Money-saving Tips for the Self-employed

Gone are the days when the American dream means climbing the corporate ladder. Over the last years, the mindset of the American worker has shifted to valuing flexibility and freedom over stability. Self-employment continues to be a rising trend as employees leave their day jobs to do freelance work or start their own business.

One of the major challenges self-employed individuals face is managing cash flow. Since you do not have the regular pay that a day job provides, not to mention health insurance and tax duties, it can be challenging when all these things fall on your shoulders. Saving and budgeting can be taxing, too, as there will be months when you’ll be flushed with cash, while there will be months when you’ll need to tighten your belt a little.

Below are a few money-saving tips for the self-employed.

Set a budget.  Whether you are a business owner or a freelancer, this is very crucial. Good financial planning can determine the success of your new venture. Total all your income sources. Make sure to list down all your expenses every month. Determine all the fixed costs such as monthly bills, subscriptions, and mortgage, which takes up a huge part of your budget. You may want to consider paying off your mortgage early to get it out of the way and have more room in your budget for other things like savings and retirement fund.  After listing down the fixed costs, add the variable expenses such as payment to freelancers if you hire some, and any other expense that vary month-to-month. By doing this, you’ll know the amount of cash you need every month to live comfortably. Stick to the budget as much as you can. There are plenty of budgeting apps and tools that can assist you with this.

Set your rate. Do not undersell yourself and do not be shy to increase your rates as you gain more experience. In terms of billing, it’s better to be billed in installments rather than in lump sum at the end of a project. It would be harder to budget your money if your cash comes in once every three months rather than having them sent in monthly installments.

Build your emergency fund. And maintain it. It is important to always save for the rainy days. An emergency fund can save you from high-interest debts in times of financial stress. Make sure you have a fund, ideally a 6-month cushion – for when something unexpected happens such as a big client backing out. This 6-month cushion cannot be built right away, but you must work towards building it as soon as you begin getting paid. Set a certain percentage of your income to be allotted to this fund every month.

Know your taxes. Now that you are self-employed, you no longer have your HR department’s compensation and benefits people to look after your taxes. You must do them yourself now. Be aware of the tax bracket you are in now that you have gone solo. If you are a business owner, seek the help of a financial advisor in determining the best entity type to register your business as.

Get help. Time is money. If you think it would be best to delegate some of your tasks to freelancers in order for you to focus on more crucial tasks, hiring help could be a great idea.

This article was originally published by Uncapped Mortgage

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How to Save Money Each Month While Paying Off Debt

You have oodles of debt that you want gone. But you also have other important financial goals, like saving money, that need your attention. These competing priorities can make you feel like you’re trapped in a chicken or the egg conundrum. If you pay down your credit card debt, you’ll have more wiggle room in your budget and can save that extra cash. But, if you save more money, you won’t have to whip out your credit card next time an unplanned expense pops up. So do you pay off debt or save? The short answer is: porque no los dos?

Here’s your plan of attack to slay debt and pad your bank account:

Divide and Conquer

To work on both goals simultaneously, you’ll have to split your available resources between them. But, you need a clear plan to ensure that you allocate your dollars in the most effective way.

To get started, prioritize your debts and savings goals, keeping these things in mind:

  • High-interest debt will sink you. If you only make the minimum payments on your credit cards, you’ll be in the hole for years and pay potentially thousands extra in interest. Get rid of this debt first.
  • Lower interest debt isn’t as urgent. While you definitely want to pay off all of your obligations, “good” debt like student loans and your mortgage do less damage to your financial health.
  • Paying extra on installment loans doesn’t help your budget now. If you sock extra cash at your mortgage or student loans, you’ll reduce the total time you’re paying on them. But — it doesn’t change your required monthly payment amount.
  • An emergency fund will save you in a pinch. A cash reserve will keep you from going further in the hole when something breaks or you lose your job.
  • Start saving for time-sensitive goals ASAP. The holidays, your sister’s destination wedding, and your car registration renewal are all known events. Squirrel away a little bit here and there in the months leading up, and you’ll pay for them in cash with ease.
  • Don’t ignore retirement. It may seem like a million years away, but delaying saving for retirement will have long term negative effects. You’ll miss out on the compounding interest that actually works in your favor. If you can afford it, contribute at least enough to your retirement account to get your employer’s full match.

