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Investing is an essential aspect for growing any kind of significant wealth throughout one’s life. The meaning of ‘wealth’ here is relative to each individual, and their personal financial goals. Some people have plenty of money to invest, and know exactly how to build a successful investment strategy. Others, however, feel like they don’t make enough to invest or aren’t informed enough to invest successfully over time. The good news for those who feel this way is that there are now apps to help with both of these investing concerns! We will highlight some of our favorites below to help you find the one that fits your personal situation best.

Acorns

Acorns is the perfect concept for those who feel they just don’t have enough money to invest in the market. They have an automated investing feature called Round-Ups that invests money for you automatically. Every time you use your credit card, Acorns will round up to the nearest dollar and invest the difference into your account! This makes investing seamless and pain free for you because you will hardly notice it is happening. They offer various investing options, and have low monthly fees ($1, $2, and $3 monthly). Once your account grows and surpasses the $5,000 mark there is simply a flat fee of 0.25% per year. To help even further, Acorns offers free services for college students with valid .edu email addresses. They offer free services for up to 4 years.

Stash

Stash is another investment app that is built for those who feel they don’t have enough to invest. With monthly fees as little as $1 per month for the beginner package, you can learn the proper investment strategies for a small fee. Combine that with the fact you only need $5 to open your account and begin investing, this is affordable for any budget. Similar to Acorns, once your account grows beyond $5,000 they charge the same 0.25% annual fee.

Robinhood

Robinhood is an investment platform for those who already have a decent handle on how to invest. The benefit here is they have zero-fee transactions. Most trading platforms will charge anywhere from $2-7 per transaction. That means if you have a smaller trading account and you trade frequently, these fees can start adding up over time. Don’t forget that these fees are based on each transaction, and each trade has 2 transactions. That could add up to $14 per trade ($7 for buying then $7 for selling). Robinhood has been a growing company and now offers a wide variety of investment options, now including Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Webull

Webull is very similar to Robinhood, offering no-fee investing. They offer account opening fees of $0, account management fees of $0, and trade commissions of $0. Certain investment options within their platform will come with fees from the SEC and FINRA, which are unavoidable on any trading platform. These fees can range from $0.01-5.95 per transaction. They have a wide variety of investment options and investing tools to help you make more informed decisions with your hard earned money.

Betterment

Betterment builds a personalized portfolio and uses algorithms to automatically invest for you. These algorithms are also constantly rebalancing your portfolio for you. This is as hands-off as active investing gets since everything is automated. They offer low-fee investing plans, with their digital plan having a 0.25% fixed annual fee. There is no minimum deposit for the digital plan. Potentially the biggest benefit Betterment offers is their automated tax-loss harvesting strategies. They constantly rebalance the portfolio to minimize the impact of taxes as best as possible. Betterment also offers their own high-yield savings account, offering up to 2.38% interest with Betterment Everyday.

Wealthfront

Wealthfront is similar to Betterment by offering automated investing using algorithms to invest for you. They also programmed similar tax-loss harvesting tactics into their algorithms to minimize the blow from taxes related to investing. Wealthfront gets its edge over competitors by offering no fees on managing up to $10,000! Above this threshold, they charge a flat 0.25% management fee. Additionally, they offer a variety of specific investment plans/services for some of life’s big dollar items. They have a college tuitions savings account offering for parents and retirement planning accounts. They have some unique software services as well that provide home-buying advice to help you with the stressful task of buying a home. Wanting to take a sebatacle to travel the world, but not sure how long you can conservatively cut loose for? They have a software program that evaluates your full financial picture and helps you plan the trip of a lifetime. Take a look, you may discover you can take off far more time than you thought and still be in good financial health!

The world has undoubtedly become more accessible and connected, often leaving families living far apart. This can add a layer of financial stress, especially when the holiday season rolls around. Two of the biggest family gathering holidays fall in consecutive months. So, how can you avoid blowing the budget you’ve been diligently following all year in the final two months? There are a number of travel apps available today that can help save money on each trip! Sure, we’ve all heard of the mainstream apps and services like Kayak, Orbitz, and Airbnb. Here are some lesser known apps that can have a major impact on your travel expenses this year.

