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A Conversation With Erin Banta, Founder Of Pepper

A Conversation With Erin Banta, Founder Of Pepper

Creating timeless decor is an art and there’s no doubt that Pepper has mastered it. Launched in 2018, the brand has become a go-to for traditional and contemporary design enthusiasts. Best known for its cheerfully bold yet tasteful prints, Pepper offers a curated and customizable selection of home accessories including pillows, curtains, throws, table linens, and most recently rugs in collaboration with Loom & Company Better yet, everything ships quickly and is manufactured in the United States.

The brand was co-founded in 2018 by Erin Banta and Kelsey Brown who thought of the concept as students at Colombia Business School. “As good friends who both had backgrounds in retail, we held a shared interest in starting something together,” she tells me.

Banta previously worked in buying at Ralph Lauren and as a consumer analyst for MFP Investors. Brown was employed in retail technology at Deloitte but also interned for renowned brands including Hatch Collection, Rent The Runway and Louis Vuitton. All of these experiences along with a true passion for design are part of the formula that makes Pepper so successful. I recently spoke with Banta about what makes the brand so unique, the business aspects of running a direct-to-consumer company as well as the best ways to decorate and style with Pepper’s gorgeous prints.

Amanda Lauren: From a business standpoint, what made you want to focus on decor?

Erin Banta: We came to focus on decor in particular for two reasons. First, we visited India for a friend’s wedding and were totally captivated by the breadth of unique and colorful decor that we came across. Second, we simultaneously moved in with our now husbands and became really invested in decorating our spaces for the first time. As consumers, we started to notice that high-quality, well-designed, and reasonably priced decor was incredibly difficult to find.

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After having those experiences, we felt that there was an opportunity to build a brand that offered the well-designed and well-priced decor that we wanted to buy but couldn’t find. We spent our second year at Columbia Business School taking courses that allowed us to work on this concept and, upon graduation, made the mutual decision to take the risk of transforming our idea into a business. I would be lying if I said we had it all figured out when we launched in 2018 but I believe that failing early on is what has enabled us to succeed long term.

Lauren: Can you describe the Pepper aesthetic?

Banta: I’d categorize our aesthetic as timeless with a twist. When we’re working with artists on new patterns, we love to reference textiles and paintings from the seventeen and eighteen hundreds and then interpret them to fit our perspective and our time. When we launched, we were primarily focused on bold colors and patterns.

As we’ve grown and come to better understand our customer— our aesthetic has evolved. We’ve created more balance in our offering by adding solids, neutrals, and a more expansive color palette.

Lauren: What products did the brand launch with?

Banta: Pepper is 180 degrees different from the company we were when we first launched. We started with a collection of pillows and table linens in a range of twelve patterns. After realizing we had an opportunity to really differentiate ourselves by focusing on customization, we prioritized building a supply chain that would support such a model.

In 2020, we introduced curtains along with customization options for our pillows. Since then, we’ve vastly expanded our collection by adding more customization features, different fabric types, and new patterns. Over the next six months, we plan to introduce some new product categories that our customers have been asking for and I think will be really excited about.

Lauren: Who is Pepper’s customer?

Banta: Pepper’s customer is predominantly female, usually starts coming to us in her late twenties, and seems to stick with the brand as she “grows up.” Many of our customers are renters and are looking for a quick refresh via our custom pillows while others own a home and are using a wider array of our products for a full redesign. Above all, this customer comes to us when they are at a point of transition— they have a growing family, have recently moved, or are finally able to invest in decorating their home.

Lauren: Why was manufacturing in the United States important to you?

Banta: Manufacturing in the United States isn’t just important to us, it’s essential to our business. Domestic production has enabled us to build a sustainable brand that offers our customers all of the things they value most: a large breadth of product, a vast suite of customization options, and industry-leading turnaround times.

By manufacturing in the United States and therefore partnering with factories that are easily accessible, we ensure that ethical labor practices are employed, workers are treated well, and the facilities are clean and safe.

Lauren: Supply chain issues and manufacturing delays have plagued just about every industry, but the furniture and decor industries have hit particularly hard because of Covid. However, Pepper has quick shipping and lead times, especially for a startup. How have you been able to make this work, especially during these challenging times?

