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Republicans Pressured To Select House Speaker Amidst Middle East Conflict

Republican lawmakers are currently under immense pressure to settle on a new candidate to replace Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House of Representatives, especially due to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

For sale

The Housing Market Is In A Recession And What It Means For Those Looking To Buy A House

Over the last few months, the housing market was at an all time high between high demand, surging prices and low interest rates.

However, recent data revealed that the market may actually be in a “recession” from where it once was. 

“We’re witnessing a housing recession in terms of declining home sales and home building,” said Lawerence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

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The slowdown in market sales will hurt the economy but it could also help those people who are searching for a home who are willing to pay the high prices.

According to Barrons, ever since July, previous homes were sold at an annual rate of 4.81 billion which marked the lowest rate since November of 2015.  

New home sales also have found themselves in a decline into their their lowest level in six years. 

“It’s not a recession in home prices. Inventory remains tight and prices continue to rise nationally with nearly 40% of homes still commanding the full list price.”

Both home builders and home sellers are experiencing the slowdown which explains why the prices are still up even with the start of this “recession.”

The rise and fall of the housing market also goes along with supply and demand. Even though the demand for homes has dropped recently, the supply count is still very tight. 

The lack of supplies is partly due to the lack of construction that has occurred over the last decade and even since the 2008 crash.

The demand for buying new homes have continued to drop since January, but the mortgage rates have still continuously faced a rise from 3.3% at the beginning of the year to 6% now.

The high mortgage rates have made it harder for those looking to buy a home to afford them.

The demographics also play in part with the supply and demand of the housing market as well. 

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Even while there is a recession within the market, there are still more people searching for a home than there are actual homes to buy. 

“We are seeing more inventory come into the market, but it’s not enough to meet the buyer demand,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at NAR. 

Given the constant highs and lows of the market, buyers may want to be patient before they decide if they are ready to commit to buying a home. 

For first-time homebuyers, they also have to consider the price of rent because that is consistently increasing as well. 

“Even though borrowing costs have risen, it still in the long run may be worth buying a home given that what’s driving inflation right now is rising rental prices. It still may be an opportunity to get out of the pressure of rents,” said Jeffrey Roach, chief economist at LPL Financial, a national broker-dealer. 

US Immigration Label

House Passes Immigration Bills To Grant Citizenship For Dreamers And Farmworkers

This week the House passed two proposals that would legalize the subsets of around 11 million immigrants who are living in the US without legal permission. The hope is to get the bill to President Biden’s desk as quickly as possible to give immigrants an easier chance at gaining citizenship and remaining in the US safely. 

All House Democrats and nine Republicans voted to approve the American Dream And Promise Act, which passed with a vote of 228 to 197. The proposal would “allow more than 2.3 million Dreamers, or unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as minora, as well as beneficiaries of certain temporary humanitarian programs, to gain permanent legal status and eventually, U.S. citizenship,” according to news sources. 

The House also passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with a vote of 247 to 174. This act will grant legal status to the hundreds of thousands of farmworkers in the US who don’t have the proper paperwork but provide some of the most essential services and labor to the entire nation. Thirty Republicans voted in favor of the bill and one Democrat voted against it. 

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Biden has continuously claimed that he plans to legalize most of the country’s undocumented population which has been met with a lot of Republican push-back. The two bills on their own are Democrats best chance at advancing these bills and getting these citizens documented. Nancy Pelosi recently spoke on the two bills:

“It’s always been a pleasure for me to sing praises of our Dreamers. They make us proud, for us, this is a day not only passing legislation, but a cause for celebration.”

If signed into law the American Dream And Promise Act would make all DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants who were brought into the US before they were 18 eligible to apply for a 10-year period of conditional permanent residency. 

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Applicants would be eligible to apply for permanent residence if they earn a college degree, enroll in a bachelor’s program for two years, serve in the military for two years, or if they work in the US for a three-year period. 