Hopper

Hopper is one of my personal favorites, and can save you hundreds on any flight you need to book. Simply input the airports you’re flying to/from and the dates and let Hopper do the rest! They will pull all flight options for your trip and will use historical flight data and current airline pricing models to predict the future price of your flight. If now is your best time, they will advise you pull the trigger ASAP before the price increases any further. If you input your travel plans far enough in advance, it’s likely they will predict a better price for you in the future. Not only will they predict a lower price, they will tell you have much they expect the price to drop, AND when they predict prices will drop. You can also “watch” your flight and they will send you notifications when predictions change, or the price has dropped. What more could you ask for?!

HotelTonight

HotelTonight separates itself from the Kayaks and Orbitz style booking sites by catering to last minute bookings. They post discounted room rates at a wide variety of hotels with open rooms that might otherwise go unsold. They work with everyone from basic cookie-cutter hotel chains to upscale luxury hotels and anything in between. Want to pack up the car and just go, leaving the rest to be figured out upon arrival? Want to live the ritzy life at a luxury hotel with all the amenities for half the price? No matter how you like to travel HotelTonight has what you’re looking for in just a few clicks.

Turo

We all know Airbnb by now, right? Well, Turo is an app that uses the same concept, except for rental cars. Wherever you’re headed, local car owners will rent out their car to you through Turo. You can find anything from a Honda Accord to a Porsche Cayenne to get around town in. Even better, for an additional fee, the owner will bring the car right to you! Schedule your car ahead of time and have them waiting for you at the airport upon arrival to avoid the big name rental companies and save money.

GetAround

To rent a car or not to rent a car? This is a common discussion travelers make when planning and budgeting their next trip. Maybe you’re headed to the beach for the week, but also need to stock the house with groceries. You don’t want to rent a car for the day or week just to run a couple of errands and let it sit the rest of the time. What a waste of money! GetAround has your back with short-term car rentals. They offer hourly rentals, some for as little as $5 per hour, to get what you need done and return the vehicle immediately after. This is an easy way to save money on your next trip, while still making sure you can get all the essentials needed to make it great.

GasBuddy

The name is probably self-explanatory here, as this app does exactly what the name suggests: saves you money at the pump. GasBuddy will use your current location to pull all the gas stations and prices in your area. This saves you from ever even considering driving another mile down the road in hopes that the next station has the cheaper option. They also offer 5₵/gallon off if you use the free Pay with GasBuddy card. They also offer GasBack perks when you use the card to help squeeze out a bit more savings at the pump. The app will also alert you if a price hike is expected, so you can fill up at a discounted price before it hits. None of this will save you enough to buy a house in the Hamptons, but hey every little bit counts. Plus, if you’re in an unfamiliar area and need to find pumps in your area, why not pay as little as possible!

We’ve all been there, the weekend is rolling around and plans are being made rapidly in your group text. Before you’ve even had the chance to respond, plans have been made on your behalf; dinner and drinks at an upscale tapas restaurant that just opened. You know you can’t afford to spend that much money, but everyone knows that it’s taboo to talk finances with friends. Not to mention the well-intended, but anxiety inducing, guilt trip that is likely to follow if you try to address it.

Your friends just want to spend time with you, but can’t relate to your financial situation.

There are many reasons why you and your social circle might be on different pages when it comes to spending money. Maybe you’re a diligent saver who’s happy to spend money having fun, but only in a fixed amount that you carefully calculated. Maybe your friends are deferring their days of saving money for some future version of themselves (strongly not recommended). Or maybe there is a large financial gap when it comes to salaries among your friend group.

Whatever the reason may be, these can be tricky waters to navigate. You don’t want to be the one always turning down a good time, especially when you can’t communicate your reasons successfully. So what can you do to keep your friendships alive while also sticking to your budget?

Know Your Limit

Start out with a simple exercise to calculate just how much discretionary income you have each month. Discretionary income is simply how much money you have left each month after accounting for all necessities (food, expenses, housing, utilities, savings, etc.) and taxes. Let’s say you bring in $3,000/month after taxes.

You’re a diligent saver, so you stash away 30% ($900), and the rest of your expenses total $1,350 per month. This leaves you with $750 in discretionary income. This is the money you have to work with and delegate where you’d like to spend it.  It is important to know this number, because without it you’re just swiping your credit card and hoping the math works out at the end of each month. Not a great approach.

