Gifts for the Hard-to-Gift People

Hello readers, and greetings from Kansas City!

The other day as I was thinking about some of the coolest tech gadgets that I have seen recently, I naturally thought of people that might enjoy some of the items on the list.

It led me to think of those people in our lives who are hard to buy gifts for. As we get older, it can be difficult to find gifts for people. Gifting turns into a game of trying to surprise the person with a thoughtful gesture, a funny novelty, or a handy item that they will actually use in their day-to-day.

But this can be challenging, especially if we’re pressed for time. I thought that it would be fun to share a quick list of failsafes that work for most people with any lifestyle or background.

Imported Coffee

High-end, imported coffee is a great gift for any person over the age of 25. Almost every adult lives off of coffee, and what better way to start the day than with a premium cup. A premium bag of imported, luxury coffee beans won’t cost you very much and it’s the kind of thing that most people don’t have in their home. This makes a great gift for a boss or co-worker in your office.

Exotic Wine

People often bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party or as a housewarming gift, but it also makes a great birthday, Christmas or casual gift as well. Anyone who enjoys wine will always welcome a new bottle that they haven’t tried – and if they already have a full case, they’ll never turn down another addition. Try to go for an imported wine or an exotic blend that they typically wouldn’t go for. It will give them an excuse to try it and may introduce something new that they’ll enjoy.

Travel Journal

Do you know someone who enjoys traveling and takes a lot of pictures of the places they’ve explored? If so, a travel journal is a unique and thoughtful item that they might actually use. It is a journal of sorts that they can use to document their experiences and include their favorite moments and memories from their trips. They can also include any photographs that they may have as well – but in 2019, they are probably in digital format, which also gives you the opportunity to include a disposable camera – if you can still find them.

Stylish Backpack/Shoulder Bag

Another gift to get any travelers in your life, backpacks and shoulder bags are great items that we can all use but may not necessarily take the time to purchase. A lot of times when people go on trips, they may want to opt for something more mobile than a luggage case but less formal than a briefcase. Backpacks and shoulder bags are the perfect compromise. They allow anyone to store their stuff and take it with them wherever they go. You’ll get extra points if you pick a stylish option.

Board Games

If the person you’re shopping for has a family or likes to host parties with friends – board games are a great option to pick up, and one that they’ll have fun using. You can go for the classics like “Monopoly” or “Life,” but you run the risk of them already owning those, so try to go for games that are new additions or are more unique. The great thing about gifting board games is that it can open an opportunity for you to enjoy time with the person while playing them.

Portable Speakers

For any music lovers in your friend group, you can get them a portable speaker. These have vastly improved over the last several years and can be found for a very affordable price. On top of that, they are extremely handy. People can use portable speakers when they go for a swim at the pool or beach, or grilling out with family, or even working on cars. This is another gift idea people will find themselves using more often than they think and will thank you for later.

Candles

These are a great option for anyone in a pinch. People who don’t own candles always wish they had them and will use them when they’re around. They’re a nice gesture that no one will say no to. They’re also very inexpensive and it can be useful to have when the power goes out.


Hopefully this list will give you some ideas that you can fall back on when it comes time to getting a gift for that person in your life that has it all. They’re timeless options that are practical and have real use in everyday life.

Do you have your own ideas to share? Let me know in the comments!

~ Michael Gortenburg Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

Living in a Plastic World

Whether you love spending time in nature or rarely see the light of day, one thing that we can all agree on is that it’s important to preserve the environment. It’s a hot button issue these days that weighs on almost everyone’s mind, and for good reason. As the world advances industrially, we’ve began to notice just how much pollution we are putting out on a global scale and it’s a tragedy.

Perhaps the biggest culprit of global pollution is the use of plastics. Piping, bags, electronics, containers, straws, plates, bottles, wrappers – almost every industry and aspect of modern convenience makes use of plastics. It is the go-to material for industries like packaging and manufacturing because of its cheap production costs and general usefulness.

