Grand Theft Auto Online’s newest car was added this week and it is the most expensive standard supercar in the game. (Technically the Scramjet and Vigilante are more expensive, but those are weird special vehicles.) According to some players, the Kriger, which costs $2.875 million is fast and fun to drive. But is it really worth that much money? Maybe. However, here are some other things you could buy instead in GTA Online with that much cash.
Having multiple electric cars is probably useful in some parts of the world where charging stations aren’t as common. Just have a few of them parked around your area and when you start running low on juice, just head over to your closest stashed and charged Voltic.
Look, you might wonder why you need 958 crappy trucks and I have a great reason. You could start doing monster truck shows at your local home or park. Sure some folks wouldn’t like that, but whatever. You got nearly 1000 trucks to crush.
One giant laser cannon is useful and worth having. But five of them is even better. Have bodyguards that follow you around? Give them each one of these and watch people leave you alone, forever. Have a few kids? What’s a better gift than a giant laser cannon? At least it’s better than a dozen broken bottles.
Become a beloved member of the community by sharing these with folks who need a place to live until they get a new job. Or a more selfish way to use these apartments is live at one for a few weeks and once it gets dirty, just head to the next place.
It is WILD that in the world of GTA Online you can buy not one, but two secret military bunkers, complete with staff and lots of storage, for less than one nice supercar. GTA Online’s economy is screwed up.
Buy like half as many, rent out a small shop and start selling these for $9. And look at that, you are making money. In fact, pretty soon you will be rich and famous enough to appear on that Shark Tank show. The last episode I saw had some dude on who wanted to pitch a business involving 9,000 broken bottles. They all passed.
On Tuesday Facebook announced Libra, a cryptocurrency that it will launch (along with 27 other partners) in 2020. A little like Bitcoin and a little like PayPal, Libra will be a new digital currency, one available to people without bank accounts or credit cards, but that could potentially be a major force for the rest of us, too. But first you have to trust Facebook with yet more personal data. Here’s what you need to know.
How does it work?
Libra is an upcoming digital currency that users can access through apps and use to pay for things or to send money to each other. In that way it’s a lot like PayPal and Venmo.
But unlike PayPal and Venmo, Libra is largely aimed at people without bank accounts. (See “Why would I want to use it?” below.)
To keep and exchange Libra, you’ll need to use a “wallet”: an app that might be integrated into existing apps, the way PayPal or Apple Pay is integrated into other apps. The current plan is to let many developers make their own wallets.
Unlike Bitcoin, Libra’s value is tied to government-issued currency like the dollar—specifically to “a market-value basket of several trusted currencies,” says Wired. That’s one of several ways that Libra will try to avoid the weird, scammy, gambling vibe of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This isn’t a coin that you buy because you think it will grow 100 times as valuable. It’s more like exchanging a dollar for a Euro.
You don’t need to know this next part, but it has some consequences that we’ll explain later. On the backend, Libra handles transactions with a blockchain, kind of like Bitcoin. A blockchain is a distributed record of transactions that records who owns how much of a coin, and who transferred what coin to whom. But while Bitcoin’s blockchain is distributed among everyone who uses it, Libra’s blockchain is managed by the Libra Association. (See “Who controls it?” below.)
When is it coming?
The Libra Association plans to launch the coin some time in 2020. It will immediately be available on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and through several other Libra partners.
Will I have to use it?
Not yet. Maybe not ever. The answer will probably lie between your answers to “Do you need Venmo?” and “Do you need a credit card?”
The new coin and its underlying code are controlled by the Libra Association, a 28-partner consortium of companies and foundations, but Facebook is the driving force.
Founding partners include eBay, PayPal, Vodafone, Spotify, several investment firms and cryptocurrency companies, and a few non-profits. Each partner gets a vote on group decisions. Each partner invested at least $10 million, partly to build a reserve of fiat currency (that is, regular dollars) to exchange for Libra.
Facebook is one partner. Calibra, its wholly owned spinoff company, is another. The association hopes to add more partners over time, to further decentralize the currency and lower their own control over it—while also building faith in the currency as something bigger and “realer” than Flooz or airline miles or Disney Dollars.
Calibra makes, and is, a “wallet”: an app that lets you exchange Libra. While other developers can make their own wallets, Facebook will integrate Calibra into WhatsApp and other Facebook apps, so they’ll have a huge advantage. On those apps, you’ll be able to send money as simply as texting, similar to Apple Pay in the Messages app.
