20 Tasks That Will Make Your Lazy Long Weekend Feel Extremely Productive In 10 Minutes Or Less

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If you’re one of the lucky people facing a three-day weekend thanks to Monday being MLK day, this is a post for you. And honestly, who doesn’t love a long weekend? But that being said, my long weekends almost always fall into one of two categories: a) a beloved mini-vacation or b) three days spent blissfully on the couch while getting nothing accomplished.

That’s not to say I’m not a fan of getting nothing accomplished. I am all for spending hours on the couch rewatching Gilmore Girls for the 17th time. But I hate getting to the end of a Sunday and feeling like I did absolutely nothing the entire weekend…and feeling that way at the end of a gifted free Monday feels even worse. So, to help myself (and you!) get a few things done on this blessed long weekend so I can enjoy my time off sans guilt, I’ve compiled this list of 10-minute-or-less tasks that can help anyone feel a little more productive.

1. Think of the one major home project you keep meaning to do and keep putting off. (For me, it’s spray-painting our white Kitchenaid stand mixer.) Don’t worry about doing it this weekend, but pick a date in the near-ish future and put it on your calendar. Sometimes, the farther out you plan something, the more it feels like a “real” plan — and the more likely you are to actually get it done.

2. Take inventory of the cleaning products you’re low on, and put in an online order for them on Amazon/Target/Brandless/etc.

3. Take everything out of your medicine cabinet. Wipe down the mirror and shelves, then put everything back.

4. Write down everything you need to get together before filing your taxes. Leave it somewhere you’re sure to find it again, like tucked into the first February page of your planner. Then, once it’s time to file, you’ll know everything you’re looking for.

5. Go through your most recent credit card statement (regardless of whether you’ve already paid it) and highlight every recurring monthly charge. Consider whether you’re actually getting value from each of these each month.

6. Sign up for an app like Trim to unsubscribe you from memberships that are (at least potentially) wasting your money.

7. Change out of your pajamas, and actually put them in the laundry hamper. Even if you’re going to spend a whole snowy weekend day inside, at least change into a clean pair of underwear and a T-shirt.

8. Paint your nails a color that always makes you feel super put-together.

9. Take at least five books off of your shelves that you know you’ve never read and have no interest in ever reading. Put them in a tote bag and place it right by your front door so that you don’t forget to take them to donate next time you leave the house.

10. Better yet, start reading a book on your shelf that you’ve always been meaning to read. Just promise yourself you’ll stick with it for 10 minutes. Chances are, you’ll be interested enough to keep reading a little longer — and you’ll feel good working your brain for just a little bit.

11. Throw away all the junk accumulating on your fridge or bulletin board — save the dates for weddings that have already happened, coupons that are expired or that you know you’ll never use, takeout menus you never order from, magnets that are too weak to hold anything.

12. Throw out every single expired condiment in your refrigerator door.

13. Clean your toilet bowl and wipe down all of the surfaces in your bathroom. Even if it’s something you do regularly (which, I hope it is), it never doesn’t feel good to do.

14. Give all of your makeup brushes a good wash. (Yep, shampoo those babies up.)

15. Pick a couple of meals you want to make later in the week, and go ahead and make a grocery list for them. Bonus points if you pick recipes with overlapping ingredients so you can stretch your dollars a little further.

16. Use some good old-fashioned white vinegar and give your coffee maker a thorough (and likely MUCH needed) clean.

17. Do some stretches. Instead of promising you’ll get to a yoga class, go for a run, or do some other time-consuming activity you may not do on a regular basis, focus on one accessible active thing you can do, especially on a lazy weekend when you’re not leaving the house much.

18. Write out your to-do list for Tuesday morning. Getting back into the swing of things at work is always tough after an extra day away, so make it easier on yourself by simply having your day’s list ready to go.

19. Journal for 10 minutes. If you’re anything like me, this is one of those things you always promise yourself you’ll do more of — so just do it now, even if only for a bit.

20. Clean out your desk drawers. Throw out pens that are out of ink, pencils with no eraser left, papers you don’t need, old post-its that aren’t even sticky.

4 Money-saving holiday shopping tips

The push to spend is intense this holiday season — it feels more like holiday shopping season. My inbox is bursting with so-called deals, and my phone apps are constantly nagging me to BUY, buy, BuY! If I tuned into all these app attacks and nosy notifications I’d have to say BYE, bye, ByE to my money. Buh buy!

I admit it’s tough to stay steely and resist the urge to splurge during the holidays, so I did a Facebook Live with CBC’s On the Money and host Peter Armstrong to talk about holiday shopping pressures, shopping tips to avoid overspending, and how not to blow your dough and risk going into debt in the New Year.

Here’s how to get the gifts you need on the budget you can afford, and still have money left for food and holiday fun. My five money-saving holiday shopping tips can help you avoid overspending.

1. Talk with your family. They will understand!

Make the holidays less emotional by being honest with your family. It may seem super hard, but realistically family and friends will totally understand if you say: “Can we set a gift limit or do something else this year? Money is tight and I just can’t afford it.”

Do not be embarrassed by being financially responsible.

In my circle we do a gift exchange where we pick one name from a hat and buy one gift! We place a cap on the cost of that gift too. Buying ONE GIFT is easy and reduces the stress of shopping for multiple people. This tactic also helps to avoid competitive gift giving — a strange holiday shopping phenomenon where everyone tries to top the other and no one wins. Ever.

Holiday shopping gift strategies:

  • Set a limit: No gifts over $10 or $20 or whatever!
  • Make it fun: White Elephant Gift Exchange. It’s a party game where inexpensive, silly, or amusing gifts are exchanged and then “stolen” during play. The goal is to nab the best unwrapped present before the final round ends. There are many variations and game rules, but it’s always fun to play.
  • Buy One Gift: Secret Santa holiday gift exchanges. Pick a name from a hat and buy that family member a personalized gift. But shhhh, the gift-giver is kept a mystery.
  • Potluck Dinner: Everyone contributes a dish! Why should dinner be the responsibility of ONE person or family? Diversify the cost and labour of the meal across all party-goers by bringing a dish.