The number you calculate might be eye opening for you (in either direction) and that’s OK! If it’s much less than you expected, now is the time to do something about it rather than months or years down the road when the problem is too far out of hand. If it’s much higher than expected, go buy yourself something nice and enjoy it!

For most people, the problem comes from the former not the latter. If that’s the case for you, the second step of this process is to identify areas where you can cut spending.

Cutting out the Fat

If your discretionary income was shockingly low compared to what you thought you could spend each month, you may need to make some cuts. You want to make cuts that are sustainable, so you need to strategize and cut selectively. In order to take this step, start by ranking your financial priorities in order of their importance to you.

Be sure to assign a rough dollar amount to each ranking. By organizing your finances this way, you can start evaluating where there might be room for cuts in the items you value least.

You want to avoid making cuts on your highest priority items, because those will be the hardest to stick with. Unless your list exposed some low-hanging fruit at the top that can be eliminated, your focus should remain further down the ranks.

For example, maybe streaming services are at the top of your priority list and you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify, totaling $40 each month. Could you sacrifice the paid version of Spotify and save $10/month? Maybe you have both Hulu and Netflix, but 90% of your time is spent watching Netflix? In either scenario, you have to decide for yourself if you can eliminate a bit of redundancy and save $10/month.

Make sure to spend some time with the bottom half of your list, and really dig in to see where you can uncover some extra cash. As you evaluate each item, ask yourself “Is this something I really need to be spending money on every month?” Not every item will be a ‘must-have’ for your situation.

Some of the items on your list will be scalable, meaning you can tamper down how much you spend on them each month instead of eliminating them entirely (coffee is a great example of this). You might uncover areas where you can bundle and save (did you know Spotify Premium comes with a Hulu subscription yet most people pay for both?).

This method is the quickest and most effective approach to help you stay with your monthly budget. However, if you’re not willing to sacrifice enough in your current spending habits, keep reading because the next section might have the answer you’re looking for.

Supplemental Income Generation

Now that you’ve calculated your discretionary income and ranked your financial preferences, maybe you’ve discovered you need to make more money to have the life you want. Many people write this idea off from the start, but the reality is there are plenty of options out there to bring in some extra cash. How much supplemental income you need will determine what options are available.

If your preferred additional income is minimal, you can find ways to bring in a few extra dollars by optimizing your savings account. High interest savings accounts are the quickest way to earn a few hundred extra dollars per year.

That doesn’t sound like much, but it can cover the aforementioned subscription services so that you can stream your music and TV guilt-free. These savings accounts are worth looking into, even if your needs are larger. They can be a very powerful financial tool over the long haul of your financial journey.

Have you calculated that you need a rather substantial source of additional income? One approach that is becoming more popular by the minute is the concept of creating a side hustle. The beauty of side hustles is that they are extremely flexible and that they have the ability to scale your return on investment depending on how much time you’re willing to dedicate.

Now, there will often be a tradeoff of time invested vs. money made, but business ideas are everywhere you look. Something as simple as charging those electric scooters that almost run you over on the sidewalk everyday might bring in a couple hundred dollars a month. BOOM, bring on the bottomless mimosa Sunday brunch ritual with friends.

Become the Planner

An alternative approach you can take to keep your current spending habits is to become the planner of your friend group. If you take this route, you can have a little more say in the amount of money being spent on your social gatherings.

This gives you the power to promote cheaper (sometimes even free) ideas for your night out. Get creative with your ideas; you will need to tailor them to fit the typical activities of your group in order for them to stick. Below are some ideas to help get you started:

  • Find the best local happy hours
  • Free/discounted local events (street festivals, tailgating events, etc.)
  • BYOB ‘Game night’ at home
  • BBQ and bonfire
  • Hiking

Struggling to stick with a budget is something that almost everyone has to deal with. Hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how you can maintain your current social life while also staying on pace financially.

One final piece of advice, always get that drink order in before happy hour ends!

How to Save $30,000 on Your Mortgage with Zero Extra Effort

Would you believe us if we told you that 10 minutes of your time could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars on your mortgage? How about if we said those same 10 minutes could help you pay off your mortgage years earlier than anticipated?

There are no catches, gimmicks, or extra income required! Just a simple switch in the way you pay your mortgage every month. Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s get right down to it.