Banta: Even prior to Covid, customers in our industry have been accustomed to longer lead times. That being said, our ability to deliver custom products in days versus months is one of the factors that really sets us apart. Our custom curtains, pillows, and table linens ship in seven days or less. Our wallpaper ships in two to four weeks. We are very proud of what we have accomplished on this front and I would be lying if I said that it’s been easy to get here. We have an incredible manufacturing partner who has worked with us to build a unique model that not only supports quick turnaround times but prioritizes our commitment to quality and customization.

Lauren: Sustainability has become more important than ever to consumers. What is Pepper’s approach to this?

Banta: In today’s world, customers expect that the brands they love are doing everything possible to minimize their environmental footprint. At Pepper, we prioritize sustainability in three key ways. First, we employ an on-demand manufacturing model. In doing so, we eliminate the risk of producing excess inventory which is obviously wasteful as it relates to materials and human resources.

Second, we use digital printing for all of our patterned fabric and wallpaper. This is critical because by going digital, we virtually eliminate the water wastage, electricity consumption, and pollution from dyes that have historically been associated with traditional printing methods.

Finally, we are able to use all of our fabric scraps. When fabric is cut to make any kind of product, there are inevitably small pieces that typically become unusable and wind up in landfills. We avoid that by utilizing them to make all of our fabric swatches.

Lauren: Tell me about your partnership with Loom & Company?

Banta: We partnered with Loom & Company on a collection of nine Oushak and Dhurrie rugs that feature some of our best-selling patterns. They are a female-founded company based out of Texas and we got to know each other after realizing that we shared many of the same customers.

That fact, along with our shared commitment to sustainability and quality, was the reason that we decided to collaborate. As with all Pepper products, each rug is custom-made. We offer ten sizes and all of the rugs are weaved with hand-dyed wool by artisans in India. I am currently renovating my house and am using several rugs from the collaboration throughout. They make such a fabulous foundation for any room.

Lauren: Can you share a few tips for styling and coordinating different prints?

Banta: When it comes to decorating, people are often intimidated by the use of color and pattern. If you stick to a common color to tie different types of prints together and pay attention to mixing scales, you really cannot go wrong in creating a scheme that is both balanced and cohesive!

Lauren: What are your best ideas for creating a timeless interior?

Banta: I try to avoid trends and stay true to what I personally like. As I mentioned previously, I am currently renovating a house. In going through this process, I’ve defined a timeless interior as one that isn’t too fussy or precious— it needs to be inviting and comfortable.

I see so much inspiration that I would love to make a reality in my own home but realize that, as a mom to two little boys, my definition of a perfect space has completely changed based on my phase of life. So, given where I’m at right now, I would say that a timeless interior is one that reflects your personal style, can be layered upon over time to evolve with you and your needs, and places equal value on practicality and design.

The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Modern Home Near Austin Showcases One Architect’s Vision

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Introducing Forbes Billionaire Investor

Introducing Forbes Billionaire Investor

The “Billionaire Dividend”

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Can the Forbes “Billionaire Dividend” Pay

the Tab for Everything You Want or Need?

Today there are 2,688 billionaires worldwide. Collectively, they’re worth $12.7 trillion.

However, Forbes Billionaire Investor recommends only a small fraction of the investments held by a small fraction of these billionaires.

Now, here’s something that may surprise you—nearly all the stocks in our Billionaire Model Portfolios pay handsome yields—which we call Billionaire Dividends.

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Money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.

George Soros

We also know the wisdom of “buy low, sell high.” But unless you buy low, you miss the first half of that profit equation, no matter how high the stock price rises. And with Forbes Billionaire Investor, you follow only the leaders—and get way out ahead of the rest of the pack.

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About FBI Editors

Forbes Billionaire Investor Editor John Dobosz has more than two decades of experience picking conservative value stocks that deliver above-average returns combined with superior safety.

John has been featured on CNN Financial News and Bloomberg TV. In addition to Forbes Billionaire Investor, John heads up two other Forbes advisories, Forbes Premium Income Report and Forbes Dividend Investor.

Since its inception in 2012, his recommendations in Forbes Dividend Investor are up 313% — which means that within a decade, we more than quadrupled our money.