But no matter how convenient plastics may be for our lives, it is affecting our environment in ways that are hard to imagine. As most plastics are non-biodegradable, it poses a very real problem for future generations, wildlife and natural ecosystems all over the planet. Plastics collect and destroy marine life when they reach oceans, they clutter and contaminate rivers, they endanger land animals. Plastics also commonly contain toxic chemicals that seep into the soil and water of our neighborhoods. On top of it all, nothing ruins the beauty of our world more than piles of multi-colored junk.

The threat of ocean pollution from plastics is so high, that some experts believe that we may eventually have more plastic in the oceans than fish.

This problem doesn’t just come from the United States – in fact, most ocean pollution can be contributed to manufacturing powerhouses like India and China. We are experiencing a global crisis that will require a global effort to address.

Shifting to Other Materials

As mentioned above, the heavy reliance on plastics in almost every industry can largely be attributed to the low cost and flexible use of the synthetic material. Companies can create gadgets, furniture, or other items for an inexpensive rate – then upsell the product for a profit at the market.

But while this may be the most profitable move on the part of businesses, it simply is not worth the long-term cost to our planet. One approach to addressing the crisis is to shift manufacturing towards natural and eco-friendly materials, like wood, glass and metal. There are many advantages to switching to these types of materials. They’re more natural, easier to recycle for multiple uses and easier to dispose of.

Of course, we also have to be responsible in regard to maintaining our forests – but preparing and maintaining forests is easier than sending the world into a plastic death spiral. Additionally, there will be an added cost to products as businesses will have to spend more in manufacturing their products, but that is a reality that we will all eventually confront one way or another.

If we have to rely on plastics, there are in fact eco-friendly synthetics that we can use. There are ways to manufacture plastics out of natural materials like corn, instead of relying on petroleum. They too might be a little more expensive and harder to find, but as consumers become more environmentally conscious – businesses will likely adapt.

Recycling

The other immediate alternative is to encourage sweeping recycling efforts. The good news is that this process has been underway for a couple of decades and is only getting stronger as younger generations are waking up to the issues that will affect their world. Most kids these days are being taught about the importance of recycling in their schools and the effects of plastic on our environment.

This education is slowly starting to emerge. It’s now commonplace to see paper bags being used at grocery stores and cities are making an effort to make recycling a more convenient option for their citizens with increased recycling centers and organized programs.

Industries of all types are also starting to switch from paper to digital solutions for their day-to-day needs. Sure, many of our electronics rely on limited natural resources and still make use of plastic – but the digitization of our workspaces saves a lot of plastic from being used.

Continued Education

Ultimately, it will require a continued effort in education to raise awareness about our environment and its long-term health.

And there are actionable steps that we can take. You may consider joining or donating to reputable organizations that seek to make a difference. You can also talk with friends and family to encourage them to take action in their lives in practical ways. Just maintaining an awareness of the issue will naturally inspire change and every little effort adds up to build massive results.

We all want the same thing: a clean, beautiful and natural world that can sustain generations to come. Together, I am optimistic that we can achieve that vision.

~ Michael Gortenburg Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

Cool Tech Gadgets Worth Checking Out in 2019

As someone who grew up working in auto shops and as an investor – I’ve always been fascinated by all types of technology. And since the internet’s big takeoff in the 90’s, we’ve seen an explosion in the tech sector, changing everything from how we listen to our favorite music to navigating traffic.

Today, I thought we would take a look at some of the coolest gadgets that I’ve seen recently. Some of them make great gift ideas. Others are just interesting as a concept and could become game changers on a larger scale.

Wireless Charger

When I first heard about wireless chargers – I saw them as more of a novelty item for tech geeks to display on their desks, or for the laziest among us to just charge their phones. But they have drastically improved over the last couple of years.

I recently tried one out at a store and immediately saw the appeal. You simply lay your phone down directly on the charger and it effortlessly begins to charge. Sure, it may not be entirely necessary, but it is satisfying.

Sleep & Wake Therapy Lamp

Like most people, I love to catch up on my sleep. Things can get busy very quickly running Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) here in Kansas City, so it is vital for me to get a decent rest everyday. And nothing is worse than being woken up by a blaring alarm clock and hitting snooze over and over.