The Simple Strategy

If you’re like most, you pay your mortgage in full each month sometime around the due date. The strategy we will outline here is a simple switch that will allow you to pay your mortgage bi-weekly, instead of once per month.

This spectacularly simple trick could save you tens of thousands in interest payments and shave years off your mortgage. Real life examples below.

If your employer pays you bi-weekly, this will be as simple as setting up an auto-pay plan with your bank to pull half of your monthly mortgage payment from each paycheck. If you’re not paid bi-weekly, you can still set up bi-weekly auto-pay payments; just be sure that you have enough in your account upfront to avoid over-drafting your account.

There is only one CRITICAL rule you need to follow: The first month that you make the switch, make sure you pay in full and on time!

The Math

There’s no magic in this process, it’s simply math. Not the kind that asks you to find the area of a rhombus you could never figure out in school. The cool kind of math that means you’ll save a boatload of money! There are two main ‘behind the scenes’ things happening mathematically when you make the change to bi-weekly payments.

The first is simple. There are 52 weeks in a year, so paying bi-weekly results in 26 payments over the course of a year. This essentially results in making 13 monthly payments per year, instead of 12 payments.

That one additional payment goes entirely towards the principle balance of your mortgage. While this alone may not seem like it can make that much of a difference, over the course of a couple decades, it can truly make a huge impact (see figure 1 below for specifics).

Let’s take a quick look at the impact this strategy has on the principal balance of a real-life mortgage at the end of each year over the first 10 years. We’ll use a 30-year fixed rate mortgage on a $250,000 home.  Let’s assume the mortgage has an interest rate of 3.93% (which is the current average interest rate in 2019).

*Chart created using this Bankrate Mortgage Calculator

Part of the beauty behind this strategy is that you end up paying more over the course of a year, without feeling the impact month-to-month. It will still feel just like you’re paying as much as you were previously, just with two payments each month instead of one.

Going a Step Further

There’s one other mathematical calculation to be considered but it will only impact some homeowners, as certain mortgages accrue interest on a daily basis. If you have a mortgage that is structured this way, making this change will be even more significant in your long term results.

The reasoning behind this is that each month you essentially end up paying half of your mortgage two weeks earlier than you normally would have. That leads to 14 days where you will accrue interest on a lower balance than they would if you paid monthly. Again, repeating this process over the course of a couple decades REALLY adds up.

“How much” you ask? Let’s look at another real-life example.

Again, we’ll use the same 30-year fixed rate mortgage on a $250,000 home just as we did in the example above. Take a look at how staggering these results are:

*Chart created by author using this Bankrate Mortgage Calculator

In this case, this simple trick saves the homeowner $28,310.81 and shaves 5 years off the mortgage! That’s a savings of more than 10% of the total value of the home! We don’t say this lightly when we say this simple trick really is a game changer in your debt management.

This one simple trick saves homeowners over $28,000 on a $250,000 purchase!

One other point worth highlighting from this scenario is the amount of interest customers pay on a typical mortgage. Breaking the numbers down this way, you can see you’re paying well over 50% of the price of the home in interest on a typical mortgage.

This is why we stress the importance of understanding and managing your credit score. A solid credit score could result in a lower interest rate on your mortgage, thus significantly lowering the amount of interest paid. For more information and tips on how to manage your credit score, check out our article Understanding Your Credit Score.

Medical expenses continue to be one of the biggest expenses during the golden years of retirement. In fact, the average couple aged 65 in 2019 will spend $285,000 on medical expenses during retirement, according to a Fidelity Investments study. Even if you’re well above average when it comes to personal finances, this number can be shocking and intimidating. You’ve likely heard all the generic financial planning advice: max out your 401k, open a Roth IRA, contribute to personal savings regularly, etc. The purpose of this article is to introduce another layer you can add to your personal finance portfolio to obtain your long-term retirement goals. More specifically, planning to save the necessary funds to cover your medical expenses. The method we will introduce here is investing your HSA funds.

In fact, the average couple aged 65 in 2019 will spend $285,000 on medical expenses during retirement…

What is an HSA?

