LEGO Sets Might Be a Better Investment Than Stocks, Bonds, or Gold

iStock.com/georgeclerk
iStock.com/georgeclerk

The unfortunate part of turning a profit on collectible playthings is that you can’t enjoy them. Slabbed comic books go unread; vintage Star Wars action figures are condemned to their blister-packed prisons. But for people who can somehow resist the urge to rip open that LEGO set, fortune may await. Bloomberg recently reported that the brick building kits seem to serve as a reliable asset that can pay off over time.

Bloomberg cited a 2018 study [PDF] that demonstrated a stronger return for LEGO releases than with stocks, bonds, or gold. The reason is the supply and demand typical of the collector’s market. A new LEGO set will sell for a nominal retail price; as demand exceeds inventory and the sets are discontinued, the price on the aftermarket rises. For example: A 2007 Millennium Falcon kit carried a sale price of $499.99. In 2016, it was selling for nearly $4000.

That would be considered a big score. But the study, conducted by Victoria Dobrynskaya of Russia's National Research University Higher School of Economics and independent researcher Julia Kishilova, looked at 2322 kits dating back to 1987 and found that profit existed across a spectrum of LEGO-branded products. Sets carrying Harry Potter or Star Wars themes yielded an average 11 percent annual return. Some, like a 2014 Darth Revan, went from $3.99 to $28.46 in just one year, earning a return in excess of 600 percent.

Small and large sets tended to have the greatest increase in value, the smaller due to their comparative rarity and the larger ones due to their acquisition price. Licensed sets tend to achieve the greatest returns, though Dobrynskaya found that The Simpsons sets have traditionally failed to turn a profit.

Should you begin to regard LEGO as a potential avenue for retirement income? While the property experienced a resurgence of interest when it grabbed the Star Wars license in 1999 and has remained strong ever since, there’s no guarantee demand will continue unabated. Then again, the fact that the sets have a vibrant community devoted to building means they’re also unlikely to suffer the same fate as short-lived fads like the Beanie Babies.

The bigger problem? Unlike stocks, LEGO sets are tangible, with some coming in massive boxes that need to be carefully stored so they’re not exposed to damage. They’re also subject to the same speculative dangers as conventional investing. If you bought that Millennium Falcon, it's worth bragging about. If you decided to stock up on sets related to Atlantis or the 2010 movie Prince of Persia—which bombed—the price could sink. Like a bad real estate deal, you could be stuck with little more than a pile of bricks.

[h/t Bloomberg]

If You Pay for Netflix or Hulu Through iTunes, You Could Be Saving 15 Percent Each Month

KellyISP/iStock via Getty Images
KellyISP/iStock via Getty Images

For prices ranging from $8.99 to $15.99 a month, streaming services like Netflix offer some of the best value in entertainment. But a growing number of platforms—including Amazon Prime, Hulu, and forthcoming services from Disney and Apple—means that viewers might be looking to cut costs. Fortunately, there’s a way to do that that requires only minimal effort. Is there a catch? Naturally. We’ll explain.

In a post for MoneyTalksNews, writer Donna Freedman points out that warehouse chains like Costco offer gift cards for iTunes at a 15 percent discount. A $100 card might cost just $85, for example. You can then use the card to pay for your Netflix or Hulu subscription if you currently pay for the service through iTunes.

Here’s the first of two wrinkles: Costco runs these deals only periodically, so you’ll have to catch the cards—which are usually limited to two per customer—during their window of availability. Second, Netflix is no longer using iTunes as a pay portal for new members. Members who use iTunes will be redirected toward Netflix’s own billing interface. That’s because Netflix was apparently tired of giving Apple a cut of membership revenue. However, existing Netflix members who are still tied into iTunes billing prior to the switch in late 2018 are able to apply the iTunes cards as payment. By purchasing them from a warehouse club, they’ll be able to save the 15 percent. So can new or existing Hulu members, who can opt to subscribe via iTunes.

Not a Costco member? There’s a workaround for that, too. Have a friend or relative purchase a Costco Cash Card, which can be used by non-members but tacks on a 5 percent surcharge, reducing the iTunes savings to 10 percent. Alternately, just have them buy the iTunes card on your behalf.

Does this seem like a lot of effort for minimal savings? For some people, it might. But if your streaming platforms are beginning to add up, knocking the price down by 15 percent might be worth the hustle.

[h/t MoneyTalksNews]

Equifax Might Owe You Money for the 2017 Data Breach. Here's How to Find Out How Much

alexialex/iStock via Getty Images
alexialex/iStock via Getty Images

Data breaches affecting hundreds of millions of people are a sad reality of our interconnected world, but the 2017 Equifax breach was a major event by any standard. The credit reporting agency hack resulted in roughly 147 million people having their personal information compromised, with names, addresses, and Social Security numbers stolen for use in subsequent identity theft.

If you were one of the people who had to endure your data being disclosed and used without consent, there is some good news: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently approved a $425 million settlement with Equifax that will be used to compensate victims, with some consumers eligible to receive up to $20,000 for their troubles. Naturally, there's a catch.

To find out how much compensation you’re entitled to, you’ll need to go to the breach settlement website and file a claim. The site will be able to tell you if your information was impacted, making you eligible for four years of free credit monitoring at all three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Equifax originally offered people the option of a $125 cash payment instead of the credit monitoring, but later withdrew the offer, citing limited funds. People can still opt for the cash payment, but Equifax has warned the amount will be significantly less than they initially promised.

If you’re one of the consumers who had to spend a significant amount of time protecting your identity due to hackers sharing and using your personal data, it’s still possible Equifax owes you money. The settlement allows for people to claim up to 10 hours of identity restoration efforts at $25 an hour with only minimal paperwork required. You’ll need to describe the actions taken as a result of the breach, like phoning credit card companies or dealing with unauthorized charges.

If you claim between 10 and 20 hours, you’ll need to go a step further and provide documentation proving fraud or identity theft happened as a result of the breach. If you have a paper trail, you can also claim expenses incurred in an effort to resolve the issue. That could mean professional fees to help restore your identity, mileage if travel was required, or document notarization.

In summary: If your data was affected, you’re eligible for free credit monitoring at minimum. If you spent 10 hours or less dealing with the fallout of the breach and can describe the steps you had to take, you can claim $25 an hour, or a max of $250. If you spent between 10 and 20 hours, you’ll need documentation to prove fraud occurred. That could net you an additional $250. You can also use those documents to request compensation for fees incurred to resolve the problem of up to $20,000. That could mean someone making large and unauthorized purchases on a card that were not refunded by the credit card company, for example.

It’s not likely most people will see the full $20,000 unless they really suffered a significant blow to their financial profile, and Equifax has already cautioned these payouts may be affected by the number of people submitting claims. In other words, you may be eligible for $500, but the amount could be reduced if a large number of people make similar and proven claims.

The deadline to file a claim is January 22, 2020. There’s one additional wrinkle: While the FTC and Equifax have agreed to the settlement, it still needs to be approved by a court. That’s likely but not guaranteed. You’ll also have to spend time preparing a lot of paperwork to see any significant amount of money. But at least it’s something.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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