Feeling a little less stressed? I’ve got more help.

2. Skip holiday shopping. Focus on experiences, not stuff.

Do the holidays differently this year by skipping the “Too Much Stuff Under The Tree Syndrome”. This is a real syndrome – I know because I checked WebMD. 😐

The truth is “Stuff” has a shelf life and many kids tire of new toys quickly. The fix?

Do things, don’t buy things. If your holidays are truly for spending time with family then why is there such a big focus on gifts? Blame the marketing! So reclaim the holidays and move the focus away from collecting gifts and aim to collect experiences.

Experiences Over Stuff:

  • Do things, don’t buy things. Focus on building memories, not a pile of stuff.
  • Experiences can be free or have a cost. Free-ish: Get outside with the family, go hiking, play boardgames with kids, tobogganing, stream movies. Costlier: Buy movie passes, spa treatment certificate, CityPasses for travel, sporting or concert tickets.
  • Family Memberships — the gift that can be enjoyed year-round! Buy a family pass once and visit the attraction often. So passes to museums, galleries, the science center, or the local recreation center. Many attractions have reciprocity agreements with partner centres, so one pass can entertain the family across multiple places.

Experience-based gifts won’t leave you roaming the mall tempted to overspend, and wholesale stores like Costco sell discounted gift passes and certificates which can be emailed to you fast if you’re in a pinch for time.

3. Make the second-hand economy your FIRST economy

Don’t snub the second-hand economy for holiday gifts. Make the second-hand economy your FIRST economy to save up to 95 percent, especially if you have younger kids. With Kijiji or Craigslist and Facebook Buy & Sell groups there are endless listings of nearly new and brand new toys, books, and kids’ gear waiting to be bought for way less than retail.

If you’re new to shopping second-hand, take my 80/20 Rule for a spin. Aim to buy 80 percent of your holiday items used, and spend 20 percent on new. I’ve used this shopping rule for years on everything from clothing to toys and I’ve saved big big money by using thrift and being sustainable too.

In my CBC segment (video above) I share a few kid gifts I found for pennies on the dollar. Here’s the list:

  • Gap Logo Hoodie: Regular $40, Spent $3 (Saved: $37)
  • Goldie Blox Spinning Machine: Regular $35, Spent $2 (Saved $33)
  • Fairy and Unicorn Djeco Puzzle: Regular $20, Spent $2 (Saved $18)
  • Apples to Apples Game: Regular $25, Spent $4 (Saved $21)
  • Night Sky Projection Kit: Regular $30, Spent $4 (Saved $26)

Bottom Line: Total Retail Cost: $150, Second-Hand Cost: $15, Total Saved: $142 or 95 percent.

Tip: If you’re new to shopping at thrift stores, be sure to know your pricing! Always comparative shop the prices of new items to gauge if the second-hand item is worth it or overpriced. Check out Are you getting gouged at Value Village? for a laugh.

BTW: Many of these items listed above are brand new with tags, so can too can save big bucks on the stuff selling in stores today. I bought all of my daughter’s presents last year for $15 at Value Village.

4. Redeem your Reward Points

I generally don’t love reward loyalty programs and credit card points programs because they can encourage us to SPEND, sometimes overspend. But if you’ve collected the points, don’t save them – USE THEM towards your holiday expenses.

Loyalty programs can change with little notice or increase the points needed to redeem for rewards leaving the value of a point or the availability of rewards in jeopardy. Use them or lose them.

So check your loyalty points for Air Miles, Shoppers Optimum, Scene, travel credit cards, and any credit card that offers cashback on your balance to redeem and reduce your expenses.

HK Tycoon Henry Cheng Announces Plans for £8.4B Project

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Henry Cheng, chairman of Hong Kong’s New World Development, won approval this week to build 15,000 new homes in London as part of a £8.4 billion ($13 billion) project.

Cheng’s proposal for redeveloping London’s Greenwich Peninsula was given the go-ahead by the Greenwich council, after being expanded and revised from a much smaller scheme that had been approved in 2004.

The newly approved project is now said to be London’s largest redevelopment effort ever, and the biggest foreign investment in the city’s real estate market to date.

Cheng, who is the son of New World’s billionaire founder Cheng Yu-tung, is making the investment through a separate company which he chairs, Knight Dragon. The privately-held company is not associated directly with Hong Kong’s New World.

Knight Dragon Expands Existing Project After Buying Out Partners

This week’s decision validates a plan by Knight Dragon to expand the existing project, after buying into the project in 2012. Knight Dragon bought a 60 percent share in Greenwich Peninsula by purchasing the 50 percent stake held by from the Sydney-based developer Lend Lease, as well as additional shares owned by local London redevelopment specialist Quintain. Then in 2013, the Hong Kong firm bought out Quintain’s stake to take full ownership of the deal.

The developer already has nearly 3,000 homes under construction in Greenwich Peninsula as part of the original project.

In addition to the new housing, the urban redevelopment project calls for the creation of office space, a new transport terminal and a film studio, as well as schools and a health centre. Greenwich Peninsula is also planned to include 2.6km of public river frontage.

Billionaire Heir Wants to Apply HK Model in London

Sammy Lee, vice-chairman of, Knight Dragon, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post this week that Greenwich Peninsula will apply a Hong Kong-style of integrated rail and real estate development to its newly expanded London project.

Knight Dragon, which has been described in earlier releases as an investment vehicle for Henry Cheng, intends to build hotels and a shopping mall above the existing metro station in the area, in the hopes of turning it into a hub for a community that it says could grow to 28,000 people.

Not everyone in London has welcomed Cheng’s expansion of the Greenwich Peninsula project with many local residents objecting to what is seen as a shift from the community’s earlier direction of providing low-cost housing, in favor of more high-end development.