Let’s start with the basics, an HSA is a Health Savings Account. It is an account that allows you to save for both short and long-term medical expenses, as well as reduce your current years’ taxable income (more on that later). The first step is determining if you’re eligible for an HSA. To be eligible you must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be enrolled in a qualified HDHP (high-deductible health plan)
  • Not be enrolled in Medicare
  • Not be claimed as a dependent on another’s tax return

Now that you can verify if you’re qualified, let’s move on to step 2, opening your own HSA. Most health insurance providers offer an HSA plan through their services. If yours doesn’t, however, you can open one with any healthcare provider that does. Check with your employer or current health insurance provider to open your account today. Once enrolled, the third step is funding your HSA. Just like your 401k, the IRS has contribution limits for HSA plans. Each year you can contribute a maximum of $3,500 for an individual plan, or $7,000 for a family plan. If you’re 55 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000 in “catch up” funds annually. Make sure you set your contributions at each health insurance open enrollment period.

We’ll cover the fourth, and least known, step in detail in the next section.

Investing Your HSA Funds

The average life expectancy continues to rise as us humans continue to make medical advancements, and make our lives safer in general. A boy born today has a life expectancy of 88.8 years. Compare this to a 65 year old man born on the same date and entering retirement with a life expectancy of 85.5 years (using the Social Security Administration Life Expectancy calculator). That may not sound like much, but that’s an additional 3+ years of expenses that need to be planned for! So how do you bridge this ever-increasing gap? Investing your available HSA funds is a lesser-known trick that can certainly get you over the hump.

HSA plan providers will allow you to invest most of your funds into a variety of options. The options available to you will be determined by the provider you use. If you are searching for your own HSA plan, and available investment options are important to you, make sure you do some upfront research before selecting a plan. Some of these plans can be very limited in the number of available investments. The trick here is to keep your investment selection simple. The goal with HSA investing is simply to grow your account more than it would sitting there earning nothing. We recommend you choose something with a modest average annual return with low risk. Even if it ends up averaging a measly 3% annually over your lifetime, that still adds up to a nice buffer come retirement.

Here’s what that “measly” 3% would look like, if you contribute and invest $2,500 annually ($2,500 was chosen to assume a single person plan, maxing out your contribution, and using $1,000 annually for medical expenses):

Like we said, this strategy can more than bridge the medical expense gap we mentioned earlier!

Triple Tax Advantage

As eluded to earlier, HSA accounts have some of the best tax benefits you can find. Not only will your annual contributions reduce your taxable income each year, but they also won’t be taxed on the way into your account. Additionally, you will experience tax-free growth on the money you make through your HSA account. Cue the infomercial because WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Your funds are not taxed on the way out when you use them for approved medical expenses either! The only catch here (because there’s always a catch) is that funds MUST be used for approved medical expenses. Check out this list of all HSA approved medical expenses, some may surprise you!

Still not convinced you should open an HSA and invest your funds? Well, here’s your cherry on top: once you turn 65, this HSA essentially operates as an IRA. You can used the funds you have stashed away for anything you’d like, however, you WILL be taxed for using any funds on non-medical expenses. If you’ve been paying attention and following along, you’ll see that we’ve essentially uncovered a loophole into the maximum annual contributions of an IRA for you. We’ve found a way to boost our contribution limits by an additional $3,500 or $7,000 annually ($4,500 or $8,000 for those 55 and over)!


One of the most important factors when it comes to your personal financial well-being is your credit score. Most people have a general knowledge of what their score is, but very few actually know how their score affects them on an individual basis. We’re here to change that.

From how your score is calculated to how a 100-point difference in score can lead to a $70,000 difference in interest payments, we believe it’s vital for every person to know as much as they can about the topic. This article aims help simplify all aspects of the credit score game so that you can take the necessary steps towards improving your overall financial health. 

How Important is Your Score?

The main thing every single person should know is that your score can, quite literally, save you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your lifetime. Yes, you read that correctly, TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars! Are you awake now? Good, let’s dive in.

Low or bad credit? Get approved for this card!

The first thing to understand is where your score fits within the overall credit score range. It will be anywhere from 300 to 850 and the higher your number, the better your credit report is.

 

Credit Bureaus

Credit scores are managed by three main credit bureaus; Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. These three entities track and keep a log of your entire financial history. They compile all of this data, analyze it, and give you a personal credit score (often called your FICO score). The score you receive is highly important to your financial life so you should be monitoring it on a regular basis.