While Facebook shares control over the Libra currency with the rest of the Libra Association, it entirely owns Calibra, and that’s not likely to change.
Why would I want to use it?
If PayPal and Venmo work fine for you, you might not have a reason to, according to Aaron Lammer, co-host of the cryptocurrency podcast CoinTalk. But you’re not who Libra is aiming at right now. The biggest market, he tells Lifehacker, is people sending money to family abroad.
According to Libra’s white paper published Tuesday, “1.7 billion adults globally remain outside of the financial system with no access to a traditional bank.” That’s 31% of the world’s adult population. And if you’re trying to send money to one of those 1.7 billion, your current options, says Lammer, are “fairly predatory.” Fees for these international transfers average 7%, according to TechCrunch.
You can’t use PayPal or Venmo to solve this; both of those require a bank account. But you don’t need a bank account to get on Libra. A billion of those unbanked people have a mobile phone, and half a billion have internet access. They could receive money in the form of Libra on their phones—and spend that money as Libra as well. Libra will make these transactions cheaper than other non-bank options.
Of course, you can fund your Libra account from your bank account too, through PayPal or Stripe, which are founding members in Libra. And not just to send it to people without banks. For the rest of us, there will still be advantages to Libra, especially incentives to use it instead of a credit card. Other founding members of the association include Uber and Lyft, eBay, and Spotify. These companies will all be eager to let you pay in Libra—and they might offer discounts if you do.
Lammer compares it to credit card rewards, which try to keep you locked into their ecosystem. For example, the Amazon rewards card gives users 5% back on all Amazon purchases—in the form of Amazon credit. If taking an Uber is 1% cheaper with Libra than with dollars, you’ll think about getting Libra. Specific discounts like this haven’t been announced yet, but they’re definitely in the works.
Why would a company want me to use it?
To keep you as a customer
First, companies like Spotify say they want to get customers who currently can’t pay because they don’t have a credit card. Second, they can win your loyalty by encouraging you to keep your money in Libra, and use partnered promotions to swap customers, until every Uber customer joins Spotify and vice versa.
To save money
Keeping you in Libra could save these companies a lot of money. If they want to get your money via credit card, they have to pay a transaction fee. (That’s why so many local stores offer a “cash discount” or a minimum purchase, even though it’s against the credit card issuer’s rules. They hate sending so much of their money to Visa and Mastercard.) But if you use Libra, there’s only a tiny fee, much tinier than a credit card transaction, says TechCrunch.
To track your purchases
The biggest reason might be customer data. Libra transactions will be pseudonymous—you’ll be able to have an account that’s not linked to your real-world identity—but there will still be plenty of user behavior to track. Even aggregate data will give Libra’s members a valuable insight into customer behavior, so they can better target advertising, and get you to spend more of your money. And while Libra and Facebook promise to keep a wall between your individual financial data and social data…well…do you trust them?
To sell you more services
Facebook’s Calibra will build more financial services on top of Libra, Calibra VP Kevin Weil tells the Verge. For example, he says, they might offer lines of credit. While Facebook won’t be fully in control of the currency, it will be offering the default app to access that currency. It’s the Apple Podcasts app of money. So Facebook gets to double dip into this currency in a way that most of its partners won’t.
How much does it cost?
Libra will be cheaper to use than many other money transfer services, with transactions costing a small fraction of a cent. And for businesses that accept it, it will have much lower transaction fees than credit cards—which might even make microtransactions more attractive.
If you mean “how much is one Libra worth”: somewhere around one dollar, one Euro, or one pound. And that won’t dramatically change—unless some major world currencies dramatically change.
Can I invest in it?
Not the way you can invest in Bitcoin, because Libra won’t significantly gain (or lose) value. You could apply to be a member of the Association, if you have $10 million and a good reason they should include you. Or you can invest in the many businesses that will spring up around Libra support.
Will my money become worthless?
Very unlikely. If Libra is successful, its value will remain stable. If it tanks and no one uses it, the Libra Association still has reserve money, so if there’s a “bank run”—if all the users withdraw their money at once—the Association is good for it. There’s always some risk, but it’s nowhere near as risky as Bitcoin, where the price wildly fluctuates.
Will my money get hacked or stolen?
