Tag: Life Hacks

 

What’s A Good Credit Score in Your 30s?

By Melanie Lockert

You likely spent your 20s growing a lot, making mistakes, and discovering yourself. Your 30s, however, are a time for refinement and fine-tuning.

While in your 20s, you were just starting your financial life. Yet, hitting the big 3-0 signaled that it was time to level up your finances. One way you can do this is by improving your credit score.

In this guide, we break down what a good credit score looks like your in 30s, and why this is important.

A good credit score in your 30s

When you’re in your 30s, you’ve had a decade to establish and build your credit. You might still have student loans, as well as several credit cards. You may even have a car loan or a mortgage.

If you played your cards right, your credit score may be in good shape. But if you spent your 20s racking up credit card bills and in denial about your student loan debt, your credit score might not be so hot. According to data from Credit Karma, the average credit score for 25-34 year olds is 628. The most popular credit scoring model, FICO, defines a “good” credit score as 670 to 739.

If you take the average credit score of 628 and add the other two data points that FICO describes as “good” – 670 and 739 – and divide by three, you get 679. And, while a credit score of 679 is a good benchmark in your 30s, having a score in the low to mid 700s is even better.

Let’s back up a bit. In your 30s, a good credit score in the 700s should be attainable. Why? Take a look at these factors to understand what contributes to your credit score and why a good score can be achievable in your 30s.

What factors make up your credit?

The length of your credit history is one of the factors that make up your credit score. By your 30s, you should have a solid credit history with years of data.

On top of that, your credit mix is another factor that contributes to your score. This refers to the different types of credit you have, like an auto loan and a credit card. By your 30s, it’s likely that your credit mix is more diverse, which can boost your score. For example, you might have an auto loan, student loans, credit cards and a mortgage. If you make your payments on time and keep your balances low, this can reflect well on your credit score.

The two main factors that contribute to your credit score are your payment history and your credit utilization. If you have years of positive repayment history and never missed a single payment, then time is on your side! This can show lenders that you’re a responsible borrower.

Additionally, keeping your balance below 30 percent of your available credit, also called your credit utilization, is important. If you have high balances, whether you pay them off in full each month or not, this can be a red flag to lenders who might think you’re a risk.

Given all of these factors, you should aim for a “good credit score” in the 700s. If you’re not quite there, don’t fret. Pay off your debt, keep your balances low, minimize the number of accounts you open, and pay your bills on time. This will help boost your credit score.

Why is having a good credit score in your 30s important?

So, why is having a good credit score in your 30s important anyway?

Your credit score can seem like just a number. But in your 30s, when you’re ready to level up your finances and life, a credit score can make or break your options.

For example, you may be ready to start a family and buy a house. Your credit score, in turn,  can influence whether you get approved for a mortgage and what interest rate you get.

Or, perhaps you want to refinance your student loans to try to save money. Good credit can help make this achievable. Plus, if you have kids and want to get a minivan, you’ll want to snag a great rate on an auto loan. And, you guessed it, a good credit score will help you get a lower interest rate.

Bottom line

Your 30s are all about coming into your own and refining everything you learned in your 20s. This is true of your credit too! This is the time to look at your mistakes, reflect and revamp. If your credit isn’t great, you still have time to improve and all is not lost.

Just think: Once you have a good credit score in your 30s, you can get the best interest rates and start reaching your life milestones without all the extra costs.

 

How Long Should You Side Hustle For?

By Due.com

Side hustling is a great way to make extra money. The more successful your side hustle is, the more motivated you are to continue, right? Not exactly. There are many other factors that contribute to the longevity of your side hustle.

Here’s how you can tell how long you should side hustle for.

Set a Goal If You’re Trying to Leave Your Job

If you’re side hustling in order to leave your full-time job, it’s important to set a deadline for when you’d like to leave and under which circumstances. How much do you need to earn? How many hours to do you expect to spend working?

For me, unfortunately, I had hit a breaking point with my side hustle which prompted me to leave my 9-5 and turn my side hustle into my full-time job. I was burning out from working so many hours between both jobs.

Luckily, I was earning enough money to allow myself to quit without too much worry. Still, this is something to keep in mind. If you plan on working several hours and building a business up on the side, set a goal as to when you will make the transition to full time so you know that side hustling is only temporary.

Consider What Your Short Term Goals Are

Are you side hustling just to meet a short term goal? Whether it’s to pay off debt, fund a large purchase, or to gain a new skill, get clear on why you’re side hustling so you can meet those short term goals.

Also, develop a plan for what you’ll do after you reach them.

Is Your Side Hustle Still Enjoyable?

This is a question my husband is faced with currently. He’s been side hustling with Uber for about 3 years now. He admits it’s not as enjoyable as when he first started.

In the beginning, he wanted to side hustle to help us pay for extra expenses, pay off his car loan, and save more for the downpayment on our home.

We have met all of those goals and he’s gotten to a place where he’d rather stay home at night instead of going to drive for Uber. We could still use some extra money each month, but it seems like it’s time to switch to another side hustle.

Since you’re working on the side, you’re already putting in extra hours so you might as well do something that you enjoy and are good at. If your side hustle is no longer enj0yable and doesn’t stimulate you, you’ll lose motivation and it will feel more like a chore.

Consider Working in Seasonal Spurts

If you plan to make your side hustle a long-term venture, continue working is seasonal spurts. That way, you’re expected to be “on” and working all the time. Working 7 days per week is not sustainable for anyone long-term.

Choose a side hustle that’s flexible and allows you to pick up or drop hours as you see fit. For example, you may want to work more hours during the summer when work at your main job is slow. A seasonal side business can be more sustainable because it allows you time to rest.

Summary

Side hustles are often great to have, but all good things tend to come to an end. Be intention when deciding what type of side hustle you’ll try and what your goals are. Consider doing flexible work and allowing yourself the freedom to slow down or speed up production as you see fit.