More than 300,000 immigrants currently live in the US with Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure, all of which could be eligible to apply for permanent residency under the bill if they meet all the requirements. 

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would allow immigrant farmworkers to apply for a temporary and renewable immigration status if they have worked at least 180 days in the U.S. during a two-year period. Eligible workers would be allowed to request green cards if they complete four or eight years of additional agricultural work, depending on whether they have performed such work for more than or less than 10 years,” according to CBS. 

The proposal would also make visa’s valid for three years. Congressional Democrats proposed to expand legal immigration and invest in Central American border controls as well. Dreamers, TPS holders and farmworkers could automatically be eligible for a green card under the proposal.

Major Conservative Attorney Claims Trump Impeachment Trial Is Constitutional

Conservative attorney Chuck Cooper, most recently known for being the lawyer for former national security adviser John Bolton, has gone public with his argument that the Senate impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump is solidly grounded in the Constitution and should proceed as planned. 

“The strongest argument against the Senate’s authority to try a former officer relies on Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution,” Cooper wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week. This section in the Constitution basically states that any individual holding political power who breaks the law will be removed and held accountable. 

The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

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“The trial’s opponents argue that because this provision requires removal, and because only incumbent officers can be removed, it follows that only incumbent officers can be impeached and tried. But the provision cuts against their interpretation. It simply establishes what is known in criminal law as a ‘mandatory minimum’ punishment: If an incumbent officeholder is convicted by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, he is removed from office as a matter of law,” Cooper explained. 

After Trump was historically impeached for the second time by the House, Senator Rand Paul introduced a measure to dismiss the Senate trial, claiming the proceedings to be unconstitutional since Trump has already left office. Five Senate Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Paul’s measure, which never passed. 

“Given that the Constitution permits the Senate to impose the penalty of permanent disqualification only on former officeholders, it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders. The senators who supported Mr. Paul’s motion should reconsider their view and judge the former president’s misconduct on the merits.” 

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Trump was impeached for the second time on one article of inciting insurrection against the government after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building on January 6th. The mob began to storm the federal building after Trump held a rally telling his supporters to march on Congress and contest the election results. This also came after two months of Trump making baseless claims of a fraudulent election, and vilifying the sanctity of the democracy that shapes America. 

“Like the first, it is too narrowly drawn (first Ukraine, now the Capitol desecration) and was rushed through the House on largely partisan lines. Neither scenario is the right way to do impeachments, 50 percent of which in U.S. history have occurred in the past twelve months,” said John Bolton after Cooper made his remarks. 

Several individuals were injured at the riot, and five died, including one Capitol police officer. Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is projected to begin this week.

Tiktok on Phone

House Of Representatives Votes To Ban Federal Employees From Downloading TikTok

The House of Representatives voted yesterday to pass a proposal that bars all federal employees from downloading video-sharing social media app TikTok on government-issued devices. The proposal, which passed with a vote of 336-71, is a part of a much larger $741 billion defense policy bill.

In general, National security concerns about TikTok have risen within the past few weeks. The concerns stem from the fact that the app is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, and like with most social media apps, many are concerned that their personal information is falling into the wrong hands. TikTok has made countless statements refuting that any users personal information from the US is sent to where the apps headquarters are based in Beijing, and even claimed that for US users TikTok has their own CEO based in America. 

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“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” one spokesperson said.

The initial proposal was brought to the table by Republican Colorado Representative Ken Buck as a part of other “bipartisan amendments to be made to the National Defense Authorization Act.” The proposal would ban TikTok on government-issued devices for employees that extend into Congress as well as congressional staff. 

Despite TikTok’s claims that they haven’t given any user information to the Chinese government, and would refute if asked to do so, federal government workers in Washington aren’t so convinced, and have continued to push for the app, along with other Chinese run social media apps, to be banned in the US completely. 

