Tag: Financial Education

 

How to Invest Small Amounts of Money

When you think of investing, you might think of wealthy finance types or people straight out of The Wolf of Wall Street.

But, in reality, everyone can invest for the future, and you don’t have to have a ton of money to do so. We’ve scoured the web for some great resources and found these 10 best ways to invest small amounts of money. Read on to learn more.

1. Invest with a robo-advisor: $10

If you’re not sure how to start investing, try a robo-advisor. A robo-advisor is an online investing platform that can help manage your money.

For example, you can try investing with Betterment, one of the bigger robo-advisors out there. There is a minimum deposit of $10 and the annual fee is 0.25 percent. Other fees are based on your account balance.

When you get started, Betterment will ask you what you’re investing for — such as retirement or a down payment on a house. After that, based on your goals and risk tolerance, Betterment will create a custom portfolio for you. You can get started at Betterment.com.

2. Invest your spare change: $0.01+

When you make a purchase, it can feel like your spare change isn’t that important. But we know that small amounts of money can add up fast. That’s why Chime offers a round up savings program.

Applying this same philosophy to investing, you can invest your spare change with Acorns, a micro-investing platform that takes your change and builds a portfolio for you. And, investing your spare change with Acorns will only cost you one dollar per month.

Through Acorns, you invest with exchange-traded funds and the company will build a portfolio based on your financial goals.

3. Invest in certificate of deposits (CDs): $0-1,000

One way to invest small amounts of money with not-so-much risk is through certificates of deposit (CDs). According to Investor.gov, “A certificate of deposit (CD) is a savings account that holds a fixed amount of money for a fixed period of time, such as six months, one year, or five years, and in exchange, the issuing bank pays interest. When you cash in or redeem your CD, you receive the money you originally invested plus any interest. Certificates of deposit are considered to be one of the safest savings options.”

You can typically get certificates of deposit from a bank or financial institution. The minimum investment may vary but could be between $0-$1,000. Though CDs are considered safer and less risky, it also means they don’t have as high returns as other investment vehicles.

4. Invest with Prosper: $25+

Online loan marketplaces bring borrowers and lenders together. One such marketplace is Prosper. Through Prosper, you can invest $25 as a minimum per loan. These personal loans are offered to creditworthy borrowers and you can earn around 5.4 percent, according to the historical average. The best part is that you can get your earnings deposited into your account each month. While this comes with a moderate level of risk, it may not be as volatile as the stock market. Get started on Prosper.com.

5. Invest in social good: $50

What if you could invest money to support causes you care about? Well, you can do this through impact investing. Impact investing, aka socially responsible investing, allows investors to support causes like green energy, clean water, gender equality and more.

Using Swell Investing, you can begin growing your money and supporting causes you love with an initial deposit of $50. There’s a 0.75 percent annual fee and there are no trading fees or expense ratios. While there is risk with any type of investing, at least this way you know your money is supporting something you care about.

6. Invest based on themes: $250

Investing can be confusing, but it becomes simpler when you focus on a specific theme that you care about. Motif Investing offers you a way to invest in specific thematic portfolios such as technology or sports. You do need a bit more money than some of the other options here, with an initial investment of $250.

Once you select a theme, Motif builds a custom thematic portfolio. Find out more information on Motif.com.

7. Invest in fractional shares: $5

Investing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money! That’s certainly true with Stockpile, where you can start investing with just five dollars. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and exchange-traded funds. There are no fees or minimums and it’s 99 cents per trade. There are also mini-lessons, so you can learn as you go instead of waiting to invest when you have everything figured out. Get started at Stockpile.com.

8. Invest in low-cost index funds: no minimum

Low-cost index funds are Warren Buffett’s secret weapon. Index funds track different securities on an index, like the S&P 500.

Index funds can have lower costs and can offer more diversification. While investing in the stock market can be risky, diversification of index funds can help manage risk. Fidelity, for example, offers the ability to invest in index funds with no minimums and no account fees.

You can get started with Fidelity or Vanguard.

9. Invest in your retirement with a IRA: no minimum

You may or may not have a 401(k) with your employer. But anyone can invest for their retirement with a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account).

Using a brokerage firm, you can set up a retirement account and begin investing in your retirement immediately.

As of 2019, the contribution limit for IRAs is $6,000 per year. While the main tax difference is paying taxes now (Roth) or paying later (Traditional), there are income limits with a Roth IRA. To invest the full amount in a Roth IRA, your income must be less than $122,000 for single filers.

10. Invest in a 529 College Savings Plan: $25

If you have children, you can invest in a 529 College Savings Plan to help save for their education. Using an app like U-Nest, you can open an account with just $25. U-Nest costs three dollars a month and takes five minutes to set up on your phone. You can get started at U-nest.com.

Additional resources: How to invest small amounts of money

Using these 10 ways to invest small amounts of money, you can start growing your money today. Here are some additional resources you may want to check out:

  • Fidelity:  Fidelity is a brokerage offering various investment products and education resources.
  • Vanguard: Vanguard is another brokerage offering varying products and education material.
 

How Chime Offers No Fee Checking Accounts

You’ve probably heard the adage Nothing in Life is Free. Well, we’re here to debunk this. Did you know that you can get a free Chime checking account with no fees?

Chime is a mobile-only bank account that helps you save money automatically and manage your finances from anywhere. Now one of the fastest growing bank accounts in the U.S., Chime offers members a Spending Account, an optional Savings Account, and a Chime Visa® Debit Card. Rated the “Best Free Checking Account of 2018” by NerdWallet, Chime is on a mission to eliminate bank fees while empowering you to take control of your finances and save money.

Those pesky fees add up – fast. Did you know that the average U.S. household pays over $329 in bank fees annually, and that most Americans haven’t switched to a checking account with no fees? Pretty remarkable, right? If you’re ready to make the switch and kiss those fees goodbye forever, take a look at 5 reasons why Chime offers a no fee checking account, and how you can benefit.