 

Side Hustles You Can Do in Your Sleep

By Jackie Lam

For our parents’ generation, “moonlighting” might have meant earning extra money by flipping burgers at a fast food joint or working at a department store on the weekends.

But for us? Well, we’re the gig economy generation. Whether you deliver groceries, participate in focus groups, or get rented out to be someone’s wedding guest, you’ve likely got some sort of side hustle. According to a recent Bankrate report, nearly 40 percent of Americans have a side gig. As for millennials, half of us have one.

If you’re still searching for an easy way to rake in money, we’ve got you covered. Here are four passive income strategies that can help you earn money in your sleep. Pretty sweet.

1. Video royalties

You don’t need a gazillion views to monetize your videos.

Yes, even you can make money off your adorable furbaby videos, clips of wild weather, political protests, and unusual street performers, says Peter Koch, founder of Seller at Heart.

Koch spends a few hours a month making short videos and uploading them to video licensing platforms. He rakes in about $150 a month.

Where to start? Video licensing agencies like Rumble  and Jukin Media are just some of the platforms where you can sell your videos. Yet, the ways in which you can earn money vary. For instance, if you use Newsflare and a website wants to use your video for a set amount of time, you can earn a flat rate. You can also make money via ad placements. With Rumble, on the other hand, you can earn money through syndication. And with Jukin you can make money through licensing, brand partnerships, and online monetization.

2. Stack cash back and rewards apps

What about making money by spending money on things you already buy?

With popular cash back apps like Ebates, Drop and Dosh, you can earn points, which can then be redeemed for either gift cards and sometimes cash.

Similar to credit card rewards, you just link your credit card to the app, explains Andrew Herrig, a personal finance blogger at Wealthy Nickel.

“You earn points that you can trade for cash for shopping you would normally do anyway,” says Herrig.

Pro tip: If you put in a little extra effort, you can score good bonuses for some non-cash back offers, explains Herring. And, if you already put some of these purchases on a credit card, you’ll be earning reward points on your credit card, too. Just be careful of making purchases you normally wouldn’t, and carrying too high of a balance on your card.

3. Creating digital products

Online businesses and products are popular ways to earn passive income.

If you already have a platform with a strong following, or it you’ve devised a marketing strategy by way of email funnels and ads, you can potentially rake in some cash selling e-books or courses.

“Online courses make for great digital products, because people are always looking for how to do new things — whether it’s to learn about SEO, or take on another hobby or interest,” says

Mike Pearson, who created an online marketing course for bloggers who want to boost their SEO.

“The best part about selling digital products is that you only have to create the product once, and then you can sell infinite copies over and over again, truly earning money while you sleep,” says Pearson, who is the founder of Stupid Simple SEO.

Pearson makes a killing from his online course — the course costs $300 and he rakes in about $10,000 a month as a side income. As for the upfront investment, he spent 20 hours filming videos, writing text, making a sales page, and coming up with an email sequence to sell the course.

“It was a lot of upfront effort. The good thing is, the costs were minimal as I did all of the work myself,” he says.

4. Sell your stories

A few years ago Jarek G. (FYI: that’s his blogger pseudonym) wrote a dozen short stories and self-published them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Jarek spent anywhere from six to 10 hours writing, editing, and publishing each story, and paid five dollars to get a cover made. He published each story as a stand-alone for $2.99.
At his peak, Jarek earned about $150 a month.

These days, he still makes $30 to $40 a month in passive income from these same stories.

“It was a bit of upfront work, but after that it’s relatively passive,” says Jarek, who is the founder of Time in the Market.

Understand the ROI

When earning passive income, make sure you save part of the money you earn and put it toward one of your money goals. You can even use a money-saving app to help you keep track of this extra income. (Or, you might want to auto-save a portion on the regular.)

And, to get to the sweet spot of earning money passively, you’ll need to make sure the costs and time upfront are worth it. Keep in mind that all streams of passive income require not only work, but a bit of luck and timing.

“There’s no easy path to wealth or making money,” says Jarek.

“For instance, with self-publishing, you’ll need to be active, and it requires some talent to write things people want to read.”

 

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

By Paul Sisolak

Links to external websites are not managed by Chime or The Bancorp Bank.


There’s a myth out there: Only the wealthy can eat healthy.

This is perpetuated by false information that unhealthy food is the only affordable option available to consumers on a budget. But did you know that is possible to eat healthy and save money at the same time. All it takes is some budget-friendly meal planning and knowing where to buy cheap yet healthy food.

Here are eight ways to start eating healthy on a budget.

1. Plan Your Meals

Weekly meal planning on a budget entails creating a menu for the week, buying just the necessary ingredients, and cooking at home. This can pay off – for your health and your wallet.

By buying only what you need, you’ll avoid overspending.

“The easiest way to save money on healthy foods is not to spend on items you don’t need or that you already have in your house. Identify exactly what you plan to cook,” says Riley Adams, a CPA and financial blogger at Young and the Invested.

“It’s when you go to the store without a plan that you end up buying extra things that you either didn’t need or won’t use for a while,” says Marissa Szabo, a certified health coach.

For the most effective meal planning, select one day a week to schedule out your meals for the next seven days. Saturday or Sunday tends to work well as you have the weekend to create your list, go grocery shopping and prep for the work week ahead.

“Be strategic with your planning; choose snacks and meals for the week that use a few ingredients several different ways. This will help keep costs down,” says Szabo.

You should also look for sales and use coupons to help structure your weekly meal plan. Depending on what’s on sale, this could influence what you cook for the week.

2. Stick to Your Grocery List

Once you’ve created your first meal plan for the week, the next step is to make a shopping list that includes healthy, whole foods.

Sticking to your grocery list once you enter the store is also important. If you struggle with this, try downloading a grocery list app to resist the temptation to spend money on needless food items and buy only what’s on your list. Some grocery apps to try include Grocery Pal, AnyList, Mealime, Out of Milk, Grocery iQ or Recipe Keeper.

Dr. John Gilmer, vice president of research and development at the iron supplement company Active Iron, also recommends that you don’t go to the store on an empty stomach.

