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Visual Capitalist

Rethinking Portfolios: A Visual Guide to Direct Indexing



In today’s world of aggressive climate goals, awareness for the need to source commodities in a sustainable way has increased.

This infographic from Abaxx takes an introductory look at what commodity markets are, what drives revenue for commodity exchanges, and the need for a new set of contracts to deliver a more sustainable future.

The Evolution of Commodity Exchanges

From the simple gatherings of farmers to trade livestock to global contracts that trade the energy supplies of entire nations, commodity markets have evolved to deal with the changing demands of markets.

In the mid-19th century, commodity exchanges offered specialized contracts that resulted in less volume per exchange. The advent of the internet and digital platforms in the early 2000s increased the global reach of trading, increasing trading volumes.

While energy contracts dominate commodity exchanges, there are also metals and agricultural contracts that deliver the goods the world consumes. However, global economies take for granted the complex process that prices commodities, helping codify the terms of trade to facilitate a seemingly endless bounty of resources.

How Do Commodity Exchanges Work?

Exchanges facilitate discovery of the right price for commodities by providing a meeting place where buyers and sellers form a marketplace to trade and negotiate a price.

The price discovery process involves several market participants:

  • The producers who supply the commodities
  • The brokers who communicate with transport, shipping, and insurance to trade on behalf of clients
  • The industrial end-users who are individuals or manufacturers that require or consume a commodity

The activities of these market participants generate a consensus on price and establishes a benchmark for a particular commodity. It is the future contracts that codify the terms of trades and prices, creating trust and minimizing risk between producers and end-users.

What is a Futures Contract?

Exchanges provide the market with contracts to facilitate trades and market data. It is these contracts that form the basis for the revenue of commodity exchanges.

In 2020, the four major commodity trading groups, ICE, CME, HKEX and SGX, generated $14 billion in revenue. While there are many types of contracts that cover the variety of commodities from metals to crops, typically only a handful of contracts account for the bulk of trading and revenue.

According to data compiled from the Futures Industry Association (FIA), in energy, metals and precious markets markets, the top 10 contracts account for 79.8%, 90.9% and 96% of the markets, respectively.

Markedly, this pattern makes contracts very valuable and a key driver of revenue for commodity exchanges. However, the commodity exchanges have yet to deliver specific contracts that can meet the demands for the specific materials and issues in the green energy transition.

Futures Contracts for the New Energy Era

The materials used to fuel economies are rapidly changing in order to create a more sustainable world. However, cleaner fuels such as LNG (liquified natural gas) do not have the history of established contracts and trust despite the rising demand.

Emerging markets in South Asia and India present the greatest opportunity for LNG adoption to provide clean burning fuel for a growing population.

The Abaxx Exchange is developing a LNG futures contract that will set the standard for this new market with new technology to better manage risks, execute trades, while embedding ESG concerns into global supply chains.

LNG is just the beginning—the world will need codified contracts to deliver the materials of the green energy revolution and Abaxx is leading the way.

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Visual Capitalist

12 Ways to Get Smarter in One Infographic



View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

The level of a person’s raw intelligence, as measured by aptitude tests such as IQ scores, is generally stable for most people during the course of their adulthood.

While it’s true that there are things you can do to fine tune your natural capabilities, such as doing brain exercises, solving puzzles, and getting optimal sleep—the amount of raw brainpower you have is difficult to increase in any meaningful or permanent way.

For those of us who constantly strive to be high-performers in our fields, this seems like bad news. If we can’t increase our processing power, then how can we solve life’s bigger problems as we move up the ladder?

The Key: Mental Models

The good news is that while raw cognitive abilities matter, it’s how you use and harness those abilities that really makes the difference.

The world’s most successful people, from Ray Dalio to Warren Buffett, are not necessarily leagues above the rest of us in raw intelligence—instead, they simply develop and learn to apply better mental models of how the world works, and they use these principles to filter their thoughts, decisions, strategies, and execution.

This infographic comes from best-selling author and entrepreneur Michael Simmons, who has collected over 650 mental models through his work. The infographic, in a similar style to one we previously published on cognitive biases, synthesizes these models down to the most useful and universal mental models that people should learn to master first.

Concepts such as the 80/20 rule (Pareto’s principle), compound interest, and network building are summarized in the visualization, and their major components are broken down further within the circle.

Mental Model Examples

Example #1: Pareto’s Principle (80/20 Rule for Prioritization)

In a recent Medium post by Simmons, he highlights a well-known mental model that is the perfect bread crumb to start with.

The 80/20 rule (Pareto’s principle) is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who was likely the first person to note the 80/20 connection in an 1896 paper.

In short, it shows that 20% of inputs (work, time, effort) often leads to 80% of outputs (performance, sales, revenue, etc.), creating an extremely vivid mental framework for making prioritization decisions.