Forbes Wealth Team

For nearly four decades, the Forbes Wealth Team has estimated the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest by digging into their public and private holdings and speaking with dozens of experts. A core team of ten reporters and editors plus dozens of other beat reporters throughout the world value everything from their real estate and art to yachts to come up with our definitive lists of The Forbes 400 richest people in America and the World’s Billionaires. Forbes’ Real Time Billionaires tracker updates these net worths daily using up-to-the-minute stock prices and updated exchange rates.

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  1. 12 Monthly Issues. Each month, you will receive any new buy recommendations, with some of the portfolio additions delivered via email and text message hotlines to take advantage of market opportunities. Your monthly issue also includes Market Overview & Commentary plus the latest updated Model Portfolios.
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California Passes Adaptive Reuse Legislation To Address Housing Crisis

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$3.5 Million Home Once Owned By Billie Holiday Hits All The Right Notes

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What The Rise Of Private Clubs Predicts For The Future Of The Office

What The Rise Of Private Clubs Predicts For The Future Of The Office

Return to office is still a work in progress—complicated by the threat of an economic slowdown and the resulting shift in the employer/employee power balance—yet only 16% of employees today are working exclusively from home, according to recent JLL research. The fastest-growing workplace isn’t home or the office, but some third place—a coffee shop, hotel lobby or, increasingly, private clubs.

Once a stuffy, exclusionary corner of city life—complete with jacket requirements and strict policies around phone and laptop usage—private clubs have emerged from the shadow of the pandemic as a modern nexus for creative professionals, nightlife aficionados, foodies and world travelers (among many other niches) who are looking for a more collective and curated experience than they get in public spaces or corporate offices.

While private clubs are growing across the country, they likely aren’t the solution to large-scale hybrid work. But their unique combination of physical locations, world-class amenities, hyper-targeted programming and air of exclusivity may give office owners and operators inspiration to innovate the next iteration of the office.

Leading with hospitality

Prior to the pandemic, many office buildings were competing in a hospitality foot race, adding services and amenities that reminded workers more of a high-end resort than the factory-driven design of older-generation workplaces. While offices look to the next evolution of hotelization as part of their worker return strategy, private clubs have already advanced the concept well beyond an on-site gym and dining area.

At NeueHouse, a hybrid social club and coworking site for creatives, hospitality measures include the expected bar and café but also interiors that have been reimagined to encompass both work and play. That includes soft, comfortable seating that pulls double duty as a sound dampener, allowing patrons to host private conversations while still being visible for happenstance encounters. Details like elevated tables that can comfortably be used for both dining and typing and enhanced lighting that sets a mood while providing enough luminescence to read a menu, or an important document, have been meticulously thought through to provide the best-of-all-worlds experience to members.

These specifics may be familiar to many in the property management space, but private clubs are pushing beyond the expected, curating art exhibits that can’t be experienced elsewhere. The goal is to draw and inspire, not merely to create the visual equivalent of background noise. Private clubs are even inventing fragrances to build sense memories for their members and further establish the tone of the club.

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Does the office need a fragrance? Maybe not. But articulating a vision for what an office space is for, how it is to be used and who can best utilize it may help bridge the gap between the occasional office visit and the occupancy rates most companies desire.

Lifestyle-driven amenities differentiate

Under a hybrid work model, the office’s value is to provide a place for employee socialization, team building and collaboration. Half of remote employees say they miss the social interaction of the office, and 44% miss the common understanding and bonding that comes with face-to-face work, according to JLL research.

But socializing isn’t enough. On the heels of a global health crisis, most employees want workplace health and wellbeing amenities and expect their employers to deliver. Private clubs have clearly picked up on this desire to create a more holistic lifestyle approach to health and used it as a differentiator to grow their membership rosters.

Bian, a Chicago-based private club, opened in late 2020 just as pandemic-era stay-at-home mandates were expiring. It is the ultimate wellness destination, complete with fitness classes, therapeutic spa services, nutrition consultants, a medical concierge, as well as beauty and med-spa treatments. In April, the club added co-working to its growing list of amenities, a reflection of the club’s “time is precious” ethos, minimizing distractions and the need to move to any other location to get everything you need, from a gourmet meal to executive coaching.