Knight Dragon’s Lee estimates that the first phase of the project has invested between as much as £700 million into public and social infrastructure, as well as affordable housing.

Now in what the company is referring to as phase two of Greenwich Peninsula, the Hong Kong developer plans to put up five blocks of luxury homes, targetting prices of £1,000 ($1550) per square foot, and marketing the units globally.

What It’s Really Like When Your Parents Pay For Your Life

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I am writing this to serve two main purposes: 1) to speak to other late teens, early 20-somethings, or other people who are faced with the option of a parent-subsidized, strings-attached lifestyle or a lifestyle they can afford on their own, and 2) to speak to the people who look at our situation and assume we “have it easy.” I am inspired on this subject because I recently came across a person who is now facing the parent-subsidized or self-affordable choice and is struggling with how to handle the situation. This young lady, while a perfectly nice person, has become so accustomed to the luxury items that her parents can afford to give her that she is making bad decisions with her own money and letting it affect her relationships with others. I understand the crossroads she is standing at, and with love I say, “The stuff is not worth it!”

Some people would say that I had a very privileged life growing up and in college, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. I know that my parents lived on a modest income when I was very young, but by the time that I was old enough to identify the signs of financial ease, they had achieved a status generally considered “well-off.” We had a nice, well-maintained home and cars. They weren’t the most expensive home or cars, but when things broke we could fix them or replace them without severe financial stress. These were the signs that told me we were doing well financially.

When I was 11, my parents did what they thought was a smart move: they bought a new car that would be mine when I was of driving age. The plan was that Mom would use it for work for the next five years to put some miles on it and let it become a “used car” so that when I started driving it, the insurance would be lower, and they would no longer owe payments on the car. Now, this was a N-I-C-E car to be planning to give to a 16-year-old even if it would be five years old by that time. It was a Mustang GT. Sweet! I loved this car when they bought it, and I loved it when it became “mine.” However, there was one fact I was blissfully unaware of about this car: it came with strings attached.

I really do believe that parents should set boundaries for their children, whether they are minors in a legal sense, or even the legal adult children that choose to live with them (although boundaries should mature with the child). But that beautiful, wonderful car became an enormous point of stress between my parents and me. From the time I started becoming one of those lovely creatures we call teenagers, my parents and I started to argue more and more, and new “rules” seemed to appear regularly. I took some psychology in college (I originally wanted to be a teacher), and I know that some of this is part of the maturation process of humans, so that children will forge out on their own, find a mate, and reproduce to continue the human race (yes, really lol). It’s in our genes. But, this was more than that. My parents wanted control over all of my decisions, because they had given me “gifts.” 

The car was the first time that I started seeing the strings closing in around me. These frequent power struggles led to me working aggressively to devise a plan of how to financially disentangle myself from my parents including buying my own car and moving out. I knew the choice I had was to either continue having these struggles with my parents, or to pay for my lifestyle 100%. For me, by Christmas of my senior year of high school, I was just so done with all of it. We fought over EVERYTHING. We fought over who I spent time with. We fought over what college I wanted to attend. We fought over what profession I wanted to pursue. They made it clear that they felt they were owed the final say in these matters, because they had given me a good lifestyle.

I wanted desperately to have a good relationship with my parents, but it was clear to me that while money or these lifestyle gifts were in the mix, we would not be able to have a healthy relationship. Whether my parents intended it in the beginning or not, once these gifts were on the table they wanted to use them as leverage to force me to make decisions that they wanted to see happen. I’m sure they always had the best intentions, but they had a narrow view of “success” and the “right choices”. They wanted me to marry someone whose family was in the same tax bracket as them, and to pursue a “well-paying” career with a “stable” company (I use these terms loosely because I started college in 2008 when many people had to redefine these terms).

My parents tried to use anger to get their way by picking fights with me. They tried to use guilt by saying that I must not love them if this is what I want. They tried to belittle me by saying that I was too accustomed to the lifestyle they had provided, and I wouldn’t be happy if I couldn’t achieve that lifestyle straight out of college. They tried to bribe me by offering to pay for everything if I would go to the school they wanted and pursue the career they thought would get me a “good job.” They tried to use the “gifts” as leverage. They tried to manipulate me in any way they could so that I would live my life in the way they thought was “correct.” I had to make a choice between the life their money could provide, and the life I truly felt would make me happy. I chose me.

I love my parents, but it is safe to say that the only reason we now have a semi-healthy relationship is because I have spent years now putting financial, physical, and emotional distance between us. Throughout college, I built a nest egg that gave me the confidence to know that the retraction of their financial support would not cause me to drop out of college or no longer have a job. I lived in the dorms my first year of college, and when I moved back home, I made it clear that I would only do so if my parents could respect my boundaries whether they agreed with my decisions or not. I was fully ready and willing to pick up extra work, rely on my savings, and take out loans where necessary if the situation went south.

I know I am not alone in what I went through. I’ve seen other young people sorting through the same issues with their parents, and I’m here to say that there is path to the other side. You will have to work to build your own financial safety net. You will have to be willing to stand firm with your parents and say that you need boundaries as a young adult to make your own choices. You will have to be willing to commit to a plan if there’s the possibility that your boundaries will be respected. All of this takes bravery, courage, and hard work. But ultimately no car, purse, vacation, or anything else is worth your freedom and independence.

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Normally, I tell clients to expect at least one 10% drop in the stock market each and every year. We recently went through one of those dips at the end of 2018. Like anything, you have to take the good with the bad. A sudden decline in the market can be a breeding ground for investor mistakes that can cause big problems for your financial plan in the long run. The stock market has become increasingly volatile lately, which can lead to some bad investor behaviors.

There are two main parts to investing: Investment Returns and Investor Behavior. You can only control one of the two. Your behavior.

Here are a few investing fundamentals I’d like to share with you. Some are so simple they are often overlooked and ignored.