When you go to make any of life’s major purchases and need to get financing from a bank in order to pay for it, lenders use your credit score to determine 1-if they can trust you to pay the loan back and 2-the extent of said trust and how much of a risk you are.

Simply put, the lower your credit score, the higher your interest rate will be when borrowing money from a bank or private lender.

When we talk about something as major as buying a house, a 1% reduction in your interest rate is a BIG DEAL. We’re talking Ron Burgundy BIG! To help you see this, we’ve put together the chart below which illustrates the total amount you would pay on a $200k fixed-rate 30-year mortgage to purchase your house based on different interest rates.

Credit Score
*Graph created by the author and uses rough interest rates based on scores. Actual interest rates may vary

The difference between having a ‘good’ versus ‘fair’ credit score in this scenario is almost $70,000! And this is based on a $200,000 mortgage only…if your home is even more expensive, your credit score could truly be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars without you even realizing it!

Feel free to play around with this interest rate calculator to do some rough calculations based on your personal situation.

Calculating Your Score

If each person’s credit score is such an important piece of financial information, how do we take a peek behind the curtain to see and understand how our score is being calculated? (The first step in getting your score higher is understanding WHAT affects it in the first place)

There are a number of factors that go into generating your credit score. Here are some of the main things you’ll want to understand and track.

  • On-time payments: The percentage of time you are paying your bills on time. Monthly credit card payments and loan repayments are the main items tracked for your on-time payment history. Things like rent and utilities can massively impact your score if you become delinquent and a collection agency is contacted to collect amounts due.
  • Credit history: This is simply how long your credit history goes back. The longer your credit history, the more it will positively impact your credit score. This category is the one you have the least control over. You can’t go back in time and begin your credit history earlier than you did, but you can start today if you haven’t already!
    • Types of credit: Bank credit cards, furniture store credit cards, gas station credit cards, car loans, home mortgages, student loans, and business loans are all different types of credit. A wider variety can help boost your credit score.
  • Debt: The amount you owe on any credit cards or open loans. Debt is a necessary evil when it comes to your credit score. Learn more about personal debt here.
  • Credit utilization rate: How much you owe (debt) divided by how much credit you have available. You need to keep this percentage low, which is why our credit card article advises that you ask your bank to increase your credit limit regularly.
    • Example: Imagine that your current credit card balance is $3,750 and you have a total credit limit of $4,000. This would mean your current credit utilization rate would be 93.75%. This is bad for your credit score!
      • There are 2 options to improve this percentage; either stop carrying so much debt (by paying it off) or get your credit limit increased. If you get your credit limit increased to $10,000, the same scenario would then have a much improved 37.5% utilization.

While these are generally regarded as the most prominent pieces of information used when determining your credit score, there’s no exact universal formula that weights the importance of each category. However, most believe your score is generally weighted in the following manner: 35% payment history, 30% amount owed, 15% length of history, 10% new credit, and 10% types of credit used.

If you are trying to repair a damaged credit score, keep these values in mind and focus on the biggest ones first.

How to Keep Your Credit Score Strong

Now that you have a good understanding of what your credit score it, how it is calculated, and how lenders use this information; it’s time to take a look at some specific factors that can quickly damage your score.

  • Missing a payment entirely
  • Not paying in full
  • Applying for more credit
  • Canceling zero-balance credit cards
  • Co-signing for credit
  • Ignoring your credit
  • Too many hard inquiries

We’ve examined each of these factors in depth, please click on them to learn more.

Credit Score Tracking

Regularly tracking your credit score is a must. Checking monthly is ideal, but at a minimum you should check your credit score quarterly. Things can pop up unexpectedly, especially if someone gets a hold of your information fraudulently and successfully opens a line of credit in your name.

Addressing any red flags on your report early will go a long way in minimizing the damage done to your credit score. There are a number of services out there that will help you track and manage your score. Mint, Credit Karma, and LifeLock are a few of the most comonly used sources. As you’ve probably seen via television commercials, big banks will now also provide you with real-time score tracking.

These services will also recommend ways to improve your score, or provide credit card recommendations to optimize your finances based on your personal spending habits. Additionally, you can request your full credit report once per year from the credit bureau without it impacting your score.