“Most importantly, don’t go to the store hungry. It’s very easy to get side-tracked at the store buying what looks good,” he says.

3. Use a Crock-Pot to Make Healthy Dinner Recipes with Leftovers

A crock-pot is a great way to make soups or casserole-type dishes when you’re beginning to reach the end of your groceries for the week. Wasting leftovers or failing to use products before they expire can also be a big money waster.

One tip is to put all your leftover ingredients into the crock-pot in the morning and start it up. Dinner will then be ready by the time you get home from work — another way to both save money and ease your dinner-time routine.

When making soup, “simply save the scraps from the veggies you prepare, like onion skins, carrot and celery tops, garlic peels, and broccoli stems,” says Szabo.

“Toss it all in a crock-pot and cover it with water. Cook on low for six to eight hours, and you have a ton of broth,” she says.

4. Incorporate Meatless Monday

Meat is expensive and adds to your grocery bill.

For example, the average cost of lean beef was $5.20 as of February 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pork is priced around $3.30 per pound, and chicken, while a bit cheaper at about $1.50 per pound, can cost up to three dollars per pound for boneless breast cuts.

The less meat you eat, the more money you’ll save on groceries. If you live in a vegetarian-friendly household, by all means, make as many meatless dishes as possible. If you prefer an omnivorous diet, prepare at least one meatless dinner per week.

“Adding a meatless Monday (or whatever day you prefer) to your week will not only help you add more vegetables to your diet, but it can also help you cut your grocery budget,” says weight loss therapist Candice Seti.

“Protein rich options like beans and mushrooms are less expensive than meat and are packed with nutrients,” she says.

Some meatless meals to try:

  • Omelets with either eggs, egg whites, or egg substitutes
  • Stir fry with a meat substitute, like tofu, beans, or bean sprouts
  • Vegetarian paella
  • Black bean burgers
  • Grilled portobello mushroom burgers

5. Stop Eating Out

One of the easiest — if not the easiest — ways to save money on food is to stop eating out. It doesn’t matter if you frequent a fast food dollar menu, or a five-star restaurant every night. Eating out can sap your budget of valuable dollars that you could be saving or spending on more important things, like healthy food at the grocery store.

Home-cooked food is almost always healthier than restaurant food. For starters, you know what’s in the meal. You can also control the amount of salt, fat and carbs you cook with, not to mention your portion sizes.

6. Buy In-Season or Frozen Fruits and Veggies

Organic isn’t always better. Not only does buying organic produce tend to be more expensive, but in-season, local fruits and vegetables can be cost-effective and equally nutrient rich.

“One way to keep on budget is to buy produce in season,” says nutritionist Jeanette Kimszal.

“Foods that are in season tend to be lower in price than those that are out of season. For example, berries are available all year, but in the winter they are often shipped from Mexico and South America. The shipping costs may be passed on to the consumer and tend to be higher in price than other produce in season,” says Kimszal.

Another option? Buy frozen vegetables. They’re cheaper, plus you can portion out the veggies you defrost and cook, and stick the rest in the freezer without fear of them going bad.

“If you are making a smoothie or a stir-fry, frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option,” says Elizabeth Girouard, a certified holistic health coach.

“Most produce is picked at its peak and flash frozen, which retains the nutrients. Since they are picked and packed in season, the cost is more reasonable, particularly for organics,” says Girouard.

7. Shop the Grocery Store’s Perimeter

Ever notice that the fresh foods and healthier choices in the supermarket surround the perimeter — along each wall — of the store?

Always shop these outer areas of your store first. This is where you’ll find the most healthy foods. With that, try to ignore the middle aisles, where packaged and processed foods are found, like canned vegetables with high sodium content, fattening desserts, and carb-loaded snacks and breads.

“Use this plan to navigate the aisles of the grocery shopping, and stick to it,” says Adams of Young and the Invested.

8. Buy Healthy Food in Bulk

Buying certain items in bulk can be cheaper, especially non-perishables and canned items like tuna, beans, or pasta sauce. Boxed items like rice and quinoa can also be purchased in bulk for big savings.

“Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chia seeds, and much more can have significantly lower prices than packaged versions of those same items,” says Seti, who advocates buying in bulk at Costco, Sam’s Club and other warehouse stores.

“Many warehouse stores are catching on to consumers’ desires for more real, whole foods and are starting to stock options for health-minded shoppers,” she says.

9. Shop at Cheaper Grocery Stores

Costco and Sam’s Club are just two places to shop for cheap, healthy food. But don’t overlook budget-friendly stores like Trader Joe’s, Food4Less, or grocery departments at discount retailers like Walmart and Target.

Personal finance blogger Marc Andre of Vital Dollar likes shopping at Aldi, the German-based discount chain with locations in several states.

“You can save a lot of money by choosing generic brands and/or shopping at discount grocery stores,” he says.

“My wife and I do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi, and they have their own private label brands for generic organic and gluten-free foods. The prices are significantly lower than what you would pay for comparable products from name brands at other grocery stores,” says Andre.

Meghann Featherstun, a registered dietitian, says that shopping the sales at stores like Aldi can make all the difference. From there, you can effectively plan low-cost and healthy meals.

“Sheet pan meals with a protein, plus a healthy starch is a fast, inexpensive, balanced meal,” says Featherstun.

 

How to Break Into a New Career Field in Your 30s

By Chonce Maddox

Some say that 30 is the magic age when it comes to getting serious about your life and career.

This is when you start to level up your savings for retirement, think about buying a home, and climb the career ladder. In fact, turning 30 will likely get you thinking about whether you’re happy in your current career. If not, it may be time for a change.

With these 6 steps, you can overcome intimidation and start a new career as you move into your 30s. Welcome to adulting.

Step 1: Figure Out Why You Want to Switch Careers

You may know you want to switch careers, but it’s important to narrow down why you feel this way. Is the work you do no longer fulfilling? Have you changed your interests or gained a desire to advance your skillset? Do you no longer enjoy your industry for different reasons?

