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]

25 of the Best Places to Retire Early in America

Maine's Portland Head Lighthouse.
Maine's Portland Head Lighthouse.
iStock/sara_winter

Retirement is a word we often associate with sun-loving sexagenarians and beyond who are living out their glory years in a Florida bungalow. To many, it's a luxury afforded only to those seasoned professionals who did their time in the workforce. But Kiplinger, the nearly 100-year-old publication focused on personal finance and business forecasts, says otherwise. The site recently reported how, with careful planning, a person could successfully retire early.

By “retiring early,” the site is referring to a retirement age of around 45, not 25 (sorry, to all you hopeful Millennials out there). While there is some taboo surrounding a person’s decision to move forward with such a choice, those who have actually done it have praised its many benefits. So what kind of careful planning would allow for someone to achieve such a goal?

According to Kiplinger, one of the best ways to successfully quit your day job while you're still in your 40s is to settle in a place where the living conditions—including cost of living, tax rates, and income opportunities—allow you to keep busy and remain financially solvent. To help out, Kiplinger released a list of the best places in each state for early retirement, factoring in such variables as the health of each state's economy, taxes on retirees, poverty rates within the retirement demographic, and certain population data.

Listed alphabetically by state, cities and towns with higher concentrations of residents aged 45 to 64 were also favored. Here are 25 of Kiplinger's 50 best places.

  1. Huntsville, Alabama

  1. Lake Havasu City, Arizona

  1. San Francisco, California

  1. New Milford, Connecticut

  1. Tampa, Florida

  1. Kapaa, Hawaii

  1. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

  1. Des Moines, Iowa

  1. Louisville, Kentucky

  1. Portland, Maine

  1. Pittsfield, Massachusetts

  1. Minneapolis, Minnesota

  1. St. Louis, Missouri

  1. Omaha, Nebraska

  1. Manchester, New Hampshire

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. Raleigh, North Carolina

  1. Cincinnati, Ohio

  1. Portland, Oregon

  1. Providence, Rhode Island

  1. Pierre, South Dakota

  1. Sherman, Texas

  1. Burlington, Vermont

  1. Seattle, Washington

  1. Green Bay, Wisconsin

To check out the full list of 50, visit Kiplinger's website.

Starting in July, All Kohl's Stores Will Accept Amazon Returns

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

The only thing that can dilute the excitement of receiving a package from Amazon is the realization that you ordered the wrong item. Maybe it’s a shirt that doesn’t fit, or a gadget that didn’t meet expectations. Now it has to go back, which means printing out a return slip, boxing it back up, and either making a trip to the post office or waiting for a postal carrier to take it away.

Amazon's return policy is now getting a makeover. Beginning in July, all 1150 Kohl’s locations will be accepting returns for the online giant. The program is called Amazon Returns, and it’s free for the consumer. Items don’t need to be packaged. All you have to do is bring in your unwanted Amazon order and let them box it up. While it would seem like a massive inconvenience for Kohl’s, it’s actually part of a mutually beneficial strategy.

By inviting Amazon customers to walk into their stores, Kohl’s is increasing their foot traffic and setting themselves up for an opportunity to capture some additional revenue from people who might not have stopped in otherwise. It’s a smart approach for a brick-and-mortar retailer, a segment of commerce that has been dramatically impacted by the rise of online shopping and Amazon’s dominance in particular.

For Amazon, it likely means consolidating their shipping costs. Instead of retrieving returns from a number of addresses or drop-off locations, they’re able to bundle shipments from Kohl’s.

There are some caveats. If you bought a product from a third-party Amazon seller, it’s not eligible to be processed at a Kohl’s location. And you’ll still have to log on to your Amazon account to notify them you’ll be returning an item via a Kohl’s store.

Accepting Amazon returns may not be the only change you see in Kohl’s in the coming years. Some locations have partnered with Aldi and Planet Fitness to offer a more diverse array of services.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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