Jinri Toutiao. The two built a rapport, and an investment vehicle associated with Mr. Milner led a $10 million financing in Mr. Zhang’s company that same year, three people with knowledge of the deal said.

The news aggregator eventually became ByteDance — now valued at around $360 billion, according to PitchBook — and owns TikTok; its Chinese sister app, Douyin; and various education and enterprise software ventures.

By 2015, Mr. Chew had joined Xiaomi as chief financial officer. He spearheaded the device maker’s 2018 initial public offering, led its international efforts and became an English-speaking face for the brand.

“Shou grew up with both American and Chinese language and culture surrounding him,” said Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who worked with Mr. Chew at Xiaomi. “He is objectively better positioned than anyone I’ve ever met in the China business world to be this incredible dual-edged executive in a Chinese company that wants to become a global powerhouse.”

In March 2021, Mr. Chew announced that he was joining ByteDance as chief financial officer, fueling speculation that the company would go public. (It remains privately held.)

appointed Mr. Chew as chief executive, with Mr. Zhang praising his “deep knowledge of the company and industry.” Late last year, Mr. Chew stepped down from his ByteDance role to focus on TikTok.

Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, left after the Trump administration’s effort to sunder the app from its Chinese parent. China was also cracking down on its domestic internet giants, with Mr. Zhang resigning from his official roles at ByteDance last year. Mr. Zhang remains involved in decision making, people with knowledge of ByteDance said.

Mr. Chew moved to establish himself as TikTok’s new head during visits to the app’s Los Angeles office in mid-2021. At a dinner with TikTok executives, he sought to build camaraderie by keeping a Culver City, Calif., restaurant open past closing time, three people with knowledge of the event said. He asked attendees if he should buy the establishment to keep it open longer, they said.

a TikTok NFT project involving the musical artists Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch. He reprimanded TikTok’s global head of marketing on a video call with Beijing-based leaders for ByteDance after some celebrities dropped out of the project, four people familiar with the meeting said. It showed that Mr. Chew answered to higher powers, they said.

Mr. Chew also ended a half-developed TikTok store off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, three people familiar with the initiative said. TikTok briefly explored obtaining the naming rights of the Los Angeles stadium formerly known as the Staples Center, they said.

He has also overseen layoffs of American managers, two people familiar with the decisions said, while building up teams related to trust and safety. In its U.S. marketing, the app has shifted its emphasis from a brand that starts trends and conversations toward its utility as a place where people can go to learn.

In May, Mr. Chew flew to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, speaking with European regulators and ministers from Saudi Arabia to discuss digital strategy.

June letter to U.S. lawmakers, he noted that ByteDance employees in China could gain access to the data of Americans when “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls.” But he said TikTok was in the process of separating and securing its U.S. user data under an initiative known as Project Texas, which has the app working with the American software giant Oracle.

“We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms,” Mr. Chew wrote.

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How Accent-Changing Apps Are Removing Communication Barriers

Apps like Sanas are helping smooth communication by removing accent barriers that can lead to misunderstandings.

Accents are diverse and unique, but sometimes accents get in the way of understanding people. An app called Sanas looks to remove that barrier by using AI technology to take away a person’s accent.

“We’re all trained with the products, with the services,” said Dwayne Alviola, “Whether we’re in the Philippines or in a different country, rest assured that we’re trained in every detail to handle your accounts.”

Alviola lives in the Philippines and has worked for U.S.-based companies for eight years. He previously worked in call centers and now works in customer service.

Throughout the years of working in call centers, Alviola says he and his coworkers faced discrimination and racism on the other end of the call.

“Usually, the “f-you” word, then usually they’ll be in different types of curses, but since it’s our second language, we don’t even mind it,” Alviola said. “But, racism comes in, even if we know that we’re not the one being blamed for their experience, it still hits us the most.”

Alviola says they’re stuck. When he was working in call centers, they’re not allowed to hang up, so they have to be on the call until the caller on the other line clicks off. He says accent-altering apps can lead to smoother communication and less verbal abuse.

“Especially for new graduates who just entered training, then it would help them boost their confidence,” Alviola said. “That’s also one reason why I like the app, because if it was developed just a few years ago when I was starting, I would love it.”

Others find the Sanas app especially helpful when cops or hospitals are involved.

“If there is a law, like a with discussion, with the cop, with their doctor mainly, there are a lot of problem when communicating with the doctor if you don’t know proper English,” said Mehboob Ahmedabadi, an Indian man working in media.

On the flip side, others argue that apps that take away accents perpetuate racism and discrimination by masking the problem at hand. Judy Ravin, the founder of Accents International, says there’s a way to do things differently.

