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What is Walk 2k?

This site was created to inspire others, by sharing the lessons learnt during a journey to walking 2000 miles in a year.  Updated : 1/3/2021 Twitter Facebook In recent years I found myself sharing, discussing and debating topic of interest, one on one with friends and colleagues. Our views often differed and in the process we learnt something and saw a different view point. Social media  had great promise for family and friends connecting and staying in touch. In reality, it has become an echo chamber for reinforcing our likes and follows and has forced us into a bubble, where we only see a single viewpoint. The Rabbit Hole Clearly there are many and they go deep. When we researched a topic, its clear there are multiple viewpoints and opinions.  Why not share these ideas, so that we can collectively contribute and become more informed.  Some of the topics we intend to cover are smart homes and Internet of Things(IOT), A utomation , Finance, Real Estate and more.    

Take Control of your Privacy

 Have you ever searched your own name ?  If you value your privacy, you should consider taking action to remove sensitive and private info. The removal process can be as easy as filling out a web form on the site and waiting a few hours or days. As a follow-up step you should also submit a request to the search engine to remove the cached/outdated link. For google use this link .  How do companies obtain your info? In the digital age, information is scraped from social media, data breaches and public information repositories. Countries and states are passing laws to allow us to take control of this data and request that our information be removed. Clearly, there is some resistance to the compliance. Some companies make it  onerous  to get the info removed. One strategy is to start with the low hanging fruit. Use the reference links below and start with a search on your info. Look for an opt-out link and submit a request. Track the details on a spreadsheet to confirm removal. Set a remi

Get your IRS PIN today

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 An IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is a six-digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number. The IP PIN is known only to you and the IRS and helps to verify your identity when you file your electronic or paper tax return. In the past, you had to be a victim of identity theft to be approved or qualify for an IRS PIN. However the current IRS FAQ states that anyone who has a Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and is able to verify his/her identity is eligible to enroll into the IP PIN program.      Why is an IRS IP PIN important If you file a return closer to the deadline, typically Apr 15th, or file for an  extension , which is Oct 15th, it is vital that you sign up for the IRS PIN. Hackers and malicious actors can file a fraudulent tax return on your behalf and claim a tax refund. Proactively creating a PIN will hopefully prevent this. Important Notes and Tips The IP PIN changes or is

HSA Strategy

 Health Savings Account  A Health Savings Account (HSA) allows contributions on a pre-tax basis, for medical expenses. An added benefit is that you can choose to invest the contributions and the growth is tax free, if used for medical expenses. You are required to have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), in order to qualify to contribute to a HSA. Most providers offer a savings account, with a linked debit card that can be used for medical expenses and a optional linked brokerage account. There are contribution limits for a single filer or family and they are generally increase each year. See links below for a detailed breakdown for your own situation.  A few years ago, there were limited choices for HSA providers . Most had monthly maintenance fees and transfer fees to linked brokerage accounts. In early 2019  Lively and soon after,  Fidelity both reduced and/or eliminated most fees. This made it cost effective to invest in a diversified portfolio of low cost index funds at almost

ESPP - Employee Stock Purchase Plans

 What is an ESPP Employee Stock Purchase Plans provide the ability to purchase shares using after tax income, often at a discount or predefined price. Each employer can define the rules for pricing the purchase. Purchasing ESPP shares is a great way to have some forced savings, as the purchase cost is deducted directly from a paycheck. The income is hopefully never missed and most of us will adjust our spending accordingly.  When to sell The rules and restrictions on sale differ based on the employer. It would not make sense to sell shares that are held for less than 1 year as the gains would be taxed as short term. However, in the event of an emergency it would make sense to tap these reserves and pay the higher tax rate.  Considerations and risks Your employer stock may be doing really well, and for good reason. They have a great product or service, however we all experience bias and as an insider are told how great the company is. This may be justified and true.  Over the years you

