Tag: Money Moves

 

Are Alternative Education Programs Worth the Investment?

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

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

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

Coding Bootcamps

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

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

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

Start a Business

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

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

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

Associate Degrees or Certificates

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

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

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

Join the Military

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

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

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

Trade Apprenticeships

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

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

You Don’t Necessarily Need a Four-Year Degree

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

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

 

4 Things Daenerys Stormborn Could Teach You About Money

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She walks through fire. She frees entire cities of slaves. She has dragons at her beck and call.

Without a doubt, Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons is the fiercest character on Game of Thrones.

She’s also one of the most complicated, and one of the most admirable. While I don’t agree with her every decision, I do believe she can teach us something about life — and about how to get paid, even when it requires some blood, sweat, and tears.

Here are four ways to rule your money like the Mother of Dragons.

Believe in Yourself

So many of us have self-doubts when it comes to our finances. We think that we’re doomed to be “bad with money.” Or that being “comfortable” — wealthy, even — is for other people, but not for us.

If you’re nodding along in agreement, take a page from Dany’s book. “So many men have tried to kill me, I don’t remember all their names,” she told Jon Snow. “Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods. Not in myths and legends. In myself.”

Unless you believe in yourself and your abilities, you’ll never find financial success. The best way to empower yourself is through education. By devouring podcasts, newsletters, and articles, you’ll eventually develop the financial confidence you need.

To fast-track your knowledge, I recommend the books Get Money and Broke Millennial. Since both were penned by kickass women authors, I’m pretty sure Queen D would approve.

Build a Team

Although Daenerys exudes confidence, she’s also smart enough to know she doesn’t know it all. Along her journey to power, she’s amassed a slew of advisors to help guide her decisions.

As she once said, “It takes courage to admit fear… and to admit a mistake.”

The same goes for your finances. While it’s essential to build confidence, it’s also essential to create a strong financial team as backup. You don’t need to be rich to do so, either. Here are some potential members of a 21st-century financial team:

  • Apps, apps, apps: All of us have a team of financial advisors in our pocket. Between apps for budgeting, paying and trimming bills, and managing money with a partner, embrace the wealth of technology available.
  • A trustworthy bank: Make sure your bank’s got your back. The Breaker of Chains would never stay with a bank that nickeled and dimed her — in fact, she’d probably burn it the ground. So choose banking with no hidden fees that prioritizes you as a customer.
  • A robo- or human financial advisor: This one’s not as vital as the others, but it can certainly help. Get robo-advising for your investments through apps like Wealthfront or Personal Capital, or seek human assistance with a fee-only advisor through the XY Planning Network.

When you surround yourself with high-quality people and products, you’ll find the support you need to achieve financial success. (Even if nobody on your team loves you quite as much as Ser Jorah loves Khaleesi.)

Listen to Your Values

“Our fathers were evil men,” Dany told Yara and Theon Greyjoy. “They left the world worse than they found it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to leave the world better than we found it.”

Daenerys lets this sense of justice guide all of her decisions — even if it means slaying thousands of slave masters. While I’m not suggesting you follow those specific footsteps, I do think you can consider your values when making financial decisions.

One way is through “sustainable investing,” which encompasses a range of different strategies, including:

  • Divesting: Pulling your investments out of companies you don’t support, such as those in the fossil fuel or firearms industries.
  • ESG monitoring: Investing in companies with high environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores, or in ESG-focused index funds.
  • Impact investing: Funneling your money toward specific causes like renewable energy.

Just like the woman who would become “Mhysa” to many, you can also let your moral compass drive your financial moves.

Don’t Let Anything Stand In Your Way

Throughout Game of Thrones, people have scoffed at Daenerys and her lofty goals. The Dothraki warlords laughed when she said she would rule them all. Then she burned them down. Others said the Dothraki would never cross the sea. Then they did.

Khaleesi never let the haters get to her. “I am not your little princess,” she declared. “I am Daenerys Stormborn of the blood of old Valyria and I will take what is mine, with fire and blood I will take it.”

Using that as inspiration, think about your money goals. How can you Mother-of-Dragons them by making dramatic changes?