“At the conclusion of our program, which is called Powerful Pronunciation, people will still have an accent,” Ravin said. “We think that’s a good thing. An accent is a piece of our cultural and linguistic identity. What we won’t have is a communication barrier due to pronunciation.”

Unlike the app that filters voices, Accents International improves pronunciation through real time coaching. For example, the vowel sounding “aw” used in words like “law” or “daughter” can be tough for those not familiar with pronouncing it.

“The way we teach it is both,” Ravin said. “What does it look like, and what does it feel like? Well, it looks like someone’s popped an egg in their mouth. It looks like a perfect oval… and a person can feel the top of their tongue behind their lower teeth. So what does it look like? What does it feel like… not, what does it sound like?”

Vincent Dixon had a thick Irish accent, but through years of teaching English in France, he learned to communicate more effectively.

“I think sometimes people feel that their accents makes them lesser or more, and it really doesn’t,” Dixon said. “It just makes you who you are. It’s like the color of my eyes or the color of my hair.”

In a world filled with more AI listening, trying to get machines to understand despite an accent can be especially frustrating.

“It’s very frustrating because I talk to my watch, I talk to my husband,” said Eileen Panzardi, a Puerto Rican living in Atlanta. “I talk to my phone, and I have to pass it to my daughter, who was born here in Atlanta, and ask her to say whatever word it is for Siri to understand me because sometimes she don’t even get me.”

Ultimately, the goal of accent-changing technology is to create better person-to-person communication in an ever-increasing, globalized world.

“For me, the key point is not their identity in communication,” said Haulk A, a Kurdish software engineer living in Chicago. “In the communication, the important thing is to the message that you send and the message that you get.”

Source: newsy.com

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‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Services Can Actually Lead To More Debt

Companies that allow consumers to complete a purchase after the point of sale are often unregulated and can lead users into deeper debt.

There’s a long history of paying for things in installments: There’s the way old commercials advertise, there are rent-to-own products, or shoppers can put purchases on a payment layaway plan.

But recently, more options have popped up that give consumers the items right away and takes away the threat of repossession.

Companies like Afterpay, Klarna and Affirm have become a more frequent resource for people looking to buy things using a stretched-out payment plan. They have increasingly been showing up as payment options on websites of major retailers, including Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

It’s a huge business. A report from the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation found that 91% of consumer loans taken out in the state in 2020 were from buy now, pay later lenders.

But unlike leasing a car or taking out a new credit card, there isn’t much regulation of this space because of how new it is. Buyers get both the instant gratification of getting their purchase right away, and it doesn’t necessarily affect their credit score.

“A significant portion of people take out multiple buy now, pay later purchases,” said Nadine Chabrier, litigation policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “There’s no consideration of the ability to repay, and there’s no specific date on which a person can count on their final pay later coming out of their account. So, people tend to take on multiple purchases and get overwhelmed.”

Chabrier is concerned that the short-term nature of these loans has helped buy now, pay later providers avoid existing rules.

“Some of the things that we’ve advocated for is to regulate buy now, pay later like a credit card,” Chabrier said. “There are really important protections there for consumers that you have under credit cards that you don’t have when you take out a financial planner.”

These types of services often have a younger, more diverse user base. A Morning Consult poll conducted earlier this year found that Gen Z, as well as Black and Hispanic Americans, were more likely to use a buy now, pay later service than the average American.

Elyse Hicks, from the consumer advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform, says that lines up with other trends in economic inequality. 

“On a basic level, BIPOC communities have less, so they’re more inclined to use products like Buy Now, Pay Later, Klarna, in order to get the things that they need or want because it puts those bite-sized pieces or bite-sized installments, something that they feel like they can handle, in front of them,” Hicks said.

The same Morning Consult poll found that one in five borrowers using buy now, pay later missed a payment in January, the month they took the survey.

It can spiral into some big fees for consumers.

In August, after President Biden announced his intent to forgive $10,000 or more for Americans with student loan debt, one Twitter user’s question about whether President Biden would forgive AfterPay debts too went viral.

For now, consumers like Grace Oppy, who is an Afterpay user currently in debt, and the millions of others who use these services are at the mercy of the companies. Affirm, for example, does pitch consumers on the fact that it has no late fees, but it does note that it would charge up to 36% APR depending on your credit, which is higher than even the highest APR on most credit cards.

But in the moment, the seemingly great deals can be really tempting.

“It started with a lot of strategy,” Oppy said. “I was like, ‘If I just do this, then I will be glam and perfect. I will definitely get my promotion.’ And now… I have $90 earrings. So really, it’s a slippery slope in my mind. My dopamine receptors are just, boom, firing away when I use it.”

The advocates Newsy talked to said that dopamine hit Oppy feels — a rush of satisfaction — is exactly what makes it so tempting to use these services when shopping.