Well, somebody has come up with a solution. I recently discovered the perfect to start the day – it’s called a “smart lamp.” The lamp is designed to mimic the gentleness of a natural sunrise, helping the sleeper come alive at a slower and less startling pace. It’s very different than waking up with a jolt.

AirPods (or similar items)

We’ve all seen them – Apple’s new AirPods that seem to be sweeping the nation in popularity. Everyone is jumping on board of this craze – making the speculation alone reason to give them a try. What’s more is that everyone who tries them says that they are the greatest Apple product since the iPhone.

It may be trendy, but if that many people swear by them, then it might be worth checking out. The one thing that might be stopping some people from jumping on board the bandwagon is the hefty price tag, but being able to talk and listen to headphones handsfree might be worth it.

Touch Screen Gloves

It’s not uncommon for temperatures to dip into the freezing category in Kansas City. Everyone wears winter clothes to protect themselves, but that can be a problem as gloves make it hard to use touch screen devices. Luckily, they make touch screen gloves.

They’re very inexpensive and come in some nice designs, like the all leather driving-style gloves. With these, you could keep your hands warm in the wintertime, actually use your phone or other electronic device and look stylish all at the same time.

Dog Door Collar

Tech doesn’t just expand to us humans – now even our pets are getting in on the convenience. One thing that I would recommend for dog lovers out there who have inside dogs, is the automatic dog door collar.

The door itself may require installation, but once everything is setup, the dog is able to let themselves in or out as often as they’d like, whenever they’d like. The dog simply approaches the door and the electric scanner picks up the signal and lets them in or out. This gadget is definitely a game changer for dog owners who are tired of having to monitor them all day.

Drones

Not really a “tech gadget” for the average person per se – however, a great invention and fun toy nonetheless. When drones first came out, they were large, expensive and it took dedication to learn out how to operate them. But as the years have gone on, these aspects have improved.


Today, you can purchase a standard camera drone for $70 at your local Best Buy. They’re outfitted with great cameras and have a user-friendly design that most people can use intuitively. They are extremely fun to play with to get a birds’ eye view of locations, and even have professional uses in real estate. If you have the chance and the curiosity, I would highly recommend checking these out.

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So there you have it, a handful of tech gadgets that are useful, interesting and attainable for the average person. Do you have any that you’d like to recommend? If so – let me know in the comments section below.

Until next time!

~ Michael Gortenburg Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Groupl (18CG)

3 Strategies to Help You Acquire Premium Real Estate Investments

Before my partner and I built the foundation for Eighteen Capital Group (18CG), I started buying and flipping residential properties around the age of 36. Flipping residential homes in the Kansas City area soon became a passion of mine, and a few years later with a couple of flips under my belt, I was ready to elevate this hobby of mine. Within the next few years, I went into the apartment building and management business where the idea for Eighteen Capital Group came to life.

My career has been shaped by making smart and informed real estate investments–as this market has the ability to bring great wealth to individuals who have a keen eye for investment, economics, and of course, risk. With the right strategies, real estate investments can generate extra income and propel your business forward.

If you have an interest in real estate ventures but are unsure of where to start, here are three of my top strategy recommendations.

1.) Fix it and Flip it

Flipping houses was my first step through the door of real estate investments, and it truly gave me a deeper appreciation for the industry as a whole. You value the time, the money, and all the details that go into each renovation. The fix and flip strategy is optimal for those who like a good challenge. The key to flipping a home is locating a property that exudes potential. You’ll want to think carefully about the location, the market, and the type of client the finished product will draw in. The fix it and flip it method is an excellent way to generate cash and support future projects.

2.) Rentals and Short-Term Buys

Holding short-term rental properties–typically one to five years–allows for property appreciation through rent prices, remodeling, and lower expenses. On the other hand, short-term buys are quite beneficial for those who invest in multi-unit apartments or have various flipping projects. Short term buys and rentals tend to work best in higher prices markets.