Choose the Right Mix

Once you’ve got your priorities in order, you need to divvy up your funds in a way that makes the most sense for you. For example, from your discretionary income, you could put 6% into retirement, 50% toward your credit card debt, and 44% toward your savings goals. As you pay off debt and your goals are completed or change, be sure to adjust your mix accordingly.

Remember: While there are some good guiding rules of thumb, how you manage your money is up to you. Personal finance is personal!

Find the Dollars

To make faster progress toward your financial goals, try freeing up more of your existing resources, increasing your cash flow, or both. Here are some steps you can take today:

  • Review your spending. Is there anything you can scale back on or nix?
  • Negotiate your bills. You may be able to get a lower rate on things like car insurance or cell phone service just by calling your provider.
  • Buy smarter. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting groceriesclothing, or shopping online, there are countless ways to get what you need and come in under budget.
  • Earn more dough. Consider picking up extra shifts at work, getting a second job, taking on freelance clients, or selling some of your unwanted stuff.

Remember: While it’s tempting, be sure to use your budget wins and side income for your debt pay off and savings goals, not for brunch and a new pair of shoes.

Final Thoughts

It can be overwhelming to juggle multiple, seemingly-competing financial goals. But if you proactively map out what you need your money to do, you can strike a balance that allows you to live your best life.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

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What to Do When Summer FOMO Kicks In

 

With summer quickly approaching, many of us are indulging the fantasy of lounging on a tropical beach with yummy cocktails or taking a long-awaited road trip. As exciting as those things sound, the fantasy is often dashed when reality hits: these things cost money.

Summer is the prime season for the Fear of Missing out, also known as FOMO — when we’re tempted to join friends and family for exciting trips even though funds are low and we can’t afford to take the time off. But summer can still be a blast without jet-setting to the nearest island. Here are a few options to enjoy yourself this summer without draining your bank account.

Be a Tourist in Your Own City

It’s nice to take a vacay to an exotic location, but more often than not, we tend to overlook all the fun things to do in our own backyards. Create a list of all the things in the city that you always say you want to do, but never have the time to get around to, and make a commitment to finally try them.

Game Night/BBQ with Friends

Two of my favorite things are good food and spending time with good people. Summer is the best time to enjoy both of these! The year gets busy, but summer seems to be the time when we all would rather be outside in warm weather instead of an office.

Coordinate a summer get-together at your or a friend’s house for everyone to catch up. Have each person bring a favorite game, snack, or drink, and fire up the grill. If you really want to give the ultimate summer vibes, set up tropical-themed decorations. It’s a great way to have some laughs, delicious barbecue, and make new memories with friends — and that’s really what summer is all about, right?

Throw a Private Pool Party

Some friends of mine recently came up with the idea to rent out a fun space with a pool to celebrate summer, as well as everyone’s work accomplishments this year. If you want to indulge in a modern, luxurious atmosphere for a few hours with friends, Peerspace is a unique online marketplace that gives you the opportunity to book short-term spaces for fun events. With hourly rates for all price ranges, you and your friends can chip in to have your own private pool party for way less than the cost of a tropical vacation!

Have a Summer-Themed Photo Shoot

Whether you’re a pro with the camera or a novice, take advantage of the sunshine for a fun photo shoot. This can be done with your partner or a group of friends, or even solo.

If the photo shoot is with a group, everyone can pick out their favorite summer outfits, go to a scenic location and take turns indulging their inner supermodel. Bonus points if you get some good shots and make a little summer cash selling them to stock photo websites.

Indulge in a Getaway

If you hardly ever take trips throughout the year, all the staycations in the world won’t make up for the experience of a new destination. In that case, it probably makes sense to plan some time away to reset and refresh.

Still, the key is to have an experience that reasonably fits your budget. Unless you’ve been stashing away stacks of cash before summer rolls around, you may not be able to swing two weeks at a luxury resort in Maui.

What’s that you say? Just put it on a credit card? Not on my frugal watch! Kidding… kind of. While you should definitely enjoy life, you also don’t want to spend the next year or more paying interest on a vacation you really couldn’t afford to begin with.

Maui might be out of the question, but there are plenty of other desirable options that won’t leave you financially drained. New Orleans, Las Vegas, Austin, and Chicago are just a few places that have fairly cheap airfare year-round, and plenty of entertainment to satisfy nearly every type of traveler.