“It just feeds on millennials and Gen Z, of how we like to get things very instantly,” Hicks said. “We all know we want something, that we can get it at a discounted price and get it to our doorsteps very quickly. It hits that dopamine, and we’re onto something else. So, it kind of it puts you in a cycle, and kind of like a debt trap, as well.”

Influencers on social media are pitching buy now, pay later as a life hack for those who want something and don’t want to worry about the cost today.

“You have people who you admire, who look like they have great lives, who then have this clothing item or this product, and it’s just aspirational,” Chabrier said. “It’s understandable for people to aspire to a particular lifestyle or feeling, and that’s what I think this type of marketing plays on.”

It’s not lost on consumers either. 

“They make it seem so frivolous… like a fun app,” Oppy said. “They’re partnering with influencers. It’s really nefarious, and it’s subtle. But, making these people that we all try to base our lives on advertise this pretty predatory lending practice that’s so unregulated: sneaky. And they got me. They got me there.”

But regulation and standards could be on the way soon. Many buy now, pay later loans aren’t reported, meaning that while there’s no guarantee your credit score takes a hit if you miss payments, you also might not be building credit that can help you get other loans or credit cards in the future.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — the three largest credit bureaus —announced plans this year to incorporate buy now, pay later loans into their files, but implementation of that is still to be determined.

Meanwhile, state and federal regulatory authorities are looking at how to account for buy now, pay later services.

A group of 21 state attorneys general wrote a letter calling for federal officials to set standards on this. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced during last year’s holiday season that they had started a review of the buy now, pay later industry, with an eye toward federal regulations protecting consumers from debt and ensuring companies tell consumers what fees they could incur.

Advocates are hoping rules will lift the burden from consumers and make the companies themselves have to give more information up front. But until then, they say to make sure to read the fine print. 

“Please look at all of your products or your apps,” Hicks said. “See how much you currently owe these buy now, pay later companies, and just be aware of your spending habits. It’s so easy to get out of control with this, but just be aware until regulation comes.”

Source: newsy.com

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Psychologist Says There’s A Rise In The Number Of Lonely, Single Men

An article in Psychology Today sparked heated discussions online and on social media. Some agreed, while others were angry and offended.

Psychologist Greg Matos wrote an article for Psychology Today titled “The Rise of Lonely, Single Men” — about straight men being the loneliest they’ve been in generations.

Matos says dating opportunities are diminishing. Straight men represent 62% of dating app users, lowering chances of matches because it’s competitive.  

He goes on to say women’s standards are higher now than in the past. Women require emotionally available men who are great communicators, but Matos says a majority of men are not consistently taught those skills as boys.

That’s not true for David Warner, though. He’s in tune with his emotions, but says dating is a journey and he feels lonesome at times. 

“It’s never easy,” he said. “You know, of course, I think that most people that are single and looking can attest to that because it’s kind of like finding a needle in a haystack.”

Warner hails from Chicago. He’s separated from his wife and is currently dating using apps.

“‘Loneliness’ seems kind of sad,” he continued. “‘Lonesome’ just means that you’re, you know … there’s a moment of time, maybe, rather than loneliness, [which] is a condition. Lonesome might just be a few minutes in time.”

When the article was published, it sparked heated discussions online and on social media. Some agreed with Matos, while others were angry and offended. 

Tony Vear is a dating and relationship coach who says: “Men don’t want to admit that they’re failing around relationships, so they don’t let people know and they just end up being lonely.”

Vear has seen this play out in real life. The majority of his clients are women seeking advice and expertise to grow their dating skills. Not so much with men.  

“They don’t know who to talk to because talking to their friends is like letting their friends know that they’re failing,” Vear continued.

On the flip side, Match’s chief dating expert, Rachel DeAlto, disagrees that men are lonelier. She sees both genders are holding higher standards. 

“Singles are focusing on really looking for emotional maturity, honesty, good communication — all qualities that were seen above appearance. So I think we’re shifting,” she said. “And whether COVID did that, or just age and growth and evolution, I think it’s a good thing.”

For Warner, dating has bumps along the way. He’s met women who were scarred by other men. He shared how his recent dates went with three women he met on dating apps.

“Within the first five minutes of meeting, they said, ‘I just want you to know right now that we’re not going to have sex.’ And I was blown away because I don’t even know you. You think I’m here to have sex … I don’t even know your last name at this point. … They shared with me that it was something that men had done,” he said. “I think guys really have to know that that’s not an approach.”

The pandemic and dating apps most certainly changed how we date, but one thing remains the same: our human need for love, and connection. 

Source: newsy.com

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What Makes Nutrition Advice Confusing?