3.) Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT)

For those who are interested in real estate investment, but don’t have the time to be too hands-on during the process, you may want to weigh the option if REITs. Real estate investment trusts allow individuals to invest in real estate without the need to be involved in every step of the way. But first, you have to select the type of REIT that will be most beneficial for you and your specific needs:

  • Equity REITs: property investments
  • Mortgage REITs: mortgage investments
  • Hybrid REITs: a mixture of property investments and mortgage investments.

While it’s essential to select the type of real estate investment trust that works for you, do note that each of them offers higher yields. This means you will receive a return in finances from the interest that others are paying on their mortgages.

What started off as a hobby, turned into a long-time and successful career for me. With the right strategies and mindset, the same can happen to you too. I hope you find these strategies useful in your next real estate investment endeavor.

~ Michael Gortenburg Kansas City, Missouri

Make Moving Day Easy

They say that moving into a new home can be one of the most stressful things that a person can deal with. Maybe that’s because there are a lot of things to consider: the commute to work, the kids’ new schools, learning how to get around the general area and more…there’s a lot. In fact, some people might feel a little overwhelmed throughout the whole process.

With such a stressful time, the one thing that shouldn’t be stressful is the actual move itself. As a Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri, I have seen a lot of movers in my time through our work developing and managing multi-family housing.

I’d like to share a couple of quick moving tips to make your next move a lot easier.

Tip #1: Start Early

After you’ve decided to move into a new home – it’s never too early to start planning. The planning phase includes researching your new area, strategizing for commutes, boxing up all of your belongings, scheduling movers, and a million other things that have to be completed over the course of weeks.

One helpful way to handle this often-challenging phase is to break the process down into small chunks and knock out the steps at a slower pace to avoid feeling rushed or overwhelmed. Make a list of steps that must be completed before/after the move (change your addresses, inspect and childproof the new place, etc.)

As far as packing – this is a perfect opportunity to throw out or sell all of those items that have been cluttering up your closets and spare rooms. You would be shocked at how much you can actually get rid of when you take the time for an honest assessment of what you need. It’s quite a freeing feeling to drop items from your past.

Another note on packing is to start with the nonessentials. Put away as many things as you can prior to the moving date, then once the final day rolls around – you will have very little to do. When you are packing for the final move, group boxes by room so that you can easily unpack them in your new place accordingly.

Finally, avoid harder-than-necessary moving experiences by place heavier items into small boxes

Tip #2: Make All Arrangements Ahead of Time

So, it’s move-in day and you’ve finally arrived with your new things, but there’s just one little problem – there’s no power!

After managing housing units for years, I am never surprised by the amount of people who forget to notify or setup utilities for their new place prior to moving in. Ideally, you should make contact with all services to have everything squared away by the time you arrive.

You will obviously need power to move in and will want the A/C circulating to clear out any sitting air. You will also need the water on and running, as you never know what impromptu cleaning may be needed when you start to settle in. And I would be shocked to see a family that doesn’t require the internet/cable for personal or work purposes upon moving in. All of these things can be arranged ahead of your move-in to avoid any last-minute headaches.

Also, make sure you work with any moving teams in advance so that everyone is on the same page for the big day. You don’t want to be sitting around waiting to load up your things. Luckily, most moving companies are very professional and will work to ensure your experience is as smooth as can be.

Tip #3: Settling In

Once you’ve finally gotten everything moved into your new home, it’s time to start the long process of settling in.

First, I always recommend a careful walk-through of the new property just to confirm that there aren’t any lingering issues that need to be dealt with. And make sure to check cabinets and to test out things like faucets, AC units, and power switches. Never just assume that everything works perfectly, because a previous tenant/owner may have neglected maintenance.

If you’re renting, go room to room and make a list of any problems that you encounter. You should have an opportunity to alert the landlord for repair and avoid responsibility for any damages.

Once, you’ve cleared the new place and you’re ready to begin unpacking, start with the essentials first. Things like setting up your bed, stocking away any groceries that you might have, and organizing your bathroom are all great places to begin.