Buck made a floor speech before the House voted on the proposal where he expressed his major concerns over the app especially in regards to government employees who have sensitive and classified information on their devices. 

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“TikTok is a serious national security threat…the data the company collects from US consumers could be used in a cyber attack against our republic.” 

The US is not alone in their security concerns over TikTok specifically either. India recently announced they would be banning the app along with 58 other apps that are developed by Chinese firms. The banning comes after similar concerns arose among the federal government in India, claiming that the apps “threatened the national security and defense of India.”

As previously mentioned this proposal is just one of many amendments that will be made to the National Defense Authorization Act. The next step will be the House passing their new version of the NDAA with the new amendments implemented. Once passed, the Senate will then decide whether or not to pass it along further later this week; it’s expected that both groups will approve of the new amendments. 

Beyond the NDAA, the Senate of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is expected to consider new legislation that will be presented by Senators Rick Scott and Josh Hawley this Wednesday. This new legislation is similar to the proposal that was passed yesterday, barring federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices, but if passed by both federal groups, the prohibition could soon become law in the US. 

Even further, the Trump administration has been very public about their consideration of a national ban on TikTok and other Chinese-linked social media apps. However, only time will tell how easy that would actually be for the administration to accomplish. 

Selling Home and keys

Supply of Homes for Sale Slumps in December

The final month of 2019 saw a greater slump in real estate sales than previously anticipated by the market. With the holiday season in tow, December is never a popular time to list a home for sale – however this past month’s supply of homes for sale was 12% lower when compared with the same month in 2018, according to realtor.com. This was also a much steeper decline than the 9.5% drop witnessed in November.

As expected, the shortage of homes for sale has taken the biggest hit at the low end of the market, but the drain in supply is actually accelerating across all markets, including the most expensive properties. The end of the year saw the supply of entry-level home priced at less than $200,000 drop more than 18% annually, compared to the 16.6% drop witnessed in November. Midrange houses priced between $200,000 and $750,000 dropped 10.2% annually, compared with November’s decline of 7.4%, while the top end houses priced over $1 million reported a drop of 4.4% annually compared with November’s 2% slump. The median listing price on a U.S. home is currently just under $300,000.

While low-cost homebuilders are continuing to tap into a market of millennials – around 4.8 million of whom will be turning 30-years old in 2020 and looking to buy for the first time – the supply of houses being built and listed simply isn’t able to meet the sizable demand.

The drop noted in December suggests continuing unevenness in the housing market, with many predictions expecting historically low levels of houses for sale to come. December’s slump represents a loss of approximately 155,000 listings, compared to the same period in the previous year, and the amount of new listings is decreasing as well.

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So what is causing this difficult time for the housing market? Higher prices are discouraging many potential movers from listing their homes; increasing numbers of older homeowners are choosing to stay where they are rather than selling their property; and a large number of investors have spent the past decade transforming previously sellable homes into rental properties, which has removed them from the market for prospective buyers.

Real estate is a local business however, meaning not all markets are encountering the same effects. While areas such as California, Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose all encountered a 30% drop in inventory in December, the major markets of San Antonio, Las Vegas and Minneapolis-St. Paul saw their supply of for-sale homes increase. This may appear to suggest that the struggling locations have simply faced an unfortunate year, but the problem is far more widespread than just a few bad districts.

Demand for houses will inevitably increase into the year. With mortgage rates still low potential buyers have greater purchasing power available, but this short supply is likely to push prices up across the board, and currently the majority of new homes in the U.S. are already on the mid to high end of the scale. While many builders are beginning to develop lower-cost properties, as well as ramping up production in general, it will likely be some time before their efforts begin to make a real impact across the market.

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So what next for the housing market? If you believe the gloomiest predictions, the U.S. could be due for another market crash. Just like in 2008, slow wage growth has made it difficult for potential buyers to keep up with the rising house prices. Property sales are currently expected to drop by 1.8% this year, and it’s likely that potential buyers pull out as they struggle to afford the few properties on sale. Combined with a greater uptake of low mortgage rates, this does not paint a pretty picture for real estate. As sales decline, prices may follow – this could leave buyers struggling to make payments on houses that were too expensive for them in the first place.