In Los Angeles, the newly opened Heimat has combined a luxury fitness experience—including specialty studios for hot yoga, Pilates, boxing, cycling, dancing and TRX workouts—with the wrappings of a private club. While the club is curated for wellbeing, there’s no sense of deprivation. A rooftop pool, multiple dining options—including some open to the public—and spa services all contribute to the fitness-as-a-lifestyle thread that runs through everything the club does.

Not every office building can incorporate infrared panels for hot yoga but improving outdoor and green spaces and offering some fitness components in those environments can help directly address employee stress, which is a growing problem for hybrid workers. Early research suggests the more places a person opts to work from routinely, the greater their stress levels, with “hyper hybrid” workers who rotate among three or more places carrying the greatest stress load.

Providing stress relief at the office addresses the problem directly and helps eliminate the need for workers to go elsewhere to get work done. Bringing in wellness services, like chair massages, a special fitness class or even a Botox event, can further entice individuals to the office location and help the space feel like a key part of their life, rather than merely one of many options for completing work.

Unlocking the keys to community building

Private clubs create community by tapping into specific shared interests: food, travel and art being just a few jumping off points. But in the office, the draw is productive work with individuals who support a similar mission. Private clubs are exclusive; the office is inclusive, a place of engagement and belonging.

But as private clubs and even hotel chains try to edge in on the office’s purpose, the workplace must find new ways to build on the melding of the personal and professional, without completely blurring the lines between the two. The idea is in vogue with today’s private clubs, but it has also helped shape the workplace for years. Work, wellness, socialization and culture are inherently intertwined and need to be given appropriate space within the workplace if offices are to continue their relevance.

But the office outlook is not bleak. Those in the business of community building know the workplace is still the second place, just behind home, as the physical location where people feel drawn to spend their time. While home and third places may nibble at the corners of the office’s draw, it remains the only place where employees can come to be primarily productive and engaged in their work, a position that is only bolstered by incorporating other lifestyle measures into the environment.

Housing Markets That Still Remain Sellers’ Strongholds

Housing Markets That Still Remain Sellers’ Strongholds

The housing market has changed considerably in recent months as higher mortgage rates, rising inflation and economic uncertainty have sidelined many buyers. At the same time, sellers still have the upper hand in most markets throughout the country, according to this month’s Knock Buyer-Seller Market Index, which analyzes key housing market metrics to measure the degree to which the nation’s 100 largest markets favor home buyers or sellers.

Despite the fact that home sales were down 38%, inventory was up 5.5%, and days on market increased 50% in August compared to a year ago, the index showed 71 of the nation’s 100 largest housing markets remained sellers’ markets. Meanwhile, the number of buyers’ markets more than doubled to seven from three in July, spreading from California into Arizona and Utah, two popular relocation destinations during the pandemic. The rest were neutral markets, areas offering no advantage to either sellers or buyers.

“Although the general consensus is the housing market is undergoing a much-needed reset, which is welcome news to many home shoppers who will have more choices and less competition for the foreseeable future, not all markets are seeing the same trends,” said Knock co-founder and CEO Sean Black. “In reality, there’s a great housing divide taking place in the U.S., especially in the East and South, where despite a slowdown in sales and slower home price growth, many markets continue to favor sellers.”

The nation’s top 10 sellers markets

Of the 10 markets most favorable to sellers in August, half are in the South, three are in the East and two are in the Midwest. For the second month in a row, Fayetteville, North Carolina ranked as the most favorable seller’s market in the nation. Akron, Ohio came in second place, followed by Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Cleveland; Syracuse, New York; Rochester, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; Greensboro, North Carolina; El Paso, Texas and Columbia, South Carolina.

The most resilient housing markets are those with some of the lowest home prices in the nation. In eight of the top 10 sellers’ markets, the median home price was $250,000 or less, considerably lower than the U.S. median home price of $390,000. With the exception of Hartford, Connecticut (23 days), and Columbia, South Carolina (18 days), the time a home spends on the market is well below the national average of 18 days.

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With a median sale price of $225,000, Fayetteville ranks among the lowest priced housing markets in the nation. It is among the nation’s hottest with homes selling in an average of seven days in August. Fayetteville also saw a 56% increase in home sales in August year-over-year, bucking the national trend of double-digit sales declines. Fayetteville’s housing inventory dropped 21% over last August to 447 — nearly the lowest housing inventory of any large housing market.