Vonage

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  Background I have been using Vonage for VOIP services for 15 years. The service started at $20-$25 and met my needs at the time. It has been great and after a few years, they introduced unlimited calling (mostly land lines), to 100+ counties calling for a slightly more, or about the same price. This was great to keep in touch with contacts in foreign countries at a reasonable cost, with the convenience of not having to use a calling card (remember those?). I was able to extract every bill in a few minutes from  Quicken  to plot the bills over the years. Fax In my mind, I continued to justify the service for having the ability for sending a fax. When last did anyone need to send a fax ? Current state After a recent review of bills, it appeared that I was now paying close to $50 a month for this service. I had not sent a fax in years and had not called a land line in a foreign country in months. Most of my contacts are now on WhatsApp. The call and video quality exceed the old VOIP ser

UPS Battery Backup

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A   UPS   (Uninterruptible Power Supply) provides power from batteries during a power outage. Commonly used to ensure that devices can be safely and cleanly be powered off during an outage. Selection criteria Price - < $100 Reputable vendor Good reviews Device should provide battery backup for at least 1 hour USB interface – provide performance metrics Use case Supply battery power for a router, modem and home automation system for 1 hour. What size UPS do you need ? During the research it was surprising to discover how much power (watts) these devices actually used. The numbers below are based on personal observation, device specifications and benchmarks and have been rounded up, to include some buffer as they could fluctuate, based on usage. Device specifics Linksys WRTAC1900  router - ~12-13 watts Motorola Surfboard SB6183  modem- ~9 watts Raspberry PI4  - ~ 4 watts Initial observations The documentation was clear and the setup was basic. Configuring the device and  dashboard  co

Make a Difference on Black Friday

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How do you plan to spend Black Friday Over the past years, we've chosen to spend the time leading up to Black Friday and Thanksgiving as a reminder to give back. It is close enough to the end of the year for tax planning, budgeting and reviewing the year that is almost past.  For us this a a time to reflect, be thankful and give back. In the years past, we spent much time researching the organizations, to find organizations that would effectively deploy funds for the intended purpose.  We required some due diligence to ensure that they are used for the intended purpose. We used Charity Navigator , to research, screen and filter. The site provides a rating to each organization and provides details on the mission, impact, financials, performance and compensation to management.  It is also our trusted source and link to the intended recipients website and contact details. How we choose to spend our time Instead of making that purchase for a material item that we really don't need,

EquityMultiple Review

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What is Real Estate  Crowdfunding     The rise of crowdfunding in the real estate space has its root in the JOBS Act of 2012, which lowered the threshold & requirements and allowed active marketing to average investors. These ads are on Facebook and other media platforms and in general an investor has to pass a accreditation  test. Some platforms advertise no investor requirements and thresholds as low as $500 for funding an account.  This can be beneficial to all and in general can be a good thing, however while the intentions are good, there are always unintended consequences.  Investopedia  provides a definition and background and  The Best Real Estate Crowdfunding Sites of 2020 . The list has most likely not changed much since 2019, however there are many horror stories of investors loses on platforms that no longer exist today.  EquityMultiple  (EQ) is one of many crowdfunding platforms that we reviewed and shortlisted in 2019. Their marketing and website provided data of an a

Equifax and your Employer Data Feeds

Facebook and America’s largest companies quietly give worker data to Equifax - 11-08-17 Biggest companies turn over some of their workers’ most personal information to the troubled credit reporting agency Equifax https://www.fastcompany.com/ 40485634/equifax-salary-data- and-the-work-number-database Every week, Facebook and other companies provides an electronic data feed of its employees’ hourly work and wage information to Equifax Workforce Solutions, formerly known as TALX, a St. Louis-based unit of Equifax, Inc. See if you employer is sharing data about you https://secure.theworknumber. talx.com/twneeer/ Preauthenticated/FindEmployer. aspx https://www.equifax.com/ business/manage-my-workforce/ https://www.theworknumber.com/ employer/ Equifax Data Breach Update: Backsliding - NOV 12, 2019 https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/ 2019/11/equifax-data-breach- update-backsliding Equifax forced to pay $4 per person in data breach - 07-22-19 https://www.fastcompany.com/ 90379766/equifax-forced-to-

