Tag: mutual funds

Your Money In The News – May 6th

Your Money In The News:? Great Investment advice for the beginning investor, Use your tax return to increase your credit score, What to do with your 401(k) when you leave your employer, How to get the best auto loan…

Great Investment Advice for Beginners – Motley Fool

66% of millennials have zero socked away for retirement

While it?s ?common knowledge that the earlier you start investing for your future the better, you need to make sure that your money isn?t being wasted elsewhere before you start socking your extra change away. This in depth article by The Fool gives you investment advice to guide you from zero to hero on your journey to financial success. An overview:

Get rid of high-interest debt first

If you have consumer debt you are probably paying more in interest than you could earn investing. Math doesn?t lie. If you do not pay attention to your interest rates, you could lose money investing instead of paying down your credit card debt first.

Related content: ?DIY Your Credit Card Debt – A Guide to Permanent Debt Relief

Prepare for the unexpected before you invest

The majority of Americans can’t cover a $1,000 unexpected expense without going into debt or selling something. If you have all of your money locked into investments and something unexpected happens, you will have to sell your investments or go into debt to cover an emergency. While experts often quote 3-6 months, if you are starting from zero, pick an attainable goal like $1,000 before you start thinking about investing.

One exception to these rules:

If your company has a 401(k), 403(b), or similar retirement plan, and your employer matches contributions, definitely take advantage whether or not you have credit card debt or savings. An employer match is free money. Don?t turn it down.

Understand your investment goals

Before you invest you’ll want to get a clear picture of your primary goals. Whether you are investing for retirement, or for your children’s college tuition, you need to consider both your risk tolerance and investment time period in order to pick the correct investment vehicles for your situation.

Related content:? Saving For College – An Overview of 529s

Know how asset allocation works

Another important step before you start investing is to understand what to invest in. Learn the difference between stocks (equities) and bonds (fixed income) and so that you can make educated decisions.

Start with easy-to-understand investments

If you’re completely new to investing, it’s generally a smart idea to keep your investments broad and easy to understand. There are many mutual funds or ETFs that can make it easy for you in the beginning. Investing in stock index funds and bond index funds can help get you started while you learn more about investing.

Related content:? Are Sustainable ETFs Better Than Mutual Funds?

Stocks require more knowledge

Investing in stocks can be quite lucrative if you do it right, but you need the time to research stocks and the knowledge to research them correctly. Learn all you can before you invest. Motley Fool recommends these two books for beginning investors.

  • The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham:
  • One Up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch

Don’t let lack of capital get in your way

Don?t assume that because you don?t have much to invest that you should wait. There are many opportunities to invest today even if you can only afford $50 per month.

If you’re in a solid financial position, with little or no credit card debt and a reasonable emergency fund, now is the best time to start. Time is your best friend as an investor — even if you don’t have much to invest.

Related content: ?Start Impact Investing for as Little as 50$

5 Ways Your Tax Return Can Help Increase Your Credit Score – Student Loan Hero

According to the IRS, more than 70% of taxpayers received refunds in 2017 and the average refund was around $2,895. Instead of blowing your refund as if it were free money (it?s not, you paid it remember?), why not use it to leverage a better financial future? Increasing your credit score will serve you in more ways than you think.?Your credit score is not only a deciding factor in your ability to secure loans at better interest rates, it can also affect your ability to rent an apartment, and more recently is even used as a character reference for employment.

Related content:? Know Your FICO – A Guide to Understanding Your Credit Score

Pay off delinquent accounts or late payments

Your payment history affects your credit in a major way, accounting for 35% of your FICO score. Delinquent accounts can remain on your credit report for 7 years.?If you have any overdue bills or anything that has gone to collections, get rid of them first.

Pay down your credit cards

Your credit utilization score makes up 30% of your FICO score.?The goal is to keep is to keep your debt-to-credit ratio below 30%. For example, if you have $10,000 in available credit, you don?t want to owe more than $3,000. The best investment you can make for your future is to eliminate your consumer debt. You will pay far more in interest on your credit cards than you will ever make investing.