Figuring out why you want to change careers will help you determine what you’re looking for in your new career. Ideally, what you lack currently should be placed on the priority list when it comes to choosing a new career.

Step 2: Be Honest About What’s Holding You Back

Have you been wanting to switch careers for some time now? Sometimes, we get so comfortable in our jobs that we tend to suppress any thoughts or feelings about moving on to something different.

In other words, the idea of switching careers after you turn 30 may seem risky or like too much work. Yet, if you want to explore a new field, you need to get past this step and identify the barriers that are holding you back.

Sometimes the idea of starting over or going back to school can be the biggest barrier. It’s up to you to break down these obstacles. Instead, think about what life would be like if you were able to start an entirely new profession.

Step 3: Assess Your New Career Path

Now that you know why you want to switch careers and what’s holding you back, it’s time to decide what you want to do.

To start, determine what type of education or experience you’ll need and how much it would cost to obtain the right credentials. Also, research current and future job prospects, along with expected pay and benefits. Depending on the type of new job, you may need to make some drastic changes. For example, going from a copywriter to an article editor may not be that big of a shift. But transitioning from an accountant to a nurse would require some significant changes, including additional education and training.

Always make sure that you keep your return on investment in mind. For example, if you’re going to go back to school to get a new license or certification, develop a specific career plan that will help you earn back that investment shortly after you land a new position and start getting paid.

Step 4: Update Your Resume

One of the most intimidating things about breaking into a new career in your 30s is that you’ll need to update your resume so that it’s relevant to job prospects in your new field.

I’d advise keeping all your past job history on your resume because this may be valuable experience. However, you can also make changes that will highlight specific responsibilities you had or accomplishments you made that will be relevant to your new career.

Skills like customer service, effective communication, organization and problem-solving are all generally valuable no matter what career field you choose.

You can also start rebuilding your experience by picking up volunteer or contract positions in your new desired field.

Step 5: Lean on Your Network

All the years you spent networking will certainly pay off when it’s time to change careers. Sure, you probably built your professional network based on your current career but you never know who other people know and how these contacts can help you.

Tell friends, family, and colleagues about your career shift and ask if they have any leads or can keep an eye out for opportunities they may come across. Start attending local networking events or meetups geared toward people in your new career field. And, update your LinkedIn profile to reflect your past and present skills and education.

Step 6: Prepare for a Financial Shift

Finally, it’s crucial that you be mindful of the financial changes you may experience during this transition phase. You may have to take a pay cut when you switch careers.

If you have to go back to school, you’ll have to determine how you’ll pay for tuition and make your loan payments. In the worst case scenario, where a lay-off prompts you to switch careers, you’ll have to figure out how to make ends meet for the time being. This may entail cutting expenses or picking up a side hustle.

In addition, it’s best not to make any hasty moves when you’re switching careers. Continue to work at your current job and build up a solid savings cushion on the side. If you have to go back to school, consider taking online or night classes so you can still work during the day.

Break Into a New Career Field by Going in with a Plan

When you first pursued your current career, you likely had a plan in place. Do the same thing this time around – except with a more detailed plan.

At the end of the day, it will be worth it when you start a new and exciting career that you truly enjoy and find fulfilling.

 

8 Ways to Protect Your Personal Information While You’re Banking

By Paul Sisolak

Links to external websites are not managed by Chime or The Bancorp Bank.


While banking security has certainly improved over the years, thieves, scammers and hackers still find ways to steal your personal information and gain access to your hard-earned funds.

In fact, according to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll, almost 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft. And, in 2017, $16.8 billion was stolen from 16.7 million victims of identity theft, according to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

So, what can you do to safeguard your identity and finances against unscrupulous types? Here are eight steps you can follow to keep your money safe.

1. Change your passwords often

Keeping the same passwords across each of your bank, credit card, and email accounts for too long increases the risk of hackers accessing your information.

So, change your passwords frequently. Doing this at least once a month is recommended to keep your accounts safe and secure. If you find it hard to remember your passwords, try using a password generator/scrambler like Dashlane to create and organize your passwords. You can also store your passwords on a secure browser extension like LastPass.

Here’s another tip: Don’t store your passwords on your mobile device or laptop, says Nathan Grant, a credit industry analyst. While it may be convenient, if your device is stolen, your password is right there for a thief to use without having to lift a finger.

“Also, be careful not to enter any passwords or financial information on websites if the URL doesn’t have a secure lock symbol or https in the web browser address bar, especially on public networks,” says Grant.

2. Avoid using public WiFi and shared computers

Speaking of security, be careful before connecting to WiFi in a public place, say experts.

“Public WiFi is great for browsing the web, but you shouldn’t use it to log into your personal accounts and mobile banking apps,” says Adele Alligood of EndThrive.com.

“Doing so can make it easy for someone to intercept your login information and steal your financial data.”

Likewise, avoid sharing your computer or using a public shared computer (like one in a library) if you’ll be conducting banking or financial transactions. If you must do this, log off after your session is over — and, depending on your device, enable two-factor authentication when logging is.

How to tell if your connection is secure? There will be an image of a padlock next to the WiFi address or before the URL on your Web browser. And, if you have to access your bank app? Make sure the app you’re using is security encrypted — especially if you’re making payments.

3. Download anti-virus software

A computer virus is an inherent risk when using public WiFi. But even in private, you may be at risk if you don’t have a good antivirus software installed on your laptop or desktop.

“With a little research, you can choose which antivirus software is right for your computer,” says Justin Lavelle, a spokesman at BeenVerified.com.

“Antivirus software makes sure malicious software is detected and removed from your computer,” says Lavelle.

4. Use caution at the ATM

You can never be too careful at an ATM — even if you guard your debit or credit card carefully.

Lavelle says you should be mindful of criminals who use credit card skimmers. These are devices that can record your card’s information to then use that information to make unlawful purchases.

“Whenever you use a credit card reader, it is smart to inspect the device first,” he says.