80-20 law Pareto's principle

The 80/20 rule represents a power law distribution that has been empirically shown to exist throughout nature, and it also has huge implications on business.

If you focus your effort on these 20% of tasks first, and get the most out of them, you will be able to drive results much more efficiently than wasting time on the 80% “long-tail” shown below.

Power law distribution

Example #2: Metcalfe’s Law (Network Building)

Metcalfe’s Law is one of network effects, stating that a network’s value is proportional to the square of the number of nodes in the network.

From a mental model perspective, this is a useful way to understand how certain types of technology-driven businesses derive value.

If you have a smart grid that is only connected to one power source, that’s alright—but one connected to many different energy sources and potential consumers is much more useful for everyone on the grid. Each additional node provides value for the rest of the connections.

Metcalfe's Law illustrated

This mental model can be applied outside of strict technology or business terms as well.

For example, if you build a personal network of connections, each additional relationship can provide more value to the other people in your network. It’s the same principle that Harvard or other prestigious universities operate on: the more value a student can get from the alumni network, the higher price they can charge for tuition.

It’s hard to compete with a fully formed network at scale, as they create massive economic moats for the owner. Modern social networks and messaging apps like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, WhatsApp, and Snapchat all operate with this in mind.

The Power of Mental Models

These are just two examples of how powerful mental models can be effective in making you think clearer and work smarter.

If you want to be a top performer, it’s worth looking into other mental models out there as well. They can help you better frame reality, so that you can harness your intelligence and effort in the most effective way possible—and it’ll allow you to deliver results along the way.

This post was first published in 2018. We have since updated it, adding in new content for 2021.

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Visual Capitalist

Tax-to-GDP Ratio: Comparing Tax Systems Around the World



Taxes are an important source of revenue for most countries. In fact, taxes provide around 50% or more of government funds in almost every country in the world.

How does each country’s tax system compare to one another? This question is tricky to answer. Since countries’ populations and economies differ greatly, measuring total tax revenue is not the best way to compare international tax systems.

Instead, using a tax-to-GDP ratio is one of the more useful ways to compare tax systems around the world.

What is the Tax-to-GDP Ratio?

The tax-to-GDP ratio compares a country’s tax revenue to the size of its economy, which in this case is measured by its GDP.

The higher the ratio, the higher the proportion of money that goes to government coffers. If managed effectively, this can support the long-term health and prosperity of an economy. According to research conducted by the International Monetary Fund, countries should have a tax-to-GDP ratio of at least 12% in order to experience accelerated economic growth.

The countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) all meet that threshold, with an average tax-to-GDP ratio of 33.8%.

Ranked: The Tax-to-GDP Ratios of OECD countries

The dataset used for this graphic looks at 35 of the 37 OECD countries, since recent data for Australia and Japan was not available.

Rank Country Tax Revenue as % of GDP
1 🇩🇰 Denmark 46.3%
2 🇫🇷 France 45.4%
3 🇧🇪 Belgium 42.9%
4 🇸🇪 Sweden 42.9%
5 🇦🇹 Austria 42.4%
6 🇮🇹 Italy 42.4%
7 🇫🇮 Finland 42.2%
8 🇳🇴 Norway 39.9%
9 🇳🇱 Netherlands 39.3%
10 🇱🇺 Luxembourg 39.2%
11 🇩🇪 Germany 38.8%
12 🇬🇷 Greece 38.7%
13 🇸🇮 Slovenia 37.7%
14 🇮🇸 Iceland 36.1%
15 🇭🇺 Hungary 35.8%
16 🇵🇱 Poland 35.4%
17 🇨🇿 Czech Republic 34.9%
18 🇵🇹 Portugal 34.8%
19 🇸🇰 Slovak Republic 34.7%
20 🇪🇸 Spain 34.6%
21 🇨🇦 Canada 33.5%
22 🇪🇪 Estonia 33.1%
23 🇬🇧 United Kingdom 33.0%
24 🇳🇿 New Zealand 32.3%
25 🇱🇻 Latvia 31.2%
26 🇮🇱 Israel 30.5%
27 🇱🇹 Lithuania 30.3%
28 🇨🇭 Switzerland 28.5%
29 🇰🇷 South Korea 27.4%
30 🇺🇸 United States 24.5%
31 🇹🇷 Turkey 23.1%
32 🇮🇪 Ireland 22.7%
33 🇨🇱 Chile 20.7%
34 🇨🇴 Colombia 19.7%
35 🇲🇽 Mexico 16.5%
OECD Average 33.8%

At 46.3%, Denmark has the highest ratio on the list. The country puts its relatively high tax revenue to use, particularly when it comes to subsidizing post-secondary education—in Denmark, university is free for all EU citizens.