Don’t Forget

Summer is a season that comes and goes like all the others. Those tropical beaches and yummy cocktails will still be around next summer, so it’s not a done deal if you have to skip some festivities this year.

You might get hit with a wave of FOMO if you see photos on social media of your friends while you’re still at work. If it’s too much, you’re not a terrible person should you decide to mute certain threads or take a social media break for a little while. It might even be the best way to make time for all of the other cool activities you’ll be doing in the meantime!

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

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How to Have Fun (Not) Traveling this Summer

Confession: Traveling during the busy summer season just isn’t for me. In our modern age filled with digital nomads and travel hacking devotees, it’s almost a sin not to be daydreaming about the next summer vacay.

But in my humble opinion, summer travel can be a bit unpleasant. Of course, it largely depends on the destination. But with the swarms of tourists at popular locales — not to mention prices for airfare, hotel stays, and tourist attractions spike — I’d rather stay local during the summer. I’m willing to swap jetting off to different countries for a leisurely bike ride around my neighborhood.

If you have a similar mindset, here are some ways to make the most of a non-traveling summer.

Go on a Staycation

Staycations are terribly underrated. You can use them as an excuse to explore your current town. I’m fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles, where there’s a bounty of art openings, food and music festivals, and delicious eateries popping up all the time. When I spent my summers in Chicago, there were free neighborhood street fests every weekend, concerts at Millennium Park, free yoga classes in the park, and neighborhood gatherings.

I moved a little east of Los Angeles city proper about a year ago, to a small nature area with a population of about 10,000. There are chili cookoffs, gorgeous mountains, and many hiking trails. I’m also looking for a bike to explore my new ‘hood.

Check the calendar section of your town’s website to keep up to date with all the fun, free activities in your town or city.

Create Mission-Based Adventures

You can create what I call a mission-based staycation, such as trying out the best hikes in your area, tasting one ice cream (or a few!) at every ice cream shop in town, or reading every book by your favorite author at the local library.

Some examples: My friend Mel decided to have a  “year of museums,” where she’ll visit different museums and art happenings around town. My other pal Lindsay plans on going on one hike a month throughout the year. Fun can be found right under your nose!

Make Small Tweaks

You don’t need to make a big plan to enjoy the summer months where you live. Try switching out your habits. For instance, try biking to the park instead of driving there. Or enjoy breakfast out in your yard instead of at your dining table with the curtains drawn. You’ll be surprised at how the small changes can really help pave the way to new experiences, or a new way of looking at things. It could even make feel like you’re somewhere else.

Swap Homes with Friends

See if any pals and family members in other parts of town are up for swapping homes for a weekend. You can either do it Airbnb-style or stay with them for a few days — that way you can change up the scenery and enjoy a new neighborhood.

I have apartment swaps planned with pals who live in Hollywood and West L.A. It will certainly feel like a mini-vacation!

Try a No-Spend Weekend

I experimented with a no-spend weekend a few years ago, and not only did I save money, but it was fun! Before I embarked on the journey, I set up some ground rules: I could stock up on food to last me through the weekend, I could use my public transit card, and I was allowed to spend any gift cards. I planned my weekend around free activities and using up my gift cards.

If forgoing doling out cash on the weekend is too tough for you due to social commitments and general temptations, do a test run during the workweek. Because you typically have less free time and social outings, you won’t be as tempted to spend.

Ramp Up Your Side Hustle

If you’re looking to boost your cash flow, summer is ripe for seasonal gigs. Take advantage of the fact that more people are traveling to snag jobs pet sitting or tending to a neighbor’s plants. You can also scoop up more gigs as a rideshare driver or brand ambassador at outdoor festivals. In summers past, I’ve sat for friends’ furbabies and proctored at a local university during the summer session.

I work my buns off during the summer so that I save up for stuff I want, and aim to less some time off during the holidays. Co-worker taking time off? See if you can take extra shifts. Or if you’re a freelancer or gig economy worker, see if your clients are in need of extra help during the summer months.

Save for Off-Season Travel

Rather than put everything on a card and pay it off post-travels, have the money saved up front.  Peak travel seasons for most places tend to generally be June through August. If you’d like to travel during the fall or spring, figure out exactly how much you’ll need by when, and get to work saving your beans.