“Look at the machine for scratches, ill-fitting parts or seals. Jiggle the machine as well as the PIN pad, or credit card insert. Most gas pumps, ATMs or vending machines are manufactured to be secure. Broken seals or loose parts may be an indication that the machine has been breached, and a skimmer has been installed.”

Lavelle says that most skimmers use Bluetooth technology, so one way to detect a skimmer is to use your smartphone.

“Turn on the Bluetooth pairing, and then see how many odd things pop up. It might just alert you to a skimmer.”

5. Watch out for “sidlers”

You should also exercise caution at busy public points of sale, since this is where thieves known as “shoulder surfers” are known to use stealthy methods to get the digits off your card.

“If another consumer is crowding you in line to pay, don’t be shy to ask them to please back up and give you space,” says Jim Angleton, president of AEGIS FinServ Corp.

“Yes, it seems a bit harsh; however, the vast majority of ‘sidlers’ are purposefully inching up to pretend to use their smartphone to look at email when they are really taking cellphone video of you entering your card and inserting your PIN.

Once they have the perfect photo, they go to their car and use a laptop and portable printer to create a blank card that looks just like your card. They can then go online and purchase a five dollar item to see if the card works. Once they have confirmation, they can then sell the fake card with your valid credit card number, explains Angleton.

Want to know how you can avoid this problem? Opt for merchants that accept mobile payments straight from your phone.

6. Never reveal your personal information

Guarding your bank account numbers or debit card digits isn’t just about hiding your details physically or behind passwords. Sometimes, ID theft involves revealing info to the wrong people.

“Emails and phone calls may seem official and important, but you should never give out your personal details unless you can verify, without a doubt, that it’s safe,” says Lavelle.

“Most retailers make it clear that they will never ask for your password, social security number, or other sensitive information by phone or email.”

Pro tip: Make sure your bank account offers added protection against hackers. Chime’s debit card, for example, comes with an instant block function to prevent unauthorized use of your funds. You can simply disable transactions through the Chime app.

7. Destroy your documents

In the event you want to get rid of old receipts and sensitive banking information, don’t just dispose of this in the trash. Thieves know no shame and will happily dumpster dive to find each piece of a torn-up document.

Instead, invest in a paper shredder that makes any document unsalvageable and unreadable. You can also bring your documents to a UPS, Staples or other local office supply store that offers low-cost document shredding services.

8. Check your credit report

When was the last time you checked your credit report?

Checking your credit report and score is essential so that you know where you stand with your credit. Getting a copy of your credit report will also reveal any erroneous information that could negatively impact your credit.

So, scour your report — everything from the spelling of your name, the amount of your loans and your credit accounts (both open and closed). If you find an inaccuracy, each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) have simple steps you can take to dispute anything unfamiliar on your report.

And, here’s another layer of protection: Switch to a bank account that will send you real-time alerts each time a transaction is made.

Stay Safe and Secure

Using these eight steps, you’ll be well on your way to safeguarding yourself and your finances in any scenario — whether you’re banking from your laptop at home, getting cash at an ATM, or shopping on your mobile device.

 

4 ‘Rich Habits’ Millennials Should Start Developing Now

By Susan Shain

Want to be rich? Like really rich?

Rather than scheming about winning the lottery, or getting paid to invent the next Candy Crush, you might want to take a look at the things you do every single day. Why? Since your habits are the foundation for all your actions, changing them is usually more effective than hoping for a single lucky strike.

Tom Corley would know. He spent five years studying the habits of hundreds of Americans, whom he separated into two groups: the “rich,” who had annual gross incomes of more than $160,000 and net liquid assets of $3.2 million or more, and the “poor,” who earned less than $35,000 and had a maximum of $5,000 in liquid assets.

Based on his discoveries — and the striking differences between each group’s daily activities — Corley wrote a book called “Rich Habits.” Since it was published nearly a decade ago, I caught up with Corley to ask which habits were most important for millennials today. Here are the four he chose.

1. Create Blueprints for Your Life

The most important habit, says Corley, is to begin “dream setting.” (Think: goal setting, except that dreams come first.)

Here’s how to get started:

  • Create a script: Decide what you want your life to look like in five, 10, 20 years. Picture every detail, including your job, salary, partner, house, and lifestyle. Then write it all out — Corley recommends your script be at least 1,000 words.
  • Make a list: From that script, pull each specific dream into a bulleted list. For example, your bullets might be: Earn $100,000 per year, take an annual trip to Hawaii, live in a four-bedroom house on a corner lot. “Each dream is like a rung on the ladder,” says Corley. “When you reach the top… that is the moment you are living the life of your dreams.”
  • Set your goals: For each dream, list the goals that will get you there. If your dream is to live in a four-bedroom house, your goals might be to: 1) Pay off your credit card debt within the next six months, 2) Begin saving $300 per month for a down payment, 3) Improve your credit scores, and 4) Hire a trustworthy real estate agent. Ask yourself if you possess the skills and knowledge to accomplish each goal; if not, determine how you’ll acquire them.

“The components of your life’s blueprint are all of the things that make a perfect life,” Corley explains.

“Your goals are your construction team. You need to define all of the goals that will make all of your dreams become a reality.”

By dream setting early and often, you’ll understand which goals you should be pursuing — and which roadblocks may stand in your way.

2. Devote 30 Minutes a Day to Learning

When was the last time you read a book? Or took a course? If you’re like most millennials, you probably spend more time with your face in Facebook than real books.

Corley says this is a mistake. He told Kiplinger that 96% of self-made millionaires read 30 minutes each day for education, career, or self-improvement. He also found that, while 77% of poor people spent an hour or more watching TV each day, only 33% of rich people did.

“The successful see time as the most valuable asset they possess,” says Corley.

“They are continuously engaged in some constructive project to increase their skill sets, promote their business or careers, keep their minds sharp, or expand their knowledge…The wealthy invest their time; the poor spend it on wasteful activities.”

