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These are the people that give the most to charity


In this season of giving, when not-for-profit organizations make their final push for donations, it’s interesting to take a look at how the world's wealthiest individuals are choosing to donate their money.

Wealth-X's new report, "Changing Philanthropy: Trend shifts in Ultra Wealthy Giving," explores the giving habits of ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWI), defined as having a net worth of $30 million or more, and identifies the characteristics of major donors who have donated at least $1 million in their lifetime. 

Here’s a look at how these two groups compare:


Wealth X infographic showcase

Click here to read more from Wealth-X's report.

This post is sponsored by Wealth-X

Join the conversation about this story »

What it's really like to be a professional Santa Claus


Santa Jim BostonNot everyone can play Santa Claus for a living.

Sure, anyone can don a Santa hat, beard, and suit and invite parents to plop kids on their lap.

But to play a convincing Santa Claus that kids will forever cherish, and to make a living at it, you must become Santa Claus — and that process takes a lot of work.

For Jim Manning, a full-time children's entertainer who has played Santa Jim in the Boston area for 13 years, learning how to become the perfect Father Christmas meant attending a couple of Santa Claus schools, picking up tricks of the trade from other Santas, and learning the nuances of the job through trial and error.

When he's not making appearances at holiday parties dressed as the man in red or the guest of honor at the City of Boston Tree Lighting celebration, he keeps his skills sharp 11 months of the year as "Jungle Jim" of Jungle Jim's of Boston.

This professional Santa understands the value of a top-notch beard — no straggly, wispy nonsense or anything that could easily get pulled off — and knows that keeping kids happy requires getting on their level.

And perhaps most importantly, to truly transform yourself into the magical elf, Manning tells Business Insider that you have to really love kids — and believe that it's your job to be a beacon of hope and joy to them no matter what.

Below, Manning shares his personal journey of being a professional Santa Claus:

SEE ALSO: Inside the school where men train to be the perfect Santa Claus

DON'T MISS: Take a look at Santa's real-life 'office' in snowy Finland, which receives more than half a million letters every year

What exactly does a pro Santa do?

I've been a professional private-events Santa Claus for 13 years. Generally, there are two kinds of Santas — mall Santas and private-event Santas. Mall Santas tend to be older gentlemen — you get to sit in the mall, you might get the photo, and that's that.

But mostly what I do is corporate and private events. I'm the official Santa Claus for the city of Boston's tree lighting, so I do the tree lighting on TV. I was on the cover of the Red Sox Christmas card this year. Most of my work is generally one-hour visits in people's homes, corporate office parties, and they'll have kids there, and sometimes it's just adults.

And I'm a younger Santa — I'm only 40 — and I'm very high-energy, so I tend to put on a little bit of a show: The Night Before Christmas, and caroling, and magic. A lot of people think being Santa Claus means just showing up, sitting on the couch, and letting kids sit in your lap. But what I do is a lot more.

RAW Embed

What does your busy season look like?

The busy season is December, Thanksgiving to Christmas. We start receiving calls and emails in August to book events. Some people will book from the year before. But the real majority of the requests start coming in October and November. And a lot of last-minute requests come in too. The real season starts to ramp up after Thanksgiving.

The first week of December is more promotional work — a lot of photo shoots. I did a photo shoot for Legal Sea Foods, where they had me as Santa Claus taking photos of their clam chowder or their lobster. Drug stores, car dealerships — they'll bring me in to set the tone for the season and whatnot.

Then toward the middle of December, that's when I start getting into more corporate parties, private parties. And then as we get closer to Christmas Eve, the majority of my events are parties in people's homes.

Christmas Eve is the busiest day. I'll do 10 appearances. This year, my first visit is at 11 a.m. and my last visit is scheduled for 9 p.m.

Most weekdays are two to three visits. Weekends are much busier. Sunday I did eight different visits. I'll have five or six days off somewhere in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How does it compare to what you do for the rest of the year?

December is the busiest month for my business. We will bring in about 30% of our income for Santa Boston/Jungle Jim's, my children's-entertainment business, during this time. For the rest of the year I'm doing balloon magic shows as Jungle Jim.

During the summer, as Jungle Jim, I'll do 150 performances, most in libraries.