Blogging Links and Resources Worth Mentioning

  Free resources and link We have all searched for options and alternatives to perform a simple task that may be beyond our level of skills and expertise. This post will be constantly updated with services that we recommend or have found useful. Most services lure us in with a teaser feature or function. We soon realize that the sales pitch only comes later to upsell features and functions that we don't really need and we are unable to perform perform the basic task that was promised.  This occurs in our daily offline lives all the time. How often do we choose to just walk away ? We have a vested interest and commitment and the inertia or resistance is too much to change direction.  How often do we do a search and land on a site only to realize (hopefully )  that its not really what we needed or were looking for.  Create a logo or text Flamingtext  - recommended for hobby or personal website Icon generator  - creates icons from image for use as Favicon & App Icon  Generator Soc

Don't Pay to Freeze your Credit Report

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There are 3 major credit reporting agencies in the USA. They also have a presence in other countries.  After the  2017 the Equifax data breach , and the subsequent debacle, the entire industry faced a public relations nightmare and the flashlight was on them. In the years prior, locking/freezing your credit report came at a cost and was an add-on paid service.  In Sept 2018 the FTC announced  Free credit freezes are here .  The three big agencies complied, reluctantly, and in our opinion deliberately made it as confusing as possible, for the consumers to perform a simple freeze. An average consumer attempting to perform the task, would be constantly upsold to other services. There was, and probably still is, confusion around a credit freeze and a credit lock . In addition it appears that the law can differ by state. Should you freeze our credit report ? In general yes, however check your local country/state laws and be persistent. As consumers, this is our data and information. We shou

Google Takeout - its not a food delivery service

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Can you afford to lose your email? Most consumers take for granted that email access in dependable and always available.  Most of these services live in the cloud and we need a reasonable internet/mobile connections to reach them.  Hypothetical scenarios Travelling abroad using a local SIM card - google doesn't recognize the number and for your security requires that you reauthenticate and validate your account.  If you happen to visit China and the great firewall blocks you. You need to lookup a hotel reservation on email.  What would you do if a scammer tried to hack your gmail or google account and you get locked out.   Do you have a plan B ? We should all look at having a backup of our data. Hopefully, we may never need it.  Start with  https://takeout.google.com/ Google Takeout Login with your google credentials, if not already logged in and then select the services you use and want to export. You might be surprised how many are listed. Click the Next button at the bottom. A n

Google My Business Phone Scam

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  What is Google My Business ? A listing service from Google to provide customers with information on a business. The business owner can manage their business listing and provide customers with hours of operations, specials, restaurant menus and more. During these trying times, owners can update changes in hours of operation or special announcements like mask requirements. The process is meant to provide customers with relevant, complete and quality info. Anatomy of the scam I recently updated a google business listing and almost immediately noticed a significant spike in the number of calls to the business phone number. Almost all the calls did not have a known callerid or name attached. Most did not leave a message. Almost all the numbers could not be called and had a message saying that the number was not in service. The calling number is being spoofed to appear as if the call is coming from with the area code to appear more legitimate. Today we received a voicemail stating that a g

Instagram Analytics

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Instagram shady business practice Any business today, has to engage with its customer on social media platforms to stay relevant. It's easy to create an account and post pictures of your business, food, art, decor, menu.... To engage with an audience, you need to appropriately tag your post with relevant hashtags. Simple enough, but are you reaching your audience and how do you measure your efforts? Most other platforms have an analytics tool to view metrics and data. Instagram requires a business account to get access to the analytics. Sounds reasonable and a google search will give you the basic steps to switch a personal account to a business account. Completely reasonable, as you may have started promoting your business with a personal account and realized that it makes sense to separate the personal and business identity. Going through the Instagram help pages, we soon realized that the features and functions were not available on the web page. We tried using the  workaroun