That depends on how adventurous you get. If you only use Facebook’s Calibra app and other official apps, and you don’t just send money to anyone who asks for it, you’ll be pretty safe. As it tries to establish Libra’s legitimacy, Facebook will prioritize security, but the company has been hacked before. There’s one more possible safety measure: As long as a small consortium controls the currency, says Lammer, even a major hack could theoretically get rolled back if the controlling members agreed.
You need to be more careful with third-party apps. The Libra Association released open-source code so outside developers can make their own Libra apps without any vetting process from the Libra Association. So you shouldn’t use just any app unless you can confirm it’s legit. And just because an app makes it onto the Google, Apple, or Amazon app stores doesn’t mean it’s legit; Apple unintentionally let some apps record users’ screens without their knowledge, and Google and Apple both approved apps with malware that sends data to a malicious server.
You could always fall for a scam the same ways you could with your regular credit card or PayPal. You have to be just as careful with your Libra as you are with the rest of your money. Calibra will have fraud protection much like on PayPal or your credit card’s, but we’ll have to see how good the customer service is.
Can I trust Facebook?
Facebook promises not to take specific data from your Libra transactions and use it on other parts of Facebook, like serving you targeted ads or deciding which posts to put in your feed. But in Calibra’s “customer commitment” document, it’s already carved out some ways it can share data, like anonymized data for research and aggregated data for Facebook, and police requests.
That alone is a big drawback, at least versus more decentralized and anonymous cryptocurrencies. Lammer points out that tracking transactions is a common way to catch white-collar criminals. Facebook and other tech giants have a history of handing over lots of data to law enforcement. Do you trust government authorities to never abuse their surveillance power? Have…have you heard of the NSA?
You don’t have to have a Facebook account to join Calibra. But you do have to give Calibra a government-issued ID. (Third-party developers might let you skip that step.) There’s a balance Facebook has to reach here: it wants a freer currency, but it doesn’t want to be a playground for money launderers and criminals, which some other cryptocurrencies famously are. Lammer even bets that early PayPal was a useful tool for money launderers, before it needed to legitimize itself and avoid prosecution. Facebook is too established to play that game, at least as aggressively as a young startup.
Calibra explicitly says it’s allowed to use your data to market other Calibra products to you. Which is not unusual. And while it won’t share Calibra data to Facebook, it might ask you to share your Facebook data to Calibra. But it promises to ask your permission.
And as for Facebook’s promises, well, Facebook has never abused its users’ privacy before, right? Lammer thinks the company will get creative and find ways to cash in on all this transaction data. But to be fair, they’ve at least started with a public promise to keep their fingers out of their own data. Not that you could stop them if they changed their minds.
Will there be a Google coin and an Apple coin too?
One motivation behind Libra, says Wired, was that Google, WeChat, and Apple all had their own payment services. That’s why Lammer thinks that the other tech giants aren’t going to launch a coin like Facebook’s; they each have different strategies to insert themselves into the middle of transactions.
Apple and Google both have app stores where they can take a bite of every software purchase, and payment systems that make your phone as indispensable as your credit card. Amazon turned its online store into a platform where anyone can sell anything, and give Amazon a little of the money; it uses partnerships, credit card rewards, and Amazon Prime subscriptions to make Amazon your favorite way to buy any physical item.
And Facebook makes money by helping advertisers target you, so Libra is a money play that helps it collect more data about purchasing. Anonymized data, maybe, but still. Any time a big tech company has a shiny new product to offer you, ask yourself how they’ll make their money back.
With the average student loan balance hitting $29,800 for the Class of 2018, you’re probably looking for any help you can get paying off your debt. And if you meet certain requirements, it’s possible to have a portion of your balance forgiven.
Not everyone qualifies for forgiveness: If you have private loans, for example, you’re on the hook to repay the full amount, and every forgiveness program has strict requirements. You shouldn’t count on forgiveness to get your debt under control, and you should never pay anyone who promises to get your debt forgiven—it’s likely a scam.
But for some with federal loans, there are options.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is what most people think of when they think of loan forgiveness options. Full time employees of a government agency (federal, state or local) or of a 501(c)(3) qualify (note: those working for a religious nonprofit do not qualify).
The company you work for is the most important qualifying aspect for PSLF—not necessarily your job title. You can be an accountant or a groundskeeper, as long as you work for a nonprofit or government entity.
There are other fairly stringent requirements for qualifying, including making 120 (or 10 years’ worth) on-time payments to your loans.
An income-based repayment plan is one of the four types of income-driven repayment (IDR) plans which can lower your monthly student loan payments. It requires you to pay 10 to 15 percent of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years, depending on a handful of qualifying factors. If you’re enrolled in an IBR plan, you might have some of your loans forgiven after that time.