The good thing about being Santa is I don't have as much prep work before an event. It takes me about a half-hour to get into the suit, but then I show up and I am Santa. Whereas with the magic shows and everything, they involve a lot of set up and prep work.

That being said, we devote a lot of man-hours in preparation for December. Pretty much October through December, I'd say 75% of our energy is devoted toward Santa Claus.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The 50 best colleges in America


Harvard campus

What makes a college great? They provide a quality education and graduate students on time, they set graduates up to earn well-paying jobs early in their career, and they provide a memorable and enjoyable campus experience that instills pride and loyalty for decades to come.

Business Insider's 2016 ranking uses a formula that relies very little on glamour statistics, like reputation and selectivity, that are featured in many college rankings. Instead, we primarily leaned on data available from the government, weighting early-career earnings and graduation rate the highest.

College years are formative for young adults, so we also gave significant credit to schools that provide a top-notch student-life experience, as measured by Niche, a company that compiles research on schools. Niche assessed the social and community life of universities and provided letter grades based on metrics like campus quality, diversity, party scene, student retention, safety, and athletics.

Other factors that counted for less and rounded out each school's score: full-time retention rate, average annual cost (after accounting for scholarships and financial aid), average SAT score of incoming students, and admittance rate. Read more about our methodology

Read on to see the full list of the best colleges in the US.

SEE ALSO: The 50 best law schools in America

DON'T MISS: The 24 smartest law schools in the US

50. Babson College

Location: Wellesley, Massachusetts

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $85,500

Average SAT score: 1258

Student life score: B+

A leader in entrepreneurial education, Babson College equips students with the skills to innovate, experiment, and lead in the business world and beyond. The private college has produced numerous successful entrepreneurs in its nearly 100-year history, including Arthur Blank, the cofounder and former president of Home Depot who is the eponym of the college's on-campus entrepreneurship hub.

49. Hamilton College

Location: Clinton, New York

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $57,300

Average SAT score: 1384

Student life score: A

Hamilton College takes its name from founding father Alexander Hamilton, who served as one of the school's original trustees in 1793 when he was the US secretary of the Treasury. More than 200 years later, Hamilton is still going strong: One year after graduation, at least 91% of the class of 2014 had secured a full-time job or internship or were enrolled in graduate school. For those who entered the workforce, employers included companies such as General Electric, Amazon, and The New York Times.

48. George Washington University

Location: Washington, D.C.

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$64,500

Average SAT score: 1297

Student life score: A

Located right in the US capital, George Washington University offers more than 2,000 undergraduate courses and more than 70 majors. More than 1,400 students choose to study abroad each year at GW's study centers and partner institutions in more than 40 countries. The school also has some distinguished alumni— former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and actress Kerry Washington all attended the university.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

I spent 3 months finding the perfect engagement ring, and it was terrifying — but worth it


dave smith engagement 2

Business Insider deputy editor Dave Smith proposed to his girlfriend of two years in December. She said yes! Below, Smith walks us through a traditional, but anguishing, part of the process: buying an engagement ring.

As told to Libby Kane.

I knew I wanted to get engaged about a year ago.

We were in Toronto visiting friends for New Year's Eve. We were at a party earlier, but we left the party so we could just be together as the ball dropped. We were talking and I just felt like I was so connected to her. In that moment, I thought, "This time next year I want us be to engaged. I'm ready for that, I think she's ready for that, we're at that point."

I started thinking about a ring around September, and did some basic research on Yelp and Google about where to go: just "best places to buy an engagement ring New York City."

I found one store that was family-owned. It had been around for 40 years, which I really did like, and it didn't seem like a franchise or a chain. It's one store that's been in New York City, handed down from generation to generation, and has a master jeweler on site. As a non-jewelry person, that made me feel more comfortable. It's called Greenwich St. Jewelers. I checked out their website and saw they could do custom stuff, and I was thinking I would go down that route. I could have gotten a really nice traditional ring, but she doesn't really like traditional styles.

My girlfriend — fiancée! — has a Pinterest page and one of her boards is jewelry, and a lot of it is rings. I saved a lot of those images to my phone, just to give the jewelers an idea.