Newsy’s Heath and Science correspondent Lindsey Theis looks into whether nutrition advice is helpful or confusing.

The first lesson in diet and nutrition 101 is to forget everything you think you know about diet and nutrition.  

Because chances are as soon as you’ve got it down, more advice or another diet pops up.  

Take cholesterol and fats, for example: until 2015, the USDA recommended no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily.  

For some perspective, a single egg has 186 milligrams. 

But the government removed the limit in 2015. 

Officials couldn’t prove the link between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol in the blood.  

You may remember the food pyramid from your grade school days.

It suggested a diet of six to 11 servings of breads, cereal, rice and pasta, three to five servings of vegetables and even fewer servings of meat, dairy, fruit and fats.  

The USDA scrapped that dietary guide over a decade ago and replaced it with “My Plate” showing a new way of how to section and balance your meals. 

Your food choices add up, and they all matter. So where do you start? 

The USDA recommends fruits and vegetables should now make up half of your plate with less protein, dairy and grains. 

But this year over half of Americans said they’d never seen “My Plate” before, or knew little about it. 

Then there’s calorie confusion: how many calories should we put on our plates?   

“Calories are important outside of weight loss for overall health, especially for longevity. So we want to take care of our body with really good quality calories,”said Grey.  

Some food-tracking apps like “My Fitness Pal” are based on a minimum 1,200 calorie daily diet for the quickest weight loss results. 

Historians trace this number back to one of the first modern diet books ever released in 1918.  

At the time the author Lulu Hunt Peters suggested 1,200 calories a day would keep someone’s weight controlled. It was also unpatriotic to “be fat” while thousands were starving during the WWI era. 

Certified Nutritionist Liana Warner Grey is among a chorus of food experts who say eating 1,200 calories a day is not only unhealthy, it’s the amount a toddler should eat.  

“The 1,200 calories a day is definitely a myth. We need need more fuel, more clean calories to get us through the day,” said Grey. 

Current USDA guidelines say adult women need between 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day, depending on their height, weight and activity level. 

Adult men need 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day.  

And one approach doesn’t fit all.  

A 2019 study found even identical twins don’t react to food the same way, suggesting no single diet exists that works for everyone. 

Doctors say there are many other lesser-known factors like stress. 

“The more stress people that people were experiencing, the more weight they were gaining,” said Dr. Arthur Evans, the CEO of the American Psychological Association.

Out-of-whack hormones like cortisol or leptin also contribute to weight gain.  

Even what type of sugar we eat.  

“The brain responds differently to different sugars. So corn syrup hits very differently in the body than what monk fruit or honey will do because those sugars actually provide nutritional value,” said Grey.  

Researchers say celebrity influence also plays a major role in what we eat.  

A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association this year looked at some of the most followed celebrity accounts on Instagram.   

They found an overwhelming number of posts about food and drinks that were unhealthy by U.S. nutritional standards. 

One of the studies authors says celebrities and social media have the kind of influence that can help sustain eating trends and set norms. 

“This can really contribute to followers’ perception of what is common what is valued in society right now,” said Bradley Turnwald, a behavioral scientist at The University of Chicago.

On TikTok, videos tagged “nutrition” have amassed nearly eight billion views, and posts about diet hit over 20 billion views.  

Many contradict one another .  

Dr. Idrees Mughal told the New York Times viewers tag him in 100 to 200 videos every day for help. 

The British doctor, who has a Master’s in nutrition, dedicates his entire TikTok to scientifically debunking hundreds of claims.  

For example someone said on TikTok, “eggs are one of the worst foods you can eat, full of fat and cholesterol.” 

Mughal says “eggs are one of the most nutrient rich foods we could eat, as well as being a well high quality protein and digestible amino acids. Eggs are top of the list.”

TikTok says it has measures to address harmful diet and nutrition advice.  

The company says it removes creators who violate their disordered eating policies and flags potentially harmful searches. 

But even research that experts cite isn’t always cut and dried. And variables or research blindspots can get lost in a catchy headline. 

Nutritionists say the perfect diet study is unachievable. 

They emphasize a “healthy” diet isn’t one size fits everybody. 

And that drowning out the noise and listening your own body is best.

Source: newsy.com

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Planning for Your Retirement, and for a Child’s Special Needs, All at Once

Rachel Nagler, 39, has worked part time since she was 22, but she will never be financially independent, according to her father. She is legally blind with a seizure disorder and mild cognitive impairment, the result of birth trauma.

For her parents, Sam and Debra Nagler of Concord, Mass., planning for retirement required them to focus on Rachel’s future as well as their own.

“She has very limited earning capacity,” Mr. Nagler, 70, said. “The concern is, is this sufficient for her for the rest of her life?”

His wife, who is 68, has been their daughter’s primary caregiver since her birth.