1.) You don’t receive bonus points for making things overly complicated. I had a client with about 50 accounts all over the place. Every time he had extra money, he opened a new account. The problem was that he bought basically the same thing in each account. On that note, a well-managed and diversified portfolio can be simple and easy to maintain. He thought he was diversified, but he was just making his life difficult.

2.) Your portfolio doesn’t care if you look at it every day. I have another client who checks his portfolio on his iPhone multiple times each day. This is a waste of time. The only real benefit (if you can call it that) is the occasional spike in your blood pressure, which may reduce your life expectancy and result in less money needed to fund your long-term retirement plan. The market going up and down is a normal thing and should be expected.

3.) Change your portfolio when your personal facts change.Generally, big changes to an investment strategy should be made when your life situation has changed. Perhaps you’ve reached the home stretch for retirement or the extra money from your home down payment is being re-positioned for new financial goals. Avoid making drastic changes to your portfolio based on some big story you heard on the evening news or a hot stock tip you heard at a cocktail party. There is no reason you need to reallocate your 401(k) over and over again with no rhyme or reason.

4.) “It depends” and “I don’t know” are the answer to many financial questions. I often get asked, “Should I do A or B?” It depends. I can give you the best answer with a little more information. On the other hand, I don’t know any prominent psychic financial planners. (I’ll admit I haven’t looked.) While the stock market has traditionally trended upwards, I don’t know what the stock market will do today, or for that matter, how it will perform in the next month. I don’t know and really no one else does either. But what I do know is how to help you build a plan that will help you reach your financial goals. That is probably a lot more relevant to you than how many points the stock market moved today.

5.) The market goes up, the market goes down, and we will have recessions on a fairly regular basis. Every year winter comes, the temperature drops, and then things eventually warm up again. Just like the temperature, the market will fluctuate. If your investments move more than you can stomach, consider a more moderate portfolio. But, don’t ditch the market all together.

9 Financial Planning Tips for Millennials

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If you’re a Millennial, know this about financial planning: Time is still on your side, but it won’t be for much longer.

Building the resources you need to help you accomplish what you want in life isn’t complicated, but the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. If you wait too long, until you are in your 40s or 50s, you’ll have to save and invest a much larger portion of your income.

Here are nine tips to help give you the confidence to shed whatever doubts may be holding you back. The most important rule of financial planning is: Start now and start somewhere.

1. If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, before you do anything else, stop that. Figure out where you can cut costs, even if it is by a few dollars a week. The best way to do this is to start tracking where you are spending your money. That way you can make changes and set goals around your spending. That will enable you to begin saving right away without having to make more money.

2. Save at least three months’ pay, so that you have a cushion to tap in an emergency. (You’ll soon work on saving more, but start there.) Think about saving your emergency funds in a high-yield savings account where you can earn a higher interest rate than most traditional bank savings accounts offer.

3. Save the maximum you can in retirement accounts, up to the amount matched by your company, or up to the amount you can put aside tax-free in an Individual Retirement Account. Every $500 you save now will be worth more than $6,000 in 45 years at a fairly conservative annual 6 percent rate of return. If you wait until you are 45 to save that same $500, it will be worth only a little more than $2,000 when you retire at age 70.

4. Diversify your investments. Nobel Prize-winning science suggests that diversifying your investments into broad-based stock mutual funds will help reduce your risk. When the market drops, as it is bound to, you may minimize your losses if you are diversified. (Keep in mind that the chief advantage you have when you are young is that your investments have time to recover from a drop in the market. Don’t panic and sell when the market falls.)

5. Invest in low-cost funds. When you are buying mutual funds, keep in mind that the best predictor of a good return is how low the fees are. Remember that $500 that turns into $6,000 by the time you retire? If you invest in a fund that charges 1 percent annually, your $500 will be worth $4,500 at age 70. Aim for low-cost funds that charge less than 1 percent annually to add to your investment portfolio.

6. As you meet your other savings goals and as your income increases, add to your savings outside your retirement account. Having a larger pool of money to invest in something bigger when the time is right is invaluable. That something could be a house, a business or your children’s education. You can use the 50/30/20 rule: 50 percent of your income should go to necessities, like your house and taxes, 30 percent toward discretionary items, like vacations and meals out, and 20 percent toward savings.

7. Take care of the basics for your family. You probably don’t have enough money saved yet to take care of your family if something happens to you. Term life insurance is inexpensive when you’re young. Likewise, your estate plan doesn’t need to be complicated, but you need one.

8. Don’t get fancy. You’ll hear a lot of people brag about the killing they made in the market or the latest hot investment, like cryptocurrencies. Keep in mind that for every successful bet they made, there are a few duds they’ve forgotten or don’t mention. If you want to dabble in risky investments, make sure that you don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. Figure out what level of risk you are willing to take on for your own lifestyle and match investments to that level of risk.

The Ultimate Guide to Managing Money in Your 20s

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Money might make the world go round, but it can be tough to keep those dolla dolla bills organized. Whether you’re financially independent for the first time or in need of a personal finances refresher course, here are some tips for smart money management.

Note: The following information is based on an unmarried, childless adult.

Budget

Simple Tips to Stress Less
  1. Be realistic. If you’re working an entry-level job, don’t expect to buy designer shoes and fancy meals every week.
  2. Be tough. Learn to say no or find creative replacements for pricey items or experiences.
  3. Reassess often. Look over spending and reevaluate every 1-2 months.
Always Going Over? Try These Strategies:
  • Evaluate your lifestyle honestly. To make ends meet, it may be necessary to cancel magazine subscriptions, stop ordering out for lunch, or forego cable TV.
  • Reorganize your “lifestyle choices” budget. Prioritize and allocate more money for stuff you enjoy (e.g., going out to eat versus shopping).
  • Try a cash budget. Each month, allocate specific amounts of cash for things like food, bars, movies, and clothing, and divide the money among labeled envelopes. When an envelope’s empty, you’re done spending for the month.
Budget Fun: How to Socialize and Save
  • Entertain at home. Ask buddies to chip in for booze (or BYO) and crank up the jams.
  • Get outside. Parks are free (and pretty) venues for socializing. Bring some games or sports equipment, a picnic, and some tunes.
  • Do your homework. Many cities and towns offer free cultural events (museums, art shows, concerts, movies, etc.) every week.
  • Think outside the box. You don’t need to spend money to hang with friends. Instead of meeting a pal for coffee, ask them to join you for a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood.
  • Savings

    Many financial planning resources recommend saving 20 percent of each paycheck each month. Start out adding those savings to a “rainy day fund” for emergencies (or sudden unemployment) that contains between three and six months of net pay. Once the emergency fund is sufficiently stocked, put the monthly 20 percent towards longer-term goals—a house, a car, or a luxurious vacation.