Throughout the entire relationship, we've done everything together: saying I love you, moving in together, all those decisions we made together. This part was something I had to do myself. I did see some people shopping for rings together, but it's not what I wanted to do. I wanted the element of surprise. I didn't even want to ask, "So what's your ring size?" and I didn't know what ring to even take from her if I were to take one, so I didn't. This jeweler, and I think most jewelers, was like, 'If it doesn't fit, you can come back. We'll do it right on site, it takes no time.'

I have no experience jewelry shopping at all. I've never bought myself jewelry, even. As a teenager I got a Fossil watch as like a Bar Mitzvah gift or something. I had no taste in jewelry. No idea what to do.

marquise cut diamondI worked with this one woman, Amanda, who was really great. She knew everything about jewelry. I explained to her, "I'm a noob at this, I don't know anything — here are some pictures I got for us to work with." The shape that we settled on is different from most other rings. It's called a Marquise diamond.

Since it was custom, there was stuff like getting the right diamond itself. Some are shaped a little differently, some are a little wider, some a little narrower, some have different clarity and qualities I needed to go through. We had to figure out the color, the band, the shape. When you're looking at diamonds on a tweezer, and you don't know much about clarity and stuff like that, you're just trying to go for something that looks good. If you're paying thousands of dollars for it, which you are, you want something that doesn't feel cheap, but it's so hard to tell.

You want the ring to match her. Do you think she would be really pissed if you spent this much money? Do you think she'd be happy with this ring color or size or whatever? Is she the kind that would care a lot about the authenticity of the ring? Would she need the certificates? Because you can go cheaper if you get some elements that aren't certified. You can go for more unique styles or go for a slightly more expensive diamond, which is what I did in this case.

I went back about five or six times over a couple of months. It took a lot longer than I thought. That was the one thing I was surprised with. My fiancée was taking French classes on Wednesday nights, so every Wednesday I would tell her, "Oh I'm playing video games." But I was at the jeweler.

I went above and beyond my budget. I'd asked Amanda, the jeweler who helped me throughout this process: "What's normal here? I'd heard something like a few months' salary? A few paychecks? Do you have any advice with that?" I just didn't know, and I didn't want to seem cheap, but I also wanted to give her something that she deserved because I really do love her.

Amanda said that whole few months' salary thing is total bull. It's whatever you feel comfortable with. That's the bottom line. I had some savings. We've both watched movies and TV shows where people get married and you see the ring, and how much the guy is spending, and my fiancée had said to me on so many occasions, "If you spent that much money I would kill you." Because in the future it's going to be our money. So I do want to spend because she's worth it, but I don't want to piss her off.

I was just going with what I felt comfortable with. I felt comfortable at the store, I felt comfortable with this jeweler. I felt like she was leading me in the right direction, not like I was being taken advantage of. So if it ended up costing an extra few thousand dollars, it's just money. We all live once.

As a guy, you can be as macho as you want, but it's freaky to go shopping for a ring. It really is. It's symbolizing the end of your single life and the beginning of your life with this person. You don't want to f--k it up. It's scary.

You pay for half of it when you fully design the ring and put in the order, then you pay for the other half when it's ready and you come pick it up. I guess this would have showed up in two different bank statements. I only show her the statements when we're going through bills for the month and I tell her what she owes, because I get the bills for rent and utilities and everything like that, and she just Venmos me. But how would you hide it? I don't know.

dave smith engagement ringIf I didn't trust Amanda, I would have just gone somewhere else. There are a million bajillion jewelry stores. Even though it's not totally comfortable taking out your wallet and paying for these things, you can be more comfortable if you feel like you did everything you can to make sure it's the ring you wanted.

I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable, because if I felt like I was off the rails here, even though it's for her, I would have felt weird about giving it to her. I would have felt weird about doing the whole engagement. You want to start it off on the right foot. Being engaged — as my brother, my parents, and everyone says — is a party, but for you. You want everything to be as right as possible.

The jeweler told me to come back after the proposal and we'd have champagne, and then do the insurance stuff, which covers a lifetime in case any of the diamonds fall off or anything. I don't wear anything that costs thousands of dollars, so it's very scary prospect.

They called me in early December to pick it up. I ran home and was trying to find a hiding place. The surprise is really hard, because you know she could go anywhere in the apartment. I hid it in the very back of my sock drawer inside of a hat. When she wasn't there, I practiced putting the ring box in and out of my jacket.