This is a worst-case scenario prediction however. New homes are being built across the country and the rate is increasing – construction began on 1.37 million new homes in November 2019, a 3.2% increase on October’s numbers and a 13.6% increase on the same month a year prior. If these numbers are accurate and production is successfully ramped up, the construction industry may be able to alleviate the strain that the housing market is currently facing.

Right now, the best advice may be for prospective buyers to hold on to their cash. Low mortgage rates may seem tempting, but the lack of houses available will mean paying out an unjustifiable fee overall. The situation may improve further into the year as more and more properties are built, but if possible it’s worth waiting to see if the market steadies out over the coming years before making such a sizable investment.

Young Woman Using AI Device

How AI Will Shape Life in the Home

Thanks to the rapid advancement of technology and a healthy global economy in which companies compete to develop the most impressive and compelling consumer products, the future of life in the home is shaping up to be characterized by artificial intelligence. Google, for instance, has shifted its business to focus on so-called “ambient computing” technology, which aims to integrate itself seamlessly into the home, assisting customers without intruding into their lives. The Google Home line of products, for instance, works by listening for the phrase “OK Google” or “Hey Google,” which prompts it to respond to verbal commands using natural language processing. Other companies, like Amazon and Apple, have developed products that work along the same lines, with the goal of becoming an essential part of people’s lives without making their presence obvious or intrusive. As the trend of integrating AI into the home continues, other manufacturers are likely to develop appliances that use technology to optimize the efficiency of life in the home.

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Take, for example, LG, which is working on technology to improve the oftentimes-difficult experience of installing new appliances like washing machines and dryers, as well as technology that improves the customer service experience when consumers run into issues with the company’s products. So-called “smart appliances” work by integrating artificial intelligence deeply into all aspects of the appliances, helping users install appliances, detecting and communicating hardware errors, and even providing customer service using chatbots which are programmed to understand and respond to common consumer queries. LG’s latest iteration of washing machines and dryers connect wirelessly to customers’ smartphones using their proprietary ThinQ mobile app, which notifies users when the installation of appliances is completed and also provides users with information about the functioning of their devices as time goes on.

LG’s newest washing machine and dryer, called the LG TwinWash and ThinQ Dryer, include a number of sensors and artificial intelligence programs to streamline and improve the laundry experience. The TwinWash washing machine, for instance, includes voice recognition technology to allow users to operate the machine in a natural way without using buttons, and the washing machine can even give users verbal laundry advice depending on the types of stains on clothing. The machines also intelligently discern the softness of laundry in order to minimize fabric damage and improve washing quality. Additionally, when these appliances are released to the general public, users will be able to receive updates via their smartphones notifying them of problems with the devices that need to be addressed as well as reminders for scheduled maintenance in order to extend the life of the products and, in theory, reduce overall costs.

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The appliances that work with LG’s ThinQ app are not limited to washers and dryers, but include everything from refrigerators, robotic vacuum cleaners, smart TVs, and more. LG’s InstaView smart refrigerator introduces a number of features that set it apart from today’s standard refrigerators, with the aim of saving energy and improving food freshness, among other features. The InstaView refrigerator is packed with a number of features that were once considered squarely in the realm of science fiction; for instance, the fridge includes a camera that films the inside of the refrigerator when the door is closed, which users can view on the device’s LCD touchscreen or remotely using the ThinQ app on their smartphones. Users of the InstaView refrigerator can also program the appliance to remind them when their food expires, and the device even includes Amazon Alexa, a popular voice assistant that can play music, check the weather, and even help users shop for groceries. The fridge also alerts users when the door is left open, produces large amounts of ice for parties or other occasions, and can enter a low-power mode that keeps food fresh when the user goes on vacation.