If you want to retire early, for example, move to a new, more affordable city. If you want to accrue a six-month emergency fund, calculate how much to set aside each week, and set up an automatic savings contribution right now. If you want to earn more money, walk into your boss’ office and ask what you need to do to get a raise.

The bottom line: If you have a financial goal, don’t make any excuses. O.K., maybe don’t burn down an entire city with your dragons (#dracarys), but you know what I mean.

How the Mother of Dragons Can Help Your Finances

While Daenerys’ strategies may be a little, well, unconventional, we can still learn a lot from this powerful character.

By sticking to your values, educating yourself, and creating a solid financial team, you’ll gain the confidence to crush all of your money goals — no dragons required.

 

10 Best Money Books to Improve Your Financial Literacy

Some people seem to be naturally good at managing their money – they’ve always had cash in the bank and they actually enjoy budgeting.

On the other hand, there are those people who struggle with money. Maybe it’s due to a lack of financial knowledge, a drastic amount of debt, or simply feeling overwhelmed.

If you identify with the latter, you are not alone. In fact, in a recent study conducted by Student Loan Hero, just 43 percent of respondents stated they feel like they are financially successful. This means that a whopping 57 percent said they’re not financially confident. Yikes.

But here’s the good news: There are plenty of educational resources available, including excellent books that can help you gain more insight on your finances. Whether you’re looking to pay off debt, save more money, or start investing, there is a book for you.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 10 books that can help you improve your financial literacy.

1. Best book for millennials: Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry

Everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you’re relatively new to the financial scene, there are tons of quality books to help teach you everything you need to know. Yet, Erin Lowry’s book, Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together, stands apart from the rest.

Lowry’s simple, conversational tone is certainly helpful, as she walks you through the basics of budgeting, picking the best bank for you, dealing with debt, preparing for retirement, and more.

2. Best book about student loans: Bye Student Loan Debt: Learn How to Empower Yourself by Eliminating Your Student Loans by Daniel J. Mendelson

Author Daniel J. Mendelson and his wife once had nearly $150,000 of student loan debt due to many years of graduate school and hefty interest rates. By creating and sticking to a simple repayment process, the couple became debt-free within five years.

In Bye Student Loan Debt, Mendelson walks you through his simple debt repayment system. And more importantly, the book will give you hope if you are feeling like you’ll never pay off your student loans.

3. Best book on frugality: 365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving Money by Trent Hamm

Frugality is one way to fix your financial situation. By living on the cheap, you have more money for the things that are truly important to you.

Trent Hamm, founder of the blog The Simple Dollar, knows how to be frugal. Hamm credits frugality and mindfulness for overhauling his formerly dire financial situation. And, his book, 365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving Money, offers some easy ways to save money in your day-to-day spending.

4. Best book for investing: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns by John C. Bogle

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing is the classic guide to getting started with the stock market. And, while you may not recognize the author by name, you certainly know of him – John C. Bogle is the founder of the investment company Vanguard. Bogle believes investing is for everyone, regardless of your education, income or experience.

While the stock market has its ups and downs, Bogle’s book has withstood the test of time. It is now on its tenth anniversary edition.

5. Best book for increasing your income: Hustle Away Debt: Eliminate Your Debt by Making More Money by David Carlson

While most financial books focus on saving, Hustle Away Debt offers a fresh perspective by teaching you about the importance of increasing your income.

Author David Carlson is also the founder of the popular millenial financial blog Young Adult Money. In his book, he details his secrets to getting out of debt by increasing his income through side hustles. If you’ve ever wanted to increase your income while learning new skills, then this book is a must-read.

6. Best book on budgeting: The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman

Suze Orman is one of the original financial gurus. She has seven New York Times best sellers, but you may recognize her most from her television show, The Suze Orman Show.

Orman provides to-the-point, no frills financial advice. For those just learning to budget (or learning to stick to a budget), look no further than The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke. Orman walks you through everything you need to know.

7. Best book for couples: Money Talks: The Ultimate Couple’s Guide to Communicating About Money by Talaat and Tai McNeely

Relationships and money are often a neglected topic. In fact, in a study by CreditLoan.com, over 30 percent of men and women hid a financial secret from their partners.