Conclusion

We cannot stress enough how important your credit score is for your financial well-being. If you know your score and regularly review it, that’s fantastic! If you read this article only to realize that either you don’t know your score or don’t understand how much of an impact it has on your financial life, don’t worry, we’re here to help!

Take the initiative immediately to get your credit score through one of the avenues outlined above, develop a monitoring system that works for you, and stick with it. You’ll be on your way to a better financial life in no time! If you need any assistance at all, give us a call today!

Use a Side Project to Generate Extra Income

Are you sick of dreaming about vacation but never taking getting to experience it because you can’t afford to go? Are you drowning in debt, wondering how you’ll dig your way out with the money you currently make? Or maybe you’d just like to say ‘yes’ to those weekend activities your friends are always asking about, but you constantly turn them down because of financial reasons. Whatever the case may be, a side hustle is the perfect way to bridge the financial gap to accomplish any and all of these items above!

What is a side hustle? When we say ‘side hustle’ all we’re referring to is a side project that you dedicate a few hours a week towards with the intent of generating an additional income stream to help you achieve your financial goals. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “I’m already so busy, where will I find the time to start up a side business?”. The beauty of a side hustle is the many forms in which it can be established. It can be as complex as setting up a full retail business, or as simple as charging electric scooters (yeah, the ones you almost get run over by every time you walk down the street!) The fact is, any additional income is nothing but ‘extra’ money you didn’t previously have. The trick to the game is finding the right side hustle that fits your persona and skill set.

Finding Your Hustle

Often times, the hardest part about a side hustle is landing the perfect idea. Finding just the right blend of your skillset combined with the time you’re willing to commit isn’t easy. If you’ve decided you want to give this side hustle a go, fantastic, here are some tips for coming up with your idea.

Sit down at the table on Sunday with a notebook and a cup of coffee, tea, whiskey, or whatever gets your brain firing. Jot down any of the skills you possess, leave nothing off the list. This might be difficult for some, so start small if you’re struggling. Who knows, maybe whiskey is the basis of your brilliant side hustle (yes, it can be monetized). There are no bad ideas at this stage in the game because, like whiskey, just about anything can be monetized. Don’t believe it? Try this: Google ‘diapers for dwarf hamsters’ and what you’ll find is thread after thread about diapers for hamsters and people looking for products or tips.

These ideas were taken to the extreme for emphasis that EVERYTHING can be monetized! Think about it, everything you see, touch, hear, or use throughout a given day was created and sold by somebody else.  It’s how the world we know it today was built, so join in on the money train! And if you’re still struggling with ideas, check out a guy named Chris Guillebeau who runs a Side Hustle School podcast and has written a book titled 100 Side Hustles. He has compiled and detailed over 1,000 side hustles between the book and the podcast!

Starting Your Hustle

Once you’ve nailed down your perfect hustle, it’s time to take action. Not tomorrow, not next week when things are slower, RIGHT NOW! Every day you procrastinate taking the necessary steps to get it off the ground is another day you’re not making more money, so get going.

First, jot down all of the action items you can think of that are needed to get your hustle off the ground. You may not start with an all-inclusive list, depending on how big of a hustle you’re starting, but that’s OK you can add any items that pop up as you make your way through them. Next, once you have a solid list of actions, put them into a chronological order if you didn’t do so when jotting them down. Finally, start making your way down the list! You will see that after you get the first couple of items checked off, you’ll start to hit your stride and momentum will build.

Now, if you’ve gotten your idea, but you just can’t seem to come up with the right steps to take, don’t worry. The idea is the hardest part of the process. You can find resources online for writing a business plan, you can consult friends or family for help, or there are a number of books that can help guide you through the process. There is another gem out there from our side hustle guru, Chris Guillebeau, titled Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days.

Earning the First Dollar

Once you’re off and running, nothing will compare to the first dollar you make from the business. That is because this will be the physical proof that you built something yourself, and it worked! So grind it out until you reach that feeling, because it will be worth it. Don’t forget to satisfy the need that initiated this venture in the first place. Take that vacation! Go on that weekend trip with friends! Buy that car or boat you wanted! Pay down that debt so it doesn’t keep you up at night! Whatever your motive was, make sure you satisfy it, because you’ve earned it.

 

Happy Hustling!