    For many people just scraping by, putting away that much sounds superhuman, if not totally impossible. But rest easy! Saving doesn’t have to be Herculean.

  • Types of Savings Accounts

    Regular Savings Account

    A basic account for beginners. Pros: Low commitment, earns more interest than in a checking account. Cons: Low returns (a.k.a. extra money earned through interest).

    Certificate of Deposit (CD)

    Good for long-term saving. Pros: High interest returns with rates rising every year. Cons: Very inflexible. Most can’t be touched for 3 months to 5 years, and withdrawing early can result in a fee.

    Money Market Account (MMA)

    Middle ground between Regular Savings and CD. Pros: High interest, more flexibility than a CD. Cons: Limits on withdrawals, and many require a high minimum balance.

    Note: Most savings (and checking) accounts have a monthly “maintenance fee” between $5 and $20. Avoid the fee by keeping a minimum sum in the account (usually between $300 and $500; exact amount varies from bank to bank) or by arranging a recurring transfer or direct deposit into the account.

    All About Interest

    Interest is tricky; it can either help you or seriously stab you in the back. Here’s how it works:

    • Interest is a fee charged for borrowing money—and it goes both ways. Banks pay interest for the ability to “borrow” your money and lend it out to other people and businesses. Consumers pay interest on credit cards, loans, car payments, and other instances when they borrow from the bank. It’s awesome for savings accounts (when the bank pays interest), but less so for loans (when you pay interest).
    • Compounding interest refers to how often interest is calculated and added to your account (for example: annually, monthly, weekly). The more often it’s compounded, the more money you make (or owe).
    • Online banks, MMAs, and high-yield savings accounts (those meant to generate lots of interest) tend to have much higher annual yields (between .80 percent and .90 percent) than basic savings accounts at brick-and-mortar banks. Higher-yield accounts also tend to have higher maintenance fees and minimum balances, so read the fine print before signing anything!
  • Debt and Loans

  • How to Deal With Debt
    1. Pay off “bad debt” (especially credit cards) first. These debts easily spiral out of control.
    2. Don’t take on debt you don’t need. Live frugally and don’t exceed your means, and study your financial situation before taking on any necessary new debt.
    3. Look for lower interest rates that compound less often. There are tons of banks, credit card companies, and car dealerships, so there’s almost always a better deal out there.
    4. Always read the fine print. And if you don’t understand the jargon, ask questions or consult someone with fine-print-reading skills!
    5. Keep saving while you pay off debt. Remember that 20 percent of your paycheck goes to “lifestle priorities”—figure out the best way to divvy up that amount so you can pay off debts and add to savings simultaneously.
  • Retirement

  • Types of Retirement Accounts

    The main difference between types of retirement accounts is how the IRS taxes the related contributions and interest.

    • With 760-750-0092, you’re taxed when the funds are withdrawn after retirement.
    • By contrast, money goes into a Roth IRA or Roth 401k after taxes, so the user does not have to pay taxes on either contributions or interest when they withdraw from the account.
    • You can open a traditional and a Roth IRA at the same time, but the maximum contribution for both accounts is $5,500 per year combined.

    Some banks and brokerages offering Traditional and Roth IRAs require minimum balances to prevent maintenance charges; however, it’s often possible to avoid these charges by scheduling regular contributions into the IRA from savings or checking accounts.

    401k

    Only available to people whose employers offer 401k plans. Stashes away money from each paycheck, so it stops accumulating if you find a different job (most companies will allow you to “roll over” your previous 401k into the new company’s 401k account). Some companies will “match” what you save, resulting in a higher yield (free money!). Also, some companies offer both traditional and Roth 401ks so employees can choose what works for them.

    Traditional IRA

    All contributions are tax deductible, and you don’t have to pay taxes on interest. On the down side, you’ll have to pay taxes on both contributions and interest when you withdraw. Anyone who takes out money before age 59½ must pay a 10 percent penalty fee (of the amount withdrawn) and taxes on the money. Regular withdrawals are mandatory beginning at age 70½. Anyone, regardless of age or income, can start a traditional IRA. This type of IRA is best for those currently in a high tax bracket who believe they will be in a lower bracket at retirement age.

    Roth IRA

    With a Roth fund, you’ll pay taxes on deposits but not withdrawals. These accounts are not open to anyone—single tax filers making over $137,000 (or $188,000 for a couple) per year cannot open Roth IRA accounts. The income limitations change every year to adjust for inflation. To contribute the maximum amount each year ($5,500 for those under 50, $6,500 for people 50+) in 2013, a singleton’s gross annual income must total less than $112,000, and a married couple less than $178,000. This type of retirement fund is more flexible about withdrawals. However, you’ll have to pay a 10 percent fee on all interest if withdrawing before retirement age.

    Note: Investing in stocks and bonds is a great way to contribute to a retirement fund, but it’s outside the scope of this article. Consult a financial planner or trusted advisor if you’re interested in more complicated investments.