To say there is room for improvement is an understatement. That’s where Money Talks: The Ultimate Couple’s Guide to Communicating About Money comes in. This book hits on a sometimes sensitive topic. Not only does it provide valuable communication tips, but it teaches you how to set and achieve financial goals as a couple.

8. Best book for general financial advice: Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is one of the top financial writers out there. His book, Total Money Makeover, shows you how to take control of your finances in a simple 10 “baby-step” process, which includes paying off debt, saving for an emergency fund, starting to invest, and other financial goals.

Total Money Makeover provides foolproof, no-nonsense advice for anyone looking to improve their financial situation.

9. Best book for saving: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki

In the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, author Robert Kiyosaki outlines the lives of two men: his father, who was constantly broke, and his father’s friend, a wealthy entrepreneur. He believes “street smarts” can often be more valuable than a more traditional education.

Rich Dad Poor Dad challenges the conventional ideas of saving by providing information on how your current view of money can affect your future finances.

10. Best book for early retirement: How to Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less by Robert and Robin Charlton

At the age of just 43, Robert and Robin Charlton were able to retire from their full-time jobs. They had worked a collective total of just 15 years. They now run a website, WhereWeBe.com while traveling the world.

Their book, How to Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less, is designed to help others do the same thing they did. They outline repeatable steps that anyone with a full-time job can implement. Overall, they aim to communicate that retirement is not just a dream. It’s achievable.

 

Five New Side Hustles for 2019

Raise your hand if you could use an extra $100-$1,000 per month!

If you’re like most of us, you’d love to make more money. And, about 50 percent of millennials are already taking advantage of extra income opportunities, according to a study by Experian.

Earning more money can help you reach your financial goals, including achieving freedom from debt, saving up for a dream vacation or even coming up with a downpayment for your first home.

By now you may be wondering how you can jump on the side hustle bandwagon. To help you get going and choose the right side gig, we spoke to five savvy women, ages 25-35, who are crushing their side hustles and changing their financial futures. Based on our discussions, here are five new side hustles to consider this year.

1. Delivering Groceries

Constance Tuner, a young mother living in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, was frustrated with “being in the red each month” because her expenses exceeded her take-home pay. Apart from finding ways to reduce her spending, she realized that it was also necessary to supplement her income if she wanted to stop living paycheck to paycheck.

Delivering groceries with Instacart has been one of Turner’s most successful side hustles. She says Instacart makes it easy to start earning more money as quickly as possible.

“You can sign up through the website or use a referral code from someone (who’s already registered with Instacart),” says Turner.

Once you pass a background check, the company will send you a card to use for purchases.

“Then, you’ll take a few tutorials, select your hours and get started the following week. Hours are selected a week in advance,” Turner says.

With a better handle on her finances now, Turner says she’s very close to using her income from Instacart to begin tackling debt.

Turner’s average earnings: In January, Turner made $976.25 based on 57 hours of shopping. She does this side hustle for two hours after work during the week and about eight hours over the weekend.

2. Field Agent 

Laura Smith, a barista in Minneapolis, Minnesota, uses side hustles to accelerate her debt freedom goals.

“It’s easy to lose perspective and get discouraged when you’re trying to pay off thousands, but every single dime adds up and goes towards changing our family’s legacy,” says Smith.

She recently got started with Field Agent, a free app which pays you for completing “missions” such as checking to see if a store has a particular product in stock. According to Smith, “it’s great because I can (earn extra cash) when I’m out running errands or during my spare time.”

Smith’s average earnings: Smith made about $45 during her first month using the app. She says that the payout amount varies depending on how in-depth each mission is. In her experience, the majority of missions pay between three and six dollars, but she’s seen some that offer up to $22.

3. Exam Proctor

Alli Rosenblum, a recent MBA graduate and founder of financiALLIfocused.com is on a mission to pay off six figures of debt (primarily student loans) in a few years. She’s explored a number of side hustles, including tutoring through Care.com.