Most people we encounter in our lives live by the ‘Deferred Life Plan’, which means putting endless hours of work in now for the hopes and dreams of a glorious retirement. History has shown us over and over again that far too often this isn’t the result. Thankfully, we’re about to share with you an investment strategy that has beaten the S&P 500 for over 100 years in a row and is profitable in ANY market environment!

Most people are truly lost when it comes to retirement planning and investment strategies that meet their individual goals, especially when they are just starting out on this venture. They simply have no idea where to begin, so don’t be one of them! Just by reading this article you will be more prepared than the rest.

How Much Money Will I Need to Retire?

The first step in a successful retirement plan is calculating how much money you’ll need when the time comes. Retirement is an expensive endeavor, and you should be prepared for that when doing your planning. Experts have estimated that you’ll need between 70% and 90% of your income before retirement in order to keep the same standard of living. Understand these needs early on in the planning process so that you won’t become frustrated later. Here’s how to do that:

Calculate your average cost of living today and multiply it by 0.7-0.9, depending on how conservative you want to be with your calculations (the higher the number in this range, the more conservative). That will tell you how much money you’ll need each year during retirement. Now, look at the tables above to find out how much you need to start saving today in order to hit your retirement goals.

Start Saving for Retirement Now!

Ask any financial adviser and they will tell you the most crucial part of building a solid nest egg for retirement is starting early! It doesn’t matter if you feel like you’re already late to the party or if you’re only 16 and making minimum wage washing dishes at a restaurant, make today the day you put thought into action. Something as little as a $50/month contribution can go a long way in the big picture.

Still not sold that you should start today? Do yourself a favor and check out this compounding interest calculator and play with monthly contributions to see how far just a few more dollars per month adds up to significant sums over 20, 30, or 40 years! Using an average annual interest rate of 7-8% is a good place to start when running various scenarios (the average returns of the S&P over the last 30 years).

Once you figure out the amount of money you need to invest on an annual (and then monthly) basis, the next step is making the decision on which investment strategy is best for you.

An Alternative ‘Time-Tested’ Investment Strategy

In a perfect world we would be able to put our money in a clearly defined place with little to no risk and a high rate of return. Unfortunately, investing for retirement is not that easy. You can invest in stocks (volatile), bonds (low interest rates), CD’s (low interest rates), and a number of other individual strategies that just aren’t ideal.

An all-to-unfamiliar investment vehicle that few utilize is something called participating whole life insurance. You might be surprised, and comforted, to hear that this alternative investment strategy is one used by some of the wealthiest individuals ever to walk the planet. Not only can this type of long-term investment provide generational wealth to be passed down, but it also provides you with a tax-free income stream!

Here’s a rough estimate of how much someone can invest with this strategy and the results they’d achieve:
*These are averages. Each person will have a different amount based on his/her overall health, family lineage, habits, etc. You will receive a personalized plan from the provider of your custom-built plan.

*Females: Your rate (investment) will typically be even lower than males!
**These investments are also going to leave hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to your family when you pass away! Retirement income AND generational wealth is the goal.

Most people look forward to their retirement, especially after they have been working for several years. They believe retirement will be a wonderful time when they can do things they could not during their working years. This can only be accomplished by taking action today with your retirement. Do yourself a major financial favor, and do some additional research on this alternative investment strategy!

Other Retirement Investment Strategies

If you choose not to partake in the participating whole life insurance investment strategy, that’s totally fine! Another step you can take is to make sure to diversify your investments over time in a retirement portfolio. This is a crucial technique, as it will reduce the amount of risk that you have when you are playing the market. If you are not having success, take some time off to study what you need to do to maximize your earnings.

Utilizing paid retirement services and managers in the beginning is well worth the investment. Find a financial manager today and begin developing a relationship. You will quickly find that the financial options for your retirement savings are nearly limitless. Working with a financial manager, who does this day in and day out, is the best way to narrow down the field and relieve the stress of starting on this endeavor. Do upfront research on management fees and find a conservative middle-of-the-road fee. This will ensure they aren’t a bottom of the barrel manager, yet won’t rob you blind through fees. The money spent early on in the retirement process will go a long way to achieving your dream retirement. Start with a quick math lesson on how compounding interest works and how even a little bit of money early on goes a very long way in the retirement process.