Bucking the national cooling trend, Akron and Cleveland were more favorable to sellers this August compared to last August.

Cooling in the West spreads beyond California to relocation hot spots

Once home to some of the most favorable housing markets for sellers the nation has ever seen, the West continued to cool in August. In fact, nine markets in the Western United States — San Francisco (No. 1); Salt Lake City (No. 2); Phoenix (No. 3); San Diego (No. 4); San Jose (No. 5); Los Angeles (No. 6); Fresno, California (No. 7); Las Vegas (No. 8) and Boise, Idaho (No. 9) were among the 10 most favorable buyers’ markets in August. New Orleans ranked as the 10th most favorable buyers’ market.

San Francisco was the only market among the top 10 buyers’ markets, and one of only four nationwide, to see home prices decline in August (-5.3%). At $1.1 million, San Francisco still has the second highest median home prices of any large city. In the rest of the top buyers’ markets, home prices rose slower than the national average increase of approximately 8%.

In another sign of favoring buyers, days on market in all but one of the top 10 buyers’ markets (Fresno, California) exceeded the national median of 18 days on market. In San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and San Jose, the time a home spent on the market doubled from last August.

Buyers could see the most favorable housing in recent years

Based on the forecast component of the index, the housing market is projected to equally favor sellers and buyers in August 2023. For home buyers, this could mean that they may see the most favorable national market in recent years.

For sellers, the most favorable months to list their home in 2023 are likely to be March, April and May, before the market dips into neutral territory in June. While the national index value for March is projected to be slightly more favorable to sellers overall than it was in August, more markets will favor buyers starting June next year.

Nineteen of the 100 largest housing markets are projected to favor buyers in August 2023, meaning sellers are more likely to accept a lower price than they listed their houses for. Those markets are: Austin, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Denver; Fresno, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Nashville; New Orleans; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; Riverside, California; Salt Lake City; San Diego; San Jose, California and San Francisco.

An additional 17 more, a majority of which are in Florida, are expected to move to neutral territory, where neither buyers nor sellers are favored. Those markets are Atlanta; Cape Coral, Florida; Columbus, Ohio; Crestview, Florida; Dallas; Deltona, Florida; Detroit; Greenville, South Carolina; Lakeland, Florida; Naples, Florida; North Port, Florida; Orlando, Florida; Palm Bay Florida; San Antonio; Tampa; Tucson, Arizona and Washington, D.C.

As more markets slowly shift toward favoring buyers, the median home price is expected to bottom out in January 2023 at over $385,000. It is then projected to begin rising again, reaching $401,000 in June 2023. Even with prices projected to fall slightly over the remaining months of next summer, the national median sale price in August 2023 will rise over this August to approximately $397,000.

Why Artha And Fairfax Training Club Embrace Design As Primary To The Experience

Why Artha And Fairfax Training Club Embrace Design As Primary To The Experience

Remember the old days of going to the gym? Rubber flooring? Streaky mirrors everywhere and stinky locker rooms that remind you of high school gym class? In a place like Los Angeles, where aesthetics is everything, design has become paramount to the experience. “Big box gyms, as we know them, are dying out, and boutique gyms are absolutely at the forefront. After Covid, it became apparent that people are looking to spend their time in smaller, more intimate spaces where you’re not sharing the room with hundreds of people simultaneously and where you know things are well kept,” says Chiheb Soumer CPT and owner and founder of Fairfax Training Club.

In order to attract members, it’s essential to make fitness and wellness facilities places where people look forward to going. “You want to create an environment where your clients want to spend their time. There is so much competition in the fitness and wellness space, especially in Los Angeles. It’s essential to differentiate yourself from other facilities, which can be achieved by the interior design and the aura you create,” he says.

“It’s also about branding and experience,” according to Priyanka Khanna, co-founder of Artha, which is a private fitness and wellness club in West Hollywood with a location in Studio City coming soon. Artha recently expanded its flagship from 5080 to 6805 square feet. “Good design is not standard in most wellness facilities, especially at our price point. Actually, it typically is pretty bad. We made sure good design is standard at Artha. We feel that the right space provides the right energy. The right energy becomes conducive for the mind to break away from the outside world and focus inwards, relax and gear up for the activity in hand,” she says.

