Category Archives: Uncategorized

Proposed initiative to limit new housing on Front Range ignites fears in real estate industry

We constantly hear about housing costs and shortfalls along the front range.  All of us are effected by it in some way.  Rents are increasing as well. Traffic is increasing. But, what is the answer – if there even is one.  I thought I’d share the article below with all of you.  This measure, if passed, will definitely effect housing prices.

We have also been assured that interest rates will rise this year.  These two factors will definitely effect housing affordability.

Andria Allen

_______________________________________________________

Proposed initiative to limit new housing on Front Range ignites fears in real estate industry

 

By ALDO SVALDI | asvaldi@denverpost.com | The Denver Post

PUBLISHED: February 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm | UPDATED: February 8, 2018 at 9:09 am

A ballot measure to cap home and apartment construction along Colorado’s Front Range is undergoing a formal state review, setting off alarm bells with real estate agents and homebuilders.

“This will bring our economy to a halt. You don’t bring affordability to a market by reducing supply,”  Scott Thorson, the chief operating officer at Oakwood Homes, said at the Colorado Association of Realtors’ Economic Summit on Wednesday in Denver.

Ballot initiative No. 66, which is awaiting a review from the Colorado Supreme Court, would limit permits for homes and apartments to 1 percent of the existing housing stock in 2019 and 2020 in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld counties.

Proposed ballot initiative would limit new housing construction in 10 Colorado counties

KMGH – Denver, CO

After two years, the caps would remain in place unless 5 percent of the voters in a jurisdiction put a successful initiative to a vote. Denver, Douglas and Weld counties, which have seen new construction rates above 2 percent, could face some of the most severe reductions under the measure.

Matthew Leprino, a broker-owner of Leprino Homes in Denver, said the measure, if passed, would have devastating consequences in an already constrained market. He urged the crowd of mostly real estate agents to join CAR in opposition.

“Support the fight against it,” he said.

housing study from Shift Research Labs estimates that metro Denver faces a shortfall this year of about 32,000 homes and apartments due to inadequate construction.

That shortage is driving up homes prices and apartment rents above income gains, fueling inflation and straining finances. Households making under $50,000 a year are collectively spending $2 billion more a year than if supply and demand had stayed in balance, the study estimates.

Builders at Wednesday’s summit said communities need to be looking for ways to make it easier to add lower-cost housing, such as permitting higher density development and reducing impact fees.

But concerns over overcrowding due to population growth also are on the rise. A measure in Lakewood to limit new construction to 1 percent of the housing stock gained enough signatures this summer to make the ballot there before running into legal challenges.

Thorson said while the days of being able to build a new single-family home for under $200,000 are long gone, Oakwood Homes is making a concerted push to bring its average price point under $350,000. Last year, it got it to $365,000.

If the caps were approved, the Front Range would see 26,050 fewer homes and apartments constructed over the two-year period, representing a loss of $7.8 billion in activity and a 10 percent reduction in construction employment, according to an analysis by Chris Brown, director of policy and research with Colorado REMI Partnership, submitted to the Colorado Legislative Council.

Brown said REMI studied the Lakewood limits, but whatever growth might have been blocked there could shift to other cities. If the entire Front Range is limited, that would restrict housing supply in the region seeing almost all of the state’s population growth and push that growth outward.

Daniel Hayes, who is with the Denver Futures Committee, and Wheat Ridge resident Julianne Paige are behind the initiative.

Hayes was behind Golden’s growth limitation measures passed in mid-1990s.  Efforts to reach him and Paige before deadline were unsuccessful.

 

Advertisements

Do More 2018

 

2017 was a great year, but this year at WK Real Estate, we want to do more than ever before. That’s why 2018 will be our year, it will be our time.#DoMore2018

The Best Homeowners Insurance

The best homeowners insurance providers have the perfect mix of financial strength, coverage options, and customer service to keep you satisfied no matter where you are in the claims-filing process. Below are our top picks — we encourage you to use our tool to compare multiple rates and find the best fit for you.

