Guy Rosen in a statement.

On Friday, Facebook (FB) announced unknown attackers had exploited a vulnerability to access the accounts. They were able to view other people’s Facebook profiles as if they were the accounts’ owners. For example, they could see friends’ profiles and updates.

Facebook says it closed the loophole on Thursday night, but 90 million users were forcefully logged out of their accounts as a precaution.

The attackers stole Facebook “access tokens,” which keep a person logged into their Facebook account over long periods. Facebook reset all 50 million tokens, as well as tokens for an additional 40 million people who had used the “view as” feature in the past year as a precautionary step.

During a call about the hack last week, Rosen said the attackers would have also been able to access third-party sites using Facebook Login, but the company had found no evidence of them doing so.

Hundreds of sites and apps including Tinder, Spotify and Airbnb use Facebook Login, which lets people access the services with their Facebook username and password. Early this week, developers were confused about whether their services had been exposed in the Facebook hack.

The company says partners following Facebook “best practices” were automatically protected. Some developers might not have followed those rules, and they could have put their users at risk.

“We’re sorry that this attack happened — and we’ll continue to update people as we find out more,” Rosen said.

— CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan contributed reporting.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Reddit co-founder defends net neutrality

Reddit co-founder defends net neutrality

Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian’s venture capital firm has raised an additional $225 million to invest in early-stage startups.

It is the fourth and largest fund raised by Initialized Capital, the San Francisco-based venture capital firm founded by Ohanian and Garry Tan.

The new fund, announced on Tuesday, comes as Ohanian spends more time with the firm. About nine months ago, he stepped away from his day-to-day role at Reddit, the popular discussion board platform he co-founded in 2005. When Initialized Capital launched in 2012, Ohanian and Tan were also partners at Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley accelerator fund known for helping companies like Airbnb and Dropbox get off the ground.

Tan and Ohanian credit their past experiences as engineers, operators and investors at Y Combinator for their success as investors at their own firm.

“We know that investors sitting around a table are not going to be able to come up with the future because we aren’t the ones actively building it, but we’ve seen enough and built enough in the way of software and scalable businesses that our ‘Spidey’ senses start tingling when we get on the right track with a founder,” Ohanian told CNN Tuesday.

Together, Ohanian and Tan have invested in several startups that are now “unicorns” -— the term for privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more. That includes crypto marketplace Coinbase and grocery delivery startup Instacart, among others.

Initialized Capital will remained focused primarily on funding early-stage startups but will cut larger checks, such as $1 million, compared to $50,000, the size of some of its first investments. That’s a sign of the times — valuations and deal sizes have grown in recent years. The average deal size in the second quarter of this year was $18 million, the highest this decade, according to PitchBook.

The firm now has a team of eight partners who help portfolio companies with everything from product development to legal, design and marketing.

Ohanian and Tan say their approach to funding startups is “thesis agnostic,” but they tend to look for businesses with “software at their core.”

They’ve invested in startups like Voyage — a self-driving car company that operates its vehicles in two retirement communities — as well Ro, a healthcare company whose first brand, Roman, is helping diagnose and treat those with erectile dysfunction.

“We still feel like there’s a lot of work left to be done when it comes to software solving big problems,” said Ohanian, who also sits on the board of Reddit and Ro. “This is our sweet spot.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

01 Donald Trump FILE

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Trump’s $$$$

Susanne Craig says this investigation was, without a doubt, the hardest story she’s ever done.

“Imagine,” she says, “someone tossing a million white puzzle pieces into Times Square and being asked to put it back together.”

Those puzzle pieces were about the Trump family business. Craig, David Barstow and Russ Buettner pieced it all together for an extraordinary story, published by the NYT on Tuesday afternoon. It will fill eight special pages of the print edition on Wednesday. Here’s the front page:

If you haven’t read it yet, click here. The Times also (helpfully!) published a list of 11 takeaways from the investigation. And here’s CNN’s story about it.