On the less-taxed end of the spectrum, the U.S. ranks 30 out of 35, with a ratio of 24.5%—that’s notably lower than the OECD average of 33.8%. It’s also worth mentioning that the U.S. has one of the highest GDP per capita measures out of all OECD countries.

Where does America’s tax revenue come from? It gains most of its revenue from the personal income tax. In fact, 41% of the country’s total tax revenue comes from taxes on personal income, as well as individual profits and gains—for context, the OECD average is 24%.

With President Biden’s recent announcement to increase corporate taxes and personal investment gains, America’s ratio could look a lot different in the near future.

>>Like this? You might find this article interesting, Unequal State Tax Burdens Across America

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Visual Capitalist

1.6 Billion Disposable Masks Entered Our Oceans in 2020



The Briefing

  • 52 billion disposable face masks were produced in 2020 (this includes N95 respirators and surgical masks)
  • It’s estimated that 1.6 billion of these masks ended up in our oceans
  • This equates to roughly 5,500 tons of plastic pollution

Demand for Disposable Masks Skyrockets in 2020

Following the World Health Organization’s formal declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world quickly mandated the use of face masks in public spaces.

This led to a massive demand shock, prompting factories to begin producing disposable masks at full capacity. The majority of these masks were produced in China, and in April 2020, the country reported a staggering daily production figure of 450 million masks.

Plastic Pollution: A Lesser Known Side Effect

In Ocean Asia’s 2020 report, Masks on the Beach, researchers developed a formula to provide reasonable estimates for the number of disposable masks entering the environment.

Given an annual production figure of 52 billion disposable masks and a loss rate of 3% (the percentage of masks that escape water management systems), the team concluded that nearly 1.6 billion face masks wound up in our oceans in 2020. This amounts to approximately 5,500 tons of plastic pollution.

These masks are commonly made of polypropylene, which easily breaks up into microplastics. While the effects of microplastics on human health are not yet determined, these fragments are incredibly common in our water supply—for example, 94% of U.S. tap water is deemed to be contaminated.

Disposable Doesn’t Mean They’re Gone

Despite their single-use nature, disposable masks are expected to take more than four centuries to decompose while in the ocean. Here’s how this compares to other items we use on a day-to-day basis.

Item Years Needed to Biodegrade
Disposable masks 450
Disposable diaper 450
Plastic bottle 450
Aluminum can 200
Styrofoam cup 50
Plastic grocery bag 20
Cigarette butt 10

The pandemic has extended well into 2021, and the number of disposable masks polluting our oceans is likely to continue growing.

With this in mind, various companies and organizations are beginning to search for a solution. One noteworthy example is Plaxtil, which is developing a method for recycling surgical masks so that the raw materials can be used for other products.

»Like this? Then you might enjoy this infographic on the flow of plastic waste.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Visual Capitalist

Ranked: The Reputation of 100 Major Brands in the U.S.



View the full size version of this infographic by clicking here

Media consumption spiked in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak as Americans actively sought information and entertainment while at home. Whether this changed over the course of 2020 remains unclear, however.

To dive deeper into the issue, this infographic explores each generation’s shifts in media consumption habits as the pandemic wore on.

Further below, we’ll also examine which media sources Americans deemed to be the most trustworthy, and why consumption habits may have changed for good.

Changes in American Media Consumption, by Generation

The data in this infographic comes from two surveys conducted by Global Web Index (GWI). The first was completed in April 2020 (N=2,337) and asked participants a series of questions regarding media consumption during COVID-19.

To see how consumption had changed by the end of the year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned GWI to complete a follow-up survey in December 2020 (N=2,014). The following tables provide a summary of the results.

Gen Z

Unsurprisingly, a significant percentage of Gen Z reported an increase in digital media consumption in April 2020 in comparison to pre-pandemic habits. This bump was driven by higher use of online videos, video games, and online TV/streaming films.

By December 2020, these media categories became even more popular with this cohort. Most notably, podcasts saw the highest increase, jumping almost 15% by the end of the year.

Category April 2020 December 2020 Change (percentage points)
Podcasts 10.9% 25.8% +14.9%
Video Games 29.9% 42.1% +12.2%
Music Streaming 28.0% 34.6% +6.6%
Broadcast TV 24.1% 17.0% -7.1%
Online TV / streaming films 36.8% 39% +2.2%
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.) 51.4% 59.1% +7.7%
Livestreams 17.4% 19.5% +2.1%
Books / literature 17.1% 20.1% +3.0%
Online Press 19.9% 17.0% -2.9%
Physical Press 8.9% 6.3% -2.6%
Radio 17.8% 10.7% -7.1%
None 9.0% 13.8% +4.8%

The popularity of traditional outlets like broadcast TV and radio declined from their April 2020 highs, though they are still up relative to pre-pandemic levels for Gen Z survey respondents.