If you’re new to home insurance, you might be surprised to learn it’s not just protection for the physical structure of your home, or even everything in it. Homeowners insurance policies also include liability coverage if you’re sued for damages or injuries to someone else — say your dog bites your neighbor or someone slips on your front steps. Between these two coverage types there are tons of options: You can raise or lower the dollar limits, choose how to set the replacement value of your possessions, and add on coverages.If it’s starting to sound like you won’t know where to start, you’re not alone: A 2013 study by Marshall & Swift/Boeckh found that 60 percent of US homes are underinsured. That means the majority of homeowners are at a greater financial risk than they need to be because they don’t know what kind of coverage they should get.To help you understand how to properly insure your home and choose a provider, we vetted financial strength, compared policy types, and evaluated customer satisfaction for the most popular insurance companies. You’ll want to compare quotes between several providers and choose one that offers discounts and coverage for your particular circumstances. Variables like your home’s age and construction, security features you use, animals and recreation on your property, and your personal credit history can all affect which company will offer you the best coverage.

We ranked the nation’s largest providers based on their customer service, coverage, financial strength, discounts, and endorsements. Our three favorites stood out for their exceptional offerings on all levels. Allstate has the best online servicing, with its ample guides and tools that provide invaluable and comprehensive information. It also offers a ton of discounts, with unique price cuts for new customers. Amica earned the highest rating in customer service and in unique savings available for paying online and remaining a loyal customer. State Farm will help you design an extremely detailed online quote and offers discounts for recently renovated homes.

Our Picks for Best Homeowners Insurance Companies

    • Allstate

Best for New Homebuyers

    • Amica

Best Customer Service

    • State Farm

Most Personalized Online Quote

    • Nationwide

Most Endorsements

    • MetLife

Best Replacement Coverage

    • Travelers

Best for Green Homes

    • Safeco

Unique Bundled Deductible

    • Progressive

Best for Boat Owners

    • GEICO

Strongest Financial Outlook

10 things you need to know about the new tax law

Article by BILL BISCHOFF

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act was passed by Congress and will be signed by President Trump. The final bill reflected some compromises and is substantially different than the earlier House and Senate bills. The new law includes many expected changes, some unexpected ones, and some changes that were expected but didn’t make the cut. Here are the most important things that individual taxpayers need to know.

  1. New individual tax rates and brackets

For 2018 through 2025, the new law keeps seven tax brackets, but six are at lower rates. In 2026, the current-law rates and brackets would return. The temporary rate brackets under the new law are as follows.

Single Joint Head of
household
10% tax bracket  $0 – $9,525 $0 – $19,050 $0 – $13,600
Beginning of 12% bracket $9,526 $19,051 $13,601
Beginning of 22% bracket $38,701 $77,401 $51,801
Beginning of 24% bracket $82,501 $165,001 $82,501
Beginning of 32% bracket $157,501 $315,001 $157,501
Beginning of 35% bracket $200,001 $400,001 $200,001
Beginning of 37% bracket $500,001 $600,001 $500,001

Most folks will benefit from the new rates, but some who are currently in the 33% marginal tax bracket will find themselves in the 35% marginal bracket next year. This unfavorable change will mainly affect singles and heads of households with taxable income between $200,000 and $400,000. However, the new lower rates on income below $200,000 will offset some or all of the negative effect of being in the 35% marginal bracket. For comparisons, see the table at the bottom of this story for the 2017 rate brackets.

Year-end planning impact: Most individuals will benefit from year-end planning moves that push income into next year and pull deductions into this year.

  1. No change in taxes on long-term capital gains and dividends

The new law retains the existing 0%, 15% and 20% tax rates on long-term capital gains and dividends. For 2018, the rate brackets are as follows.

Single Joint Head of
household
0% tax bracket  $0 – $38,599  $0 – $77,199 $0 – $51,699
Beginning of 15% bracket $38,600 $77,200 $51,700
Beginning of 20% bracket $425,800 $479,000 $452,400

Year-end planning impact: These brackets are almost the same as what they would have been under old law, with the only change being in the way the inflation adjustment for 2018 is calculated. Therefore, the traditional year-end tax planning strategies for securities held in taxable brokerage firm accounts still apply.

  1. No mandatory FIFO stock basis rule

Starting next year, the Senate version of the tax reform bill would have forced you to use the first-in-first-out (FIFO) method to calculate the tax basis of shares that you sell from taxable accounts. If the price of the shares stair-stepped higher as you bought them, having to use the FIFO method would have meant that your taxable gain would be figured by treating the oldest and cheapest shares as being sold first. That would maximize your gain and maximize the resulting tax hit. Fortunately, this proposed change didn’t make the cut, so it’s business as usual.

Year-end planning impact: None. You need not sell shares before year-end just to avoid the now-discarded mandatory FIFO stock basis rule. Good!