Related content:? Credit Card Pay Off Strategies – What the Card Companies Don’t Want You to Know

Ramp up your student loan repayment

44 million Americans are dealing with student loans. The faster you pay off your student loans, the less you will pay in interest. Not only will you save money on interest, but reducing your debt and making on-time payments can increase your credit score.

Build your credit score with a? credit card

Unfortunately we need a credit card in order to build credit. It?s sort of a Catch 22. But if you have a weak credit score, how can you get a credit card?

A secured credit card has you put down a deposit to back up your line of credit. If you make payments on time, your credit score will increase. Eventually, it will be strong enough to qualify for an unsecured credit card. Also, using a secured credit card can help get you in the habit of paying off your credit card balance in full every month.

Save your refund to cover future debt or expenses

If you have paid down your consumer debt, it?s time to allocate money to an emergency saving fund. While this won?t affect your credit directly, it can help keep you out of debt. By using savings instead of a credit card or personal loan you will avoid high-interest debt that could drag down your credit score.

Related content: Emergency Savings – Is It For Me?

How To Get The Best Auto Loan With Today?s Rising Interest Rates – LendEdu

High interest rates on new vehicle loans last month reflected levels not seen since 2009. With more Fed interest rate hikes expected, unless automakers lower their prices, it is going to get more and more expensive to purchase a car. What can you do?

Clean up credit report errors

If you have errors on your credit report, they may be affecting your credit score. You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every year. Get a copy of your credit report and make sure that the information on that report belongs to you and is correct. Credit report errors are more common than you may think. The FTC reports that roughly 1 in 5 people have errors on their credit report. ?The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can guide you in making sure that what is reported is correct.

Put down larger down payments

A higher down payment means you may have lower monthly payment.?According to Edmunds, the ideal downpayment is about 20%. Not only will a larger down payment save you money in interest, it will also protect you from depreciation. If you only put down a small down payment, you will have “negative equity” which means you will owe more than the car is worth over time.

Shop around

The biggest lenders like Bank of America, Chase, or Wells Fargo, aren?t the only place to obtain an auto loan. Deals can be found from ?captive? finance companies belonging to automakers, including Ford Motor Credit and Toyota Financial Services. And there are also credit unions, local banks, and online banks. Do research on the different auto lenders, and come prepared with questions. It?s important to know what you?re getting into when taking on an auto loan.

What Should You Do With Your 401K When You Leave Your Job? – CNBC

Are you about to leave your employer? Are you keeping your money in the retirement plan, or are you taking your savings with you?

401(k) plan managers have a history of contacting leaving employees about rolling over their balances into an IRA with them, and this isn?t always a good idea. It?s possible that you will end up with an expense ratio that increases from below 1% to 2-3%.

For example, just last month Wells Fargo got caught with its pants down again, as the U.S. Labor Department is reportedly looking into Wells Fargo’s 401(k) practices?and whether the bank is pushing its customers into more expensive plans.

So, you need to be careful. If you are leaving your employer and you have a 401(k) with them, here?s what you should know if you are contacted by the 401(k) plan record-keeper about an IRA rollover.

Related content:? Take Control of Your 401(k)

Changing practices

Keep in mind that a recent Labor Department rule which required advisors and brokers to put their clients’ interests before their own when advising on retirement accounts such as 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts is no longer being enforced. This means that you need to be very wary about the advice your financial advisor gives you as it may not be in your best interest.

The way a representative from a 401(k) plan presents the question of “stay or go?” can nudge the employee into a course of action. For example, they may ask if you value low-cost investments with guidance to keep you in the 401(k). Or they may ask if you prefer a broader range of investment funds which would be available with a potentially more expensive IRA.

Related content:? Self Directed IRA – Is It For Me?

Ask questions

Before you roll over into whatever plan your financial advisor suggests, here are some important points to consider:

  • Compare your costs: Find out how costs compare between your 401(k) and an IRA. Do not assume the 401(k) has the correct information. Double check everything.
  • Learn about your in-plan options: If you stay in the plan, will you be able to draw down from your funds through retirement? If so, find out whether there are fees for transferring your savings to your checking account.
  • Think about how to invest your savings in the long run: Even if you leave your money in the plan through retirement, decide how you want to allocate your funds to protect your principal. Plan sponsors cannot answer that question for you. It’s a personal decision.
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4 Ways To Make Real Money With Sustainable Investing

Investing in good companies is a smart money move.