I put a lot of thought into the actual surprise of it. She was totally surprised, and it was totally worth it, just watching her gears work as I stopped her in the street right in front of the place where we met. Just watching that reaction was totally worth the surprise, and the angst and everything that I had been through by myself, keeping the secret from her, doing all this planning to get the ring, to find the right one, to buy it, to hide it from her, to plan the restaurant visit and then walk past the place where we met.

She's ecstatic about it. She loves the ring.

Have you purchased an engagement ring? We want to hear your story. Email yourmoney@businessinsider.com. Anonymity can be considered.

SEE ALSO: 8 money conversations every couple should have before getting engaged

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This is how much you need to earn to be in the top .01% of every state

Snowfall was recorded in the Sahara Desert for the first time in 37 years — and the satellite imagery is gorgeous


Snow sahara

It snowed on December 19 in the Sahara Desert, and NASA's Landsat 7 satellite was there (or rather, hundreds of miles overhead) to see it.

The photo comes from Landsat 7's Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus visible-light camera, and depicts the first snowfall recorded in the massive African desert in 37 years.

The snow-covered area depicted in the photo lies on the northern end of the desert, near the Moroccan-Algerian border and the town of Ain Safra. Here's the full image, which you can click to enlarge:


This map shows the approximate region of the photo, with images from previous years for comparison:

Screen Shot 2016 12 22 at 3.33.58 PM

NASA notes that snow is not all that rare on the African continent, with regular snowfall on high peaks like Kilimanjaro and sites where people ski in South Africa.

Photographer Karim Boucheta was in the right place at the right time to capture photos of the Saharan snowfall from the ground, and he's posted them to Facebook:

SEE ALSO: Scientists around the world are worried about a Trump team proposal to ax NASA's 58-year mission to study the Earth

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This startling animation shows how much Arctic sea ice has thinned in just 26 years

21 amazing photos that show what life is like in the coldest inhabited town on earth


Cold Russia Amos Chapple

Humans are resilient, hardworking creatures.

And there's perhaps nowhere where that's more evident than in the tiny village of Oymyakon, Russia, regarded by most as the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth.

Temperatures average around -58 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months, with the record low reaching -96.16 degrees Fahrenheit in 1924.

Adventurer and photographer Amos Chapple visited the village, as well as Yakutsk, its nearest city center.

Chapple spent a total of five weeks in the region, documenting everyday life in these harsh conditions, as well as the people who call the area home.

Christian Storm contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.

SEE ALSO: These Siberian swimmers are obsessed with plunging their bodies into freezing cold water

Amos Chapple started his journey in Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha region of northeastern Russia. It is generally regarded as the coldest capital city in the world.

The city has a population of about 300,000, and during winter, temperatures average around -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Still, Chapple told Business Insider that the residents of the city were wonderful, "friendly, worldly locals, and magnificently dressed."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

12 things every guy needs for his living room


living room

A living room needs to be livable. 

That's what a living room is for: receiving and entertaining guests, relaxing, and pretty much everything else you do in your home that doesn't take place in a kitchen or bedroom.

Unfortunately, too many guys treat their living rooms as afterthoughts, stuffing them with futons and not putting the proper care into making it a space worthy of spending such a large amount of time.

Make sure that's not the case for your living room by ensuring you have all of these 12 essentials.

SEE ALSO: The best watches at every price point

DON'T FORGET: Follow Business Insider's lifestyle page on Facebook!

A real, authentic, honest-to-goodness sofa.

There's nothing more necessary to a living room than a sofa. It's a cornerstone.

And no, a futon doesn't count.

Without accent pillows, your sofa will look pretty boring.

Spice it up with an interesting color combination.

Pillows like these from One Kings Lane can turn any drab couch inherited from your relatives into something that might actually look like it belongs in your apartment.

A chair to go along with your sofa.

Unless there's actually no extra room, a chair is an absolute necessity to go along with your sofa.

It completes the look of the living room area, and provides a nice L-shape where a rug can sit.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

An event planner who has hosted parties for Beyonce and the Obamas shares his go-to holiday drink


Friends of the Highline 6590

Bronson van Wyck knows how to throw a party. 