1. Chime is committed to helping you get ahead financially

When you have to pay monthly fees just for having a checking account, this doesn’t help you pocket your hard-earned cash. Instead, banks profit off of you and Chime would rather profit with you. So, instead of charging you fees – like most traditional banks – Chime has turned the banking industry on its head. It makes no money off your no fee Spending Account, allowing you to keep all of your cash. How does Chime make money? Good question. Here’s the answer: Every time you use your debit card, Chime earns a small amount from Visa (paid by the merchant.)

2. Chime offers an awesome banking alternative to big banks

Did you know that the five largest banks in the U.S made more than $34 billion in overdraft fees alone in 2017? Chime, along with other challenger banks, want to change this with no fee checking accounts and debit cards that empower you to save money. Yet, regardless of where you bank, here’s a tip from Chime: Be sure to learn about any fees you may have to pay, including overdraft fees, savings account fees, account maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees, and more. And if you want a bank that will never rely on unfair bank fees for profit, Chime is here for you.

3. Chime offers a Spending Account that suits your lifestyle

With a Chime no fee checking account, you can do all of your banking right from the modern and intuitive mobile app. This includes depositing checks on the go, paying friends, transferring funds, paying bills and even mailing checks. Here’s how these main features work:

  • Mobile Check Deposit

To deposit a check, all you need to do is snap a quick photo with Chime’s mobile banking app, and then sit back and watch your account balance grow. No need to fill out a deposit slip, go to a brick-and-mortar bank or ATM, wait in a bank teller line, and write out a paper check and put it in the mail. You can deposit checks from anywhere in the world. Easy peasy.

  • Pay Friends

With a Chime Spending Account, you can send money instantly to friends and family, even to those that aren’t yet Chime members! Using the Pay Friends feature, you can divide up rent payments or split the bill when out to dinner with friends. And, you’ll never pay fees.

  • Automatic Savings

Now that you love your Spending Account, it’s time to automatically grow your savings with the Save When I Get Paid or Save When I Spend features. Automatically save 10% of your paycheck into your Chime Saving Account with Save When I Get Paid. You can also automatically round-up your purchases and save the different into your Savings Account with Save When I Spend.

  • Pay Bills Electronically

Using Chime’s bill pay feature, you can pay your bills, track your expenses, and keep tabs on your balance from the mobile app on any device. You can even leave your wallet at home when you go shopping as Chime supports mobile payment apps like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.

  • Mail a Check

We know mailing checks is old school. But, sometimes you gotta do it and Chime makes this task simple. It even puts the check in the mail for you. That’s right. If you have to mail a check, you can do this through the mobile app. All you have to do is let Chime know who to send a check to and for how much. Chime will then make sure your check gets to where it needs to be. Now this is what we call the best kind of virtual personal assistant.

4. Chime offers easy access to your money

While Chime is a mobile-only bank with no brick-and-mortar locations, this doesn’t mean you’re limited when it comes to ATMs. In fact, just the opposite is true. You can use your debit card to withdraw money from your no fee checking account at over 38,000 fee-free ATMs. In addition, you can use 30,000 plus cash-back locations.

Chime is part of the MoneyPass® and Visa Plus Alliance ATM networks, with locations throughout the United States. You can use the mobile app to find an in-network free ATM and then use your debit card to withdraw cash without fees. Now that’s convenience to the max.

5. Chime helps you save automatically

Now that we’ve explained Chime’s mission to help you save money with no fee bank accounts, it’s time to break down some of the key ways in which you can keep more of your money, while boosting your savings. And, remember, these money-saving features from Chime cost you nothing in fees and will help you save money without even thinking about it. Take a look:

  • Save When I Spend

    With Chime, you can save money every time you make a purchase or pay a bill with your Chime debit card. The Save When I Spend feature automatically rounds up your transactions to the nearest dollar and transfers the round-up from your Spending Account into your Savings Account.

  •  Save When I Get Paid

     This automatic savings feature allows you to save money with every paycheck. This way you can reach your financial goals faster. If you’re a Chime member, you can automatically transfer 10% of every paycheck directly into your Savings Account.

  • Get paid up to two days early with early direct deposit 

    Getting your paycheck early means you’ll have two more days to do more with your money. When you open a no fee checking account with Chime, you can set up direct deposit two ways: you can request an email with a pre-filled direct deposit form that you can give to your employer, or set it up yourself using the Account and Routing numbers listed in your Chime app. No waiting for your money while it sits in some mysterious electronic limbo, and no more worrying about lost paper checks. You’ll get your cash two days before most other traditional banks make the funds available to you. The waiting game is over!

Are you ready to open a no fee checking account?

If you’re currently paying bank fees, this means you are paying your bank for the right to hold onto your money. Ridiculous, right?

Yet, you have a choice. You can switch to a no fee bank account. Signing up for a Chime account takes less than two minutes and there is no minimum balance required to open a no fee checking account. What are you waiting for?

 

The Psychology of Savings – Why It’s So Hard and 5 Things We Can Do About It

Nearly one-third of Americans (31%) have less than $5,000 saved for retirement.

Nearly half (40%) couldn’t cover a $400 emergency without borrowing money or selling something.

Since you’ve probably heard stats like this before, you may already know we humans are terrible at saving money. Why, though? For starters, there are a myriad of societal and economical factors like low wages, higher costs of living, insane student loans, and so on. But, what’s the real root cause of our inability to save? And how can we combat our natural tendencies to finally start investing in our future?

Here’s what psychology says — and how you can use it to get ahead with your own finances.

Why We’re So Bad at Saving Money

It all goes back to when we were living in tribes, according to Ted Klontz, a financial psychologist and professor at Creighton University.

Since tribes operated communally, keeping something you didn’t currently need made you look selfish — and could eventually get you kicked out. Which meant you didn’t pass on your DNA. Similarly, if you saved your food from one day to the next, you could get sick and die. Which, again, meant you didn’t pass on your DNA.

Even 100 years ago, humans were more communal, with several generations pooling resources under the same roof. We also only lived into our 40s, meaning we didn’t need to worry about surviving multiple decades without working.

While Klontz notes a small portion of humans — between 14% and 17% — are natural savers, it’s plain to see why the rest of us simply aren’t wired that way.