Now for the story behind the story…

NYT assistant managing editor Sam Dolnick called this “investigative reporter serendipity:” Exactly two years ago, on October 1, 2016, “the same NYT crew published a Trump taxes story after an anonymous source sent Susanne Craig 1995 tax records,” he tweeted.

Trump, of course, was elected without ever disclosing his taxes.

Flash forward five months. In March 2017, David Cay Johnston obtained a copy of Trump’s 2005 returns. (Remember when he broke the story on Rachel Maddow’s show?) “That triggered our journey,” Craig told me. So it’s fair to say this was an 18-month investigation…

The sourcing

The trio obtained confidential tax returns. Financial records. Depositions. And so on. How? I’ll leave that up to you to speculate.

“We had thousands of documents. Hundreds of tax returns,” Craig told me. “Piecing all that together, understanding what they did, was beyond hard. We triangulated documents. Compared tax returns to financial statements and bank statements. And then talked to sources on it. Today we put it into one story, all explained. But it started with piles” of information sitting in the corner of the room.

A room with a locked door

Buettner, Barstow and Craig worked in a small room on the fourth floor of NYT HQ. One of the only treats: a bottle of Jameson on the shelf.

Most NYT reporters work from open cubicles. But the trio needed privacy. So the room was kept locked, and they were the only ones with keys…

A multimedia rollout

I mentioned the “takeaways” list earlier. The NYT also had a video ready to go on Tuesday. And the same documentary crew that made “The Fourth Estate” for Showtime also tagged along on this investigation. Showtime will air the resulting “documentary short,” titled “The Family Business: Trump and Taxes,” this Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET. It’s directed by Jenny Carchman, produced by Liz Garbus and Justin Wilkes… And it’s still in the works… It’ll run approximately 30 minutes on Sunday…

Trumpworld’s threat: Harder calls the story “highly defamatory”

When the story dropped on Tuesday, many journalists commented — in awe and envy — on the super-confident tone of the story. The NYT reached what NPR’s David Folkenflik likes to call “earned conclusions.” These are not opinions — these are conclusions that come from months and months of obsessive hard work. For example, the lead of the story: Trump “participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s” that included “instances of outright fraud.” That is quite a conclusion.

One of Trump’s pitbull lawyers, Charles Harder, sent a statement to the NYT on Monday after the paper sent him a “detailed description of its findings.”

Harder said “The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory. There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate.”

A statement from Sanders… or from Trump?

Harder’s statement was followed by a release from Sarah Sanders. W.H. reporters pointed out that it sounded like it came straight from Trump’s mouth.

“But the statement doesn’t dispute any facts in the story,” the NYT’s Peter Baker tweeted. “Instead it attacks the newspaper and repeats the lie that the NYT apologized for 2016 coverage, which it did not.”

Fox’s spin

Here’s the thing about an 18-month investigation like this: There’s no real way for other news outlets to “match” the story for days… or more realistically for weeks or months. So other outlets have to report it with attribution to the NYT. I found it funny when Fox’s Kevin Corke told viewers, during the 4 p.m. hour, “we’ll keep digging.” How? Well, he said he had reached out to W.H. officials. I can’t think of a worse possible way to report on Trump’s taxes.

Anchor Neil Cavuto, meanwhile, downplayed the story by saying “I don’t know if there’s a there there.” This is one of those times when Fox’s coverage actually does a disservice to its viewers…

There’s still so much we don’t know

This story is about the Trump family, with documents dating back decades. But what about Trump’s more recent tax returns? His more recent accounting practices? “The records reviewed by the Times did not include Trump’s personal tax returns or his recent business dealings,” CNN’s story notes.

Craig tweeted, “It really underscores the need for presidents — Donald Trump in particular — to release their tax returns.”

Baker tweeted a similar point: “Trump could help clarify anything he thinks is misleading by releasing his tax returns, as every other president has done for decades.”