Since 1999, he and his mother, Mary Lynn, and sister, Mimi, have been putting their hosting skills to good use, planning events for the most high-end of clients — people like Beyonce, Madonna, and Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton — through their event production firm, Van Wyck & Van WyckEarlier this year, the Van Wyck team launched a new company out of their production firm. Called Workshop, the new company focuses on producing events for brands like Coach, Mercedes-Benz, Hermes, and Range Rover.

Van Wyck clearly knows how to tailor a party's decor and activities to each client's individual tastes, whether that's with candle-lit decor, strong drinks, or fun photo booths. 

But when it comes to the holiday season, he has a few tips that anyone can adapt for their own holiday parties.

dark and stormy cocktail"I like to serve a Dark and Stormy this time of year," van Wyck told Business Insider. "They can easily be made for large pitchers, and the dark rum with a healthy kick of ginger will warm you right up.  With only three or four ingredients (dark rum, ginger beer, lime, a dash or two of bitters if you desire), it is a foolproof cocktail."

Click here to watch van Wyck make his signature Dark and Stormy. 

Van Wyck has also created a line of all-natural cocktail mixes called Arrowhead Farms. The mixes come in eight different flavors, including a seasonally appropriate Spitfire Margarita, a spicy Serrano grapefruit margarita.

And if you're not the one hosting the shindig, he has some suggestions for what to bring along with you.

"I've been whipping up Bloody Marys for friends and family for hostess gifts for as long as I can remember. Holiday parties often create holiday hangovers — your host will thank you for thinking ahead!" he said. "Pour your homemade batch into mason jars tied up with raffia or burlap and maybe a sprig or two of cedar and juniper."

SEE ALSO: These are the best bottles of Champagne to bring to your holiday parties

DON'T MISS: The rules of partying like a celebrity, from one of the best planners in the business

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The 7 best holiday movies on Netflix to watch this Christmas

An inside look at Cartier's gravity-defying watch



Cartier only made 100 of its Rotonde de Cartier Astrocalendaire watches. This video gets you up close and personal with #24. 
Made of 382 parts, the Astrocalendaire carries the most prestigious watchmaking certification, the Geneva Seal. It's a mechanical marvel using an innovative design to tastefully display all elements of the perpetual calendar.
This post is sponsored by Cartier.


Join the conversation about this story »

Here's how the Obama family decorated the White House for their last holiday


obama family christmas white house 41

No one decks the halls quite like the Obama family.

The White House has been transformed for the family's last holiday living there, complete with snowball arches, a 19-foot Douglas fir tree, and a gingerbread replica of their famous address.

Step inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to see how the First Family celebrates Christmastime.

SEE ALSO: 100 gifts under $100 for everyone on your list

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Each year, the First Family chooses a theme.

2016's pick was "The Gift of the Holidays."

The Associated Press reported the theme was selected "to reflect the joy of giving and receiving, along with such gifts as service, friends, family, education and good health."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Being a truck driver on Siberia's 'ice highway' is one of the most dangerous jobs in Russia


arctic north ice road truck drivers21

As temperatures dip below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the rivers of Russia's Arctic north freeze solid. While for most it's an excuse to stay indoors, winter is when the trucking business comes to life.

Truck drivers ferrying supplies to the farthest, coldest reaches of Russia hop into their vehicles and drive over those frozen arteries. The work is dangerous — especially as the ice eventually melts and thins — and lonely.

Photographer Amos Chapple of Radio Free Europe joined one young truck driver on a 12-day journey to deliver groceries to Russia's Arctic north. See what their experience was like.

SEE ALSO: 'Mammoth pirates' spend months in the Siberian wilderness trying to strike it rich — take a look

Ruslan Dorochenkov, 28, loves cursing, heavy metal music, his kids, and his religion. For eight years, he's risked his life on Siberia's ice highway.

On this particular journey, he was tasked with delivering groceries from Yakutsk to the Arctic town of Belaya Gora. This type of gig typically pays about $600.

The trip began in a warehouse outside Yakutsk, where pasta, cooking oil, soft drinks, and pounds of chocolate croissants were loaded into the truck. It weighed 25 tons.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

A man who's played Santa for 13 years explains exactly how to respond to the most awkward things kids say at Christmas


Santa Jim Boston

Kids really do say the darndest things, especially when they're excited.