  • Credit

  • Credit scores determine interest rates for things like mortgages, car loans, or regular bank loans. They tell bankers how likely you are to pay everything back (and they can also determine whether you’re approved to rent a house or apartment).
  • Call Help With My Credit, DebtAdvice, Take Charge America, or another independent, free service for advice. Options may include:
    • Payment holiday: Allows you to skip a month or two of paying the credit card bill (although you’ll still accumulate interest and must pay eventually).
    • Balance negotiation: Call the credit card company to negotiate for a better interest rate, change the payment terms, or to reach a settlement. If you’re really behind on payments, creditors may reduce the balance by 50 percent or more.
    • Debt management plan: Work with creditors to set up a monthly payment plan to pay off debts.
    • File bankruptcy: Declaring bankruptcy stays on your credit record from between seven to ten years, so try not to let debt get to this point (and consult an expert you trust before making any decisions).

5 Essential Tips for Investing in Stocks

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Buying stocks isn’t hard. What’s challenging is choosing companies that consistently beat the stock market.

That’s something most people can’t do, which is why you’re on the hunt for stock tips. The below strategies will deliver tried-and-true rules and strategies for investing in the stock market. (Need to back up and learn some basics? Here’s our guide for how to buy stocks.)

One bonus investment tip before we dive in: We recommend investing no more than 10% of your portfolio in individual stocks. The rest should be in a diversified mix of low-cost index mutual funds. Money you need within the next five years shouldn’t be invested in stocks at all.

5 Stock Market Tips

1. Check your emotions at the door.

2. Pick companies, not stocks.

3. Plan ahead for panicky times.

4. Build up your stock positions with a minimum of risk.

5. Avoid trading overactivity.

1. Check your emotions at the door
“Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ … what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.” That’s wisdom from Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and an oft-quoted investing sage and role model for investors seeking long-term, market-beating, wealth-building returns.

Buffett is referring to investors who let their heads, not their guts, drive their investing decisions. In fact, trading overactivity triggered by emotions is one of the most common ways investors hurt their own portfolio returns.

All the stock market tips that follow can help investors cultivate the temperament required for long-term success.

2. Pick companies, not ticker symbols

It’s easy to forget that behind the alphabet soup of stock quotes crawling along the bottom of every CNBC broadcast is an actual business. But don’t let stock picking become an abstract concept. Remember: Buying a share of a company’s stock makes you a part owner of that business.

Remember: Buying a share of a company’s stock makes you a part owner of that business.

You’ll come across an overwhelming amount of information as you screen potential business partners. But it’s easier to home in on the right stuff when wearing a “business buyer” hat. You want to know how this company operates, its place in the overall industry, its competitors, its long-term prospects and whether it brings something new to the portfolio of businesses you already own.

3. Plan ahead for panicky times

All investors are sometimes tempted to change their relationship statuses with their stocks. But making heat-of-the-moment decisions can lead to the classic investing gaffe: buying high and selling low.

Here’s where journaling helps. (That’s right, investor: journaling. Chamomile tea is a nice touch, but it’s completely optional.)

Write down what makes every stock in your portfolio worthy of a commitment and, while your head is clear, the circumstances that would justify a breakup. For example:

Why I’m buying: Spell out what you find attractive about the company and the opportunity you see for the future. What are your expectations? What metrics matter most and what milestones will you use to judge the company’s progress? Catalog the potential pitfalls and mark which ones would be game-changers and which would be signs of a temporary setback.

What would make me sell: Sometimes there are good reasons to split up. For this part of your journal, compose an investing prenup that spells out what would drive you to sell the stock. We’re not talking about stock price movement, especially not short term, but fundamental changes to the business that affect its ability to grow over the long term. Some examples: The company loses a major customer, the CEO’s successor starts taking the business in a different direction, a major viable competitor emerges, or your investing thesis doesn’t pan out after a reasonable period of time.

4. Build up positions gradually

Time, not timing, is an investor’s superpower. The most successful investors buy stocks because they expect to be rewarded — via share price appreciation, dividends, etc. — over years or even decades. That means you can take your time in buying, too. Here are three buying strategies that reduce your exposure to price volatility:

Dollar-cost average: This sounds complicated, but it’s not. Dollar-cost averaging means investing a set amount of money at regular intervals, such as once per week or month. That set amount buys more shares when the stock price goes down and fewer shares when it rises, but overall, it evens out the average price you pay. Some online brokerage firms let investors set up an automated investing schedule.

Buy in thirds: Like dollar-cost averaging, “buying in thirds” helps you avoid the morale-crushing experience of bumpy results right out of the gate. Divide the amount you want to invest by three and then, as the name implies, pick three separate points to buy shares. These can be at regular intervals (e.g., monthly or quarterly) or based on performance or company events. For example, you might buy shares before a product is released and put the next third of your money into play if it’s a hit — or divert the remaining money elsewhere if it’s not.

Buy “the basket”: Can’t decide which of the companies in a particular industry will be the long-term winner? Buy ’em all! Buying a basket of stocks takes the pressure off picking “the one.” Having a stake in all the players that pass muster in your analysis means you won’t miss out if one takes off, and you can use gains from that winner to offset any losses. This strategy will also help you identify which company is “the one” so you can double down on your position if desired.

5. Avoid trading overactivity

Checking in on your stocks once per quarter — such as when you receive quarterly reports — is plenty. But it’s hard not to keep a constant eye on the scoreboard. This can lead to overreacting to short-term events, focusing on share price instead of company value, and feeling like you need to do something when no action is warranted.

When one of your stocks experiences a sharp price movement, find out what triggered the event. Is your stock the victim of collateral damage from the market responding to an unrelated event? Has something changed in the underlying business of the company? Is it something that meaningfully affects your long-term outlook?

Rarely is short-term noise (blaring headlines, temporary price fluctuations) relevant to how a well-chosen company performs over the long term. It’s how investors react to the noise that really matters. Here’s where that rational voice from calmer times — your investing journal — can serve as a guide to sticking it out during the inevitable ups and downs that come with investing in stocks.

When Is It Better To Finance A Purchase Than Pay Cash?