MORE TO COME? Craig told me, “We have a lot more we want to dig into…”

TUNE IN: Craig is booked on “GMA” and Barstow is booked on “New Day” Wednesday morning…

The day’s other Times-related news…

Oliver Darcy emails: Earlier on Tuesday, before the Trump wealth story came out, the NYT tried to put out a fire about its Monday night story involving Brett Kavanaugh and a 1985 bar fight. The Times said it made a mistake by allowing an NYT Mag staff writer who had tweeted negatively about Kavanaugh, Emily Bazelon, to co-byline the story.

Read more of Tuesday’s Reliable Sources newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

A spokesperson defended the story — it was “straightforward, fact-based and we fully stand behind it” — but said “editors should have used a newsroom reporter” to get ahold of the documents in New Haven, CT. Apparently they tapped Bazelon because she’s based in New Haven… Read on…

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Asian stock markets were mixed, though largely improved, as morning trading progressed Wednesday, as indexes in Japan and Hong Kong stocks recovered somewhat from early weakness.

Japan’s Nikkei

NIK, -0.66%

  was last about flat, after suffering early losses from the auto, energy and insurance sectors. Major automakers tumbled, with Toyota

7203, -2.94%

  and Honda

7267, -4.25%

  each off more than 2%, and auto parts maker Denso

6902, -3.41%

  slipped 2%, extending this week’s declines. Dai-ichi Life

8750, -2.87%

  was off amid the recent downtick on bond yields. The Nikkei set 27-year closing highs both Monday and Tuesday.

Hong Kong stocks started lower following yesterday’s 2.4% drop, but the Hang Seng Index

HSI, -0.17%

 made up ground, and was last up slightly. Tech heavyweight Tencent

0700, -0.19%

  was up fractionally after falling nearly 1% in the early going. Meanwhile, insurer AIA

1299, -2.59%

  was off a further 1%.

Australia’s ASX 200

XJO, +0.32%

  extended gains, up 0.2%, with gold mining companies such as Newcrest Mining

NCM, +3.30%

  and Evolution Mining

EVN, +3.80%

  rallying as gold prices hit a nearly two-week high.

New Zealand’s benchmark

NZ50GR, -0.35%

  slipped, as did Taiwan’s Taiex

Y9999, -0.51%

 , while stocks in Singapore

STI, +0.80%

  and Indonesia

JAKIDX, -1.16%

  posted solid gains. Markets in China and South Korea were closed for holidays.

Providing critical information for the U.S. trading day. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Need to Know newsletter. Sign up here.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

The euro climbed against other currencies Wednesday on reports Italy may yield ground over a budget stalemate with the European Union.

The common currency

EURUSD, +0.2511%

EURUSD, +0.2511%

rose to $1.1584 from $1.1549, making headway during the Asian trading session after a report in Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera that the government’s budget deficit target will be set at 2.4% of GDP in 2019, but decline to 2.2% in 2020 and 2.0% in 2021.

“We expect further gains as the European session begins,” said Jasper Lawler, Head of Research at London Capital Group, in a note to clients.

Italian officials had previously clashed with Brussels over the budget deficit target, which had stoked fears of another crisis in the region and put pressure on Italian stocks and bonds.

“Brussels still need to approve Italy’s budget plans by the middle of the month, so we could still see some jitters until the ink has dried on that approval,” said Lawler.

The start of the week has been marked by back and forth comments between EU and Italian officials, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at one point warning of a risk of another Greek debt crisis if Italy didn’t dial back its deficit spending plans. Tuesday marked a particularly fraught day for the euro amid budgetary squabbling.

Read: For Italy, the euro is ‘unrenouncable,’ its prime minister reassures

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index

DXY, -0.12%

traded at 95.295, down 0.2% on the day so far.

The pound

GBPUSD, +0.1618%

 was firming up, last changing hands at $1.3001 from $1.2980. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will make a keynote speech at the Conservative party conference on Wednesday, with plenty of attention focused Brexit-related comments.

Providing critical information for the U.S. trading day. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Need to Know newsletter. Sign up here.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)