  1. Higher standard deductions, but no more personal and dependent exemption deductions

The new law almost doubles the standard deduction amounts, starting in 2018. However, personal and dependent exemption deductions, which would have been $4,150 each for 2018, are eliminated. Obviously, these changes will benefit some taxpayers and harm others. If you have many dependents, you may not be pleased. The 2018 standard deduction amounts are as follows.

  • $12,000 for singles (up from $6,350 for 2017)
  • $24,000 for joint-filing married couples (up from $12,700)
  • $18,000 for heads of households (up from $9,350)

Additional standard deduction amounts for the elderly and blind are still allowed.

  1. New limits on deductions for state and local taxes

Under old law, you could claim an itemized deduction for an unlimited amount of personal state and local income and property taxes. You could also choose to forego any deduction for state and local income taxes and instead deduct state and local general sales taxes.

Starting next year, the new law limits your deduction for state and local income and property taxes to a combined total of $10,000 ($5,000 if you use married filing separate status). Foreign real property taxes can no longer be deducted. So no more property tax write-offs for your place in Cabo. However, you can still choose to deduct state and local sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes.

Year-end planning impact: Traditional year-end tax planning advice includes prepaying state and local taxes that would otherwise be due early next year. That way, you get a bigger deduction on this year’s return. However, the new law says you cannot get any tax-saving benefit from using this strategy to prepay state and local income taxes. Specifically, you cannot claim a 2017 deduction for state or local income taxes that are imposed for a tax year beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. How this rule could be enforced is a mystery. The good news: you can still prepay state and local property taxes before year-end and claim a 2017 deduction. That could be a really good idea in view of the new $10,000/$5,000 deduction limitation that takes effect next year. However, if you will be an alternative minimum tax (AMT) victim this year, deductions for state and local property taxes (prepaid or otherwise) aren’t allowed under the AMT rules. So prepaying could do you little or no tax-saving good.

  1. New limits on home mortgage interest deductions

Effective next year, the new law reduces the maximum amount of mortgage debt to acquire a first or second residence for which you can claim itemized interest expense deductions from $1 million (or $500,000 if you use married filing separate status) to $750,000 (or $375,000 if you use married filing separate status). However, this change doesn’t affect home acquisition mortgages taken out under binding contracts in effect before Dec. 16, 2017 as long as the home purchase closes before April 1, 2018.

Also, the old-law $1 million/$500,000 limits continue to apply to home acquisition mortgages that were taken out under the old-law rules and are then refinanced after this year (as long as the refinanced loan principal doesn’t exceed the old loan balance at the time of the refinancing). Starting next year, the new law also eliminates the old-law rule that allowed interest deductions on up to $100,000 of home-equity loan balances.

  1. No change in home sale gain exclusion rules

The new law preserves the valuable break that allows you to potentially exclude from federal income taxation up to $250,000 of gain from a qualified home sale, or $500,000 if you are a married joint-filer. The earlier House and Senate bills both included restrictions on this break, but none of the proposed changes made the cut. So it’s business as usual. Good!

  1. Expanded medical expense deduction for 2017 and 2018

The House version of the tax reform bill would have killed the itemized deduction for medical expenses. Instead the new law preserves the deduction and actually expands it to cover medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2017 and 2018 (the old-law deduction threshold for 2017 was 10% of AGI).

Year-end planning impact: Since it is now easier to exceed the percent-of-AGI deduction threshold, consider loading up on elective medical expenses, such as vision care and dental work, between now and year-end if that would net you a bigger 2017 deduction.

  1. Education tax breaks preserved

The new law leaves existing education-related tax breaks in place.

Year-end planning impact: If your 2017 AGI allows you to qualify for the American Opportunity higher-education tax credit (worth up to $2,500 per qualifying undergraduate student) or the Lifetime Learning higher-education tax credit (worth up to $2,000 per tax return and covering most postsecondary education expenses including graduate school), consider prepaying tuition bills that are due in early 2018 if that would result in a bigger credit on this year’s Form 1040. Specifically, you can claim a 2017 credit for prepaying tuition for academic periods that begin in January through March of next year.