Results from the December 2020 survey show that Millennials trimmed their media consumption from earlier in the year. This was most apparent in news outlets (online and physical press), which saw double digit declines in popularity relative to April.

Category April 2020 December 2020 Change (percentage points)
Podcasts 20.9% 26.3% +5.4%
Video Games 32.1% 29.6% -2.5%
Music Streaming 37.4% 30.2% -7.2%
Broadcast TV 35.7% 24.6% -11.1
Online TV / streaming films 42.2% 39.2% -3.0
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.) 44.9% 42.5% -2.4%
Livestreams 32.9% 15.6% -17.3%
Books / literature 20.4% 24% +3.6%
Online Press 37.0% 16.5% -20.5%
Physical Press 20.3% 8.0% -12.3%
Radio 27.2% 17.9% -9.3%
None 9.1% 20.3% +11.2%

Books and podcasts were the only two categories to capture more interest from Millennials over the time period. It’s also worth noting that the percentage of respondents who said “none” for media consumption rose to 20.3%, up significantly from 9.1% in April.

Possible factors for the increase in “none” responses include easing government restrictions and a return to more normal work schedules.

Gen X

The media consumption habits of Gen X developed similarly to Millennials over the year.

Category April 2020 December 2020 Change (percentage points)
Podcasts 11.1% 13.3% +2.2%
Video Games 20.4% 16.8% -3.6%
Music Streaming 29.6% 21.7% -7.9%
Broadcast TV 46.4% 29.8% -16.6%
Online TV / streaming films 40.8% 29.9% -10.9%
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.) 38.5% 23.6% -14.9%
Livestreams 23.4% 8.4% -15.0%
Books / literature 22.2% 22.6% +0.4%
Online Press 32.7% 14.3% -18.4%
Physical Press 7.6% 4.6% -3.0%
Radio 23.5% 16.6% -6.9%
None 16.0% 28.9% +12.9%

Broadcast TV and online press saw the largest declines over the time period, while once again, podcasts and books were the only two categories to capture more interest relative to April. The percentage of respondents reporting “none” rose to 28.9%—a slightly higher share than that of Millennials.


Media consumption trends among Baby Boomers were mixed, with some categories increasing and others decreasing since April. Broadcast TV saw the biggest decline in usage of all media types, but remained the most popular category for this cohort.

Category April 2020 December 2020 Change (percentage points)
Podcasts 4.4% 7.9% +3.5%
Video Games 10.5% 9.5% -1.0%
Music Streaming 13.7% 14.4% +0.7%
Broadcast TV 42.3% 36.7% -5.6%
Online TV / streaming films 22.5% 22.0% -0.5%
Online videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.) 11.6% 18.2% +6.6%
Livestreams 8.8% 6.5% -2.3%
Books / literature 13.7% 17.4% +3.7%
Online Press 13.8% 11.4% -2.4%
Physical Press 7.1% 4.6% -2.5%
Radio 15.3% 15.5% +0.2%
None 23.0% 31.0% +8.0%

Boomers also had the largest share of “none” respondents in both studies (23.0% in April and 31.0% in December).

Where do Americans Go For Trustworthy News?

To learn more about American media consumption—particularly when it came to staying updated on the pandemic—survey respondents were asked to confirm which of the following sources they found trustworthy.

Knight Foundation Trustworthy Sources

The deviations between each generation don’t appear to be too drastic, but there are some key takeaways from this data.

For starters, Gen Z appears to be more skeptical of mainstream news channels like CNN, with only 28.9% believing them to be trustworthy. This contrasts the most with Gen X, which saw 40.1% of its respondents give news channels the thumbs up.

This story is flipped when we turn to the World Health Organization (WHO). Gen Z demonstrated the highest levels of trust in information published by WHO, at 50.3% of respondents. Only 39.0% of Gen X could say the same.

By far the least trustworthy source was foreign governments’ websites. This category had the lowest average approval rating across the four generations, and scored especially poor with Boomers.

The Lasting Effects of the Pandemic

Habits that were picked up during 2020 are likely to linger, even as life finally returns to normal. To find out what’s changed, respondents were asked which categories of media they expected to continue consuming in elevated amounts.

The chart below shows each generation’s top three responses.

media consumption after COVID

Note that the top three for both Gen Z and Millennials are all digital and online categories (video games can be played offline, but the majority of popular titles are online). This contrasts with the preferences of Gen X and Boomers, who appear to be sticking with more traditional outlets in broadcast TV and books.

With consumption habits of younger and older Americans moving in opposite directions, advertisers and media companies will likely need a clear understanding of their target audiences in order to be successful.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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