Everything Is About Feeling

Artha commissioned architecture and interior firm Nelson Worldwide to carry out its vision. As a high-end members club (although day passes are currently available for purchase), their goal is to curate an environment conducive to wellness and provide a pause away from the chaos of the city. While Artha’s original yoga studio had room for just 24 members, classes were so popular that it became almost too intimate a space. Part of the renovation was expanding the room to fit 40 people.

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However, a major concern Artha’s executive team had with the expansion was how facilitating more people at the studio could change the vibe of the space. Fortunately, they were able to address this issue through design. “During the new construction, the entire perimeter of the sanctuary was walled by anti-noise panels. This makes sure that as soon as you walk in, you feel you have actually stepped inside the sanctuary because it blocks off the noise from Sunset Boulevard.”

This also meant altering the original floor plan. “The yoga room and the locker rooms were pulled to the front, right behind the lobby. This eliminates 20 to 30 yogis walking past the float, sauna, and treatment rooms thereby disturbing members and guests undergoing therapies and treatments,” Khanna. “Protecting the experience was a priority for us.”

Another reason for this is that privacy and exclusivity are essential to creating the right mood for members and guests alike. “Because the entire sanctuary is by invitation only, it feels very private. Unless you want to, you will not run into many people. It is an elevated experience at Artha and we want our members to feel they are in a special, spiritual place. A Sanctuary. The colors are intentionally dark and soothing to promote balance and serenity,” she explains.

An additional part of the renovation was adding seven more infrared light saunas, almost tripling the capacity. These relaxation spaces are some of the most popular offerings at Artha. Artha also offers massages, an intimately lit float tank with large en suites featuring private showers and dressing areas, as well as cryotherapy chambers and facials.

While good design is part of the experience at Artha— design isn’t the experience. “There are many instances when you are in a space and you feel good, but you are not able to pinpoint it to any particular reason. That is good design,” says Khanna. “Many different, small design elements come together in harmony to make that space feel good. Different colors, textures, and shapes come together to enhance [our offerings]. It is important the client feels welcome, feels comfortable, and desires to be in our space. Design plays into all of these factors.”

Modern Clubhouse Vibes

With a design concept inspired by the Fairfax District in West Hollywood, Fairfax Training Club spans over 2500 square feet over two floors in the Westwood neighborhood. While he didn’t hire an interior designer, Soumer and his team brilliantly carried out his vision.

“It was a long creative process to turn the concept into a reality. We used concrete and wood to keep the tones neutral, giving the space a minimalist vibe while remaining unique. We opted for sleek, clean, and modern finishes before installing top-of-the-line fitness equipment upstairs and downstairs,” he says. “As a former retail space, it was quite challenging to implement the changes we needed for a cohesive fitness environment. Still, we achieved the desired result through careful planning and attention to detail.”

Most of the furniture in the entrance and back lounge of the space was custom-built. However, additional items were sourced from CB2, West Elm, and antique stores. “Decorative items came from boxing stores, House of Spoils, and some custom objects,” says Soumer.

With a cool, clubhouse vibe, it feels more like a place to find community than a typical gym.

“Design is an underrated but vital aspect of fitness and wellness. It contributes to the success of your clients. Gyms can intimidate people, so it’s essential to create a space where your clients want to spend their time and feel good about spending their time. I wanted Fairfax Training Club to feel like a luxurious living room.”

At $10.25 Million, This Fifth Avenue Address Fulfills All The Requirements

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What Are Dividend Stocks?

What Are Dividend Stocks?

Dividend stocks are securities that include a regular distribution of the issuing company’s earnings. They operate like ordinary stocks and represent a share of ownership in a company. The stock price may move up or down. As long as the shareholder owns a stock, they receive a dividend for each share.

What is a dividend?

A dividend is a payment from a company (or other entity) to shareholders tied to stock ownership. Most dividend-paying companies pay their shareholders quarterly, though the exact timing of the dividend is up to the company’s board of directors. The board also decides the size of the dividend and can change the figure depending on the company’s earnings each quarter. Once the board picks a suitable figure, the dividend yield is presented as a percentage of the stock’s price.