You may not care that 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean each year. Or that the earth is warming at an unprecedented pace.?Even if these metrics don?t hit your radar, it may interest you to know that it now pays good money to be a good steward of the planet and its people. It is possible to make great investment returns with sustainable investing and even outperform other types of investment strategies.

Here’s why it pays to get into sustainable investing.

Sustainable investing is sometimes called Impact Investing. Here are the top reasons to get into these socially responsible investing strategies.

Higher returns?

The myth that you have to give up performance for purpose has long since been debunked. If done right, socially responsible investing does not hurt returns. In fact, with the right strategies, the opposite is usually true.

As it turns out, socially responsible funds have been on par or beating the market for decades.?You do not need to sacrifice returns for purpose.?The socially responsible index (MSCI KLD Social Index) has outperformed the broad market index (S&P 500) for over 20 years.?

Chart of SP500 v MSCI KLD Social Index over 25 years

There isn?t a price to be paid for being good. In fact, the inverse may be true. There is a price to be paid for not investing in good companies. Why?

Risk mitigation

Investors are always on the look-out for ways to reduce risk.

All you need to do is take a look Enron?s cooked books, Exxon?s environmental disasters, Toshiba?s inflated profits scheme, or Wells Fargo?s fake accounts scandal to see the impact of social responsibility failures.?When these scandals broke, the stock price of these companies took a massive hit. Investors and company CEOs hate headline risk and will do anything to avoid it.

This is why Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors are becoming increasingly important in valuing companies. Investors are realizing that these metrics can greatly impact company value, either positively or negatively.?According to Cornerstone Research, intangible assets such as human capital, intellectual property and ?brand? now represent 84% of a company?s market value. ?

That means you as a consumer have more power to pressure companies to do the right thing while capitalizing on your investment.?Voting with your values is no longer simply the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

4 ways to make money with sustainable companies.

You can now outperform the market and invest with purpose. There are several ways to invest in good companies.

1)? Invest in individual companies.

Research and find your own companies with high ESG scores. This is a time-consuming process. It is also high risk because you?re putting all of your eggs in one basket. If the company does well, you win. If the company doesn?t perform, you lose. The risk sits entirely on one company.

Cost is low. The only fee is the commission to execute the trade. You?ll also need to open a brokerage account to place the trade. Robinhood Trading is a newer trading platform that now offers commission-free trades.

Time: Very High

Effort: Very High

Return: Very Low to Very High

Cost: Low

Risk: High

2)? Invest in socially responsible mutual funds.

Another option is to invest in a socially responsible mutual fund. There are hundreds of funds in this category. Use this tool to find and compare fund cost and performance.

The biggest issue with mutual funds is their expense. They tend to have a higher expense ratio and higher turnover. ?The expense ratio is the fee that the fund company charges to manage the portfolio. Turnover represents the percent of the fund assets that have been bought and sold that year. The higher the turnover rate of assets in and out of the portfolio, the higher the taxes.

Believe it or not, sometimes mutual funds both underperform and are more expensive than alternatives like ETFs (exchange traded funds). On the other hand, some funds have great thematic strategies for social responsibility investing. The good ones take a fully integrated approach to ESG investing. When the research team is strong, this could create excess returns that make the extra expense worth it. Meaning: do you care about the expense ratio that much if the fund is outperforming their peers? Bottom line: it pays to research. Doing thoughtful research will take some time.

Time: High

Effort: High

Return: Medium

Cost: High

Risk: Low to Medium

3) Invest in socially responsible ETFs.

Exchange Traded Funds, or ETFs, have become all the rage in recent years thanks to their low cost. There are 58 socially responsible ETFs, 23 of them launched this year alone. That number is likely to go up year-over-year. ?Like stocks and mutual funds, it pays to do your research. Make sure you?re not investing in a socially responsible ETF that simply ?ticks the box? of ESG factors. Finding one that is actually making an impact can take some time.

Time: Medium

Effort: High

Return: Medium to High

Cost: Low

Risk: Low to Medium

4) Invest in impact portfolios.