And when you've been playing Santa Claus for more than a decade, you hear it all.

So we asked Jim Manning, a full-time children's entertainer who's played Santa Jim in Boston for the past 13 years, to shed some light on the most awkward things kids say at Christmas and how he responds.

Feel free to take some notes for your own curious Santa fans.

Manning says:

DON'T MISS: What it's really like to be a professional Santa Claus

SEE ALSO: Inside the school where men train to be the perfect Santa Claus

'Will you get me that toy?'

I never commit to any presents. You could have a child grab me by the shoulder and ask, "Santa, will you bring me an X-box?" And I will say, "We will see what we can do." Because even if a parent is whispering in my ear "We will definitely get them that toy," I don't know that they're going to find it in the store, and I don't know that they're going to deliver. So I never commit to any single present.

'Can I have a puppy?'

I also get asked about pets a lot — "Can I have a puppy?" "Can I have a kitty?" — and I explain that, because it gets so cold on the sleigh, I don't bring animals with me. And that's a decision to make with Mommy and Daddy.

'You don't look like the other Santa I saw'

Sometimes kids will come up and say, "You're different from the other Santa Claus I saw," and I'll say, "Well, that was one of my helpers," which is something I encourage all Santas to do.

You're the real Santa, and everybody else is your helper, so as to not cause confusion.

It's really a case-by-case basis, but I try to stay on the kids' level as much as I can.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This 32-year-old left his life and career behind to work remotely while traveling the world — and help others do the same


Charles Du

Charles Du left his career as an award-winning product manager in Los Angeles to travel the world.

But that doesn't mean he stopped working.

Now, the 32-year-old, who has designed apps for NASA and Ticketmaster, teaches other people how to follow in his footsteps. He's become a "digital nomad" who works everywhere from Portugal to Peru.

Through trial and error, Du has figured out how to make this unique lifestyle work for him. Here's how he does it: 

SEE ALSO: A woman who quit her job as an investment banker now earns just as much traveling the world on her own

Before committing to life as a digital nomad, Du experimented with working remotely.

First, he went to Costa Rica and Colombia, and then he made a separate trip to Chile.

"The first experiment failed," Du says. "I joined a surf camp in Costa Rica and did all this adventurous stuff in Colombia. I did a lot of playing but didn't get a lot of work done."

The second time around was much more successful after he found a coworking space in Chile. "Being surrounded by a community of people working helped him be more productive," he says. It gave him the confidence to take a longer trip.

Once he figured out how to work and travel at the same time, he signed up for a yearlong program to help him do it.

That yearlong program is Remote Year, which invites 75 professionals to work in 12 countries around the world. Du plans to continue traveling after it ends.

"I felt like I was plateauing," Du says. "But when I travel, I have these growth spurts. I wanted to travel for long periods in a sustainable way, and the answer was to create my own online business."

Du's passion for technology helps him adapt on the road.

Du considers himself a digital nomad. "I've always been an early adapter," he says.

He relies on video chatting, Slack, WhatsApp, and other tools to schedule meetings, stay organized, and keep in touch with clients.

"These tools help me communicate in ways there weren't possible just a few years ago."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

10 of the best American cities to live comfortably on $40,000 a year


Canon City, Colorado

Much of America's charm is predicated on small-town life. It's community-oriented, nostalgic, and generally more affordable than living in a big city.

In its October-November print issue, AARP The Magazine highlights 10 great hometowns for anyone on a modest budget of $40,000 a year. (See the shorter online version here).

To create the list, the magazine teamed up with Sperling's Best Places, which focuses on quality-of-life research, to determine a livability index, factoring in metrics on housing affordability, access to work and recreation, transportation, healthcare, and safety. Each city on the list has a score above the average livability index score of 50.

Read on to check out 10 US cities where life is robust and affordable.

DON'T MISS: 15 of the most fun American cities that are actually affordable

SEE ALSO: The 25 cities with the best quality of life in the US

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Livability index: 65

Population: 115,300

Median housing price: $127,300

Sunny days per year: 188

Just one hour north of Milwaukee, you'll find this distinctly Midwestern town on the shores of Lake Michigan at the opening of the Sheboygan River, the area's main draw and a hotspot for surfing and sailing. Residents laud Sheboygan's free and affordable events and activities, including the annual Brat Days festival, a celebration of the city's most famous culinary export.