Then it’s really a matter of taking your time and unpacking as you go. You may wish to experiment with furniture placement, or you might want to just dive right in – but this is the part of the process where you can relax and have fun with it.

Moving In and Moving On

Moving to a new place can really be stressful. Don’t make it extra work with added difficulty. It ultimately comes down to planning. The earlier you start, the more time you have to prepare and the easier the process will be.

Hopefully by following these simple tips, you’ll be more prepared to deal with the day when it inevitably comes.

If I left anything out, feel free to drop some tips in the comments below.

Until next time.

~ Michael Gortenburg Kansas City, Missouri

Advice for Landing a Nice Room with Airbnb

You can get a stylish room for a decent price on Airbnb if you know how to properly use the platform.

It never ceases to amaze me just how dramatically technology can change the way we live our lives. When the personal computer was introduced, it took a couple of years for use to become mainstream – but now you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t use a computer throughout the day.

Now with the smart phone and constant access to the internet, we have more options available to us than ever before and entire industries are being revolutionized – including the travel industry.

You may know by now that traveling is one of my favorite hobbies, and one of the biggest technological changes to affect traveling is Airbnb.

For those who might not know, Airbnb is a platform that allows users to host/rent rooms with a simple tap of the finger. Hosts prepare a room in their home or property and place an ad on the platform which then allows guests to browse and secure dates for the room as needed. Airbnb rooms essentially function as a less expensive hotel room – or even an apartment for long-term use.

The great thing about Airbnb is that it gives shared control of the stay to the host and guest, without corporate policies getting in the way of a mutually beneficial deal. And Airbnb rooms can be found all over the world – opening up new traveling options that would otherwise be impossible.

Today, I’d like to share some quick tips for using Airbnb to maximize your traveling plans.

Review the Listing Carefully

Reading the full review and paying attention to small details can mean the difference between an amazing stay and a bad experience.

It goes without saying that you should take a careful look at any listing before booking. Some hosts will have “creative” ads to entice guests, and while they may have the best intentions, you want to ensure that the place fits your expectations on your trip.

For example, sometimes a room may be described as “cozy” but should really say “small.” Or if a listing says “private” but doesn’t indicate a separate room – there may just be a curtain blocking your bed from view of three other people in a shared room.

Make sure to look at the photos that are posted. Does the room look clean? Does it show all of the things listed in the ad? A picture is worth a thousand words.

Most Airbnb hosts are honest enough with their listings (they want good reviews after all), but it’s always best to really look over the ad to avoid any disappointment. Speaking of reviews, read them. Reviews will also give insight into the listing as well as the host. If a host has dozens of positive reviews claiming that the spot is a good deal, is clean, is convenient, etc. – then it’s a safe bet that you will enjoy your stay there.

Like all things, learning how to spot a good deal on Airbnb can take some time and experience. The higher the price for your stay, the nicer the place will be – but you can find some really good deals on a room that fits both your expectations and budget with a little investigating.

Booking for Deals

Book your room at the rice place at the right time for extra savings on your trip.

When you are booking Airbnb rooms, it’s important to understand and anticipate any fluctuations that may affect pricing. For example, if the place you’re traveling to has a tourist season, the prices might be higher during a time when more people are booking Airbnb stays.

Naturally, hosts don’t want to lose out on any opportunities so keep this in mind when booking your stay. One way to grab the best deals and the best rooms is by booking weeks in advance. One of the benefits to Airbnb is being able to seamlessly secure a stay, but you will get better deals and better rooms by taking the time to book early.

Depending on how long you will be in the area, you may want to book for extended stays (a couple of weeks or even months.) Airbnb and even hosts will factor in discounts for extended stays – saving you hundreds of dollars that you would have otherwise paid for the spot.

When you do book a room MAKE SURE YOU BOOK THROUGH TO THE NEXT DAY!

Airbnb calculates the last day as move-out day, so book through to the day you want to leave.

Contacting Hosts & Support

Airbnb has a phenomenal customer support team who are available at all hours in case there is an issue with your stay. If you are unhappy with your room or if you cannot contact the host – the Airbnb support team will work tirelessly to address your concerns.