How Traditional Financial Institutions Exploit Us

Traditional banks and credit card companies are well aware of the statistics. In fact, their business models thrive on that knowledge.

Klontz says credit cards, in particular, have created an “artificial bottom.” When older generations didn’t have any money, they couldn’t buy anything. But today, you can put it on plastic. And when you do, the issuing bank will charge you an interest rate — often as high as 22%.

“They’re making money off you spending more than you have,” Klontz says.

Financial institutions also charge exorbitant fees for making small mistakes, essentially profiting off your sheer human-ness.

Although no-fee banks do exist, Chime’s Bank Fee Finder found the average American household pays $329 in bank fees annually. In 2016, the big banks earned $33 billion in overdraft fees alone.

Five Ways to Finally Start Saving Money

Ready to combat both your brain and the big banks to finally start saving?

Before you do that, you should know that your subconscious brain makes 90% of your decisions without you realizing it, according to Klontz. And that part of the brain, he says, hasn’t “received a programming update for 100,000 years.”

So, to bypass your subconscious brain, you’ll need to speak its language. It won’t respond to logic or equations or charts; it’ll only respond to fear and pleasure. That’s right: You literally need to scare or excite your subconscious brain into submission.

Here are five ways to do so.

1. Use all five of your senses

Did your third-grade teacher hang a goal chart in your classroom? Maybe it was a “good behavior thermometer.” When you reached the top, you had a pizza party. Or maybe it was a poster that showed how close you were to reaching your reading goals.

As it turns out, those visual depictions are very effective.

“Your subconscious brain doesn’t get abstract concepts,” explains Klontz. “It’s very literal — like a 6 or 7 year old.”

Translation? “Any work to change the subconscious has to be sensory. It has to go beyond words,” he says.

So, if you’re saving for a trip to Peru, you could sketch a picture of Machu Picchu. You could listen to some Peruvian flutes. You could visit a local ceviche restaurant. You could tell your co-workers the myriad reasons you’re dying to visit.

The more you can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste your goal, the more likely you are to pursue it, says Klontz. That’s because each new sensory experience reminds your subconscious why you’re saving money in the first place.

2. Scare yourself

While retirement might seem far away, the sooner you start saving, the better off you’ll be.

To spur yourself into action, think about what would happen if you don’t save a dime. Picture the worst-case scenario for the last three weeks of your life. Where are you? Who’s there (and who’s not)? What does it smell like?

It’s probably not pretty. And by imagining it, you’ll stimulate your subconscious brain into changing its behavior — especially if you also picture the decisions that led you there.

Taking it a step further, Klontz recommends using age progression software like the free AgingBooth app (iOS / Android).

“When you take a 30- or 40-year-old person and show them what they’re going to look like at 70 or 80, their savings rate increases dramatically — up to 200%,” he explains.

3. Automate your savings

Another way to trick your brain is to, well, not really involve it all. By turning your savings on auto-pilot, you’ll relieve your subconscious brain of its decision-making duties.

“If you don’t see it, you don’t feel it,” says Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, a wealth psychology expert and author of Breaking Money Silence.

Research, for example, shows that when employers automatically enroll their workers in retirement plans — forcing them to opt out, rather than sign up — it significantly boosts participation rates.

We’ve found this with Chime customers, too. People who enrolled in both of our automatic savings programs save an average of 240% more than those who aren’t enrolled in either.

4. Find a buddy

Whether you’re trying to quit smoking, exercise more, or save money, accountability is a key factor in behavior change.

Kingsbury suggests finding a friend who is also trying to build better financial habits, and then challenging her to a saving contest. Whoever saves the most by the end of a certain period will be crowned the winner. This strategy transforms society’s current definition of “winning” (flashy car, bigger house) into a more fiscally responsible one (saving more money).

Experts also say the most effective rewards are intrinsic: Enjoying the feeling of saving money, for example, rather than rewarding yourself with something tangible.

5. Put your values on the line

Name an organization you truly loathe. Perhaps it’s the campaign fund for a politician you oppose, or an advocacy group for a cause you disagree with.

Whichever organization it is, sit down and write a $100 check to it. Then give that check to a trusted friend. Tell him if you don’t save, say, 10% of your paycheck this month, he has your permission to mail it. (If you don’t have a checkbook, you can use an app like stickK.)

Since Klontz says negative emotions have “twice the motivating effect” as positive ones, this “anti-charity” technique can be powerful.

Today’s the Best Day to Start Saving

While you can blame your struggles to save on your internal software, you can’t use your brain as an excuse forever.

It’s never too late for a fresh start, so use the tips above to circumnavigate your subconscious — and set yourself up for future financial success.

 

What to Do If the Stock Market Crashes

If you’ve seen the recent headlines, it seems that the next stock market crash could be around the corner. The housing market has stalled and, in December 2018, the Dow had the worst December performance since the Great Depression. All of these signs can be disconcerting, especially when you’re considering the impact to your own finances.

While this doom and gloom may make you feel as uneasy as the recession of 2008, there are some ways you can prepare yourself for a worst case scenario. Check out this guide to help you out if the stock market crashes.

Don’t panic

First things first: Do not panic. While you may freak out and consider taking all of your money out of your bank and hiding it under your mattress, this likely isn’t the wisest idea. Likewise, neither is immediately selling off your investments to avoid the volatility of the market. Why? Because if the market can crash, it can go up again.

According CNBC, if you invested in 2008 — instead of panicking — you’d be doing fairly well right now. The CNBC article states:

“In the 10 years since the crisis got rolling, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has returned 7.8 percent, annualized, including dividends. That’s not far below the very long-term average yearly return of just under 10 percent. So a very unlucky investor who climbed into equities as they were about to careen off a cliff hasn’t been hurt too badly. A standard portfolio mix of stocks and bonds, as reflected in the Vanguard Balanced Index Fund, has returned a decent 6.8 percent over the same span, with roughly half the downside volatility experienced by the S&P 500. Clearly, the passage of time in the markets can help make up for bad timing.”