“Nobody knows Rachel, and takes care of Rachel, and knows every need of Rachel, and is on top of everything other than my wife,” Mr. Nagler said. “That’s a worry because she’s not going to live forever.”

For parents of children who have serious disabilities or special needs, the challenges of growing and preserving their wealth are magnified exponentially, and the stakes are much higher. While they are trying to plan for their own retirements, these parents need to simultaneously secure the ‌ stability of a son or daughter who will be dependent on them‌ until — and even after — their deaths.

“We want to make 100 percent sure that after we’re gone, there’s no issue,” Mr. Nagler said.

Under the best of circumstances, caring for an adult child with special needs is physically and emotionally taxing. As these parents age, the question of who will house, feed and drive their son or daughter after they no longer can becomes an urgent one.

But not all parents in this situation are aware of the myriad challenges they face. “Getting them to understand that they need to think differently about their retirement in this scheme of things is a key step. And it’s not simple,” said Mary Anne Ehlert, a certified financial planner and founder of Protected Tomorrows, a financial planning firm that specializes in families with special needs.

For example, Ms. Ehlert said, she has to consider a multigenerational time horizon for these clients’ portfolios. “We might be a little more conservative, but we still need growth. We need growth longer,” she said. But a conservative-leaning asset mix has drawbacks, too. “Conservative doesn’t always give us the growth we need,” she said. In addition, many families opt for a portion of their portfolio to be in cash or cash-like liquid investments in the event that their child suddenly needs a new piece of expensive equipment, like a speech-assistive device.

Often, one spouse will sideline a career or leave the work force entirely to provide care, reducing their own ability to save for retirement. These families find their budgets strained by a host of ancillary costs: paying for gas to drive their children to therapy appointments and day programs; buying supplies like adult diapers and waterproof bedding, compression tights to promote circulation, specialized diets — the list goes on.

Even when the disabled individual qualifies for public health assistance, finding affordable, adequate housing is especially difficult. Some people require supervised care in a group home, while others need in-home care in a dwelling modified to accommodate physical limitations. In both cases, waiting-list times are measured in years.

As a result, many parents feel they have no choice but to keep their son or daughter at home, said Harry Margolis, an estate planning lawyer near Boston who works with families with special needs. “Often, they’re still living with parents even when everybody’s getting older,” he said.

This can be expensive in terms of lost opportunity costs. To spare their child the upheaval, parents might forgo the opportunity to downsize into a less-expensive or more accessible home while they are still healthy enough to do so.

Since most of the public benefits available to special-needs and disabled people are administered at the state level through Medicaid, parents of a special-needs child might not be able to move to a state with a lower cost of living. Doing so could mean the adult child would lose access to their benefits and be placed at the bottom of waiting lists for services in a new state.

Some families, however, move to states that offer more generous benefits, even if it means a higher cost of living. “That’s a real struggle for these families, particularly as Mom and Dad age,” said Debra Taylor, founder of Taylor Financial Group in Franklin Lakes, N.J. “Some look to relocate to different states because some states are more hospitable than others.”

Douglas and Susan Rohrman moved out of the Chicago area five years ago, alarmed at the declining health of their daughter Liz, who suffered a traumatic brain injury just before the age of 2. Now, 38, the younger Ms. Rohrman has a host of physical challenges, including partial paralysis that impairs her mobility and ability to swallow and cognitive impairment.

“Liz was not getting great care in Illinois, so it was time to sell the house and move everything,” Ms. Rohrman, 74, said. “I researched this up the wazoo.”

The Rohrmans moved to the San Diego area because resources such as housing and day programs were more readily available. But when Covid struck, the couple felt that the only way they could keep their daughter safe — she had been hospitalized with pneumonia three times in 2019 — was to take her out of the care home they had moved her into just a few years earlier, the one they’d uprooted their lives for.

It was an enormous adjustment in responsibilities, but also in finances.

“When we were doing our taxes, I sort of sat down to see where my money was going. And Liz is a large part of it,” Ms. Rohrman said, ticking off items for which she has to pay out of pocket now that her daughter is living at home.

For example, swallowing difficulties mean that the younger Ms. Rohrman has to have a thickening agent added to her water. That alone costs several thousand dollars a year, her mother said, and there are a host of other unique expenses, such as for stabilizing footwear that helps her daughter walk. “I came up with like $9,000, not counting everything I buy at the grocery store and Walmart,” she said.

Mr. Rohrman, 80, had deferred his retirement at a law firm several years to keep earning income, but he stopped working when the family moved. The combination of much higher expenses, a drop in income and a flagging stock market demanded they re-evaluate their finances.