So, instead of scrolling through social media or bingeing on Netflix, pick up a book from your local library. Listen to an educational podcast on your way to work. Attend a workshop where you’ll learn skills relevant to your career. Be like the wealthy, and invest your time in educational activities that will pay off down the road.

3. Exercise Every Day

Though exercising might seem irrelevant to gaining wealth, Corley says it’s one of the most fundamental habits for millennials to develop.

Besides the obvious physical benefits of exercise, he cites a range of reasons it could help you get rich. Specifically, Corley says exercise can:

  • Improve mental function by flooding the bloodstream with oxygen.
  • Reduce stress, as well as combat its negative effects (like a weakened immune system).
  • Increase the volume of nerve tissue in the hippocampus, improving your ability to remember and learn.
  • Elevate your testosterone level — and therefore your confidence — prompting you to pursue new and challenging opportunities.
  • Boost willpower and self-control, enabling you to make good decisions and avoid bad habits that can wreck your finances and life.

To turn exercise into a habit, you’ll need to find a regimen that appeals to you. Instead of forcing yourself to run, give yourself the freedom to try a range of options, from yoga to Zumba to Crossfit to basketball. When you make an exercise habit fun, it becomes much easier to maintain.

“Rid yourself of your demons by exercising every day. You and everyone around you will be better off for it,” says Corley.

4. Experiment With New Activities

Corley recommends experimenting with a new activity or skill every six months.

Maybe you try coding. Maybe you volunteer as a tutor for homeless youth. Maybe you take piano lessons. Whatever it is, Corley promises that, “Through experimentation, you will stumble upon something that makes your heart sing — something you will want to devote the rest of your life.”

He believes we all have innate talents that set us apart from everyone else, but that you can only discover them by veering off the typical career paths. When you finally uncover your “main purpose,” as Corley calls it, he says it’ll be easier to excel at your work (and thereby reap the financial benefits that accompany excellence).

Three Mistakes Millennials Should Avoid

In addition to building rich habits, Corley says it’s important for millennials to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Multi-tasking: Do you check your email or phone every few minutes while you’re working? Corley views these constant distractions as detrimental to the success of many millennials. To stay focused (and crush the tasks on your plate) he recommends putting your phone in do-not-disturb mode and closing your email for a two-hour chunks during the workday.
  • Allowing lifestyle creep: When you start earning more, that doesn’t mean you need to spend more. Corley told Kiplinger one of the biggest mistakes people make is increasing their standard of living to match their income. “You don’t want to supersize your life just because you’re making more money,” he said. “Stuff doesn’t make you happy.”
  • Not saving enough: In lieu of spending more, strive to save more. In Corley’s study, 95% of the wealthy people saved at least 20% of their net income each year — a practice they started “long before they became rich.” (Chime’s automatic savings feature can help.)

If you’re feeling discouraged by all the rules and advice, don’t despair. The good news, according to Corley, is that “never in the history of civilization has there been so much opportunity to become rich and successful.”

By making intentional life choices and developing these basic habits, you’ll hopefully find a way to become rich — or, at the very least, to have more money. Because, even if you feel like you’re getting a late start, now is better than never.

As Corley says: “It’s only too late when you are six feet under.”

 

Are Alternative Education Programs Worth the Investment?

By Lindsay VanSomeren

The numbers aren’t pretty. In 2017, the average college graduate had an average monthly student loan payment of $393. In 2018, outstanding student loan debt among all Americans stood at $1.44 trillion, and 12% of that debt was at least 90 days past-due.

With numbers like that, it’s no wonder you might be rethinking getting a four-year degree. After all, it’s not uncommon to hear about people taking out crippling student loans only to go right back to working at Starbucks.

Yet, there is another option — alternative education programs. These can be trickier to cobble together since you may not have access to an easy pipeline of federal student loans (for better or for worse), but it can be done. We’ll give you the scoop on some common programs, and how you can make them work for you and your bank account.

Coding Bootcamps

Have you heard of coding “bootcamps”? These programs are designed to fast-track you to an entirely new career in the tech industry in as little as three months. And, did you know that these bootcamps offer the potential of making a six-figure salary right out of the gate. (It’s true: my husband just got a high salary offer after finishing a General Assembly coding bootcamp.)

Coding bootcamps aren’t without their risks, however. They’re generally expensive. For example, Full Stack Academy costs up to $17,910 for a 13-week program, and General Assembly charges up to $13,950 for its program. These courses may offer pay-in-full discounts, scholarships, income sharing agreements, or personal loans as a way to pay the tuition bill if you can’t pony up the cash on your own.

It’s important to thoroughly vet these programs before you attend, and don’t just trust the statistics that the companies publicize. Instead, ask to speak with real graduates who’ve gotten jobs, and ask about the outcomes of their classmates as well to get a more realistic view of what you can — or cannot — expect.

Start a Business

Sure, your grandpa may have told you to start your own business like he did instead of going to college. These days, however, you don’t necessarily have to go it alone.

There are many programs out there dedicated to helping budding entrepreneurs launch startups. These outfits — including accelerators, incubators or startup accelerators – can provide the technical expertise, coaching, office space, and even funding to launch your business successfully.

Typically, you apply for these programs, and need to be accepted to get in. Some are run by universities (meaning one or more people on the team need to be an enrolled student), and others are private groups. Accelerators typically make money by taking a stake in your business (i.e., equity), so they have a vested interest in helping your company succeed.

Associate Degrees or Certificates

Who said you need a four-year degree to succeed? Maybe you only need two years of college, or less. The reality is that many professions only require a couple years or less of coursework, including:

  • Radiation therapist
  • Physical therapist assistant
  • Dental hygienist
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT)
  • HVAC technician

The advantage of these career prep programs is that they’re often in high demand, meaning your odds are good for getting a job. You can also use student loans to pay for your education, but you won’t have nearly as much debt coming out of school as you would if you graduate from a four-year-degree program.