Clearly, such advanced home appliance technology is not for everyone, and consumers may reasonably question the usefulness of many of these products’ features. When LG’s line of smart appliances releases in the United States, they are likely to be very expensive, limiting their appeal to a small audience of consumers. However, if history is any indication, the technology that powers these appliances is likely to grow more sophisticated and cheaper with time, and it may just be a matter of time before smart appliances become a commonplace and even mundane sight in the home.

Home Owner

A Look at the Second-Most Expensive Property Sold in America

In what is considered to be the second largest residential sale in American history, the property of Univision chair Jerrold Perenchio’s mansion, including an 11 acre estate, has finally been sold.

Two years since Perenchio placed “Chartwell” on the real estate market it has been picked up for a cool $150 million, which may sound a lot but is in actual fact only a third of its original asking price – an overly optimistic $350 million.

Known to some as the “The Beverly Hillbillies” mansion, the exact figure of the sale has not been announced, however the property was bought by the Australian-British-American businessman son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, whose lower offer has been formally accepted.

The billionaire co-chair of News Corp will have plenty of space to play with. As well as the 11 acres and the mansion, there are a further five properties on the estate, bought over time by Perenchio.

The main mansion is a 25,000-square-foot 1930s French neoclassical style chateau that sits nicely in eleven acres of land. Also included is another property just behind which was purchased from former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.

Picking up its nickname due to it being used in the credits of “The Beverly Hillbillies” sitcom – although filming was never conducted there – the estate has more recently been thought of as one of LA’s greatest properties.

The property was originally designed by architect Sumner Spaulding and although the estate is clad in limestone, there are many Gatsby-esque attractions including formal rooms, a vaulted foyer and the stunning ballroom.

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There is also a custom wine vault enabling a wine collector to collate around 12,000 bottles.

Although the 26 room mansion was commissioned by civil engineer and contractor Lynn Atkinson as a gift to his wife – who was an established socialite at the time – it is believed the couple never actually resided in the property.

The property unfortunately became something of a dud decision as the “house with the golden door knobs” gave Atkinson an extremely large tax bill.

In an attempt to reduce this bill Atkinson entered a long disagreement with the county Board of Equalization as he claimed the value of the property had been vastly over assessed and eventually he had it devalued from $165,000 to $70,000 in 1943.

Atkinson was reported at the time as saying that “I can’t live in the property with the taxes as high as they are, and no one else can.”

The issues with the tax bill does not seem to have changed much with the Murdochs now possessing a property which has one of the largest yearly tax bills in the entire Los Angeles area — a reported $1.3 million.

Perenchio passed away at the age of 86 in 2017 and had bought the property for a mere $14 million in 1986. In the 31 years he owned the estate he hired architect Pierre Barbe and designer Henri Samuel to restore the property, creating a cellar to house his private wine collection – one of the biggest in California – and a Versailles-like palace for his established art collection.

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He then went on to snap up the Reagans’ home for $15 million in 2016 after Nancy had also passed.

Hidden behind walls and hedges the property is not visible from the street so passers-by cannot view the tennis court, the pool house beside the 75 foot swimming pool, the manicured lawns, or even the stunning water fountain features.

There are also several items that have been created beneath the estate. As well as the wine cellar there is a subterranean garage, allowing up to 40 vehicles space to park. There is also a (not so) secret tunnel that runs from the basement along to the swimming pool.

Perenchio’s estate included many more properties and since his death many have been sold, including a property opposite Chartwell that was utilized as Perenchio’s own vineyard that sold last month for $12 million. He has also had properties in Malibu sold off.

The title of the most expensive property ever sold in America still sits with billionaire Ken Griffin who splashed out a staggering $238 million on a penthouse in New York City’s 220 Central Park South.