Cut back on spending

How much do you really need to live off of?

Look at your budget and evaluate areas where you can cut back. You can figure out where you can do this by looking at your bare-bones budget.

Why do this? Because if the stock market crashes, you may need to be a bit more frugal while you wait for a rebound. So, try not going out for coffee every day, but maybe only splurge for those lattes once a week. And, here’s a pro tip: Figure out how much money you need in order to pay all your bills. Once you have your budget set (rent/mortgage, food, transportation, etc.), you can look at the areas that aren’t essential and start to cut back. From there, you can figure out how much you’ve got to spend and how much you can save.

Boost your savings rate

A stock market crash can have a ripple effect on other areas of your life. For example, you may get laid off from your job, have limited access to credit or have a tough time getting clients for your side hustle. For these reasons and more, it’s important to be prepared and have cash saved up.

Experts recommend saving three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund, but you might want to boost that up to 12 months. While this may take some time, there’s no harm in starting to save more as soon as you can.

With beefed up savings, this will help you weather a storm if the stock market should crash.

Assess your risk tolerance

Investing is never a risk-free endeavor. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to determine your risk tolerance, as well as a strategy to grow your money over time.

What’s risk tolerance? Risk tolerance is how much risk you’re willing to deal with when investing. So, ask yourself this question: Are you an aggressive or conservative investor?

You may also want to consider any lifestyle changes that may affect the amount of risk you can take on. For example, are you preparing to have a baby, get married, go back to school or  going through a divorce? Perhaps you’re dealing with a layoff or you switched jobs and took a pay cut?

Your risk tolerance, as well as these lifestyle factors, should be considered and you can adjust your investing strategy accordingly. For example, perhaps you can move away from a stock-heavy portfolio if having too many stocks makes you skittish. Or, perhaps you can put more of your money into savings. The key is to be diversified in a way that makes sense for you – given your risk tolerance, lifestyles and goals.

Buy and hold

A good strategy in an uncertain market is to buy and hold.

So what exactly is that? Buy and hold is when you buy stocks and just hold onto them. You don’t try to play games or get into a situation you’re not well-equipped to deal with – such as trying to time the stock market.

The ultimate goal with investing is to build wealth, and this takes time. Think of your investments as a long-term play and this way you won’t be so stressed about the possible day-to-day volatility.

Think of it as a sale

Scarcity mindset, or a survival mindset — where you think resources are scarce — can be set off with a stock market crash. You might feel scared about your money, like there will never be enough.

Instead of living in fear and holding onto your money so tightly, you may benefit from a perspective shift. Consider a market crash as a ‘sale’ and invest more. If you feel comfortable, you can use this time to invest on the cheap and reap the benefits in the long term.

Keep your options open if the worst should happen

You’ll want to have a contingency plan if the sh*&^ hits the fan.

So, think about the skills you have in case you have to take a different type of job or start a new side hustle to earn extra income.

Here are some other tips: Check into whether your loans have better payment options available. For example, federal student loan borrowers can pay zero dollars on an income-driven repayment plan if your income is at a very low level.

Final word

The financial headlines can be scary. Yet, you can take steps now to be proactive if the stock market crashes. If it does take a tumble, remember not to panic and think long-term. This way your can stay the course and keep your finances in order during the short-term.

 

Daily, Weekly, Monthly Habits to Help Your Finances

Just like dirty laundry that tends to pile up if left unintended, keeping your financial house organized can feel like a gargantuan task. As my former boss used to say before we tackled a huge project: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

As you step into the new year, boosting your finances will come down to creating manageable tasks.

Here are a handful of simple habits you can form, in both in the short- and long-term, to improve your financial situation on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Read on to learn more.

Daily: Check Your Balance

Checking your bank balance achieves several goals: You can check for fishy transactions, make sure your transactions are accurate, and glean insights on your spending patterns and habits. More importantly, keeping tabs on your bank account balance can help you see if you’re in financial hot water or if you’re in danger of incurring overdraft fees. No bueno.

I check my bank balance through a bank app every morning. It takes all but five seconds, and gives me an idea of how much I have left to spend until the end of the month.

Daily: Auto-Save

While you technically only need to set up recurring transfers once, setting your savings to auto-pilot is something that will help you with both short- and long-term goals. I auto-save for pretty much everything: vacations, musical instruments, writing retreats, a down payment for a car, and so forth. I even auto-save into a splurge fund that I use to spend on whatever I darn please. Setting this up is easy and only takes a few minutes. Even five dollars a week adds up to $260 a year. And trust me, that money can certainly come in handy down the line.

Speaking of this: If you’re a Chime member and set up direct deposit, you can even auto-save a percentage of your paycheck.

Weekly: Create a Weekly Spending Plan

Behavioral economics have shown that you’ll gain greater control over your finances if you review your budget weekly. Because you’re dealing with fewer transactions, it’s more manageable to see what is coming in and out of your accounts. And even though a lot of bills are paid monthly, breaking up your budget into weekly increments will help you anticipate and predict your expenses. What’s more, if you get paid bi-weekly, you may have less money the second week than the first.

I budget for everything the week ahead. If I know I’ll be going out for dinner or out with friends for happy hour, I’ll factor this in and scale back on, say, how much I spend on groceries that week.

Here’s another idea: Set aside a certain amount for your recurring, predictable bills. Then divvy up the remainder for your discretionary spending. Over time, you’ll be able to gauge how much you roughly spend each month for groceries, gas, eating out, entertainment, personal items, and so forth.

Weekly: Commit to Changing One Small Thing

What’s one minor adjustment you can make to improve your finances? It might be brown-bagging it to work a few days out of the week, or perhaps taking public transit. Spend a tad too much time on Instagram following your favorite influencers and brands? Try unfollowing for a month and see if you can rein in your purchases.

Small changes I’ve made include creating a “want” list of items I’d like but don’t necessarily need. Then I wait about a month to see if I’m still feeling the urge to splurge. I’ve also stopped eating out while I’m out and about on my own. Instead, I’ll typically dine out with company.