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Don’t assume that paying cash for a large purchase like a car or home is automatically the best way to go. If you’re thinking about whether to finance a purchase or pay cash, read on.

If you’re in the enviable position of having cash on hand to purchase something as expensive as a car, a boat, or even a property, why would you willingly borrow money instead of buying the asset outright?
It may come as a surprise, but wealthy people do it all the time, especially when interest rates are favorable.
The logic is simple: When you can borrow money at a lower interest rate than you can earn on money you invest, it’s cheaper to take a loan than to pay cash.
Still, millions of readers share the simple conviction that debt is to be avoided at all costs. If you’re one of them, it may be because you have experienced being over your head in debt like I have. Otherwise, you might have seen this happen to someone close to you, and you know the toll too much debt can take.
For the record, I mostly agree. Now that I’m able, I don’t have any debt. I purchased my cars with cash and paid off my mortgage. But I will stop short of saying I’ll never borrow money again. It will depend on my circumstances—and the interest rates—at the time.

The opportunity cost of spending cash

Whether or not you pay cash for a large purchase or finance it, there are costs in addition to the price of the asset. When you finance, the cost is obvious: it’s the interest you’ll pay on the loan.
When you pay cash, however, there is an opportunity cost in the future interest or investment returns you could earn from keeping that cash.
As a simple example, let’s say:
You have $10,000 in a savings account earning two percent APY a year that compounds monthly. In one year, you’ll earn $202. in interest. In 10 years, you’ll earn $2,212. Over 30 years, you’ll earn $8,212 in interest.
If you spend that $10,000, you forgo those earnings. By the way, with interests rates on the rise, you can get an even higher yield on your savings account. CIT Bank, for example, is currently offering 2.45% right now on their Savings Builder Account.
Things get interesting, however, when you consider that you should expect to earn a long-term average of six to seven percent on money invested in a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds. Although actual returns are difficult to predict and depend on myriad factors, six to seven percent is a good rule of thumb.
At those returns, the opportunity cost for spending $10,000 goes up, and it goes up significantly when you consider the power compounding will have over time. At seven percent, you initial $10,000 will double in 10 years and earn over $71,000 over 30 years.

Example: Financing a car at 2%

Some of the lowest consumer interest rates can be found on new vehicle loans. Sometimes the interest rates are subsidized by auto manufacturers to help sell cars.
Even without subsidies, new car loans tend to be low because most creditworthy borrowers repay them and, in the event of default, it’s fairly easy for banks to repossess the car.
At 1.99 percent or less, it’s worth financing

If I were purchasing a new car today and had the option to either pay cash or finance the car at 1.99 percent or less, I would seriously consider financing it. For the record, I doubt you will find many 1.99 percent car loans at the time of publication. According to Bankrate, the average 48-month new car loan APR was 4.80 percent as of October 17, 2018.
If you do find and qualify for two percent APR on a new car today, you might consider financing. If you’re a stock investor, you should expect to earn long-term returns equivalent to a six to seven percent annual return. Therefore, if you’re earning seven percent and paying two percent, you’re netting five percent on your money, before inflation. On a $30,000 vehicle loan over five  years, you could be better off by nearly $11,000.
Where to finance a car

First things first, you should never get a loan from the dealership—arguing with the salesperson about your interest rate will just give you a headache.
Instead, try searching for the best rates with loan aggregators like Even Financial. Even can find for you the personal loans that best match your needs.

Example: The sub-5% mortgage

The stakes can get even higher when you start looking at paying down a mortgage early or if you’re in a position to pay cash for a home.
Mortgage rates are going up, with the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage clocking in at 4.86 percent as of October 25, 2018. If they go much higher, this math starts to break down. But it still works, for now.
At five percent or less, take out a mortgage

At five percent or less, carrying a mortgage makes sense, in my opinion, for the same reason it makes sense to finance a car at two percent.
Even though you’ll pay a significant amount of interest on a five percent mortgage, you could still beat that rate by two percent with your investments. And, because you hold a mortgage for longer, the compounding effect is significant.
You’ll pay $380,375 in interest over 30 years on a $200,000 mortgage at 4.86 percent. Wow, that’s a lot. On the other hand, you could invest your $200,000 through M1 Finance, a hybrid robo advisor. If you earn an average seven percent annual return, which is feasible, you could end up with around $1.6 million. In other words, you could end up with nearly $1 million more than if you paid cash for the home.
Where to find a mortgage

You can go through a credit union or your local bank, or, just like with car loans, you can look for the best mortgage rates through aggregators like Lending Tree or EVEN Financial.

But what about risk?`

When you look at the $200,000 mortgage example and the potential to come out ahead by close to $1,000,000, it’s easy to forget about the positives to paying cash. When you take out a loan instead of paying cash, there are two significant risks.
You could default on the loan

We all know that when you finance something, be it a car or a home, you don’t actually own it until the last payment is made. If you stop making payments, the bank can take the asset back.
Although the risk of default is presumably lower if you have the cash on hand to pay off the loan at any time, things could still happen. You could, for example, become incapacitated and stop making payments.
Your investments won’t always perform well

Historically, the stock market has been the best place to grow money over the long-run. But there’s no guarantee that will continue to be true, or that future average annual returns won’t fall. I’m betting my financial future on a stock market that can still return at least six percent over 30 or 40 years, so I’ll be among the deeply disappointed if this isn’t the case. But, you never know.
Determine the risk you can handle

When you pay off a four percent mortgage, or two percent car loan, you’re getting a guaranteed rate of return. You won’t be paying that four or two percent interest anymore.
As a result, like all investing decisions, it comes down to your risk tolerance. Taking on more risk has the potential to generate more reward.
Only you can evaluate your own situation and know what amount of risk is appropriate.