These financial struggles are magnified for single parents. “Care is inevitably more expensive when you have a single parent,” Ms. Taylor said, because they have to rely much more on paid caregivers.

Laura Weinberg, 59, became the sole caregiver for her son Will, who is autistic and nonverbal, when her husband, a lawyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I was in the weird situation of being widowed when I was 38, dealing with a 4-year-old who was a danger to himself,” she said. She was also a caregiver for her ailing mother and maintaining the family home in northern New Jersey. “I was overwhelmed,” she said.

“Estate planning was confusing and extremely expensive when I started to put a toe in the water,” she said. “I got all kinds of wrong information.”

Ms. Weinberg said she would like to have speech-assistive equipment for her son so that he can communicate, but the cost is prohibitive. Instead, she has pieced together a solution with an iPad and specialized apps. “It’s more modest than it might have been, but some of them are in the many thousands of dollars,” she said.

For parents of special-needs children, retirement planning and estate planning have to take place in tandem. Special-needs trusts and life insurance policies in one or both parents’ names are two of the most commonly used tools. Both have to be structured in compliance with the complex eligibility regulations for public health benefits, since many are means-tested.

Mr. Margolis said that even wealthy families have to navigate the byzantine landscape of government benefits, because many of the services available, including housing, are administered entirely through these programs. “In order to qualify for S.S.I. and Medicaid, in most cases you’re limited to $2,000 in countable assets,” he said.

“For a disabled individual, a lot of time, maintaining eligibility is critical,” said Joellen Meckley, executive director of the American College of Financial Services’ center for special needs. “I can’t tell you how many times family members, with the best of intentions, will name a disabled adult child as a beneficiary, not understanding that getting that money could immediately jeopardize their ability to access public benefits,” she said, referring to parents’ wills, retirement plans or life insurance policies.

This makes it imperative that money intended for a disabled individual be held in a specialized financial instrument such as a special-needs trust.

The money in a trust can go toward quality-of-life enhancements for the special-needs individual like cable TV, a cellphone or computer, better food, care providers and rent or utilities, without jeopardizing their public benefits, Mr. Margolis said.

There are two main categories of special-needs trusts. First-party trusts are established with assets that belong to the individual. The drawback is that these trusts have a payback clause: After the individual dies, any money remaining in the trust goes to reimburse the state for the cost of their care over the years.

Third-party special needs trusts are established and funded by someone else for the benefit of the disabled individual. “A third-party one takes in the assets of other people, like gifts, inheritances or life insurance proceeds,” said Brian Walsh, senior manager of financial planning at SoFi.

These trusts are often funded or supplemented with parents’ life insurance proceeds. “A lot of times, life insurance can be used to kind of create a funding source when one or both of them passes away,” Mr. Walsh said.

A “second-to-die” life insurance policy is a frequently used tool. Both members of a couple are covered under it, and the policy pays out after the second spouse dies, providing a more affordable option than insuring each parent separately.

“The purpose of this policy is that it’s going to pay out a death benefit to fund the child’s remaining needs no matter when the parents die,” Mr. Walsh said.

Since the funds in these trusts are generally conservatively invested, experts say the final challenge is making sure that the amount in the trust will provide an adequate income stream.

Getting that balance right is something that the Rohrmans, in California, struggle with.

When Mr. Rohrman stopped working, that meant not only paring back household spending, but revisiting their investing strategy as well.

“We’re financially very conservative. We know we can’t be like we were in our 30s and 40s in terms of our investment mix, spending and so forth,” Mr. Rohrman said. “We think about it a lot. We don’t let it dominate us.”

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Keeping Track Of Subscriptions

and Carlos Mendez
August 9, 2022

New data shows the average consumer underestimated their monthly subscription costs by $133.

It’s probably happened to you before. 

You’re going through your credit card bill, and come across a charge for that subscription you completely forgot about.  

Maybe it was one of the fitness apps you downloaded early in the pandemic, or the music streaming platform you didn’t cancel after the free trial was up.  

Whatever it was, you’re not the only one. 

New data shows the average consumer underestimated their monthly subscription costs by $133.  

Source: newsy.com

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F.T.C. Sues to Block Meta’s Virtual Reality Deal as It Confronts Big Tech

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday filed for an injunction to block Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, from buying a virtual reality company called Within, potentially limiting the company’s push into the so-called metaverse and signaling a shift in how the agency is approaching tech deals.

The antitrust lawsuit is the first under Lina Khan, the commission’s chair and a leading progressive critic of corporate concentration, against one of the tech giants. Ms. Khan has argued that regulators must stop competition and consumer protection violations when it comes to the bleeding edge of technology, including virtual and augmented reality, and not just in areas where the companies have already become behemoths.