Eugene, Oregon

Livability index: 59

Population: 358,300

Median housing price: $222,000

Sunny days per year: 155

Nestled in the lush Willamette Valley, Eugene has "carefully cultivated its image as an outdoor-lover's paradise," according to AARP The Magazine. Its high concentration of nature mavens — including the area's college students and retirees — frequent farmers markets, vineyards, hiking and biking trails, museums, and galleries.

Cleveland, Ohio

Livability index: 56

Population: 2 million

Median housing price: $124,000

Sunny days per year: 166

Situated on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland has experienced a cultural renaissance of late, led by growing populations of baby boomers and millennials alike. The city's robust art and music scene is complemented by lively nightlife and award-winning restaurants, not to mention a renewed excitement among NBA fans with the return of hometown hero LeBron James.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

What you get for $27.3 million in one of New York City’s most expensive buildings

What no man wants to receive for the holidays — and what to buy him instead

New York City's 11 best oyster happy hours


oysters maison premiere

Oysters are wonderful.

But they're even more wonderful when they're meaty, shucked properly, and just a buck.

And so, presented in no specific order, Business Insider's list of the best oyster happy hours in New York.

We tried to get a range of spots for connoisseurs and neophyte fans alike. Shoot us an email if we missed any of your favorites.

Upstate Beer & Oyster Bar

Deal: Six oysters and a beer for $12
Hours: 5-7 p.m. daily
Address: 95 1st Avenue, New York, NY

Upstate is the best of the best. It's a chill, intimate neighborhood gem with wide selection of oysters (both east and west coast) and local craft beers. The place just works — what more can we say?

Pro-Tip: Since Upstate's on the smaller side, it's tough to snag a spot. However, right around the corner is its also-wonderful sister spot, Edwin & Neal's, where you can get a variety $1 oysters and $5 drafts from 5-7 p.m. daily. We daresay it's almost as good as Upstate if you sit at the bar.

Maison Premiere

Deal: Oysters starting at $1.25
Hours: Monday to Friday 4-7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Address: 298 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Excellent oysters and New Orleans-esque cocktails are the main attractions at Maison Premiere, a Williamsburg bar with an old-world allure. For the particularly daring, they serve absinthe cocktails — which we highly, highly recommend.

The Mermaid Inn

Deal: $1 oysters, $5 beers
Hours: All night Monday; Tues-Fri 5-7 p.m.; Sat-Sun 4-7 p.m. 
Address: 96 Second Ave. and 568 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY

The nautical theme can look really kitschy really fast, but Mermaid Inn manages to get the ambiance just right. Seafood-wise, Mermaid Inn's secret sauce is consistency: everything's always pretty good. The oysters were smaller relative to other happy hours, but, hey, they were clean.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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5 tricks to avoid uncomfortable conversations this holiday


thanksgiving dinner eating talking

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, especially when it means getting together with family and friends you haven't seen in a while.

Despite even the best intentions, catching up on the latest goings-on in people's lives can take a turn for the worse when awkward topics come up.

From "When are you going to have kids?" and "Are you in a relationship yet?" to what will surely become classics this year, "Who did you vote for?" and "This country's going to hell in a handbasket!", certain topics should really remain off the table during this time together. But you try telling that to your 95-year-old grandma who says whatever she damn-well pleases.

If you're looking to keep things civil this holiday season, try these tips for navigating potentially awkward conversations:

1. Set some ground rules

"You can set expectations before the meal even begins by saying something like, 'It has been a really interesting year for everyone, and I would like to ask that we not talk politics. We all have a lot to catch up on and connect over,'" suggests Lizzie Post, co-author of several Emily Post etiquette books.

2. Try starting with popular topics

If you know that a healthy dialogue about controversial topics is not possible at your holiday celebration, avoid the hot-button issues and stick to more popular and socially acceptable topics like sports. You could try throwing out something general like, "How about them Cubs?" and see who bites.

"Do not invest your time in a discussion where there is no chance of being heard," Dr. Michael McNulty, a master trainer from The Gottman Institute and founder of the Chicago Relationship Center, tells Business Insider. "People have to be able to listen to and respect one another before a healthy dialogue can occur."