Besides a short camping trip in June, I only travel in the off-season. I have a trip to the East and Midwest scheduled for the fall and am steadily saving for a trip to Southeast Asia next year. I’ve committed to saving a set amount each week and will bolster my goal with any “extra cash” I earn.

Remember: Staying local doesn’t have boring or induce cabin fever. By getting creative, putting on your exploration cap and making small tweaks, you can have a blast this summer in your city!

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

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Why A Clear Mind May Be The Answer To Your Debt Free Goals

Consumers that become debt free cited peace of mind as a resulting benefit they enjoy. Yet, your state of mind becomes important in your debt situation long before your debt is paid off. There is a well-documented relationship between the two: debt and your mental state. According to a Money and Mental Health survey, 49 percent of people that experience mental health issues also find themselves in debt while 25 percent of Americans admit that they worry about money all the time. For some, it is the credit card or personal loan repayments, while the younger generation finds themselves battling the repayment of increasing student loans. In the end, navigating their way out of debt can lead them to spiral, and in some cases panic. However, while proper management of finances and tools such as budgeting remain key to solving the age-old debt question, a clear mind can be just as powerful, and possibly the tool that kickstarts getting rid of debt.

Clarity Reduces Misplaced And Impulse Spending

Our state of mind and emotions play a large part in our spending habits, including impulse purchases. Many people can find themselves struggling with emotional spending triggers such as sadness or even the receipt of good news. Purchases like this can also throw a wrench into your debt repayment plan and sometimes throw it off track. By spending money intended for your debt repayment or using the extra money that could have helped you make more progress in your debt journey, you are indirectly sabotaging your debt plans.

Maintaining a clear mind means remembering your priorities and navigating events in your everyday life (and the emotions that come with it) with level-headedness. Too often we get caught up with impulse shopping on items that may appeal to us at that moment but do we really need it? Take a step back and consider whether it is money well spent and what it will be taking away from other priorities in your life. Are you able to pay cash or are you putting it on a credit card? If you do opt to fund impulse purchases with credit, there are also interest charges to contend with.

Loss Of Clarity Can Mean Loss Of Motivation

For many, the debt repayment journey can be a long and hard one. It requires sacrifices, commitment, and dedication. So it is not unusual for consumers to fumble or lose their motivation at some point on their way to becoming debt free. Having our minds clouded with negative thoughts can even lead to direr mental consequences such as depression. In fact, studies have indicated that debt levels can trigger stress in consumers while 29 percent of people with high debt stress levels experience severe anxiety, according to a study by the University of Nottingham. Luckily, there are small and simple steps you can take along the way to avoid and remedy this. Consider implementing a reward system at certain points of your debt repayment journey and visually track your progress up to this point. Seeing yourself make progress can act as a powerful motivator to keep going, especially if you see yourself overcoming preset hurdles such as debt checkpoints. For those looking to combat stress or anxiety, implementing the regular practice of mindfulness techniques in the home can help relieve tension for every family member.

Avoid Tunnel Vision By Having A Clear Mind

Finally, another reason that a clear mind is vital in our bid to clear our debt is that it allows us to see and truly consider all other options. Too often we can develop a repayment strategy in the beginning and we tend to zero in on that throughout. However, the reality is that our debt repayment methods and tools may need to be adjusted throughout; in fact, it is not unusual for a debt repayment plan to be evaluated a few times. While debt refinancing or consolidation may be a good idea in the beginning, they aren’t anymore. Being able to see all the options available to you means you are able to make the best decisions possible on the way to becoming debt free, and possibly do so earlier.

In today’s world, the repayment of debt has become a regular part of many American’s lives and commitment schedule. While much has been said about the effect that the debt journey can have on our mental state, not a lot has been mentioned about the reverse connection; the effect of our state of mind has on our debt. While money and savvy techniques remain handy in achieving the goal of a debt-free life, our minds continue to be the most powerful tool we have in our quest to be free. It is what drives our commitment, our strategies and our continuing motivation. As a result, protecting and nurturing it should be at the top of our list if we wish to achieve our debt goals.