Covering an enormous 23,000 square foot and taking over floors 50 – 53 at the city’s skyscraper, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the property was just one that Griffin picked up over a two year period. He has also bought a $122 million mansion in London, England, which is close to Buckingham Palace, making it one of the most expensive properties ever sold in the capital.

He also owns $58.75 million worth of a condominium in Chicago, a $60 million beach house in Malibu and around $250 million on land in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is planning on building himself a mansion.

Real Estate

Ellen DeGeneres’ Hidden Real Estate Empire

Not many people know about Ellen DeGeneres’ extensive real estate dealings, a source of both fun and profit for her and her wife, Portia De Rossi.

Millennials Buying Home

Why Millennials Are Buying Fewer Homes

Millennials are currently the largest group of consumers in the US, and as such have a significant impact on businesses and the economy, an impact which is sure to grow stronger with time. As such, millennials are the frequent subject of speculation about their lifestyles and spending habits, and much has been made online of their supposed “killing” of various industries. Various stereotypes of millennials abound; they are thought of as having short attention spans and problems committing to jobs, but are also recognized for their desire to feel a sense of purpose and community in their professional lives. Whether or not millennials differ fundamentally from other generations when they were the same age remains an open question, but as the spending habits of young people influence various industries, businesses will have to adapt in order to meet the demands of their newest generation of customers.

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One such industry is real estate. For various reasons, millennials seem less likely than their parents’ generation to want to invest in purchasing a home—according to a ValueInsured Modern Homebuyer Survey, only 48% of millennials think that buying a home is a good investment. This is a sharp decline from two years prior, when 77% of the same generation believed in the value of purchasing a home. Many explanations have been proposed for the downward trend in millennials’ view of the value of real estate, but one popular theory is that millennials are a generation that values experiences over products, preferring to spend money on ephemeral things rather than physical objects. This theory has gained significant traction among people who seek to understand changes in young people’s spending habits, particularly when it comes to their reluctance to make expensive, permanent purchases like real estate.

When millennials are asked about their views on homeownership, however, the answers they give tend to refute this belief.

However, other theories have been proposed that have less to do with the unique characteristics of the millennial generation and more to do with external pressures. The previously mentioned survey offers different explanations for millennials’ reluctance to invest in homeownership. For instance, 49% of first-time homebuyers are concerned that rising mortgage rates could cause homes that are affordable now to become unaffordable in the future. Other economic anxieties factor into this reluctance to buy houses; 67% of first-time buyers worry that they will be unable to save enough money to buy a house they actually want to live in, and 52% believe that a home they buy now is likely to drop in value within a year. Additionally, 68% worry about the threat of another housing crisis, and 64% worry that they’ll suffer from buyer’s remorse after purchasing a home.

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Despite the reality of these widespread economic anxieties, however, many believe that millennials simply choose not to buy houses because they prioritize investing in experiences. When millennials are asked about their views on homeownership, however, the answers they give tend to refute this belief. One of the factors that delays homeownership for the millennial generation is the burden of financial obligations like student debt, which has exploded in recent years, and the slow rate of wage growth over the past several years. However, research has shown that when these financial burdens are lifted, such as when a person finishes paying off their student loans or gets a higher-paying job, rates of homeownership among millennials increase dramatically. That being said, even when the financial burdens faced by millennials are taken out of the equation, many millennials still can’t afford to buy a house. This is because the price of housing has also increased. And while a handful of millennials have taken to a “digital nomad” lifestyle, living in a mobile home and working remotely, this trend appeals to only a small number of people, as such a lifestyle can become immensely difficult both for social and practical reasons. In fact, this trend is likely driven not by millennials’ unique interest in experiences over things, but rather by financial difficulties, as the lifestyle of a “digital nomad” is one of the more affordable ways to live. Nevertheless, the myth that millennials’ spending habits are driven by preferences for experiences rather than financial difficulties persists, and continues to serve as a justification for blaming this generation for killing any number of industries.