Companies that pay dividends tend to be stable, profit-earning companies looking to make their stock a more attractive investment. Not all profitable companies choose to pay a dividend, though. Some companies reinvest profits into the business or boost employee compensation.

Many prominent investors—like Warren Buffett—love investing in companies that pay dividends because they provide multiple sources of income. As with any stock, an investor can earn a profit by selling a dividend-paying stock after the price has risen. Combined with quarterly dividends, this can create an attractive return on investment.

How do they work?

Dividend payments follow a strict series of events to determine who is eligible to receive compensation.

The first step is for the company’s management to announce a dividend payment. The shareholders must then agree to the dividend payment.

The next step is the ex-dividend date or the day dividend eligibility expires. Investors must purchase the stock before the ex-dividend date. If a stock’s ex-dividend date is, for example, October 15, any purchases on or after the 15th are ineligible to receive compensation. Anyone who owns the shares before that date is eligible.

The record date is typically the day after the ex-dividend date and is marked by the issuing company recording (hence the name) the owners of all dividend-paying stocks.

Finally, the payment date is the day the company pays its dividend, typically via payments directly to the stockholder’s brokerage account.

How are dividends taxed?

Dividend income is taxable, but the exact tax percentage depends on whether the dividend is qualified or non-qualified.

Qualified dividends are taxed at the long-term capital gains tax rate, which is lower than the tax rate on regular income. To earn qualified dividend status, the dividend must be disbursed by an American corporation or a corporation subject to U.S. taxes and easily accessible on U.S. stock exchanges. Also, the dividend is only qualified if the investor has held the stock for at least 60 days during the 121 days beginning 60 days before the ex-dividend date. For preferred stock, the investor must have held the stock for at least 90 days during the 181 days starting 90 days before the ex-dividend date.

The long-term capital gains tax rate for qualified dividends is either 0%, 15% or 20%, depending on the investor’s income. Those earning less than $79,999 per year pay 0%. Those earning between $80,000 and $441,449 pay 15%. Anyone earning more than $441,500 annually pays 20% tax on qualifying dividends.

Unqualified dividends are taxed at the short-term capital gains tax rate, which is the same as the tax rate on regular income. The current rates range from 10% to 37%, depending on the investor’s income level.

Examples of Dividend Stocks

Companies that pay dividends tend to be mature, stable companies that are turning a regular net profit. They also tend to be companies that don’t need to dedicate a considerable portion of earnings to innovating. Thus, many dividend-paying companies are from sectors like oil & gas, banks & financials, healthcare & pharmaceuticals or other mature sectors.

The following are currently among the highest dividend-paying stocks:

  • Lumen Technologies (LUMN): 11.3% Forward Dividend Yield
  • Altria Group
    MO
    (MO): 8.9% Forward Dividend Yield
  • Verizon Communications
    VZ
    : 6.3% Forward Dividend Yield
  • Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA): 5.6% Forward Dividend Yield
  • Prudential Financial
    PRU
    : 4.87% Forward Annual Dividend

Hundreds of other companies in the S&P 500 pay dividends to shareholders. Other dividend-paying securities include real estate investment trusts (REITs), master limited partnerships (MLPs), as well as some mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

What are “Dividend Aristocrats”?

Dividend aristocrats are companies—typically those in the S&P 500—that have increased their dividends for the last 25 years. The current list, which includes 64 companies, comprises many of the healthiest companies in the U.S. These companies consistently generate a profit, allowing the board of directors to approve a higher dividend each year. Companies on the list include IBM
IBM
, Walmart and PepsiCo
PEP
.

The list is regularly updated yearly to remove companies that cut their dividends, ensuring that only the most stable companies earn a spot on the list of dividend aristocrats.

Five Market-Beating Dividend Stocks to Whip Inflation

Many investors may not realize that since 1930 dividends have provided 40% of the stock markets total returns. And what is less known is its outsized impact is even more acute during inflationary years like the one we’re having now, a whopping 54% of shareholder gains.

If you’re looking to add high quality dividend stocks to hedge against inflation, Forbes’ investment team has found 5 companies with strong fundamentals to keep growing when prices are surging.

Click Here to Learn More

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