The F.T.C.’s request for an injunction puts Ms. Khan on a collision course with Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, who is also named as a defendant in the request. He has poured billions of dollars into building products for virtual and augmented reality, betting that the immersive world of the metaverse is the next technology frontier. The lawsuit could crimp those ambitions.

in its lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. “Instead, it chose to buy” a top company in what the government called a “vitally important” category.

attack on innovation and that the agency was “sending a chilling message to anyone who wishes to innovate in V.R.”

Meta had said it would acquire Within, which produces the highly popular fitness app called Supernatural, last year for an undisclosed sum. The company has promoted its virtual reality headsets for fitness and health purposes.

The F.T.C.’s lawsuit is highly unusual and pushes the boundaries of antitrust law. Regulators mostly focus on deals between large companies in large markets, rather than their acquisitions of small start-ups in nascent tech areas. Courts have also been skeptical applying antitrust law to block mergers based on the hypothetical that the two companies involved would later become competitors if the deal was blocked.

Instagram, the photo-sharing app that has since grown to more than one billion regular users. Instagram has helped Meta dominate the market on social photo sharing, though other start-ups have sprung up since.

lawsuit against Facebook that argued the company shut down nascent competition through acquisitions. The Justice Department has also sued Google over whether the company abused a monopoly over online search.

More cases could be coming. The F.T.C. is investigating whether Amazon has violated antitrust laws, and the Justice Department has inquiries into Google’s dominance over advertising technology and into Apple’s App Store policies.

For Mr. Zuckerberg, the F.T.C. lawsuit is a setback. He has been pushing Meta away from its roots in social networking as its apps, like Facebook and Instagram, face more competition amid stumbles in privacy and content moderation. Instead, he has bet on the metaverse.

Mr. Zuckerberg has reassigned employees and put a top lieutenant in charge of metaverse efforts. He has also authorized executives to pursue some of the most popular games in the V.R. space. In 2019, Facebook purchased Beat Games, makers of the hit title Beat Saber, one of the top V.R. games on the Oculus platform. He has also authorized the purchase of roughly half a dozen other virtual reality or gaming studios over the past three years.

The F.T.C. filed suit on Wednesday hours before Meta reported its first decline in quarterly revenue since it went public in 2012. The company has recently trimmed employee perks and reined in spending amid uncertain economic conditions. John Newman, the deputy director of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Competition, said the agency acted on the Within deal because Meta was “trying to buy its way to the top.” The company already owned a best-selling virtual reality fitness app, he said, but then chose to acquire Within’s Supernatural app “to buy market position.” He said the deal was “an illegal acquisition, and we will pursue all appropriate relief.”

The F.T.C.’s vote to authorize the filing was split 3 to 2. Christine Wilson, a Republican commissioner at the agency, said she was one of the two votes against the lawsuit. She declined to comment on her reasoning.

The F.T.C. said in its request that asking for an injunction was sometimes a prelude to filing a complaint against a merger, which could embroil Meta and the agency in a lengthy trial and appeals process. A F.T.C. spokeswoman said the agency had not filed such a complaint and declined to comment further on the agency’s strategy.

Ms. Khan, 33, who was appointed by President Biden last year to acclaim from the left, has tried to make good on expansive promises to rein in corporate power. She became prominent after she wrote an article in law school in 2017 criticizing Amazon. As F.T.C. chair, she has called for regulators to vigorously enforce antitrust laws and has said she may craft sweeping online privacy rules that would implicate Silicon Valley companies.

The lawsuit drew praise from Ms. Khan’s allies. Sandeep Vaheesan, the legal director of the Open Markets Institute, a liberal think tank, said in a statement that the lawsuit was a “step toward making building, not buying, the norm for Facebook.”

But tech industry allies assailed Ms. Khan’s actions. Adam Kovacevich, the chief executive of Chamber of Progress, an industry group funded partly by Meta, said that with the new lawsuit, “the agency is more focused on getting headlines than results.” He said Meta “isn’t any closer than pickleball or synchronized swimming are to locking up the fitness market.”

Meta said in a blog post that the F.T.C. would fail to prove that the Within deal would “substantially lessen competition,” which is the bar that is typically set to block a deal under federal antitrust law.

In its lawsuit, the F.T.C. said that if Meta bought Within’s Supernatural, it would no longer have an incentive to improve Beat Saber, the virtual reality fitness game it already owns. But Nikhil Shanbhag, an associate general counsel for Meta, said in the blog post that the games weren’t competitors.

“Beat Saber is a game people play to have fun and it has many competitors,” he said. “Supernatural couldn’t be more different.”

Seamus Hughes contributed research.

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How Mark Zuckerberg Is Leading Meta Into Its Next Phase

SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of the company formerly known as Facebook, called his top lieutenants for the social network to a last-minute meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area this month. On the agenda: a “work-athon” to discuss the road map for improving the main Facebook app, including a revamp that would change how users browse the service.