Recently, the exam proctor company UExamS reached out to Rosenblum through Care.com.  She was asked to proctor exams for a student who needs extra time.

After researching the company and reading online reviews, she accepted the offer. Yet, while it was very easy to get started as an exam proctor, Rosenblum says this is a need-based side hustle and therefore the income is “pretty inconsistent.”

“Side hustles are more important than ever (for my fiancé and myself) so that we can pay off $140,000 of debt faster. We also use side hustle earnings to fund date nights and other treats here and there to keep us motivated on our long debt-freedom journey,” says Rosenblum.

Rosenblum’s average earnings: Her first stint earned her $63 for less than an hour. Better yet,  the exam administrator never showed up but she still got paid for her time!

4. Easy Shift

Tancy Shanelle, a stay-at-home mom with a young family, says that side hustles “make all the difference when you’re trying to set yourself up to be financially stable.”

She is $7,500 away from paying off $100,000 in debt and says that “every amount counts.”

Shanelle earns cash side hustling with Easy Shift, which is similar to Field Agent. The types of gigs include taking pictures of displays or specific products, as well as filling out surveys.

Shanelle’s average earnings: Anywhere from four dollars to $25 per shift, with most gigs paying about six dollars. The shifts are anywhere from eight to 30 minutes. How much you earn depends on what’s available in your area and whether you get selected to pick up shifts. “Depending on where you live, securing a shift can be competitive,” says Shanelle. However, in her experience, if you are dedicated, you can make upwards of $200 per month.

5. Focus Groups

Chonce Maddox, a freelance writer and founder of MyDebtEphiphany.com, uses side hustles as a way to supplement her income and fund “extras” – those bigger ticket items that fall outside of her regular monthly budget.

Using earnings from participating in focus groups, Maddox and her husband, “were able to pay a neighbor to take down some trees in our yard in the fall.” They also both did focus groups – which she found via the site Respondent – in December and January to help pay for their son’s birthday party.

“There is one drawback,” says Maddox. “This side hustle is really sporadic, so I treat it as extra (bonus) income.”

Maddox’ average earnings
: Maddox earns anywhere from $100 to $250 per focus group, yet bigger opportunities will pop up from time to time. For example, “I was really lucky to be selected for the first focus group that I applied to, which paid $500 for four and a half hours.”

Next Steps: Find a Purpose for Your Side Hustle Money

From personal experience, it can be really easy to blow through extra income coming in from side hustle opportunities. That’s why you need a plan for where that money goes. My favorite tip is to keep my extra income in a separate bank account so that it isn’t commingled with my regular earnings from my day job. This makes it less tempting to spend!

Another tip is to automate your savings. Every time you use your Chime Chime Visa® Debit Card, for example, Chime will automatically round up each transaction and transfer the money from your Spending Account into your Savings Account. It’s as easy as that!

With these extra earning tips in mind, what’s holding you back from creating a more abundant lifestyle?

 

5 Ways to Help Bridge the Wage Gap

What’s better than watching your hard-earned dollars hit your bank account on payday?

Not much – except that if you’re a woman, checking your direct deposit pay stub can be a letdown. Why? Because the gender pay gap – or the gap between what men and women earn – is very much alive and well. This means that you could be earning more money for doing the same job you do right now.

This is why it’s important that we understand the premise behind Equal Pay Day and learn how to raise awareness about paycheck inequality. Equal Pay Day, which landed on April 2 2019, symbolizes how far into the year women had to work in order to earn what men earned during 2018. This means women had to work for three more months just to earn the same amount as their male counterparts!

How Wide Is the Gender Pay Gap?

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women in the U.S. who work full-time year-round make 80% of what men do.

When earnings for men and women are broken down further, by ethnicity or for certain professions, the gap becomes more pronounced. Hispanic and Latina women, for example, face the biggest gap, earning just 53 percent of what the average white man does. In terms of career paths, the gap is widest among financial managers, with women earning 35 percent less than their male colleagues.

“The less money women earn over the course of their careers, the less money they’re able to save for retirement,” says financial coach Maggie Germano.

“To make matters worse, women live longer than men, so they have less money to stretch over a longer period of time,” says Germano.