Monthly: Do a Budget Check-In 

While it’s best to create a spending plan every week, check in at least once a month to see what tweaks you can make it the coming months. For instance, last year I realized I’m far better off paying for a series of yoga classes than joining a gym. And because I rarely used my Deskpass subscription, which is the ClassPass equivalent of co-working, I canceled my membership.

Monthly budget check-ins also help you plan for one-off expenses, like insurance premiums and spending over the holidays.

Monthly: Go on a Money Date

Carve out some dedicated time each month to go on a money date—either with yourself or with a partner or friend. It’s a great time to check on the progress of your goals and envision what you ultimately want. You can even populate a vision board with what you want to achieve with your money. For example, maybe you want to take time off to work on a passion project, manifest a magical vacation to Bora Bora, or purchase your first house.

Money dates are also a great time to iron out challenges. If you anticipate a rough financial patch, drum up solutions on how you can get through the coming months. Or, if you and your partner disagree about your financial goals, a money date is a good time to hash things out.

Monthly: Autopay Your Bills

If you can swing it, set up autopay on as many bills as possible. Of course, that’s far easier if you have a steady paycheck. If you’re a freelancer or gig economy worker, and get different income at varying times, consider syncing up your bills to retainer clients. For instance, let’s say you’re a freelance graphic designer. You have one client who pays you a certain amount each month, and the money typically drops into your bank account on the 15th of the month.

Because that’s money you can count on, assign that paycheck to your “big rock” bills (aka rent or credit card bill).

Another tactic? Get ahead one month on your bills. This means that by the end of any given month, you’ll have enough cash in your account to cover the next month’s bills. While this seems like a tall order, you can get started by saving up a month’s worth of living expenses to get the ball rolling.

Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces 

Tending to financial well-being is definitely more feasible if you chunk things down. By following these tips and committing to an hour or two a month to organize your finances, you’ll be on your way to forming better money habits.

 

9 Ways to Pay off Your Debt in 30 Days

Paying off large debts usually requires a long-term game plan. But just a couple of easy steps can help you pay off your smaller debts in a short time frame. Want to buckle down and eliminate debt quickly? Here are nine ways to pay off your debt in 30 days or less.

1. Set a realistic goal

Most people can’t reasonably expect to quickly pay off a mortgage or new car loan. To eliminate a debt in 30 days, you’ll need to pick one you can realistically pay off. Look for a small credit card balance or a loan that’s approaching a zero balance.

2. Use the ‘snowball method’

With the snowball method of debt repayment, you focus on paying off your smallest loans first, working in order of smallest to largest. You make minimum payments on your other debts, and make larger payments on the smallest debt until it’s paid off. Successfully paying off a smaller debt will provide you with a psychological boost and free up a little extra monthly cash to put toward the next smallest debt.

Another strategy is to focus on debts with the highest interest rates first, as that will save you more money in the long run — though this strategy is a longer-term debt repayment method.

3. Go on a 30 day spending diet

Just like extreme food diets, spending diets are tough to maintain for a long time. But slashing your spending for 30 days is achievable, and you’ll free up extra cash to put toward your debt.

Analyze your current budget and spending habits, and look for every opportunity to cut expenses. You could cook all your meals at home instead of dining out, watch Netflix instead of going to the movies or take public transportation instead of driving or hailing cabs. At the end of the 30 day period, all the money you saved should be put toward your debt.

4. Stop using your credit card

If you’re trying to pay off a credit card balance in 30 days, it’s common sense to temporarily stop using it. But you should avoid making too many purchases on any other credit cards you own, or you’ll end up with a different credit card balance to pay down. This philosophy applies to other debts, too.

Once your credit card is paid off, you may be tempted to close it. But unless you can’t trust yourself to responsibly manage your credit card, you’re better off leaving it open to boost your credit score. (Here are 7 other credit myths, debunked.)

Remember, the best way to use a credit card is to only make purchases you can afford to pay off in full each month.

5. Find extra sources of income

Finding an extra source of income for at least 30 days can help you earn cash for debt repayment. You could teach music lessons, tutor kids, mow lawns or drive for Uber. All the extra income you earn should go directly to your debt.

Looking for some extra income ideas? Check out our list of side hustles that cost nothing to start.

6. Redeem your cash back

If you have a stack of points or cash back rewards in your credit card account, now could be the right time to redeem them. You may be able to put your rewards directly toward your credit card balance, or cash out the rewards and use the funds for debt repayment.

7. Make extra payments

This may sound obvious, but you should consider making extra payments throughout the 30 day time period as cash flow allows. Saving up your extra cash for 30 days for a one-time payment leaves you at risk of spending it elsewhere. Instead, make payments as soon as extra cash comes in.

8. Get a debt consolidation loan

Debt consolidation loans can help you roll multiple debts into a single, manageable loan with a potentially lower interest rate. It’s a good strategy if you have trouble keeping track of your payments, or have several high-interest debts. This may not help you pay off your debt in 30 days, but you could get a lower interest rate and zero out your balance with your current creditors.

9. Open a balance transfer card

If your current credit card’s interest rate is making it difficult to pay off, you may want to consider a balance transfer card. Balance transfer cards will let you transfer your existing credit card balances to a new card with a lower interest rate – many cards offer 0% APR for introductory periods of 12 months or more. This strategy also might not allow you to pay off your debt quickly, but you will eliminate the balance on your high-interest cards.

Want more ways to save up to pay off those debts? Here’s 25 ways you can start saving right now.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

Chime’s Ultimate Guide to Building Credit

Your financial health is like a puzzle, with different pieces that fit together to create a complete picture.

One of the most important pieces is your credit history and of course, your credit score. (That’s the three-digit number lenders use to determine how likely you are to repay your debts.) FICO scores, the most widely used credit scoring model in the U.S., range from 300 to 850. The average FICO score recently hit an all-time high of 704.

This in-depth guide breaks down everything you need to know about engineering a better credit rating.

Where credit scores come from

Before you can have a credit score, you first need to have a credit report. This is a collection of information about your credit accounts, including who you owe money to, how much you owe, your minimum payments and how long you’ve been using credit.