Chrissy Helders

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How to Personalize Your New Apartment on a Budget

Moving can be exciting — but expensive. Between the first and last month’s rent, your security deposit, and other costs, your bank account may be hurting. To top it all off, your new apartment feels foreign, like it’s someone else’s home. But don’t worry — you can add homey, personal touches to your new digs without digging a larger financial hole for yourself.

Know What You Can Do

In order to be able to confidently channel your inner Joanna Gaines, you need to check with your landlord to see what you’re allowed to do with the space. Often, they’ll agree to cosmetic changes that can easily be reverted when you move out. Some landlords will let you make more substantial alterations or upgrades with their prior approval. Regardless of what your plans are, be sure to have what’s OK, what’s not, and any instructions clearly spelled out in your lease before you pick up that paintbrush or nail gun.

Pro Tip: Keep the originals of anything that you replace (unless otherwise instructed by your landlord) so that the apartment can be reset to its prior condition when you move out.

Set Up Your Space

There are lots of ways to make any space more attractive and functional. Here are a few interior design tricks to try:

  • Use large mirrors: They make small areas seem more spacious.
  • Arrange your furniture strategically: This can turn an open area into well-defined living spaces.
  • Get double duty furniture: Ottomans are for reclining and storage, tables are for dining and working, and sofa beds are for movie watching and sleeping.
  • Use curtains in different ways: In addition to beautifying your windows, try curtains as wall hangings or room dividers.
  • Experiment with lighting: Yes, place light fixtures where they make functional sense, but also use them to highlight your home’s best features, like built-in cabinets or a piece of art.
  • Throw some throw rugs around: They can be great color accents and help to establish the borders for areas.

Small Things Make a Big Difference

You don’t have to rely solely on furniture to make your apartment give off your vibe. To pepper in your personality throughout your home, try picking up small, inexpensive items like:

  • Throw pillows, picture frames, or vases: The right ones scream your style and are easy to switch up as your tastes change.
  • Plants: Real, low-maintenance plants such as succulents help to beautify your abode, give your space an oxygen boost, and simply need occasional watering.

Give Items a Facelift

With a little elbow grease, you can take what you already have and breathe new life into it. Here are some budget-friendly suggestions:

  • Paint the walls: Choose a color that puts you in a positive mood, but do yourself a favor and make sure it’s easy to paint over when your lease is up.
  • Look into removable wallpaper or tile stickers: You can apply them to anything dingy, boring, or ugly.
  • Swap out lampshades: This makes sticking to a color scheme a snap and can really modernize the look of the lamp.
  • Change door knobs or hardware on furniture and cabinetry: There are so many styles to choose from and you might be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.
  • Refinish or reupholster your furniture: It will look like a brand new (and totally different) piece.
  • Get new light fixtures: Sconces or pendant lighting can add a dramatic, personalized flair.

DIY Decorations

Sure, you can buy art that’s pre-made. But if you want it to be perfectly true to you, you should make it yourself! You don’t have to be the next da Vinci to try these projects:

  • Apply paint to canvas: Find your muse and sling the color in whatever way strikes your fancy.
  • Play with clay: Whether your clay pot actually looks like a pot is irrelevant. Making your own pottery can be a great decoration and conversation starter.
  • Create a collage: Your favorite photos, magazine clippings, and other keepsakes can culminate in a lovely tribute to your past, or help you manifest your future as a vision board.

Decide Where to Shop

Depending on your budget, preferences, and what’s available, there are several places to shop for home decor:

  • Check out large retailers: Places like Walmart, Target, and HomeGoods may offer some deals on brand new items.
  • Go used: Flea markets, estate sales, auctions, and Craigslist are all tried and true avenues for finding vintage pieces that fit your theme.
  • Try an app: Technology makes it a breeze to connect with others that want to unload just what you’re looking for. Check out OfferUp and NextDoor.
  • Leverage your network: Your friends and family may have things they no longer need that you can use. The best part? Chances are, they’ll let you have them gratis!

Final Thoughts

While decorating/furnishing a place can be expensive — especially for first-time renters — there are ways to express yourself without emptying your wallet.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

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Should You Delay Your Retirement Contributions To Clear Debts?

78% of Americans said they were concerned about not saving enough money for retirement, in a 2018 study conducted by the Northeastern Mutual Planning and Progress. Conventional wisdom advises focusing on saving for retirement right from when you are young, either through a 401(k), IRA or any other convenient plan. But a critical dilemma to consider is whether you should delay these contributions or investments to clear your debts. Since massive debts, including student loans, burden many people, it can be hard to make financial progress. So when is the right time to prioritize clearing your debt?