The gender pay gap is closing, but slowly. In fact, it’ll take about 200 years for the gap to close completely, if earnings keep growing at the current pace. What does this mean for women who are trying to build up their savings and plan for the future now? Germano recommends that women start by negotiating a higher salary.

Here are five other ways to just say ‘no’ to unfair pay:

1. Dress the Part

Red is the unofficial color code of Equal Pay Day. It’s meant to symbolize how the gender pay gap keeps women in the red financially when it comes to what they earn. Wearing red to the office and encouraging your co-workers and friends to do the same is a simple way to show solidarity for women workers and the equal pay movement as a whole.

2. Let Lawmakers Know You’re In Favor of Equal Pay

Closing the gender pay gap for good in the U.S. becomes easier when there are laws in place that require equal pay for men and women across the board. It’s up to legislators to introduce bills that can make these kinds of laws a reality. This is an opportunity for you to make a difference.

“You can lobby your politicians to pass equal pay laws,” Germano says.

“Individuals can make change at the micro level, but decision makers can make change at the macro level,” she says.

If you don’t know who your local and state legislators are, get to know them. From there, you can launch an email or letter writing campaign asking them to back the passage of federal laws for equal pay. If you want to do more than just write letters, you can create a petition championing equal pay and submit it to the White House.

3. Encourage Your Employer to Open Up About Pay

Asking your cubicle neighbor how much he earns is generally considered taboo. But you can get a sense of the pay scale by going straight to the top.

Specifically, this means asking your employer to be transparent about compensation for different roles within the company. When pay scales are transparent, this can help raise awareness about what does or doesn’t constitute equal pay.

But don’t be surprised if you’re met with some resistance. Since 2010, the percentage of employers that disclose pay information on a wide scale to employees has been shrinking steadily. In a 2019 survey, just eight percent of companies said they planned to share pay ranges and employee pay information with all their employees.

Still, it’s worth making the effort. Reach out to your HR department and ask what pay range details are available. And encourage your co-workers to do the same.

“The workplace is a big place for impact when the voice for disclosures is coming from the employees themselves, and in particular, the male employees, knowing they also want a fair and equal work environment,” says Kristin Hull, founder and CEO of Nia Impact Capital, a women-led registered investment advisor firm.

Hull also says that the call on the part of investors for companies to share disclosures is leading to improvements.

“Once companies decide to disclose their data, they actually take a look at it, and are more likely to make internal improvements when they’re being public about their pay gaps,” she says.

4. Give Equal Pay a Social Media Shout Out

Let your followers know you’re in favor of equal pay by launching a social media blitz.

Tweet to your lawmakers asking for equal pay legislation. Repost news articles or studies on equal pay to your feeds. Take a poll asking your followers what they think about the gender wage gap. Upload a video clip or a host a short live feed letting people know why the wage gap needs to be closed.

You can even share this article!

5. Donate for the Cause

Last but not least, you can show your support for equal pay by donating to a nonprofit that advocates for women and minority workers. It doesn’t have to be a huge donation; just something to show that you care about making the wage gap a thing of the past.

If you’re looking for organizations to donate to, consider Equal Pay Today, the National Women’s Law Center or the AAUW.

How Will You Show Support for Equal Pay?

Are you ready to do your part to close the gender wage gap? You can start by using these five tips to help women earn and save more money.

 

7 Ways to Recommit to Your Financial Resolutions Today

Did you set a New Year’s resolution? How’s it going for you so far?

If you have already fallen off the bandwagon, you’re not alone. In fact, 80 percent of New Year’s resolution fail by February.

But, what if there was a way to revive your resolve and recommit to your financial goals in a way that increased your chances of success? What if we told you that we had a few ways to help you achieve your money goals?

You’re in luck. Keep reading to learn our top seven tips for creating a brand new financial blueprint for the rest of your year.

Make Sure Your Resolutions Are Personal To You

Sometimes we choose certain financial resolutions simply because they look good on paper. But it’s hard to have ownership over your goals if you aren’t personally motivated by them. So, before you recommit to your financial resolutions, first double check that they make sense for you and that they reflect the needs of your future self.