Join the Military

It’s true — Uncle Sam wants you. Yet, careers in the military can come at a high personal cost. Depending on your MOS (Military Occupation Specialty — i.e. your job within the military), you may see active combat in war zones and be deployed away from your family for long periods of time. You may also not get to choose where you live — the military will decide for you. You could end up living in a exotic location abroad, or in a cornfield in Iowa.

The rewards, however, are equally as great. You’ll be paid for the entire duration you’re in the military, including while you’re in training (and you can even take these skills with you to new jobs if you leave the military.)

You can earn extra pay in the way of signing bonuses if you choose certain specialties that may require you to be in a combat zone, a high cost-of-living area, or outside the continental U.S. The military may also provide housing and health care for you and your family, GI Bill benefits, subsidized housing, and retirement benefits.

Trade Apprenticeships

Since so many people are being pushed to go to college these days, there’s actually a serious shortage of jobs in the trades. This includes construction workers, plumbers, electricians, pipefitters, factory workers, and other physical jobs. From 2016-2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects openings for another 180,500 construction workers.

This leaves a wide-open opportunity for you: Jobs are in high demand and salaries are equally high to match. Even better, many trade unions offer apprenticeship trainings for an affordable price or even for free. You may not be paid while you’re actually in class (which generally lasts for a short time), but you’ll be paid while you’re learning on the job.

You Don’t Necessarily Need a Four-Year Degree

Don’t let anyone push you into a four-year degree if that’s not what you want. The truth is that there are plenty of other options out there these days, and more are springing up each year.

College used to be a guaranteed way to get a leg up. But unless you have a concrete plan or know exactly what you want to do, it can also be a liability, especially if you have to balance savings with debt payments. Instead, set your sights on what matters most to you in your career — whether that includes college or not.

 

How to Plan the Perfect Staycation: 6 Tips for Affordable Relaxation

By Chonce Maddox

It’s no secret that travel can be expensive even if you’re able to take advantage of hacks to lower the costs.

In fact, according to one study, the average family of four spends $4,580 on a vacation. And, many of these families expect to put at least $1,000 of their travel costs on a credit card.

Yet, there is a way to take time off without leaving your hometown and spending oodles of cash: Take a staycation.

What is a staycation?

A staycation is just like a vacation only you stay home. This means you don’t have to spend money on travel and lodging. You’ll still take time off and seek out new experiences, but you’ll be spending time near your home exploring your own town or taking day trips.

You can save a lot of money with a staycation and still bond and make memories with your loved ones.

Here are 6 tips to help you plan the perfect staycation.

1. Explore your city

A staycation can be just as fun as a vacation because you’ll have the opportunity to explore your city like never before. To start, think about whether there are there restaurants or attractions you’ve never been to.

Perhaps you can visit a new neighborhood eatery or attend a local festival. Maybe you can swap out your online shopping to check out some local shops and support the businesses in your area. Or, visit local museums and wander through the exhibits.

If you live near a metropolitan city, you may be able to take advantage of tourist attraction passes that allow you to visit several landmarks or attractions for one flat fee. You usually have a few days to visit all the places included in the pass. This is also a great way to experience the best of what your city has to offer – on a budget.

For example, CityPASS offers a low-priced pass in many cities, including Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Seattle and New York City. For a $64 adult Boston CityPASS ($52 for kids), you get access to five major attractions, including the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science and Boston Harbor Cruises. You’ve got nine days to visit the attractions and your pass also gets you expedited entry into all sites. Not so shabby.

2. Play Catch Up

A staycation is a great way to catch up on errands, set up appointments, and organize different aspects of your life. Dentist appointment anyone?

Yes, this may sound like work, but you can schedule tasks on your own terms and check off a few things on your list, leaving you feeling refreshed.

Just think: You can accomplish things that have been on your to-do list for weeks, like getting routine maintenance checks on your car, going to a doctor’s appointment, and decluttering and organizing your home.

In true staycation fashion, you can even treat yourself to a nice lunch after you finish errands or visit a day spa for the afternoon.

3. Embrace the Outdoors

Ready to embrace the outdoors? Use your staycation to explore local trails. You can also plan an outdoor picnic with family, visit a park, go swimming if the weather permits, or ride a bike along a scenic path. If there’s a nearby state or national park, you can even take a day trip to feel as if you’re getting out of dodge.

Another option to consider: Take a trip to the local zoo. There are several free or low-cost zoos across the country. Most will even allow you to bring in your own food and snacks, cutting down on your costs even more.

4. Take on a New Hobby or Learn a New Skill

Part of the thrill of going on vacation involves going someplace new. Yet, you can still experience something new without traveling far from home. A good place to start: Try out a new hobby.

Think of something you’ve always wanted to do and plan to hone that new skill or passion during your staycation. Whether you want to start playing a new instrument, learn photography, fix cars, start sewing, or practice cake decorating, this is a great opportunity to give it a whirl. Perhaps you can even take a class in the area or check out free resources online. Skillshare, for example, is an online community that allows people to learn new things.

If you’re stumped for a new idea, try a paint and wine outing with friends. These are typically budget-friendly and you don’t need a lot of artistic skills.

5. Make Time For Friends

Take the initiative to reach out to friends you haven’t seen in a while and plan a get-together.

You can simply have a lunch date, invite your friends over, or go somewhere fun. To stay on budget, look for Groupon deals. For example, maybe you can check out a new coffee shop or restaurant in town.

You can also use your staycation as an opportunity to meet new friends. Sites like Meetup have tons of local groups that are designed to facilitate meetings of like-minded folks. There are groups for runners, parents, couples, board game lovers, creatives, pet owners, and more.

6. Relax, Just Do It

Staycations are perfect for relaxing.

Sleep in, take naps in the middle of the day, catch up on your Netflix shows, and take long walks. Before you staycation, you can deep clean your home and organize your space as if you were leaving town.

You can even plan your meals and prep dinners in advance – then freeze them so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Decide on which days you’ll dine out and which days you’ll pull a ready-made meal from the freezer.

If there are any beaches by your home, plan to spend a day there relaxing and swimming. Or, if you have a sauna or pool at your gym, this is the week to make use of it.

Determine how you want to relax during your staycation and make it happen!

Save Money and Refresh With a Staycation

A staycation can not only be a huge money-saver, but it can help you relax, enjoy time with friends and family, and return back to reality feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Most importantly, you don’t have to save up a ton of money to have a successful staycation. And, you also won’t spend as much as you would if you travel far away. Just think: These staycation ideas will help you have a memorable experience without airline fees, hotel costs, and high restaurant charges.

Are you ready to plan a staycation?

 

This Millennial Saved $200K Before Turning 30 — Here’s How

By Susan Shain

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The majority of millennials have next to nothing in their bank accounts.

You’ve probably heard the stats: Millennials couldn’t cover a $1,000 emergency, and they have an average of $36,000 of debt. And when it comes to retirement — which, to most millennials, seems like a billion years away — 66% haven’t saved a cent.

The blogger behind Fiery Millennials, however, is tipping the scales. Gwen Merz is only 28 years old, and has already saved $200,000 for retirement. Want to know how she did it? Merz revealed her savings story to us — and also offered advice for fellow millennials who want to prepare for their futures. To learn more, keep reading.

Stumbling Upon Financial Independence

One day in college, Merz was using the 2000s relic known as StumbleUpon when an article about FIRE (financial independence, retire early) popped up in her browser. Merz, who had grown up poor, immediately became “hooked” on the ideals of frugal living and financial security.

“Here are these people who never have to worry about having enough money ever again,” she says.

“That was very appealing to me, as someone who internalized a lot of those lessons about poverty early in life.”

Though she couldn’t save much money as a college student, Merz says learning about FIRE gave her a “really good foundation” for her adult life. When she totaled her car, for example, she didn’t take out a loan, and instead bought a used vehicle with cash. And when she graduated debt-free, thanks to a full-ride scholarship and her service in the National Guard, Merz was “so ready” to put financial independence (FI)  into practice.

“I was super stoked that I got to put money in my 401(k) and open a Roth IRA,” she says. “So nerdy, but it’s true!”

The Road to $200K

After she graduated college in 2013, Merz landed a full-time information technology job at the Fortune 100 company at which she had interned.

Her base salary? A lucrative $65,000, plus bonuses that averaged $7,000 to $8,000 after taxes, and a 10% 401(k) match.

While her peers spent their paychecks on nights out and new clothes, Merz saved 60% to 80% of her income (which increased each year and eventually came close to six figures).

“It was really good that I got started so young because I didn’t have any set habits or lifestyle expectations,” she says.

Merz maxed out her 401(k) — the limit is now $19,000 per year — and her Roth IRA — the limit is now $6,000 per year — and put the rest into a health savings account (HSA) and other taxable accounts.

After six years of saving, her retirement accounts reached a balance of more than $200,000.

Cutting ‘The Big Three’

Despite her ample salary, Merz admits it wasn’t always easy to save so much.

“At the beginning, it was definitely harder. But that’s only because I was still trying to live a typical American life.”

As an example, she cites the fact that she was living in a three-bedroom house by herself — a decision she now deems “ridiculous.” So she got a roommate, and cut her monthly housing budget from $900 to $450.

She also kept the 2005 Pontiac Vibe she purchased in college. Whereas most of her peers have bought one or more new cars since graduating, her vehicle will soon hit the 200,000-mile mark.

“It’s the big three you have to watch out for: housing, cars, and food,” explains Merz.

“If you can keep those three to a manageable level — or figure out how to get rid of one — you’re going to be so much better off than the average American.”

Or, as she puts it: If “you make one or two different choices in life, that can make all the difference.”

How Millennials Can Save (No Matter Their Income)

Merz is the first to acknowledge that the FIRE movement is dripping in privilege.

“Some people say everyone can achieve FI — that’s just not true. It’s a lot easier to save half of your income if you’re earning a lot of money.” And, as she points out, it’s even easier if you don’t have student loans or dependents.

Still, Merz believes anyone can learn lessons about budgeting and consumption from the FI movement. Even if someone can’t save at high rates, for example, they can maybe build an emergency fund or open a Roth IRA.

If you want to start saving — regardless of your income — Merz says your first step should be automation.

When Merz received her first paycheck, she set up automatic withdrawals that funneled money into her savings and investment accounts.

“I never saw that money and didn’t miss it because I had never known what it was like to have that much,” she explains.

The good news with this automated saving approach is it can eliminate the need for budgeting. Since Merz covered her necessities and investment goals by paying herself first, she could then give herself “free reign” to spend whatever was left.

“There’s a lot of guilt and decision making that are involved with budgets. But if you artificially lower the amount of money that you have to spend… it’s easier to save.”

If your employer offers a 401(k) program, Merz also urges you to sign up. Not only will your contributions grow over the next several decades, potentially funding your retirement, but they will also lower your taxable income right now. For example:

  • Say you earn $50,000 per year and contribute $5,000 to your 401(k). You can deduct that $5,000 from your income, meaning you’ll only pay taxes on $45,000 of earnings.

 

  • Many employers match 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage. A “3% match,” for example, means your employee will  match every dollar you contribute, up to 3% of your paycheck.

“There’s no reason to not save up to the match,” says Merz. “They’re giving you free money — who does that?”

When This Fiery Millennial Will Retire

When Merz began her FIRE journey, her goal was to retire at 35 with $635,000. But in the years since, her outlook has shifted.

“I don’t really have a number or a date in mind anymore. It’s less about early retirement now — and more about how can I optimize my life so I’m at peak happiness,” she says.

Even if she doesn’t retire early, Merz has learned a lot from FIRE, saying: “It’s been interesting to see all the things society says we need that I am actually quite comfortable living without.”

She has also given herself a significant amount of financial freedom in the years to come. By frontloading her retirement savings — and giving her accounts decades to compound — Merz could stop saving for retirement now and still have a healthy nest egg at 65.

“I gave myself the gift of not having to worry and stress out about money in the future,” she says.

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