  1. Other important changes and non-changes
  • Starting next year, you will not be able to reverse the conversion of a traditional IRA into a Roth account. Under the old-law rules, you had untilOctober 15of the year after an ill-advised conversion to reverse it and avoid the conversion tax hit. At this point, it is not clear if this change would prevent you from reversing a 2017 conversion by 10/15/18or if would only prevent you from reversing a conversion done in 2018 and beyond. So if you have a 2017 conversion that you already know you want to reverse, get it reversed before year-end to be on the safe side.
  • Unfortunately, the new law retains the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT), but the AMT exemption deductions are significantly increased and phased out at much higher income level, starting next year. For many folks AMT exposure was caused by high itemized deductions for state and local income and property taxes and lots of personal and dependent exemption deductions. Those breaks were disallowed under the AMT rules. With the new limits in deductions for state and local taxes, the elimination of personal and dependent exemption deductions, and larger AMT exemption deductions, many previous victims of the AMT will find themselves off the hook, starting next year.
  • Starting next year, the maximum child credit is increased to $2,000 per qualifying child, and up to $1,400 can be refundable (meaning you can collect it even if you don’t owe any federal income tax). In addition, a new $500 nonrefundable credit is allowed for qualified non-child dependents.
  • Starting next year, deductions for moving expenses and most miscellaneous itemized expenses are eliminated.
  • Starting next year, itemized deductions for personal casualty and theft losses are eliminated, except for personal casualty losses incurred in a federally-declared disaster.
  • Starting in 2019, you will no longer be able to deduct alimony payments if they are required by a divorce agreement entered into after12/31/18. Recipients of nondeductible payments won’t have to include them in taxable income.
  • Tax breaks for adoption expenses are preserved.
  • The tax credit for qualified plug-in electric vehicles is preserved. For details on this credit, see: You can get a $7,500 tax credit for a new electric vehicle.
  • Starting next year, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption will basically double — to about $11.2 million or $22.4 million for a married couple. Wow! That is indeed a tax break for the rich.

The last word

This isn’t really the last word. For the next few months, you will see many more words about other changes in the new law along with more details and analysis and tax planning strategies. My next column will cover the 10 most important changes for small-business owners. So please stay tuned.

Table: 2017 individual federal income tax brackets

Single Joint Head of
household
0% tax bracket $0 – $9,325  $0 – $18,650 $0 – $13,350
Beginning of 15% bracket $9,326 $18,651 $13,351
Beginning of 25% bracket $37,951 $75,901 $50,801
Beginning of 28% bracket $91,901 $153,101 $131,201
Beginning of 33% bracket $191,651 $233,351 $212,501
Beginning of 35% bracket $416,701 $416,701 $416,701
Beginning of 39.6% bracket $418,401 $470,701 $444,551

12 Days of Hiking in Boulder

‘Tis the season to celebrate family, friends and all the good in the world.  Here in Boulder County we’re lucky to have some of the best hikes in the world right at our fingertips.  What better way to enjoy those holiday cookies at the company party guilt free than by going on a scenic hike that’s good for both the body and soul?

1. Royal Arch Trail 

The Royal Arch Trail can be found in Boulder’s Chautauqua park and is one of the most popular routes from this central trail head. At about 0.8 miles in length, the Royal Arch Trail provides gorgeous side views of the flatirons and a vigorous uphill walk.

2. Mt. Sanitas

The Mt. Sanitas Trailhead is located in downtown Boulder at the intersection of 4th and Mapleton. This hike is well known by Boulder locals for its fantastic views and prairie-like scenery. The 3-mile round trip route starts with a steep incline, granting breathtaking views of the city of Boulder and beyond at the summit.  The trail then descends steeply before leveling out for a great cool-down before finishing the trail.  For an easier hike, you can also choose the Dakota Ridge path accessed from the same trailhead.

3. Full Mesa Trail

The Full Mesa Trail is a great option if you’re interested in a longer, more difficult hike.  It’s popular with trailrunners and spans a full 7 miles end-to-end.  Starting from either Chautauqua or the South Mesa trailhead, it’s a great choice if you’re if you’re looking for an extra challenge.

4. Dry Creek

Located off of Baseline road, the Dry Creek Trail is a flat one-mile walk that will take you through grasslands just east of Boulder. This is known to be very dog friendly space and dog walkers populate a large majority of those on the trail. Expect a nice walk alongside a creek and great views of the flatirons!

After Dry Creek5. Marshall Mesa

You can find this hike in South Boulder at the intersection of 93 and Marshall Road. This is a trail of moderate difficulty, also connecting to various trails that go through nearby cities. This trail is also used by mountain bikers and dog walkers, but it’s a great spot to enjoy some of our famous Colorado sun, even in winter!

6. First and Second Flatirons

Boulder is well known for being home to the gorgeous Flatirons, and here you have the opportunity to hike through them. Also found at the Chautauqua trailhead,  this route is a little bit longer than a mile and will take you on an uphill, moderate trek.  Fantastic views await you at the summit!