In other words, revisit your “why.” Do you want to have enough money for a downpayment on your first home in eight years? Do you want to save money to create a work optional lifestyle for yourself 10 years down the road?

If you find that you need to get rid of some of your original resolutions, that’s okay. The point is: Be true to yourself during this process of introspection.

Choose Monthly Resolutions Instead of Annual Ones

Trying to do too much all at once is a common reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Instead, focusing on small wins month to month makes it easier to stick to your plan. This way you’ll also gain the motivation you need to keep going and create lasting financial habits.

In addition to setting monthly financial goals, I have also found that creating monthly “financial willpower challenges” has been an effective way to work my way up to accomplishing even bigger goals. Your monthly resolutions could look something like this for the next few months of the year:

  • March – cut out unchecked expenses
  • April – switch to a new bank
  • May – ask for a raise
  • June – find a new side hustle

Write Down Your Action Steps

Kumiko Love, an accredited financial counselor and founder of The Budget Mom, says that “a goal will not become a reality until you create action steps on how you’re going to get there.” In other words, you have to plan in order to make your dreams a reality.

Last year, Love’s biggest financial resolution was to get out of debt, and she achieved this in eight  short months. Her action steps were as follows:

  • Step 1: Pay off student loans 
  • Highest interest first
  • $500 a month using income from side hustle
  • Step 2: Tackle car loan next
  • $1,000 per month using income side hustle

As a rule of thumb, the more granular the action steps, the more likely you are to follow through on them.

Get Some Better Visual Aids

If tracking your progress with a boring old spreadsheet isn’t getting you fired up about creating better financial habits, then it may be time to try something new. Mint is one of several apps that uses graphs and charts. This helps you see how much money is coming in, how much is being spent and how much goes into savings each week. Once you set specific goals within the app, you can easily see how close you are to your goals – with the touch of a button.

Using a “Debt Free Chart” is another great way to keep your eye on the prize. My husband and I decided to try this approach with a printable chart created by Heidi Ifland Nash. This helped motivate us to save more money for our vacation fund this year. And so far, it’s working well. We pinned the chart to our refrigerator, and each day it serves as a constant reminder that we need to keep our eye on our savings goal. Plus, we actually enjoy coloring in the lines each time we hit a savings milestone. This helps us feel more in control of our financial future.

Build in Some Accountability

One of the best things you can do to stay on track for the remainder of the year is to develop a system of accountability for your goals. This can be done by finding an accountability buddy or creating a rewards system.

“Rewarding yourself is an important part of any financial journey. But remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive in order to be meaningful,” says Love.

A reward can be as simple as treating yourself to lunch on Fridays – if you stuck to your goal of bringing a packed lunch Monday through Thursday.

Take the Guesswork Out of Sticking to Your Financial Resolutions

One of the best ways to build healthy financial habits is to take an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” approach. In other words, create a system that takes you out of day-to-day decisions about your finances – so that you don’t have to think about them. This method is also known as financial automation. You can’t spend money you never see, which makes automated savings one of the best ways to reach your savings goals year after year.

For instance, Chime has an excellent feature that automates 10% of your paycheck directly into your savings.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Remember: Even when you recommit to your financial resolutions, setbacks are still likely to happen. They are a part of life and we are only human.

“Once you recognize that habits don’t change overnight, it takes the pressure off of expecting perfect results right out of the gate,” says Alli Rosenblum, founder of FinancialliFocused.com

It took Rosenblum, for example, almost five months to fully break her habit of spending $60 per month on lattes.

So, cut yourself some slack and start changing your habits now. Just think: You too can reach your money goals by hitting the reset button on your financial resolutions!

 

Money-Making Apps: What You Need to Know

Is boosting your income on your to-do list? If so, you can start a side hustle or angle for a better a job. But, there may be an easier way to make a few extra bucks: money-making apps.

“While money-making and cash back apps can’t replace your 9 to 5, they’re a great way to earn some change to tuck away for a rainy day,” says Joy Hearn, founder of deal site Cards and Clips.