When settling debts should come first

Let us say that you are earning $40,000 per year but have $70,000 worth of loans. Such a situation could mean that you are approaching bankruptcy, which is disruptive, and can leave you with little freedom and affect your employment. In this case, it would be more prudent to put a stop to other obligations and prioritize paying your debt. Think of it as a move to channel all your resources and effort into dealing with the biggest blockage to growth and happy retirement. After clearing these debts successfully, you can now focus your full energy on savings and investments, which will place you in a better financial point after retirement.

The opportunity cost of paying your debt first

There is a negative side to committing to pay debts without saving for retirement. Assume it will take you 5 years to completely get rid of your loans. During this time, you would have saved $5,000 per year plus your employer’s addition (50% of your contribution). If you invest this money in stock, giving an average annual return of 10%, you would have more than $48,000 at the end of these 5 years. This is the opportunity cost of choosing to clear debt first, which is a steep mountain to climb. The same goes for freelancers seeking a retirement plan that works best for them. Also, the IRS puts a limit on how much you can contribute to tax-advantaged retirement accounts yearly, and if you miss out on it, you will not enjoy the chance again. This and the fact that you lose time to grow financially is enough incentive to make you reconsider your options.

Pay loans and save for retirement if you can

If your monthly income puts you in a position to pay the debt and still invest for retirement, you should do so. But this arrangement could also work for those whose income does not give them much space. In such a case, you can go ahead and do both while giving one more weight. For example, focus on paying your student loan while saving minimally. Inc advises that regardless of your financial situation, you should contribute a certain percentage of your income, aiming to generate maximum employer match on your 401(k) or whichever plan you are using. Additionally, there are available loan-payoff-calculators that can help you to determine how best you can settle your loans while still growing your nest egg.

One of the biggest financial challenges is that many vital commitments compete for limited income. While delaying retirement investments is a bad idea, sometimes you can forego it and focus on clearing your debt. Everybody’s situation is unique depending on their type of loan, payment terms, and age, amongst other factors. As such, it is essential to consult a professional financial adviser, who will guide into selecting the plan that works best for you.

Chrissy Helders

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5 Numbers More Important Than Your Income

As my friend Mel says, “Numbers are sexy.” We love talking about numbers, and tend to fixate on them — particularly when it comes to how much we earn. “I’m a six-figure freelance designer,” or, “If I take this job, I’ll earn $10,000 more.”

We oftentimes measure our worth based on how much money we rake in. It can be easy to feel like you’re behind, or a grade-A underachiever when your cousin or bestie or partner makes more than you. Sure, your income is important, but there are other numbers that deserve a closer look than how much cash you earn. When it comes to financial wellness, here are five metrics that trump your income.

1. Cost of Living Index

Bottom line: the salary you earn living  in one part of the county might not stretch as far living in another part of the country. Say you earn $80,000 in Los Angeles. If you move to Nashville, Tennessee, you’d only need $45,269 to enjoy the same comforts, according to Sperling’s Cost of Living calculator. Expect to spend 26.1% less in health and 39.2% less in transportation. And if you were to buy a home, you’d be spending 62.6% less in housing.

How much you make is relative to a number of things — one being the cost of living in your stomping grounds. So the next time someone says they’re making $120,000 but live in Silicon Valley, chances are they aren’t enjoying the same standard of living, than those in less-expensive parts of the country.

2. Compensation Package

When it comes to your work salary, it’s also important to look at the entire kit-and-caboodle for your benefits package. Your employee benefits can make up to one-third of total compensation costs. That includes health benefits (which alone can cost employers $15,000 per worker) and an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan.

If your workplace offers an employer match for retirement savings, that also boosts your total compensation. You might also get discounts on gym memberships, and group rates on car insurance, life insurance, and even financial and legal advice.

Besides your take-home pay, you’ll want to factor in the full suite of benefits that your employer offers. In turn, that makes a difference as to how much you have to work with each month.

3. Happiness Report

Yes, happiness is a difficult thing to pinpoint. But in recent years metrics have been developed to gauge how happy nations are as a whole, giving us a good idea of wellbeing and work-life balance.