Robo advisors and impact platforms combine the best of both worlds. You get the thematic approach of mutual funds at a lower cost.?There are several robo advisor platforms out there, including Wealthfront, Betterment, and Wealthsimple. Some have recently introduced social responsibility portfolios. ?

We are also seeing the dawn of socially responsible robo advisors. Motif is a values-driven robo advisor backed by Goldman Sachs. Depending on how you feel about a big bank Wall Street backer, Motif could be an option. You?ll need $300 to start investing.

Another option is Swell Investing. Swell is an impact investing platform backed by Pacific Life. Their focus: deliver profit and purpose. With just $50, you can invest in one or more values-driven portfolios designed to impact our world in positive ways, while producing high growth. We took a good look at Swell here.?Their portfolios include Green Technology, Renewable Energy, Zero Waste, Clean Water, Healthy Living and Disease Eradication.

Time: Low

Effort: Low

Return: Medium to High

Cost: Low

Risk: Low

Start impact investing with Swell

You can start investing with purpose and for profit today with Swell Investing. We did a deep-drive review of??their services. Here’s why we like them:

  1. Anyone can join for $50
  2. Choose from any of their?six impact portfolios, from renewable energy to disease eradication and zero waste
  3. No expense ratio fees or trading fees
  4. Very transparent?and low fee structure (only one)
  5. You own the companies in the portfolios
  6. Very easy to set up?with their user-friendly app and website
  7. Your investments are insured
  8. Your money grows for profit and for good

Get on your way to making a real impact with your investment dollars. Your money matters.?

When we invest with our values, we can grow profit and drive positive global change.

Check out our interview with Swell Investing CEO Dave Fanger and CMO Teresa Orsolini.?Our partner Pedram Shojai from Well.org had a great conversation with the Swell team about investing for growth and impact.

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Are Sustainable ETFs Better Than Mutual Funds?

Investing in Sustainable Companies with ETFs

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are a collection of assets. ?An Equity ETF, for example, holds a group of companies (stocks) in its portfolio. ?When you invest in an ETF, you own a piece of every single company that is held in that fund. ETFs are a great vehicle for reducing risk, since you?re invested in a group of companies instead of a single company.

That also makes ETFs a great vehicle for voting with your dollars at scale, across many companies. This is an opportunity to have greater impact. Investors have caught on and are now demanding more socially responsible ETF options.?Another thing that?s great about sustainable ETFs:? fund managers can use our collective voting power to encourage companies to align with our values. Companies love being included in ETFs since these vehicles bring capital, investor exposure and brand cache.

For example, the CEO of an up and coming sustainable ETF told us that they were going to meet with a large company to explain to them why the company didn?t make the cut to be included in their new women-focused ETF. While the would reconsider in 6 months, they simply didn’t qualify today because they did not meet the standards. You can see the power that socially responsible ETFs have in encouraging good change within companies.

Related content: Four Ways to Make Real Money with Sustainable Investing

Sustainable ETFs

There are 58 Sustainable ETFs currently on the market. 23 of them launched in the past year alone (as of September 9, 2017, source: http://www.etf.com/channels/socially-responsible)

So why consider ETFs? Let?s look at the benefits of ETFs over mutual funds.

Benefits of ETFs over Mutual Funds

1. Lower cost.

ETFs have a much lower expense ratio than mutual funds. The expense ratio is the annual fee that the fund company charges to run the fund. Let?s say you invest in a mutual fund with a 1% expense ratio. That means that you will be paying $10 for every $1,000 invested. The fee is taken from your investment in the fund, which means you don?t have to write a check ? it is done automatically on your behalf. Expense ratios are also difficult to find ? they are often buried in the fund prospectus. When investing in any type of fund (ETF or mutual fund), make sure you look at the expense ratio and performance first.

On average, ETF fees are 1/3 the price of a typical mutual fund. In addition, because they are following an index, their turnover is low (i.e. when companies come into / out of the ETF). That?s good news for investors. ETFs have ? the tax cost of the average mutual fund. (source: www.ishares.com)

2. Potential for Higher returns.?

Many people wonder if ETFs outperform mutual funds. You?d think that mutual funds would have higher returns since they are actively managed and have higher expense ratios. As it turns out, mutual funds are often more expensive and have lower performance than ETFs.