After Flatirons

7. Boulder Reservoir 

This trail will take you around the shore of the gorgeous Boulder Reservoir. The 5-mile loop runs the full length of the reservior,  and also connects to the Eagle Trail and Coot Lake trails for an extension. This is a great place to bring your dogs or spend some recreational time post-walk.

8. Flagstaff Mountain 

Flagstaff is a popular road in Boulder leading to grand, sweeping views. Instead of driving it, take the hiking trail instead! You’ll find the trailhead where Baseline Road turns into Flagstaff.  It’s a steady incline until the summit and, at over 6,000 feet, also exposes hikers to a higher elevation.  This hike is definitely worth while if you’re interested in great scenery and a challenging workout.

9. Shadow Canyon

The Shadow Canyon hiking trail is a longer hike taking you to South Boulder Peak. This is definitely a challenging trail, but like many other local spots, you can reward yourself with fabulous sights of Boulder’s flatirons. Also, expect to see picturesque wildflowers and streams on your way up, making it an even more enjoyable trip.

10. Dowdy Draw

This hike provides both a walk through open plains and a delightful mountainous backdrop. Dowdy Draw connects to multiple other trails, making this the perfect spot whether you’re in need of a quick walk or a more lengthy expedition. Also favored by mountain bikers, this is definitely one of the most peaceful hikes in Boulder.

11. Greenbelt Plateau 

The Greenbelt Plateau trail is a great pick if you’re looking for a calm hike through the prairie alongside views of the South Boulder Foothills. Connecting to other trails, this can serve as a gateway to explore different parts of Boulder, enabling you to pick your ideal route and length of hike.

12. Bear Peak 

Bear Peak is known to be Boulder’s second highest summit featuring the best 360° unobstructed views of the city. This is difficult three mile hike, so prepare for a tough climb and excellent workout. The Bear Peak summit offers views and scenery definitely worth seeing.

Article by Christina Miroyan, Digital Marketing Social Media Intern at WK Real Estate. 

5 Housing Trends to Watch for 2018

Home shoppers may have it easier in 2018. Inventory constraints of for-sale homes and rising home prices may finally start to ease next year, according to realtor.com®’s 2018 National Housing Forecast.

“Next year will set the stage for a significant inflection point in the housing shortage,” says Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com®. “Inventory increases will be felt in higher priced segments after spring home buying season, which we expect to take hold and begin to provide relief for buyers and drive sales growth in 2019 and beyond.”

But the big wild card for 2018 will be any impact from the proposed tax reform legislation, which is currently being debated by Congress, realtor.com® adds.

image001

Here’s a closer look at realtor.com®’s five housing prediction trends for 2018:

  1. Inventory to start increasing: Realtor.com® projects positive year-over-year inventory growth by the fall of 2018—which will be the first time since 2015. “Inventory declines are expected to decelerate slowly throughout the year, reaching a 4 percent year-over-year decline in March before increasing in early fall, after the peak home-buying months,”realtor.com® notes in its report. The cities expected to see inventory levels recover first are Boston; Detroit; Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville; and Philadelphia. The majority of this growth will be in the mid- to upper-tier price points (which includes homes priced above $350,000). On the other hand, recovery in the starter home market likely will linger since levels are “significantly depleted by first time buyers,”realtor.com® notes.
  2. Price appreciation to slow: Home buyers likely will see home prices moderate in the new year. Realtor.com® forecasts home prices to slow to a 3.2 percent growth year over year nationwide. For comparison, home prices in 2017 posted a 5.5 percent increase. The majority of the slowing price appreciation will be centered in the higher-priced ranges as more inventory becomes available. Entry-level homes, on the other hand, likely will continue to see price gains due to a larger potential buyer pool as well as a more limited number of homes available for sale in this price range.
  3. Millennials to gain market share: Finally, the long-held predictions may hold true. Millennials may reach 43 percent of home buyers taking out a mortgage by the end of 2018, up from an estimated 40 percent in 2017,realtor.com® projects. The largest cohort of millennials are expected to turn 30 in 2020. “Millennials are a driving force in today’s housing market,” Vivas says. “They already dominate lower price home mortgage and are getting close to overtaking older generations for mid- and upper-tier mortgages. While financially secure in general, their debt to income ratios have started to increase as they compete for higher priced homes.”
  4. The South to lead in sales growth: Realtor.com® forecasts that Southern cities will top national averages in home sales growth in 2018. Markets like Tulsa, Okla.; Little Rock, Ark.; Dallas; and Charlotte, N.C., are expected to be the highest performers.  Sales in these markets are predicted to increase by 6 percent or more. Nationally, sales growths are predicted to grow by 2.5 percent. “The majority of this growth can be attributed to healthy building levels combating the housing shortage,”realtor.com® notes in its report. “With inventory growth just around the corner, these areas are primed for sales gains in years to come.”
  5. Tax reform wild card: Tax reform could dampen 2018 sales and price forecasts,realtor.com® reports. The U.S. House has passed a tax bill, and the Senate likely will vote on one soon. “While the ultimate impact of tax reform will depend on the details of the plan that is finally adopted, both versions include provisions that are likely to decrease incentives for mobility and reduce ownership tax benefits,”realtor.com® reports. “On the flip side, some taxpayers, including renters, are likely to see tax cuts. While more disposable income for buyers is positive for housing, the loss of tax benefits for owners could lead to fewer sales and impact prices negatively over time with the largest impact on markets with higher prices and incomes.” Read more: Tax Reform Proposals Threaten Homeowners and REALTORS® Square Up After House Passes Tax Bill