3. Redirect the conversation to something personal and positive

"If there are still contentious conversations happening, it's important to redirect, not correct, so everyone feels comfortable," Post says.

She recommends saying something like, "Sam, I'd love to get away from politics (or finances, religion, romantic drama, etc.) and hear about your vacation to Florida."

"By turning the conversation to more personal topics and encouraging discussion, you can be sure not to offend any of the guests while also maintaining a positive atmosphere at the table," Post says.

4. Be firm but polite

If you try to redirect the conversation a few times and it's not working, Post says it's completely appropriate for you to say with a smile and a friendly, firm tone, "We are finished talking about this at the table." And then once again, begin a new, positive conversation.

5. If debate is unavoidable, make it a dialogue

It's expected that families have diverse opinions, but if you have to keep talking about politics or other potentially contentious topics, it's best to change the debate into a dialogue in which everyone feels respected and understood, McNulty says.

"Dialogues are a way to understand and support one another, even when people have significantly different points of view," he explains.

To have a dialogue, McNulty suggests talking about your positions one at a time, telling the stories behind them that explain why they are important to you, and as you listen to others, summarizing and reflecting back what you are hearing.

"Do not attempt to changes people's minds. Show respect for each person. This is healthy for all involved," he says. "In fact, people who are able to dialogue feel more connected to the ones they love, even with their differences. Model this for younger generations."

SEE ALSO: What it's really like to be a professional Santa Claus

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A man who's played Santa for 13 years shares the 5 most annoying things he wishes parents would stop doing


Santa Jim Boston 8

After talking with professional Santa Claus Jim Manning about what the job entails, one thing becomes abundantly clear: you have to have a lot of patience to play Santa for a living.

Because, let's be honest — people can be pretty terrible, and you deal with a lot of people in this line of work.

"Anybody can put on a suit and become Santa, but most people shouldn't be Santa," Manning tells Business Insider. "You have to have a disposition for it, and you have to love kids. Not just the cute 4-year-olds who sit on your lap and give you a big smile, but you have to love the kid who's 2 years old and screaming and Mom looks like she's about to go nuts. You still have to love them and make sure they have a good experience."

But while dealing with screaming kids is one thing, Manning says, they're not the most challenging part of the job.

"With the exception of very, very few really challenging kids, the kids are never usually the tough part. The tough part is often the parents," Manning says. Here's why:

Parents often treat him like an inanimate object

Especially when their child is scared and they say, "Oh, don't you want to sit with Santa?" The fact that you're ignoring me doesn't help. The moms who talk to me and then talk to their child, their child is 10 times more likely to visit with me than a mom who treats me as an inanimate object and shoves them on my lap.

They tend to miss the point of visiting with Santa

Parents are also often so determined to get the photo that they miss the moment. Especially when a child's 3 or 4, those moments are gold. Give the phone or camera to somebody else and just watch your child. It's pretty darn sweet when they go from being scared of Santa to visiting with me to maybe even sitting on my knee.

Their impatience can ruin the moment

And I can't tell you how many times I've coaxed that child up to visit with me, and they're just about to sit on my lap on their own when Mom or Dad swoops in and says, "Take the picture. Other people are waiting." Other people can wait. And now the child starts crying and fighting me and it's just all sorts of bad.

They sometimes kill the joy

I'll read "The Night Before Christmas" and the kids are all listening, and the parents are all talking so loud that the kids can't hear the story. Seriously guys? For five minutes go play on your phones in the other room if you don't want be present for this.

And a select few get too handsy

Sometimes people feel it's appropriate to put their hands on Santa Claus — it's not. If you want to ask me if you can tug my beard you're very welcome to do so. If you're trying to do something that Mrs. Claus wouldn't like, then go visit another Santa who's OK with that kind of thing.

At the end of the day, Manning says Santa's role is to bring love and joy to everyone.

"To me, Santa Claus is so important. He brings toys, but it's bigger than that," Manning says. "Santa Claus reminds us to be kind to one another, he reminds us that it's love — that's the important thing, that we're showing love for each other and for our family and friends."

The best thing parents can do is let him do his job.

DON'T MISS: What it's really like to be a professional Santa Claus

SEE ALSO: Inside the school where men train to be the perfect Santa Claus

Join the conversation about this story »

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