FICO scores focus on five specific factors to calculate your credit score:

  • 35% of your score is based on payment history
  • 30% is based on your amounts owed
  • 15% is based on the length of your credit history
  • 10% is based on inquiries for new credit
  • 10% is based on the types of credit you’re using (i.e. loans and credit cards)

Knowing what affects your score can help you adopt the habits that you’ll need to build good credit. But what if you’re one of the 62 million Americans with a thin credit file?

“A thin credit file just means that you don’t have an established credit history,” says personal finance expert and Money Crashers contributor David Bakke.

“Maybe you’re younger and just have never had a need for credit, or possibly in general you’ve never signed up for credit cards or taken out a car loan or a home mortgage,” says Bakke.

With a thin credit file, you may not have enough credit history to generate a credit score. Fortunately, that’s a situation you can remedy. Opening a bank account is a good first step. You can use your account to get a handle on your spending, keep track of bills and start growing your savings. Once you begin using credit, you’ll already be in the habit of keeping your spending in check and paying your bills on time. Both of these positive habits can help your score.

How to build credit from scratch

If you’re starting from square one with building credit, there are a few different routes you can take. Here’s a look at some of the most common ways you can build credit as a beginner:

Secured credit cards

Opening a secured credit card can be a great option to build credit for someone who’s new to credit or has a thin credit file, says Steven Millstein, a certified credit counselor and editor of CreditRepairExpert.

“Unlike other credit cards, a secured credit card requires that you make a cash deposit upfront. This deposit will usually be your credit card limit, which serves as collateral if you fail to make payments,” Millstein says.

The major pro of a secured credit card is that your payment history and spending can help to establish your credit history. That’s because many secured card issuers report your activity to the credit reporting bureaus. With a card limit of only a few hundred dollars, this can keep you from racking up debt.

Credit builder and savings secured loans

Credit builder and savings secured loans offer a slightly different take on building credit.

“These are basically small installment loans where the loan is secured by a certificate of deposit or a savings account,” says Jeff Smith, vice president of marketing for Self Lender, which offers credit builder loans.

“As the person repays the loan, the payments are reported to the credit bureaus so they can impact the credit history. At the end of the term, the CD or savings are unlocked and returned to the account-holder.”

Essentially, you’re repaying a loan to build credit, but you don’t get the proceeds of the loan until it’s paid in full. That’s a reversal from how loans usually work, where you get the money upfront.

There are also other drawbacks to credit builder loans. For example, you may not get immediate funds to make a purchase. On the other hand, this may not matter if your main objective is to build credit.

Become an authorized user

Instead of getting a credit card in your name, you can ask a friend or family member to add you to one of their cards as an authorized user.

“The implication is that their (the main card holders) good credit practices will start to build your credit,” Millstein says.

According to Equifax, being an authorized user allows you to make purchases with the card and have the account’s activity show up on your credit report. Yet, you’re not the one liable for the card’s balance. If the primary card holder practices good credit habits, those habits would be reflected in your credit report and score.

There’s a catch, however. If the primary card holder falls behind on payments or maxes the card out, this can hurt your credit.

Ask someone to co-sign a loan with you

Co-signing on a personal, student or auto loan is another way to build credit. Unlike being an authorized user, however, you share responsibility for the debt with your co-signer.

Asking someone to co-sign can help you qualify for a loan that you may not be able to obtain on your own. Once you’re approved, you can work on repaying the loan and building credit history.

But there is some risk involved. If you default on the loan, both your credit history and that of your co-signer can be damaged. And, this can potentially ruin your relationship, Millstein says.

How long will does it take to build credit?

“Building good credit is probably not going to happen overnight and getting a solid credit score as well isn’t going to happen immediately,” Bakke says.

So, just how soon can you expect to see results?

According to Experian, it can take between three and six months of activity to get enough history on your credit report to calculate a credit score. Millstein says it can take about 12 months to grow a fair credit score, which is in the 580 to 669 range for FICO scores. He says working towards a perfect 850 score, on the other hand, can take several years.

Bottom line? You’ll need to be patient and give your good credit habits time to pay off.

Check in with your credit regularly

If you’re hard at work on building credit, don’t forget to track your progress. You can get your credit report three times a year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com. Free credit monitoring services help you track your score month to month.

In the meantime, set up alerts for your bills and schedule automatic payments through your mobile banking app so you never miss a due date. When you make payments on time and keep your balances low, your credit will eventually improve!

 

How to File Your Taxes Online 2019

It’s a new year. Time to get in shape, eat healthy, start a new side hustle, and…..prepare your taxes. Really? Really.

While the deadline to file 2018 taxes isn’t until April 15, now is a great time to get organized. This way, you won’t be the one stressed out and scrambling to get your taxes filed online by 11:59 pm on April 15.

Are you ready to organize your taxes and get your finances in shape? Take a look at our handy-dandy guide to filing taxes online and start the new year with a sense of accomplishment.

Figure out what income forms you’ll need

Most people will be dealing with either W-2 forms, W-9 forms or both. And, yes, the Ws can be confusing. Here’s a bit more information about these forms so you can determine which ones pertain to you.

  • If you are employed, you will get a W-2 form sometime in January. This form states the amount of money you earned in 2018, as well as how much you paid in federal and state taxes and other payroll deductions, including the amount you contributed to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This is the main income form you’ll need when filing your tax return.
  • If you have a side hustle or started a business in 2018, you’ve likely provided your clients with W-9 forms. If you earn more than $600 with a particular client (who should have your W-9 on file), that client would then fill out a 1099-MISC form indicating how much you were paid for the year. A copy of this form will be sent to both you and the IRS. You will then report this income when you file your taxes online.

Figure out if what forms you’ll need to fill out

Form 1040

If you have a 9 to 5 job and will be receiving a W-2 this month, you may be able to take the standard deduction. For 2018, the standard deduction for individuals is $12,000 and $24,000 for married people filing jointly. If you use this standard deduction, you can’t also itemize deductions. Instead, you’ll take the standard deduction and fill out the new Form 1040 (prior to tax year 2018, there were two other options for shorter forms: Form 1040EZ and Form 1040A).