Source: realtor.com®

The World Is (Still) Better Than You Think

There is so much negative news today.  The TV, radio, social media etc are all full of drama and negativity.  I’m not saying we don’t need to hear about what is going on in the world or trivializing the events. However, it so important to keep a positive mind set amidst all this information. It helps keep us healthier, mentally and physically.  I think the information in the article below is very interesting and helpful. It puts a lot of information in context. I hope you find it helpful and positive.

— Andria Allen

Your mindset matters — now more than ever.

We are in the midst of a drug epidemic.

The drug? Negative news. The drug pushers? The media.

As I wrote in Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, we pay 10x more attention to negative news than positive news.

We are being barraged with negative news on every device. This constant onslaught distorts your perspective on the future, and inhibits your ability to make a positive impact.

In this blog, I’ll share new “evidence for abundance” — charts and data that show the world is getting better. I’ll also share positive news and technological breakthroughs, all of which occurred in 2017 so far.

Note: This isn’t about ignoring or minimizing the major issues we still face around the world. It’s about countering our romanticized views of the world in centuries past with data.

My hope is that you’re able to see the world as it is — a world that is still getting better. My goal here is to help you protect your abundance mindset despite this barrage of negative news.

If you have a negative-minded person in your life, forward this blog to them so they can look at the actual data.

Let’s dive in…

1. Global Economy

The first area to explore is our global economy. Over the last 200 years, the world’s GDP has skyrocketed 100-fold. Humankind has never been more prosperous and productive.

World GDP Over the Last Two Millennia

The graph above depicts the economic output per person around the world over the last 2,000 years. Here we see exponential growth independent of war, famine or disease.

Technology drove much of this economic growth, and there’s no signs of slowing.

Banking the Unbanked: One especially promising area of economic growth involves empowering the “unbanked” — the 2 billion people worldwide who lack access to a bank account or financial institution via a digital device. In September 2017, the government of Finland announced a partnership with MONI to create a digital money system for refugees.

The system effectively eliminates some of the logistical barriers to financial transactions, enabling displaced people to participate in the economy and rebuild their lives.

Refugees will be able to loan money to friends, receive paychecks and access funds using prepaid debit cards linked to digital identities on the blockchain — without a bank.

Blockchain & Government: Governments are investing aggressively in digitization themselves. The small country of Estonia, for example, already has an e-Residency program. The digital citizenship lets residents get government services and even start companies in the EU without ever traveling or living there.

In late August 2017, Kaspar Korjus, who heads up that e-Residency program, revealed the Estonian government’s exploration of creating an initial coin offering (ICO) and issuing crypto tokens to citizens to raise government funds.

That same month, the Chinese government announced its intent to use blockchain technology for collecting taxes and issuing invoices. This builds on previous experiments China’s central bank is conducting with its own cryptocurrency.

2. Health

No matter where in the world you are, mortality rates have dropped precipitously over the last 300 years.

The following chart shows life expectancy at birth in various countries. Just 100 years ago, a child born in India or South Korea was only expected to live to 23. Fast forward to today, and India’s life expectancy has tripled. South Korea’s life expectancy has quadrupled, and now is higher than in the U.K.

Global Life Expectancy

Plummeting Teen Births: Another measure of a nation’s health is how it responds to preventable public health issues. Here in the U.S., teen births are down an impressive 51 percent over the last decade, going from from 41.5 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2007 to 20.3 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2016.

I share the following graph because, by the numbers, teen girls who have babies will have a harder life than their peers who delay motherhood.