Crazy, right??After subtracting fees, only 18% of active mutual fund managers beat their benchmark. ETFs are designed to mirror the holdings in their benchmark and therefore follow benchmark performance.?The iShares Core ETFs have outperformed their mutual fund peers 84% of the time over the last 5 years

3. Greater buying, trading, and pricing flexibility.

Mutual funds are only priced once per day. ?Which means you can only trade them once per day. ETFs, on the other hand, trade on an exchange just like a stock. That means you can trade them throughout the day, any time the exchange is open. This gives you, as an investor, greater flexibility, and control over the timing of your trades.

And because ETFs trade like stocks, you have the option to use stop and limit orders. Some ETFs even offer put and call options.

It seems investors are catching on to the benefits of ETFs v. mutual funds. ETFs are now a 3 trillion dollar industry.

Related Content: Start Impact Investing for $50

But Watch Out.?Not all sustainable ETFs are equal.

We are in the early days of sustainable investing.

That means there is a huge variation in financial products. Both in ETFs and Mutual Funds. Some are doing deep integration of sustainability, while others are simply ?box ticking.?

This is dangerous because it could reflect that sustainable investing is underperforming when it?s not.

The current state of sustainable investing is similar to that of cryptocurrency. Everyone knows Bitcoin and Ethereum. But there are 900 cryptocurrencies and most of them are crap. The bad ones will give cryptocurrency a bad name.

The same thing applies to sustainability investing. Truly integrated sustainable investing is not box-ticking, and it?s not simply screening to exclude bad stocks (e.g. tobacco, firearms, fossil fuels.)

That?s why some mutual funds might be worth the extra cost of active portfolio management, even though they might have a higher expense ratio.

Bottom line: ?do your research. That means look at the constituents of the fund, the fund management team and the criteria used to include assets in the portfolio, in addition to performance over time and expense ratio.

A quick view of Socially Responsible ETFs

Following are the top 10 socially responsible ETFs, grouped by category.

Top 10 Socially Responsible ETFs by Expense Ratio

The expense ratio for the socially responsible funds ranges from 0.12% to 0.95%. Not bad. They are all under 1%. By comparison, mutual fund expense ratios range from .9% – 1.35%.

SUSB iShares ESG 1-5 Year USD Corporate Bond ETF BlackRock 0.12% $10.06M 0.15% Fixed Income: U.S. – Corporate Investment Grade Short-Term
ESGU iShares MSCI USA ESG Optimized ETF BlackRock 0.15% $10.77M 0.16% Equity: U.S. – Total Market
SUSC iShares ESG USD Corporate Bond ETF BlackRock 0.18% $10.14M 0.17% Fixed Income: U.S. – Corporate Investment Grade
ESGD iShares MSCI EAFE ESG Optimized ETF BlackRock 0.20% $122.37M 0.06% Equity: Developed Markets Ex-U.S. – Total Market
EFAX SPDR MSCI EAFE Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF State Street Global Advisors 0.20% $41.63M 0.42% Equity: Developed Markets Ex-U.S. – Total Market
CRBN iShares MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF BlackRock 0.20% $439.49M 0.12% Equity: Global – Total Market
LOWC SPDR MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF State Street Global Advisors 0.20% $143.38M 0.15% Equity: Global – Total Market
SHE SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF State Street Global Advisors 0.20% $329.37M 0.07% Equity: U.S. – Large Cap
SPYX SPDR S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF State Street Global Advisors 0.20% $170.40M 0.22% Equity: U.S. – Large Cap
ESGE iShares MSCI EM ESG Optimized ETF BlackRock 0.25% $96.47M 0.06% Equity: Emerging Markets – Total Market

Top 10 Socially Responsible ETFs by Performance

The top performing ETFs over the past year have returned investors 16.37 ? 78.17%.