Form 1040 with schedules

If you’ve had a life change (got married, got divorced, had a child, started a business etc.), this may bump you into a different financial situation where you’ll need to take itemized deductions versus the standard deduction. If this is the case, you may need to fill out the new Form 1040, in addition to one or more of the new schedules. For example, if you have capital gains, unemployment compensation, gambling winnings, or any deductions to claim (including student loan interest deduction, self-employment tax, or educator expenses), you may want to fill out Schedule 1. To learn more about the new Form 1040 and the six schedules, check out this Q&A from the IRS.

If you will be filing schedules for 2018, then it’s important for you to prepare and organize your itemized deductions in advance. This will help you when it comes time to file your taxes online. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll definitely want to organize your deductible expenses. This can save you big bucks by lowering the amount you owe or perhaps even netting you a tax refund. Here are some of the more common itemized deductions:

  • Home mortgage interest
  • Charitable contributions
  • Medical expenses
  • Self-employment expenses
  • Home office and other associated deductions
  • Educator expenses

Figure out how you’ll file online

According to the IRS, nearly 90 percent of taxpayers now use tax software and the agency expects that the new Form 1040 and schedules will make online filing even easier. You can prepare and e-file for free using IRS Free File.

Alternatively, you can spend some money and use one of the more popular DIY tax software tools, like Intuit’s TurboTax.

If you want professional help, you can go with an authorized e-file provider in your area. To find a local tax preparer, you can do a search here with your zip code or state.

File early. Get your refund early.

If you think you may be getting a tax refund for 2018, this is more of an incentive to prepare your taxes and e-file early. The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund and you know what this means – more money in the bank. And, if you want your cash as fast as possible, make sure you use direct deposit. In fact, eight out of 10 taxpayers get their refund via direct deposit through the IRS.

Pro tip: Chime makes it simple for you to get your money early. Here’s how to get your tax refund faster with direct deposit:

  • Open a Chime bank account
  • Select “direct deposit” on your tax return software and include your Chime Spending Account and routing numbers. Make sure all information is accurate.
  • Sit back, relax and wait for your refund to appear in your bank account. According to the IRS, nine out of 10 direct deposit refunds are issued within 21 days (it typically takes eight weeks via snail mail). Better yet, you’ll get a text alert and email from Chime the second your refund hits your account.

Final word

We know that taxes are no fun. But, before the very thought of organizing your taxes causes you to break out in a sweat, take a look at the guide and resources here. (Pro tip: if you need more expert help, it’s advisable to seek out an accountant or tax professional).

Before you know it, you’ll be ready to file your taxes and set your sights on other financial goals this year.

 

Good Credit Scores vs. Bad Credit Scores

Your credit score is a huge indication of your financial health. In fact, your credit is so important that lenders refer to it when you apply for a line of credit, a home mortgage, a car loan or even a new credit card.

But, in order to be approved for loans and credit cards you often need a “good” credit score. That begs the next question: What makes a good score vs. a bad score? Before we jump in, let’s go over the basics.

What is Credit and How is Your Score Calculated

Your credit score is a three digit number that helps lenders determine how credit worthy you really are. In other words, it’s a tool lenders use to determine if you are a good borrower and thus most likely to pay off your loans.

The three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – collect information on you to help determine your credit score. For instance, whenever you open a new account via a loan or line of credit, this information gets reported to the three bureaus.

The bureaus then use a credit scoring model to determine what your score is. The two most popular credit scoring models are FICO and Vantage. FICO is used widely by lenders, but you’ll want to aim for a high credit score no matter which scoring model is being used.

What Makes a Good Credit Score?

There are a few important factors that help contribute to your credit score. These factors include your payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, credit mix (how many different types of account you have,) and new credit.

Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Good credit scores fall in the 670 to 850 range. Anything below 670 is either considered a fair or bad credit score, according to FICO.

If you want to raise your credit score, it’s important to prove that you’re a responsible borrower and not a risk to the lender. Why? Lenders don’t want to give money to people who won’t pay them back. This is why the most crucial things you can to do improve your credit are:

 

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Keep credit card balances low

To help you do this, you can create a detailed budget and set up reminders or automatic withdrawals to ensure you pay bills on time. The longer you keep up with this habit, the better your score will get. For example, say you have a student loan with a 10-year term. You’ve made on time payments for about eight years so far. Good for you! This will improve your credit and show lenders that you can be trusted to pay back a sum of money over time.

Here’s another pro tip: When it comes to credit cards, never spend more than 30% of your credit limit. Remember, credit is a tool, and it will not help your score if you max out your credit cards. So, if your limit is $2,000, only spend 30% of that limit, or $600. Then, pay the bill on time. If you continue this habit, your credit score should improve.

What Makes a Bad Credit Score

There are a few things you can do that will result in a bad credit score. They include:

  • Not paying your bills and loan payments on time
  • Not paying your loans at all
  • Keeping a high balance on your credit card
  • Applying for multiple credit accounts regularly

For example, let’s take a look at your bills. If you don’t pay your bills on time, companies can report you to the major credit bureaus and this will result in a negative mark on your credit report. Keep in mind that this can happen for medical bills, utility bills, and even your phone bill. If you just stop paying altogether, this is even worse. Your account will become delinquent and it will reflect poorly on your credit reports.

Keeping a high balance on your credit cards is another common mistake that indicates you may not be able to pay back what you borrowed. The takeaway: Borrow only what you can afford to repay in a timely manner.

Ways to Improve Your Credit

If you want to improve your credit, focus on improving your standing with each of the five factors that impact your credit score. Here’s a breakdown of those factors and how much each one contributes to your score:

Payment history: 35%

Amounts owed: 30%

Length of credit history: 15%

New credit: 10%

Credit mix: 10%

Ideally, you’ll want to focus on improving your finances in the two areas that hold the most weight. This means you should pay bills on time and keep your balances around 30% (or lower) of your overall limit.