As the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services notes, they’re more likely to drop out of high school, rely on public assistance, and have children with “poorer educational, behavioral and health outcomes over the course of their life than kids born to older parents.”

Since these statistics were first compiled in 1991, teen births have dropped 67 percent.

U.S. Birth Rates, by Age Group (1991 – 2015)

As exponential technologies continue to advance, we’ll see even more healthcare breakthroughs. Here’s a sampling from this year:

Exponential Tech Impact on Health: Most exciting these days is the tremendous impact that exponential technologies are having on Health.

  • Robotics: Last month, a robot dentist in China successfully implanted 3D-printed teeth into a female patient’s mouth with “high precision.” The only human medical staff involvement was to conduct light setup and a pre-test. Imagine when such robots are in every healthcare facility on the planet, delivering service for the cost of electricity.
  • Virtual Reality: VR is also entering the operating room. In July 2017, University of Minnesota doctors used VR to prepare for a challenging non-routine surgery — separating a pair of twins conjoined at the heart. Not only was the life-saving surgery a success, the VR prep gave doctors unforeseen insights that prompted them to accelerate the surgery by several months. It won’t be long until we refuse to have surgery completed by any human who hasn’t prepared in virtual reality using a personalized 3D model.
  • CRISPR/Gene Editing: Finally, in August 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first-ever treatment that uses gene editing to transform a patient’s own cells into a “living drug.” Kymriah, a one-time treatment made by Novartis, was approved to treat B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia — an aggressive form of leukemia that the FDA calls “devastating and deadly.” The FDA is currently considering over 550 additional experimental gene therapies. What happens to our healthy human lifespan as these life-saving treatments demonetize and become universally accessible?

3. Environment

Thirty years ago, the world signed the Montreal Protocol to prevent the depletion of the Ozone Layer. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) credits that agreement with preventing an estimated 280 million additional cases of skin cancer, 45 million cataracts, and 1.5 million skin cancer deaths between its signing in 1987 and the year 2050. Without the Montreal Protocol, the planet would have been about 4 degrees warmer by 2050 (…resulting in more extreme weather events like droughts, floods and hurricanes).

As the graph below clearly depicts, the global annual death rate from natural disasters has plummeted over the past century.

Global Annual Death Rate From Natural Disasters

Why has this happened? It’s the impact of exponential technologies (satellites, sensors, networks, machine learning), which enable humans to better image, predict and model disasters. These models provide early warning systems, enabling citizens to flee to safety and for first responders to send supplies and food to remote areas in time.

Drones & the Environment: Previously, animals were counted manually by researchers who had to spot them from helicopter or prepositioned camera footage. Now, a drone captures footage, the machine learning system counts different types of animals, and human volunteers help train the algorithm by verifying detections.

Faster, cheaper, easier, and more accurate.

And in Bengaluru, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science are fighting deforestation with camera-equipped drones that drop seeds in areas they otherwise wouldn’t be able to explore. Their goal is to seed 10,000 acres in the region.

What becomes possible when thousands of teams — not simply individuals and a handful of research teams — leverage these tools to protect the environment?

4. Energy

A key measure of economic growth, living standards and poverty alleviation is access to electricity.

This graph uses data from the World Bank and the International Energy Agency’s definition of electricity access, which is delivery and use of at least 250 kilowatt-hours per year in rural households and 500 kilowatt-hours per year in rural households.

Simply put, more people around the world have access to electricity than ever, and the absolute number of those without access to electricity is dropping (despite population growth).

Take a look at the chart below to see how various regions of the world are meeting their energy needs.

Share of the Population With Access to Electricity

As you see above, India has gone from 45 percent access to electricity in 1990 to nearly 80 percent in 2014.

Afghanistan has seen an even more dramatic improvement, going from 0.16 percent of the population in 2000 to 89.5 percent of the population in 2014.

As renewable energy sources become cheaper and more accessible, we’ll reach total electrification.

Here too, we’re making great progress. In 2016, solar power grew faster than any other fuel source for the first time ever. Around the world, solar prices are still dropping.

The latest forecast from GTM Research reports prices of $2.07 per watt in Japan to $.65 per watt in India, with prices dropping across hard and soft costs.

Historical and Forecasted Utility PV System Pricing, 2013 – 2022E

In 2017 alone, we saw wind power become cheaper than nuclear in the U.K., with the cost of subsidies slashed in half since 2015.