Summary

Don’t assume that paying cash for a large purchase like a car or home is automatically the best way to go. If you’re investing wisely and have excellent credit, you may be able to come out ahead by tens of thousands of dollars by borrowing money at a low interest rate and investing the cash instead.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how low an interest rate needs to be relative to your expected average annual return, but I think a two percent differential starts to become attractive and a three percent differential or more makes borrowing extremely attractive.

thermoreduction

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Turns out, clearing out a Target or Walmart, then reselling it all on Amazon, can make you enough money to pay off your house.

On one of my more recent voyages down a YouTube wormhole, I was introduced to a suspiciously profitable practice called retail arbitrage. The concept is fairly simple: You purchase products from a retail store, like Walmart or Target, and then you sell them somewhere else, like Amazon, for a higher price.

Here’s an example: In one video that I stumbled upon, an arbitrager purchases 182 ‘Monopoly for Millennials’ board games from several local Walmarts, for $19.82 each. Then, within less than 24 hours, he managed to sell 131 of them on Amazon for $77.29 each, which leaves him with an impressive profit of $2,500, even after deducting shipping costs and fees (he presumably sold the remaining 51 board games on a later date for even more profit).

After watching this video, I had so many questions — namely, does this actually work for most people, and if so, why aren’t more people doing it? I also couldn’t help but wonder whether employees (and other customers) get upset when you walk out of the store with 182 ‘Monopoly for Millennials’ board games. To answer these questions, and to get a better sense of how retail arbitrage actually works, I sat down with YouTuber and retail arbitrager Shane Myers, who also made a killing flipping the same ‘Monopoly for Millennials’ game.

First things first: How’d you even get into retail arbitrage?
I actually have a retail background — I worked in retail management for nine years, and I was also an executive manager for Target. I learned a lot of this business through retail, and I just apply it as retail arbitrage. I know a lot about inventory systems and stuff like that. If you have a little bit of that knowledge, you’re going to have a leg up on everybody else trying to make money online.

Can you tell me about some of your more recent retail-arbitrage endeavors?
I actually just picked up, about one or two weekends ago, a bunch of light bulbs. A light bulb is an everyday item that people use, so there’s always a need for them, and I picked them up on clearance at Walmart for $2 each. I was actually able to identify the markdown before Walmart caught it: They were assigned at $9 each, and I bought them for $2 each, which is a huge, huge thing — you’re almost guaranteed that nobody else has bought them, since they’re still assigned at full price.

So I bought 218 packages of light bulbs after travelling around to several Walmarts within a 150-mile radius, and I was able to send them all into Amazon FBA, which is Fulfillment by Amazon. I’m going to net anywhere between $4 and $5 of profit for each package, which comes to about $1,100 or $1,200, give or take.

Another example, which you can see in my most current YouTube video [above], involves me going around to Walmarts to buy iHome vanity mirrors. They were on a Christmas special, and I bought them for $12.45. But they sell on Amazon for anywhere between $75 and $90, so I’m probably looking at a profit of around $4,000.

You said you noticed the markdown before Walmart did. Um, how?
I use a site called BrickSeek, and I pay $30 a month for an extreme plan. It doesn’t only help people who do retail arbitrage, it also helps people who just love good deals. But it helps retail arbitrageurs, because we can actually see the markdowns at local Walmarts — it’s tied into their corporate somehow, and it gives us on-hand item counts in the store and tells us which stores have them.

How the hell do you even ship 218 packs of light bulbs?
I have a business license, and I’m registered on Amazon as a third-party seller, meaning I can leverage Amazon FBA. I just print out some labels to stick on every item, and then I put a bunch of items in a box — the boxes can weigh no more than 50 pounds and can only be 24 inches long. Then, I send them to Amazon, where they stock the items in their warehouse, and as they sell, Amazon fulfills them for you and takes care of customer service.

Doesn’t all that shipping dip into your profits, though?
No! I shipped out 298 pounds of light bulbs for about $65. Amazon leverages FedEx and UPS corporate shipping to give people a good deal.

Have you ever bought a bunch of stuff that just didn’t sell?
You’re always worried, especially when you’re putting down a large investment. For the light bulbs, I was out about $600, and for the iHomes, I was out about $1,200. But I’ve actually made bigger purchases than that: I have a video where I went out and bought 136 “Monopoly for Millennials” games, and the cost was probably around $3,000.

So you always worry, but you can leverage tools to help you build data to know that it’s a good product that selling. On Amazon, when you scan the item on the seller app, it’s going to give you a rank — it might say that you’re ranked 100,000 for that item. But I use two free programs that are amazing: camelcamelcamel.com and keepa.com. You can take the Universal Product Code, look up the item on those websites, and you can see a year’s worth of data (if the data exists) on price, like whether the price has dropped significantly during certain times of the year. You can also look up a sales rank chart to narrow down about how many times an item sells per month.

Do store employees ever get upset when you come in and buy everything?
Not usually. Walmart actually loves to sell clearance — if it’s clearance, they want it out of their store. Once in a while, though, you’ll run into a store that gives you a super hard time or won’t sell you the items. But for Walmart, that’s very few and far between. Different retail stores are different, though: I know that Target is very against resellers. If it’s clearance, they usually don’t care, but if it’s a normal-priced item, they’ll probably limit you.

Seems like you have this all figured out, so is this your full-time gig?
I actually work a full-time job, and I do this on the side. About a year from now, I’ll be doing this full time. Last month, on Amazon alone, I sold $10,000 worth of products. I’ve paid off about 78 percent of my debt doing this, so I’m playing the long game. I’m paying off debt, and in a couple years, I should have my house paid off. That way, I can just leave my job, do this full-time and not have to worry about bills and debt.

Impressive! Do you think people will be upset to find out that you’re making money by essentially selling items for more than they would be at the store?
If you go to a retail store and buy all of one item, some of the customers might be a little upset at you. But you have to realize that, when you sell online and do retail arbitrage, you’re doing the exact same thing that Walmart or Target is doing. They’re buying an item at a low price, and they’re selling it to a user for more. It’s the exact same thing, but it has a negative connotation, because people don’t understand that Walmart is doing that, since they’re so used to going to the store to buy stuff.