Indeed, money-making apps can put cash in your wallet. That’s money you can use to pad your savings account or pay off debt. Yet, you may be confused about what these apps do or which ones you might want to try, right? Well, we’ve got the details here, along with tips on how to leverage money-making apps. To learn more, read on.

How Money-Making Apps Work

The basic premise of money-making apps is that they allow you to earn a percentage of what you spend as cash back. You link your debit or credit card to the app, spend at partner merchants and cash back rewards are credited to your app account.

You’re free to use the cash back you’ve earned however you want. And you can double up on rewards if you’re also earning cash back from your linked debit or credit card.

What makes each money-making app and website different is the amount of cash back you can earn, where you can earn it and how that cash is paid out. Some of the most popular money-making apps include:

With Dosh, you can earn up to 10% cash back automatically when you pay with a linked debit or credit card at more than 1,000 stores and restaurants. You can also snag an extra five dollars each time you refer a friend to Dosh and they sign up for an account using your referral link. You can transfer the money you’ve made to your bank account, PayPal account or donate it to charity.

Lushdollar founder Tom Nathaniel likes Dosh because it’s a set-it-and-forget-it way to earn cash back.

“While I could check out which merchants give me cash back, I just look at it as a bonus if my purchase triggers a reward. Since you just add your credit card, the app always knows what you’re buying,” says Nathaniel.

Marc Andre, personal finance blogger at VitalDollar.com says Ebates is his money-making app of choice. Ebates offers up to 40% cash back at more than 2,500 partner retailers. Besides the app, you can also use the Ebates browser extension to make money from your desktop.

“When you’re visiting a website that participates with Ebates you’ll be notified and all you need to do is click on a button in the notification so Ebates can track your purchases. There have been many times when I wasn’t even thinking about getting cash back but the alert from the browser extension reminded me of it,” says Andre.

Another great feature: Ebates automatically searches for coupon codes to help you find even more savings when you shop.

Like Ebates, TopCashback.com is a money-making app that also has a downloadable browser extension. It also features one of the largest merchant networks, with over 4,400 partner businesses.

Hearn at Cards and Clips is partial to Shopkick and Checkpoints, both of which reward you with cash instantly just for walking into stores or browsing retailers online. The difference is that with these apps, you’re earning gift cards instead of cold hard cash. But, the gift card selection includes retailers like Target, Amazon and Starbucks – which can come in handy if you regularly spend with these brands.

Using Money-Making Apps Wisely

Cash back apps and websites can put money in your pocket fairly easily, but there are a few rules to keep in mind as you use them.

1. Set realistic expectations for what you can earn.

Don’t think of money-making apps as a way to get rich quick.

“I think some people download these apps expecting hundreds of dollars. As long as you go in knowing you’ll make a few bucks, they’re fun to use,” Nathaniel says.

2. Don’t try to game the system.

It sounds simple but pay attention to the rules set down by an app for making money. For example, Hearn says that in her experience, survey apps tend to have explicit rules about misuse.

“If they find you’ve created multiple accounts and can track it back to your specific IP address, you can be banned from using the app. Or, if they feel you deliberately raced through a survey to earn money, your account can be terminated,” says Hearn.

Bottom line? “It’s always best to follow instructions and do exactly what an app requires so you can earn your payout,” she says.

3. Be selective.

Deciding which money-making apps to use partly depends on your spending habits, says VitalDollar’s Andre.

Checkout51 and Ibotta, for instance, are designed for earning money on groceries while other money-making apps cover restaurants or major retail brands.

“There are so many different cash back apps that you really can’t use them all effectively. My best advice is to pick a few and stick with those,” says Andre.

4. Don’t let apps dictate buying decisions.

When using money-making apps, it’s easy to get caught up in earning cash. So easy, in fact, that you might end up overspending just to chase down a few extra dollars.

“You have to keep it in perspective,” says Andre.

“Getting 10% cash back on a purchase that you need to make anyway is great. But making a purchase that you don’t need just to get 10% cash back is not wise,” he says.

In other words, keep your spending habits firmly in sight. Getting cash back is great but not if it means blowing your budget.