The U.N.’s World Happiness Report uses data from the Gallup World Poll, which surveys citizens in 156 countries on how happy they feel — to determine the overall well-being of a country’s denizens. The Cantril Ladder, or Cantril’s Self-Anchoring Ladder of Life Satisfaction, is made up of 10 rungs. The bottom of the ladder equals 0, and represents the worst possible life for you. The top of the ladder equals 10, and equates to the best possible life for you.

Per the Gallup World Poll, Finland, Norway, and Denmark, respectively,  ranked highest for happiness. The bottom three countries were Afghanistan, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Where does the U.S. fall? Nineteen out of the 156.

Consider doing your own happiness assessment using the Cantril Ladder. Are you living your best life? What does it exactly mean for you to be living your best life? What steps can you make in the right direction to boost your well-being?

4. Net Worth 

Remember: Your income isn’t a measure of your wealth. Your net worth is. To figure out your net worth, tally up your assets — this includes your investments, how much you have sitting in your savings, and any other assets, like your home or car. Next, tally up your debt. Subtract your debt from your assets and you have your net worth.

Net worth gives a full picture because it factors in how much money you make, how much debt you owe and how quickly you’re paying it off. It’s what you have left at the end of the day that’s for Future You. Having a positive net worth shows that you’re financially healthy.

5. How You Spend Your Money

Are you putting your paycheck toward paying off debt, helping your family, or are you squandering it? Not only does how you spend your money affect your progress toward net worth, but it’s ultimately an indicator of what you value.

For instance, while I am typically pretty frugal when it comes to clothes, I spend more on high-quality, nutritious foods. That’s because my health, especially as I get older, becomes more important. I recently splurged on some fancy cookware because I’ve been preparing more meals at home. I also pay for weekly yoga classes at a nearby studio. Because my physical health is important, I’m willing to spend more on food and exercise.

There you have it. Five metrics that are more important than your income. As you can see, while your take-home pay does play a key role in your financial well-being, there are other ways to measure your financial success.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

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Can Debt Be Used to Build Wealth? Let’s Weigh In

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Generally, people think of debt as something to avoid. Debt usually means “bad” and no debt means you are better off financially. So the idea of using debt to build wealth can seem a bit dubious. Can you really build wealth using debt?

In order to answer this question, we first need to know that there are two kinds of debt. There is good debt and bad debt. And though the thought of debt being “good” seems counter-intuitive, the fact remains that some debt is actually good.

Good debt is a debt that will increase your finances over time. So something like a small business loan is good debt because you use the money you borrowed to build up your business, thus, bulking up your finances in the long run. Good debt also has a smaller interest. So while you are expanding your business with your small business loan, you aren’t paying an exorbitant amount in interests. This type of debt also allows you ample time to pay back your debt.

Bad debt is the exact opposite. This kind of debt has astonishingly high-interest rates and usually involves some form of collateral. There is also a very short turnaround time for you to pay your debt, plus interest, back. Some examples of bad debt are credit card debts, car title loans, and payday loans. A loan of $100 will have you paying back nearly the same amount in interests alone. Bad debt will sink you financially faster than a boat riddled with holes.

So now that you know the two types of debt, you can probably guess which one can be used to build wealth. The question now is “how”.

A good way is the example stated above. Use debt to expand your business. If you do not have a business, use debt to invest. It could be in property or in various investment funds. Whatever you decide to invest in, it is important to know your risk tolerance and how much you are willing to invest.

The principle of leverage can help you out as well. Say for example you are investing 100 dollars of your own with an expected return rate of 10%. This will earn you a return of $10. If you borrowed money with an interest rate of less than 10%, you can add to your initial $100 investment and still earn from it despite having to pay off the debt you used to invest. You can diversify your financial portfolio using this strategy as well; borrow to invest in different institutions and different kinds of investments.

There are a few to consider when using debt to invest. Think of your tolerance for debt. Can you realistically pay off your monthly payments? Can you pay off that debt within the time frame or do you need more time? Consider your cash flow as well. You need to make sure that you have enough income to pay off your debt.

So the answer to the question can debt be used to build wealth is yes, you can. You just need to choose the right kind of debt, invest in the right things, and keep in mind your debt tolerance.