(source: ETF.com, data as of September 6, 2017)

GRN iPath Global Carbon ETN 34.96% 34.90% 78.17% -5.45%
CXSE WisdomTree China ex-State-Owned Enterprises Fund 5.04% 15.93% 47.01%
QCLN First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund -0.32% 5.02% 25.12% 16.23%
XSOE WisdomTree Emerging Markets ex-State-Owned Enterprises Fund 2.60% 9.94% 24.97%

Optimized ETF

1.61% 7.77% 22.02%
PZD PowerShares Cleantech Portfolio 0.89% 2.44% 22.00% 14.06%
RODI Barclays Return on Disability ETN -5.47% 19.00% 19.00%
ESGG FlexShares STOXX Global ESG Impact Index Fund 0.07% 2.70% 17.90%
ESGN Columbia Sustainable International Equity Income ETF -0.82% 2.09% 17.76%
HECO EcoLogical Strategy ETF -1.84% 2.82% 17.74% 12.91%
ETHO Etho Climate Leadership U.S. ETF -0.20% 2.35% 16.37%

Top 10 ETFs by Environmental, Social and Governance Scores

Finally, let?s take a look at the top 10 socially responsible ETFs by ESG Scores. ESG (or Environmental, Social, and Governance) Scores measure the fund?s level of commitment to the socially responsible criteria. There are many ways to measure.

SUSA iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF 8.23 / 10 100 99.92 94.79 9.07% 4.66%
ESGD iShares MSCI EAFE ESG Optimized ETF 7.44 / 10 98.8 98.24 180.5 8.22% 10.37%
MPCT iShares MSCI Global Impact ETF 7.19 / 10 96.03 88.74 75.22% 0.65%
GRNB VanEck Vectors Green Bond ETF 7.03 / 10 94.7 94.09 8.6 3.91% 18.05%
ESGN Columbia Sustainable International Equity Income ETF 7.01 / 10 96.8 93.79 223.1 8.45% 15.49%
ESGF Oppenheimer Global ESG Revenue ETF 6.83 / 10 95.73 90.06 221 5.67% 12.86%
ESGW Columbia Sustainable Global Equity Income ETF 6.62 / 10 96.77 86.29 310.4 6.72% 13.83%
GEX VanEck Vectors Global Alternative Energy ETF 6.56 / 10 96.95 85.28 273.48 59.19% 2.30%
EFAX SPDR MSCI EAFE Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF 6.51 / 10 82.13 84.1 130.96 7.22% 10.99%
HECO EcoLogical Strategy ETF 6.50 / 10 85.33 84.07 70.87 7.70% 0.00%

So How do I invest in a socially responsible ETF?

Pick your ETF, then trade for free.

If you have a brokerage account, you can buy ETFs from within your account. For example, if you invest with Schwab, Fidelity, E*Trade, TD Ameritrade or any of the other online retail brokers, you simply enter the ticker symbol and buy the ETFs.

Some brokers are now offering commission-free trades for certain ETFs. That means you don?t pay a commission fee to buy or sell the ETF. However, we have not seen any socially responsible investing ETFs included in the commission free trade offers. That means you?ll be paying a commission fee to buy or sell the ETF. Commission typically range from $4.95 ? $6.95 per trade.

If you?d rather not pay a commission, you can open an account on the Robinhood Trading app. They offer commission free trades, even on ETFs. Bonus: ?Robinhood gives you a free stock when you open an account.

Or, get the benefits of mutual funds without the cost.

Another way to invest in sustainable companies is to use a robo advisor. We like Swell Investing. They are an impact investment platform offering a suite of sustainable companies. These portfolios are managed via a Separately Managed Account (SMA). You?legally own the companies listed in their portfolio. The fee is only 008% instead of the typical mutual fund range of 0.45% – 3.38%.
Care about creating a greener world? Now invest in it.

The benefit: you get the benefit of having an active portfolio manager choose the companies in the fund. The portfolio manager takes an integrated approach at determining which companies should come in and out based on carefully chosen impact criteria. And you get all this without the typical cost of a mutual fund.

You don?t even need a brokerage account with Swell Investing. Their platform does it all-in-one. $50 is all you need to get started.

So get on your way and vote with your values.

Socially responsible ETFs are a great vehicle to invest in many socially responsible companies at once, reduce your risk, pay fewer fees and get better performance.

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