“Any remaining loan balance is forgiven if your federal student loans aren’t fully repaid at the end of the repayment period,” notes FinancialAid.gov.
As I wrote previously, “given the length of the plans, you may not have any debt left to be forgiven. How your income scales throughout your career will play a big role in that.”
You can qualify for IBR if your payments would be lower than the standard 10-year repayment plan (otherwise, you wouldn’t benefit from enrolling), and you have one of these types of loans, according to StudentAid:
Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans
Direct PLUS Loans made to graduate or professional students (not parents)
Direct Consolidation Loans that did not repay any PLUS loans made to parents
Subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans (from the FFEL Program)
FFEL PLUS Loans made to graduate or professional students (not parents)
FFEL Consolidation Loans that did not repay any PLUS loans made to parents
Federal Perkins Loans (if consolidated)
This type of repayment plan is best for those who have a lot of debt but don’t expect to have a high income throughout their careers.
Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Forgiveness
This is another type of income-driven repayment plan, similar to IBR. With PAYE, your payments are capped at 10 percent of your discretionary income, and you qualify if your payments would be less than your standard 10-year payments.
You need to make consistent payments for 20 years, and you need to be a new borrower as of Oct. 1, 2007. The same types of loans qualify as for IBR forgiveness.
There are income eligibility requirements for IBR and PAYE. PAYE is preferable to Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), which we’ll get into below.
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
REPAYE is similar to PAYE except that there are no income requirements. That means you could pay a lot more under this plan than via a standard 10-year repayment plan. But, if you make on time, consistent payments 20 years (25 for graduate loans), you can get the rest of your balance forgiven. You’ll want to do the math to make sure it’s worth it, though.
Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Forgiveness
This is the last of the four IDR plans. This plan requires you to pay the lesser of 20 percent of your discretionary income, or what you’d pay on a fixed 12-year plan. This is the only IDR repayment program available to parent PLUS loan borrowers. You must make on-time payments for 25 years, after that your balance is forgiven.
You can apply for any of the IDR plans on StudentLoans.gov.
Loan Forgiveness for Doctors
Physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals have multiple options for loan forgiveness programs, depending on where they work.
The National Health Service Corps Loan (NHSC) Repayment Program
The NHSC “provides full-time and part-time commitment options for primary care providers to serve within a Health Profession Shortage Area at a NHSC approved site,” reports Credible. You “can receive up to $50,000 in loan repayment in exchange for at least a two-year service commitment.” You can stay on for a third year as well.
The National Institute of Health Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs)
LRPs repay “up to $35,000 annually of a researcher’s qualified educational debt in return for a commitment to engage in NIH mission-relevant research,” per NIH’s website. See if you qualify here, and see more loan forgiveness options for medical professionals (including those in the military) here.
Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
There are multiple loan forgiveness programs available to nurses.
The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program
This program is offered to nurses who work in underserved communities for a minimum of two years. You must work in a “critical shortage facility,” which is defined here, but could be a clinic, hospital or some other facility that is in desperate need of nurses.
If you’re accepted into the program, it will pay “60 percent of your unpaid nursing education debt over two years—with an option to extend to a third year for an additional 25 percent of the original balance.” See the application here.
State and Federal Repayment Programs
Many states offer loan forgiveness programs to nurses and nurse practitioners. You can search through them here.
You might also qualify for PSLF, depending on where you work.
Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
Teachers have a few specific programs aimed at helping you manage your debt.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
This federal program forgives up to $17,500 on your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and your Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans if you “teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency.” More here.
State Forgiveness Programs
Search for your state and teacher loan forgiveness programs.
Loan Forgiveness for Lawyers
The first thing lawyers should do is check with your state bar association and your law school to see if their forgiveness options. Then, google your state with forgiveness options for lawyers, and talk to your employer—they might be able to point you in the right direction. Attorneys who work for three years at the Department of Justice might qualify for $60,000 in assistance.
Remember, you might qualify for PSLF, depending on where you work, and if you enroll in an IDR plan, you’ll qualify after 20 to 25 years of on-time payments.
There are a few other cases where your loans might be forgiven, but for most people—including everyone with private loans—you will likely need to repay the full amount you borrowed, plus interest accrued. It might pay off to take the time to research all of your forgiveness options, but don’t count on a student loan silver bullet.