You should also avoid applying for new credit too often. Each time you apply for credit, it adds an inquiry to your report. Too many inquiries can hurt your score.

Over time, your credit history length will increase as long as you keep accounts open. If you close an account, your credit history will die with it. This is why it’s better to keep credit card accounts open even if you aren’t using them regularly.

Here are some other tips: If you have existing debt, you can boost your credit by paying it off. You can also establish positive borrowing history by getting a secured credit card and paying off the balance in full each month. With this type of credit card, you have to put money down first to establish your credit limit. Then, you borrow against it and repay it responsibly.

Lastly, consider establishing a no-fee bank account and emergency fund so you won’t be tempted to use credit to help you cover unexpected expenses that you can’t afford.

Know the Difference and Protect Your Score

In order to improve your credit history, you’ve got to start somewhere. A good place to begin is to know what makes a good credit score and a bad credit score. Ultimately, improving your credit score boils down to your spending and money management habits.

Are you ready to develop better money habits? Follow this guide and over time you will watch your credit score move into the “good” range.

 

What Do Banks Do With All Those Outrageous Fees?

When it comes to your bank, you are basically entrusting a financial institution with your hard-earned dough. You want to keep your money safe and watch it grow, right?

Yet, get this: Banks often charge tons of fees that cost you money without you even realizing it. To help you better understand these bank fees, let’s take a closer look at all of the different types of fees – from overdraft fees, account maintenance fees, monthly maintenance fees and more. From there, we’ll examine what banks actually do with bank fees.

Monthly maintenance fee

Ah, the monthly maintenance fee. It can seem harmless at first – until you really think about it. Your “free bank account” isn’t really free when there’s an account maintenance fee involved.

Banks typically charge monthly maintenance fees when your account balance goes below a certain amount. In fact, Bank of America charges $14 per month in fees if your account balance falls below $1,500. While there are some ways to counter this monthly maintenance fee, you are generally required to have a certain amount of money in your account.

So, in other words, your bank is trying to tell you what to do and how to use their products. Not only that, but they decide on the account balance limit. What’s worse is that you’ll have to pay the price if you don’t play by the rules. And, you may not even realize there are monthly maintenance fees unless you read the fine print or suddenly see a charge hit your account.

Look at it this way: If you put your extra dough into an interest-earning savings account or you invest it, your money will grow. But parking it in a checking account with a hefty monthly maintenance fee won’t help you build wealth.

Overdraft fees

One of the biggest ways that banks make their money is through overdraft fees. Overdrafts happen when you don’t have enough money in your account to cover your transaction and your bank allows it to go through anyway.

If this happens, you could be hit with a $34 fee every time you overdraft. And, while legislation has improved since 2010 (banks now require consumer consent), overdraft fee are still unnecessary charges that can hurt a lot of people. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that consumers who have opted-in frequently pay almost $450 more in overdraft fees.

For a bit of history, overdraft fees have been a huge money-maker for banks and that’s basically why they exist. According to data in the American Banker, banks that surpassed one billion dollar in assets collected a whopping 11.54 billion dollars in overdraft fees last year. Overdraft fees can turn a simple and affordable purchase into something much larger. According to Business Insider, a young adult had $1.68 in her account when she purchased fries and a drink for $4.32. Because she didn’t have enough in her account, she was hit with an overdraft fee of $35. Not only that, but she was charged $6 per day until she was able to deposit her paycheck and restore her balance. Suddenly a purchase of $4.32 turned into a $71 fiasco.

One way to avoid an overdraft fee is opt out of overdraft protection completely. Pro tip: If you never want to worry about these fees, bank with Chime and avoid overdraft fees forever.

ATM fees

When you need to get some cash, sometimes you opt for convenience and just withdraw at the closest ATM. While that’s convenient for you, you’ll end up paying for it in many cases.

According to Bankrate’s 2018 Checking Account Survey, ATM fees have peaked and are at the highest they’ve been in more than 14 years. On average, the cost of withdrawing money from an ATM that is out of your network is $4.68 — a 36 percent spike since 2008. That may not seem like much, but over time, it adds up. For instance, that one mistake just cost you the same price as a fancy cappuccino.

You can avoid ATM fees altogether by choosing a bank that has no in-network ATM fees and zero ATM fees for out-of-network transactions on their end. If you find a no-fee bank, just make sure you always read the fine print. Banks can change their policy at any time, leaving you in the dark. This happened to one consumer who made a switch and didn’t realize he was getting hit with fees until he checked his accounts.

Another unfortunate reality is that these ATM fees disproportionately affect low-income families who need every dollar they earn.

Foreign transaction fees

If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you know how important it is to access your cash. Yet, when you use a debit card or credit card abroad, you may be hit with a foreign transaction fee. This often amounts to about three percent in fees.

But, there’s good news. There are banks that have zero foreign transaction fees. This means you can enjoy your trip without worrying about racking up added costs. Chime, for example, has no foreign transaction fees at all.

Card replacement fee

Sometimes things happen and you lose your debit card. That’s life. When you want to replace your card, it should be easy and free. But most banks charge a $5 to $25 fee to replace your card. Paying that fee can hurt when you’re already frustrated about your missing card. The good news: Chime will replace your card at no cost.

What do banks do with these bank charges?

The average consumer pays $329 in bank fees each year. Multiply that by millions of customers, and you can see why banks are getting rich off of bank fees.

Besides lining their pockets, financial institutions use these bank charges to help pay for the brick and mortar locations, staff, and general overhead costs. Luckily for you, you don’t have to pay the price.

Getting a no fee bank account

At Chime, we believe that fees aren’t consumer friendly and we want you to keep your hard-earned cash, That’s why we have no fee bank accounts. These accounts come with no monthly maintenance fees, no overdraft fees, no foreign transaction fees. No fees at all. We got you covered. We have your back.

Banking Services provided by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. The Chime Visa® Debit Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. Chime and The Bancorp Bank, neither endorse nor guarantee any of the information, recommendations, optional programs, products, or services advertised, offered by, or made available through the external website ("Products and Services") and disclaim any liability for any failure of the Products and Services.