A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned

When you’re earning extra cash with these apps, think about what you plan to do with it. Money-making apps can turn into money-saving apps if you’re using those dollars and cents to grow your emergency fund or save up for other goals. Plus, it’s motivating to watch the cash from mobile payment apps pile into a savings account. Are you ready to give money-making apps a try?

 

A 12-Step Plan for a Better Career in the New Year

There are two types of people: the ones who make New Year’s resolutions and the ones who don’t. I’m firmly on the don’t side — I like to set goals instead, like fattening up my savings account.

If one of your goals for 2019 is kicking your career into high gear, you’ll need a plan to make it happen. And, breaking your career-boosting strategy down into monthly tasks can help you make big strides by year’s end.

To help you get going, take a look at this month-to-month guide.

January: Set career goals

As you start a new year, think about where you want to end it, career-wise, and plan it as a whole process, says Piotr Sosnowski, vice president and co-founder of career site Zety.

“Imagine yourself in a gym on the first week of January, packed with hyper-optimistic sports newbies that made going to the gym a New Year’s resolution,” he says.

“Two weeks in and the gym is nice and quiet again. It’s because some people tend to approach their goals in a very ambitious way, focusing on a goal itself and forgetting that getting into shape is a whole, sometimes even hard process.”

To stay motivated in your career pursuits for the long-haul, try SMART goals  This means you’ll make your goals specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound, while still keeping the big picture in sight.

February: Know your worth

Be ready to prove your value as an employee in the New Year.

“Hiring managers want to see upward mobility, awards and accomplishments on your resume and LinkedIn profile,” says executive career coach Jaime Chapman.

“On paper, it’s easy to distinguish a rising star from a clock puncher,” she says.

Make a detailed list of your career achievements, such as:

  • Major projects you’ve spearheaded
  • Ways you’ve saved your company time and increased efficiency
  • Monthly and annual sales numbers if you’re in a sales-based position
  • How much money you’ve helped the company save or how much you’ve helped to increase profits

Be specific, using hard numbers whenever possible so you can explain your value concisely.

“Create an elevator pitch and a punch line to quickly and clearly articulate what you do and why you’re good at it. At networking events and in casual introductions, the elevator pitch and punch line are a secret weapon—quickly weeding out irrelevant connections and engaging the right audience,” Chapman says.

March: Network

Speaking of networking, spend some time working on fostering connections.

“The best method to get a better job is using your number one asset – people,” Chapman says.

Some simple, but powerful ways to grow your network in 2019 include:

  • Attending industry-specific conferences or meet-ups in your area
  • Reaching out to hiring managers and influencers on LinkedIn
  • Regularly sending out notes to stay in touch with existing connections

“The goal is to be the first person that pops into the mind of your immediate circle of influence,” Chapman says.

April: Learn something new

If you want to get ahead at work, commit to becoming a lifelong learner.

“One of the best ways you can improve your career is to invest in your own learning,” says Jessica Hernandez, president of Great Resumes Fast, an executive resume writing service.

“If there’s something you want to learn about, resolve to invest in reading about it, studying it, taking an online course or earning a certification,” she says.

Don’t limit yourself to skills or knowledge that apply to your current job either. Learning how to code or master Photoshop, for example, are skills you can parlay into a lucrative side hustle or even a full-time business.

May: Refresh your resume

While you’re doing your spring cleaning, don’t forget to give your resume a thorough once-over.

“One of the best ways to improve your career is to have a great resume ready before you need it,” Hernandez says.

“Make it a point to update your resume at least every six months or sooner if there’s a major change in your position, responsibilities or accomplishments, and keep a master resume on file that you can add things to as they happen.”

Think outside the box in terms of formatting. Consider swapping out the standard vanilla format for an infographic, slideshow or video resume to show off your skills and your personality.

June: Build mentoring relationships

Jonathan H. Phillips, co-author of Living Your Best Career, says having a personal board of directors is essential for career advancement.

“The truth is, your career doesn’t live in a vacuum. It’s intimately tied to other personal and professional stakeholders,” Phillips says.

He recommends looking to your network and choosing a shortlist of influential contacts. