Your Financial News Roundup
October 18, 2023
1. Economy: Rising prices for shelter and services make inflation tough to control; while retail sales increased last month despite a drop in consumer confidence.
2. Tech: Google is in an antitrust trial over its search engine monopoly; meanwhile, research suggests ChatGPT may have an edge over primary care doctors in treating depression.
3. World: India’s Supreme Court affirmed homosexuality but did not legally recognize same-sex unions; and Egypt hesitates to take responsibility for Palestinians fleeing from Gaza.
Personal Finance Concept [Part 2/12]: Lucrative Side Hustles – Pet Sitting
🏃🏽 Closing The Last Mile: In September, inflation clocked in at 3.7%. Shelter and services were the only two areas that increased — making them prime targets in bringing inflation down to the elusive 2% target. Shelter prices rose by 7.2% while service prices went up by 5.7%. Steven Blitz, chief U.S. economist at GlobalData TS Lombard, believes a brief and shallow recession is imminent, but Goldman Sachs suggests a recession may not happen. The Federal Reserve’s high-interest rates mainly impact the housing market, potentially stalling new apartment construction and halting growth in the national housing supply. Consequently, rental prices may go up, impacting housing affordability. (CNBC)
Our Take: As pandemic-related effects fade away, economic cooling is necessary to cross the finish line. The Fed must decide to either raise rates again or wait to see how past ones play out. Either way, housing and rental costs will likely increase in the short-term.
🛒 Retail Remains Strong: Despite a decline in consumer confidence, the Census Bureau reported a 0.7% increase in retail sales in September to $704.9B. The rise was primarily fueled by nonstore retailers and consumer spending at restaurants and drinking establishments. The resilience in consumer spending can be linked to a strong labor market, as employers added 336K jobs last month and wages rose slightly above 4%. While moderate growth is expected for the holiday season, retailers can potentially boost sales if they can execute strong strategies. (U.S. News)
Our Take: While there was an overall increase in retail sales, the economy is still navigating challenges, including rising inflation and supply chain disruptions. As retailers seek to capitalize on the upcoming holiday season, they’ll need to act quickly to minimize any potential disruptions.
🏛️ U.S. vs. The Big G: Google is facing the biggest U.S. antitrust trial in 25 years due to its monopoly in the search engine space. If proven guilty, Google must allow startups and third-party competitors to enter the space. Despite its renowned search algorithm, Google spends billions to secure its default position on devices and browsers. Notably, the company currently pays Apple $15-20B annually to be the default search engine on iPhones. Firms like Microsoft and Yelp have testified against Google’s dominance, advocating for search engine optionality during device setup. (USA Today)
Our Take: Google’s aggressive efforts to be the default search engine echo Microsoft’s antitrust trial in the 90s when it bundled Internet Explorer as the default browser of its Windows operating system and struck deals with PC makers. Just as Microsoft’s actions garnered scrutiny for their negative effects on competition and innovation, Google’s parallel actions may lead to a similar outcome.
🤖 Your Robot Doctor Will See You Now: Israeli research suggests that AI chatbot ChatGPT can identify depression and follow treatment protocols better than humans by excluding social biases. The study presented the profiles of hypothetical patients with depressive symptoms to ChatGPT versions 3.5 and 4, as well as 1.2K French primary care doctors. In cases of mild depression, GPT3.5 suggested psychotherapy for 95% of cases and GPT4 for 97.5%, while the doctors only recommended it for 4.3% of cases. (SkyNews)
Our Take: While interesting, the doctor sample was 73% female and entirely French, potentially biasing the study’s results and limiting its applicability to other cultures or medical practice formats. Larger studies with more diverse sample groups are essential to effectively compare and understand AI and primary care doctors’ performances.
🇮🇳 Same-Sex Ruling: In a landmark decision, India’s Supreme Court declined to legally recognize same-sex unions, claiming they did not have the power to grant LGBTQ couples legal status. Instead, they focused on the community’s right to be free of prejudice, declaring queerness to be a “natural phenomenon.” Livestreamed nationwide, the ruling was met with a bittersweet reaction by millions of LGBTQ people, though it is seen as an overall positive teaching moment for the nation. Historically, the British limited marriage rights to straight couples in 1860. (CNN)
Our Take: The mixed reaction highlights how India is in the midst of broader LGBTQ acceptance while still battling against the ghosts of its colonial past. As the court seeks to find a political balance, punting the issue to the legislature is good news. 53% of the country believes homosexuality should be accepted, with the figure rising annually.
🇪🇬 Egypt’s Role In The Israel-Gaza War: Egypt has historically acted as a mediator between Israel and Palestine, as well as among the key Palestinian factions. Yet, there’s been no update regarding the opening of the Rafah crossing, a critical land route out of the Gaza Strip. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry cited safety concerns due to “aerial bombardments” for the delay. However, the UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, believes Egyptian leaders are hesitant to take on a potential mass exodus of refugees from Gaza. (BBC)
Our Take: With the closure of Erez and Kerem Shalom by Israel until further notice, the Rafah crossing is the only avenue for humanitarian aid. If the Egyptian authorities do not act soon, the situation may escalate to a humanitarian crisis.
Finance Concept of the Week
Lucrative Size Hustles [Part 2/12]: Pet Sitting
Earn extra income on the side and live on your own terms
If you love animals and need extra money, consider watching other people’s pets. It’s a fairly easy and flexible side gig that typically involves dog walking, administering medicine, cleaning out litter boxes or cages, and feeding and playing with the animals.To be a good pet sitter, you should have strong communication as you’ll spend a lot of time talking to the pet owners and tending to their pets’ needs and schedules. You’ll also need good time management and empathy since you may be juggling multiple clients and working with animals with different personalities.
How to Get Started
As a pet sitter, you can either start your own business or register with an established platform like Rover or Care.com. If you want to start a pet-related business, but don’t have a background in this field, consider offering your services for free to family and friends to start. Don’t be afraid to post your services on social media to spread the word or volunteer at a local animal shelter for experience.
As you gain more experience, you’ll get a better sense of what types of services you want to offer and your bandwidth. For example, you may only want to work with dogs and cats or you may be open to working with other animals too, such as hamsters, bunnies, and horses. Are you willing to walk multiple dogs simultaneously or take a pet to the vet? Do you prefer to work with specific breeds of cats or only dogs under a certain weight limit? These are all factors to think about as you build your business.
If you want to stand out, consider getting a Professional Pet Sitter Certification through an organization like Pet Sitters International (PSI) or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). While they have upfront fees, these certifications can help legitimize your business. You may also want to get pet insurance and a pet first aid certification.
Top Platforms to Use
- Care.com connects caregivers with families for various care services, including pet care. The basic membership, priced at $18.99 annually, includes a background check and allows access to job listings for applications only. On the other hand, premium memberships are $8.99 per month, granting first access to jobs, higher search result ranking, and visibility into profile viewers, with the background check fee waived. Caregivers can customize their schedule, availability, and preferred hourly rate.
- Rover is a leading pet-sitting platform, offering services like pet boarding, dog walking, doggy daycare, house sitting, and drop-in visits. Sitters can set their own schedules, services, prices, and preferences for the animals they care for. There is a $35 profile review fee and Rover takes a 20% cut from job earnings. While each service has a standard daily rate ranging from $15 to $28, you are free to set your own prices.
- Wag! is another popular pet-sitting platform with 400,000+ caregivers. To get started, you need 5 endorsements from family or friends for your profile. You’ll also need to pass a pet care quiz and undergo a background check. You can set your own schedule and prices, with most pet sitters making $15 to $30 an hour. Wag! applies a surcharge fee to your price, allowing you to retain 100% of your rate and tips.
- TrustedHousesitters is an ideal choice if you want to save on vacation costs. You can stay in a pet owner’s home for free by offering house and pet-sitting services while they are away. Once you subscribe to the platform, you can pet sit globally, following an application and discussion with the owner to ensure a good fit. Average hourly rates range anywhere from $25 to $50.
- Flexible Schedule: As long as you communicate with the pet owners, you can generally work on your own terms and complete visits when they suit your schedule. For example, if you have a full-time job, you can go before and after work.
- Paid to Cuddle With Animals: No explanation needed — you get paid to hang out with cats, dogs, and other furry friends!
- Repeat Business: Once you’ve onboarded a client, it becomes easier to get repeat business from them in the future. if you are responsible and attentive, you can build a steady stream of regular clients and not need to prospect anymore.
- Easy Work: For the most part, pet sitting is fairly easy work. You do not need a ton of brain power to care for the animals, making it a nice switch-off if you have an intensive full-time job.
- Work On Your Terms: You can accept bookings based on profitability and personal preferences. If the pay is too low for a booking, you can simply turn it down and look for a better opportunity.
- Getting Dirty: You have to be comfortable with picking up animal poop, cleaning vomit, and bathing animals. For instance, some pets may throw up from stress when their owners are away or from eating something they shouldn’t have.
- Finding a Replacement: If you get sick or something urgent comes up during a booking, you will need to sort something out with your client. For example, if you have a bad cold, you may need to ask a friend or family member to cover for you.
- Working During Holidays: During holiday periods, you may have an influx of bookings from pet owners who are going on vacation. You may be torn between making money and enjoying your time off.
- Responsibility For People’s Homes: If you have to enter a client’s house to care for their pet, you’ll need to be on alert for burglaries. Always double-check that you’ve locked everything correctly and do not lose your clients’ keys.
- Initial Intake: Oftentimes, you will need to do an initial intake with the pet owner before they commit to booking you. These intakes may be unpaid and time-consuming.
What Else Is New?
- Former President Donald Trump was issued a limited gag order, preventing him from making public statements disparaging prosecutors, court staff, and potential trial witnesses for his attempt to overturn the 2020 election results.
- Find out when your phone expires and when its maker planned for it to go obsolete.
- President Biden is headed to Israel to signal U.S. support for its war against Hamas.
- With inflation eating away at people’s hard-earned money, many are turning to knock-off Doritos and other private-label goods at grocery stores.
Personal Finance Resources
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