They are also known to offer you discounts or comped services if things don’t work out with your experience. For example, if a host accepts your booking but does not coordinate with you for your arrival, you may want to contact Airbnb support as they can offer you hundreds of dollars in credit toward another room. That means you will get a much nicer stay for the same price.

Also, it is always a good idea to contact hosts prior to your stay. Some hosts leave their listings in auto-accept, but may never check their app – meaning they might not know that you’re arriving! To avoid any issues with your trip, just contact the host through the Airbnb platform before your stay and sure up everything.

Final Thoughts

Travel the globe and get great places to stay through the power of your mobile phone.

Airbnb’s are a great experience and a great deal for anyone looking to travel on a budget or for people who want to avoid stuffy hotels. A lot of Airbnb rooms are really nice places with even nicer hosts who will entertain you and give you a glimpse into the life of a local.

When you use Airbnb, make sure that you are respectful and treat the room as if it were your own. There is a review system after all, which could determine your opportunities later on. And make sure to leave an honest review of your stay – it keeps the platform accurate and hosts always appreciate good feedback and credibility.

Hopefully you can use these tips on your next trip if you’re interested in using Airbnb.

Safe travels,

~ Michael Gortenburg Kansas City, Missouri

Mexico: Land of Enchantment

Mexico: Land of Enchantment

I have always enjoyed traveling, and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some of the most beautiful places in the world.

One such place would undoubtedly be Mexico.

As you may have read in my previous post about traveling, there are some benefits to doing the touristy things when you travel; things like seeing the famous sites, going to museums, etc.

But then there are times to go rogue and truly become immersed in this foreign and wonderful place that you find yourself in. There are times to avoid the popular destinations to get a full perspective. Well, if you find yourself in Mexico – my advice is to do just that (within reason).

The Beauty of the Desert

Mexico is a fairly large country with a wide range of scenic coastal towns, bustling metropolises, dense forests and of course – grand deserts.

Cancun may be the best bet for spring-breakers and MTV, and Mexico City is a great place for food and culture. Yet there is something special about the isolated and calming nature of the Mexican desert.

Located in the state of Chihuahua, the Chihuahuan Desert is an almost spiritual place. It’s the single largest desert in North America and spans well into the United States and is home to many mountain ranges.

What I like most about the desert is how remote it feels. No people hustling around, no Kansas City traffic, no rush – just the soothing sound of the wind.

Small Towns

As I mentioned, if you really want to see Mexico for what it is – you have to stray away from the tourist zones and check into some of the lively small towns and villages that dot the countryside.

This is where you’ll see just how different life is in other parts of the world. The days and nights pass more slowly and people seem to be more relaxed, almost happier. You feel completely disconnected from the world for just a little while and content with a simpler kind of life.

It’s a sort of therapeutic experience.

One city that I would recommend visiting is Guanajuato. It’s a very vibrant medium-sized city with multi-colored rows of buildings, cobble stone streets and a town center where city dwellers exchange goods at a market. There also happens to be a very interesting “Museum of Mummies.”

South of the Border

By far one of my favorite aspects of our southern neighbor is the different expectations that they have of businesses and services. It is eye opening and interesting to see how different the world operates in their day-to-day.

In some rural parts of Mexico, it’s not uncommon for businesses to close up shop for a couple of hours in the middle of the day; “siesta.” This is one of those aspects of their culture that I wish I could bring back to Kansas City, and I don’t think I’m alone on that.

It’s also not uncommon for prices to change depending on the mood of the shopkeeper and whether or not they can be talked down. Although you won’t need to necessarily talk down too many shopkeepers because the American dollar can go a long way down there.

See It for Yourself

There are so many differences between the U.S. and Mexico that you have to see it for yourself to truly understand the difference in feeling.

Mexico is a wonderful country that offers a lot in the sense of adventure, natural beauty and fun. My advice if you go is to take your time, enjoy the slower pace and really enjoy the experience.

~ Michael Gortenburg Kansas City, Missouri