As the BBC reports, during the U.K.’s 2015 subsidy auction, “offshore wind farm projects won subsidies between £114 and £120 per megawatt hour.” Just two years later, two firms committed to a guaranteed price of £57.50 per megawatt hour.

Looking stateside, the U.S. Department of Energy announced in September 2017 that utility-scale solar has officially hit its 2020 cost targets three years early — with generation costs of $1 per watt and energy consumption costs of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour.

US Commercial & Residential Solar Costs

In 2017 alone, we saw wind power become cheaper than nuclear in the U.K., with the cost of subsidies slashed in half since 2015.

As the BBC reports, during the U.K.’s 2015 subsidy auction, “offshore wind farm projects won subsidies between £114 and £120 per megawatt hour.” Just two years later, two firms committed to a guaranteed price of £57.50 per megawatt hour.

Looking stateside, the U.S. Department of Energy announced in September 2017 that utility-scale solar has officially hit its 2020 cost targets three years early — with generation costs of $1 per watt and energy consumption costs of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour.

US Commercial & Residential Solar Costs

5. Food

Despite the headlines, we’re making steady progress in the realm of food scarcity and hunger.

This graph features World Bank data on the percentage of the population that has an inadequate caloric intake. Globally, 18.6 percent of the population was undernourished in 1991; by 2015, it dropped to 10.8 percent.

Prevalence of Undernourishment in Developing Countries

Time and again, technology is making scarce resources abundant. I’ve written about bio-printed meat, genetically engineered crops, vertical farming, and agriculture robots and drones. Two more examples from 2017 so far:

  • Human-Free Farms: In a 1.5-acre remote farm in the U.K., Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions recently harvested their first crop of barley. The twist? The farm is run autonomously. Instead of human farm workers, Hands Free Hectare uses autonomous vehicles, machine learning algorithms and drones to plant, tend and harvest.
  • Food From Electricity: Another big idea in the fight against food scarcity and undernourishment comes out of Finland, where researchers are creating food from electricity. The team, formed of researchers from the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, have created a machine that runs on renewable energy to produce nutritious, single-cell proteins. The system is deployable in a variety of environments hostile to traditional agriculture, and future iterations will be able to produce food anywhere, from famine-stricken deserts to space.

Looking at the data, we truly live in the most exciting time to be alive.

And if your mindset enables you to see problems as opportunities, the future is even more exciting than the present.

Join Me

1. A360 Executive Mastermind: This is the sort of conversation I explore at my Executive Mastermind group called Abundance 360. The program is highly selective, for 360 abundance and exponentially minded CEOs (running $10M to $10B companies). If you’d like to be considered, apply here.

Share this with your friends, especially if they are interested in any of the areas outlined above.

2. Abundance-Digital Online Community: I’ve also created a Digital/Online community of bold, abundance-minded entrepreneurs called Abundance-Digital.

Abundance-Digital is my ‘onramp’ for exponential entrepreneurs – those who want to get involved and play at a higher level. Click here to learn more.

Resources

  • U.S.: More wealthy people, fewer poor people. (Axiom)
  • Economic output per person around the world over the last 2,000 years (Our World in Data)
  • Finland: Digital money system for refugees (Medium)
  • China to experiment with collecting taxes via blockchain (MIT Technology Review)
  • Estonia considers ICO (Medium)
  • Mortality inequality by nation (inequality of life expectancy) drops (Sam Peltzman)
  • Teen births down 51% over last 10 years (Vox)
  • Vital Statistics – Teen Births, 2016 (CDC)
  • Teen pregnancy and childbearing (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)
  • First robot dental surgery (Engadget)
  • FDA-Approved Gene Altering Treatment (NYTimes)
  • Doctors use VR in life-saving treatment for conjoined twins (Washington Post)
  • The Montreal Protocol is working (National Geographic)
  • Impact of the Montreal Protocol (EPA)
  • Annual number of deaths from natural disasters (Our World in Data)
  • Wildlife – Drones used to track wild animal populations (MIT Technology Review)
  • Reforestation – Bengaluru: Using Drones to plant forests (Your Story)
  • Share of the population with access to electricity (Our World in Data)
  • UK: Wind power cheaper than nuclear (BBC)
  • US: Solar costs beat government goals by three years (Quartz)
  • Solar costs are hitting jaw-dropping lows in every region of the world (Green Tech Media)
  • Prevalence of undernourishment in developing countries (Our World in Data)
  • Scientists make food from electricity (Futurism)
  • UK: “Hands-Free Hectare” robot farm plants, oversees harvests barley without humans (Digital Trends)

Article by Peter Diamandis