For weeks beforehand, Mr. Zuckerberg had sent his executives messages about the overhaul, pressing them to increase the velocity and execution of their work, people with knowledge of the matter said. Some executives — who had to read a 122-page slide deck about the changes — were beginning to sweat at the unusual level of intensity, they said.

Facebook’s leaders flew in from around the world for the summit, the people said, and Mr. Zuckerberg and the group pored over each slide. Within days, the team unveiled an update to the Facebook app to better compete with a top rival, TikTok.

trimmed perks, reshuffled his leadership team and made it clear he would cut low-performing employees. Those who are not on board are welcome to leave, he has said. Managers have sent out memos to convey the seriousness of the approach — one, which was shared with The New York Times, had the title “Operating With Increased Intensity.”

the so-called metaverse. Across Silicon Valley, he and other executives who built what many refer to as Web 2.0 — a more social, app-focused version of the internet — are rethinking and upending their original vision after their platforms were plagued by privacy stumbles, toxic content and misinformation.

The moment is reminiscent of other bet-the-company gambles, such as when Netflix killed off its DVD-mailing business last decade to focus on streaming. But Mr. Zuckerberg is making these moves as Meta’s back is against the wall. The company is staring into the barrel of a global recession. Competitors like TikTok, YouTube and Apple are bearing down.

And success is far from guaranteed. In recent months, Meta’s profits have fallen and revenue has slowed as the company has spent lavishly on the metaverse and as the economic slowdown has hurt its advertising business. Its stock has plunged.

“When Mark gets super focused on something, it becomes all hands on deck within the company,” said Katie Harbath, a former Facebook policy director and the founder of Anchor Change, a consulting firm that works on tech and democracy issues. “Teams will quickly drop other work to pivot to the issue at hand, and the pressure is intense to move fast to show progress.”

Andrew Bosworth, who is known as Boz, to chief technology officer, leading hardware efforts for the metaverse. He promoted other loyalists, too, including Javier Olivan, the new chief operating officer; Nick Clegg, who became president of global affairs; and Guy Rosen, who took on a new role of chief information security officer.

In June, Sheryl Sandberg, who was Mr. Zuckerberg’s No. 2 for 14 years, said she would step down this fall. While she spent more than a decade building Facebook’s advertising systems, she was less interested in doing the same for the metaverse, people familiar with her plans have said.

Mr. Zuckerberg has moved thousands of workers into different teams for the metaverse, training their focus on aspirational projects like hardware glasses, wearables and a new operating system for those devices.

“It’s an existential bet on where people over the next decade will connect, express and identify with one another,” said Matthew Ball, a longtime tech executive and the author of a book on the metaverse. “If you have the cash, the engineers, the users and the conviction to take a swing at that, then you should.”

But the efforts are far from cheap. Facebook’s Reality Labs division, which is building augmented and virtual reality products, has dragged down the company’s balance sheet; the hardware unit lost nearly $3 billion in the first quarter alone.

privacy changes from Apple that have hampered its ability to measure the effectiveness of ads on iPhones. TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app, has stolen young audiences from Meta’s core apps like Instagram and Facebook. These challenges are coinciding with a brutal macroeconomic environment, which has pushed Apple, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to freeze or slow hiring.

a memo last month, Chris Cox, Meta’s chief product officer, said the economic environment called for “leaner, meaner, better executing teams.”

In an employee meeting around the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg said he knew that not everyone would be on board for the changes. That was fine, he told employees.

“I think some of you might decide that this place isn’t for you, and that self-selection is OK with me,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.”

Another memo circulated internally among workers this month was titled “Operating With Increased Intensity.” In the memo, a Meta vice president said managers should begin to “think about every person on their team and the value they are adding.”

“If a direct report is coasting or a low performer, they are not who we need; they are failing this company,” the memo said. “As a manager, you cannot allow someone to be net neutral or negative for Meta.”

investment priorities” for the company in the second half of this year.

other prototypes. Bloomberg reported earlier on the smart watch.

posted an update to his Facebook profile, noting some coming changes in the app. Facebook would start pushing people into a more video-heavy feed with more suggested content, emulating how TikTok operates.

Meta has been investing heavily in video and discovery, aiming to beef up its artificial intelligence and to improve “discovery algorithms” that suggest engaging content to users without them having to work to find it.

In the past, Facebook has tested major product updates with a few English-speaking audiences to see how they perform before rolling them out more widely. But, this time, the 2.93 billion people around the world who use the social networking app will receive the update simultaneously.

It is a sign, some Meta employees said, of just how much Mr. Zuckerberg means business.

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