This article was originally published by Uncapped Mortgage

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10 Ways to Save on Insurance

Having insurance is great when the universe decides it’s time to give you a major (or even minor) problem. But when you can get a policy for practically anything, it’s easy to spend more on protecting your life than living it. Don’t worry, though. We can help you keep these expenses under control while still getting the coverage that you need.

Here are ten ways to be protected for less:

1. Assess Your Needs

Rather than buying coverage simply because you think you should, it’s important to consider your specific situation. Your life today and your future plans should dictate what insurance policies you need and how much coverage is appropriate.

Although there are lots of factors to consider for each type of insurance, you should think about the following to determine your needs:

  • Your assets: More assets (cash, investments, businesses, property, etc.) may mean more insurance
  • Your family: Having dependents typically requires more coverage
  • Your health: Poor health could necessitate a more robust medical policy or more life insurance

2. Shop Around

Before committing to any policy, get pricing from multiple companies. You may be surprised at how much variation you see. And remember — don’t just set it and forget it. It pays to do this before every policy renewal.

3. Bundle Policies

As you get quotes for coverage, ask each company for a bundle price on the types of insurance that you need. You could score big savings and simplify your bill paying process.

4. Get a Discount by Association

Sure, you can likely get a deal on health, life, and disability insurance through your employer. But did you know that you may be eligible for discounted group rates on home and auto policies, too? Check with your HR department!

5. Raise the Deductible

Increasing your policy’s deductible could be an easy way to save a few bucks each month. Be sure, however, that you can cover the higher deductible if you ever need to make a claim.

6. Keep Your Credit Report Clean

Unless you live in CA, HI, or MA, poor credit history could cost you. Insurers may assign you an insurance score (similar to a credit score), with lower scores resulting in higher premiums. They believe, right or wrong, that a low score indicates irresponsibility and therefore more risk.

7. Save on Car Insurance

If you want to own a car in 48 out of 50 states, you need car insurance. The good news is that you can defray the expense with tons of different discounts. You may be able to save cash for being a student, taking a defensive driving course, being a member of AAA, driving a car with low miles, and more. Additionally, if your car is older and paid off, you may not need as much insurance. Remember: carry sufficient liability coverage to protect your assets.

Tip: Try this calculator to see how much car insurance you may need.

8. Save on Homeowners/Renters Insurance

If you have a mortgage, you’re probably required to have homeowner’s insurance. To make this expense more budget-friendly, ask your insurer if they offer price breaks for having smoke detectors, a home security system, modern plumbing and electrical systems, etc. Many of the same discounts are available to renters, too.

Bonus read: Check out this article on determining how much coverage you could need.

Tip: Use this guide to take an inventory of your belongings and determine the value of your stuff, which gets factored into your insurance requirements.

9. Save on Life Insurance

If you have a family to protect or want to leave loved ones a little something when you’re gone, you may want to purchase life insurance. There are a few different types, each with their own pros and cons, but generally, the most affordable type is term life insurance. Term life insurance will pay your beneficiaries a specified amount if you die within a certain timeframe (usually 10-30 years). There are a number of ways to save on life insurance such as paying the entire year’s worth of premiums upfront or getting a volume discount (aka getting more insurance for less money!).

Tip: Try this calculator to see how much life insurance you may need.

10. Save on Health Insurance

It’s no secret — medical care is crazy expensive. Adequate health insurance can save your wallet from a beating if you become seriously ill or injured.  If you’re in good health, don’t go to the doctor frequently, and have a cash reserve, consider saving money on your monthly premiums by choosing a plan with a high-deductible. You’ll pay the full tab if you go to urgent care with the flu or a sprained ankle, but you’ll (hopefully) pay less overall each year due to premium savings. You can also save money by using in-network providers and practicing healthy habits — like eating right, getting those steps in, and going easy at happy hour.

Tip: A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a perfect partner to a high-deductible medical plan. Check out how an HSA can help lower your tax liability, set money aside for medical expenses, and save for retirement here. To get started, click here.

Final Thoughts

Insurance can be a significant line item on your budget, but there are many ways to minimize the expense. While this article isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to save, it gives you a good start to being covered affordably.

Tell Charlie: What’s your favorite way to save on insurance?

Please note: We don’t have an affiliation with or personally endorse any of the services linked to in this post. We’re just trying to give you some ideas.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com

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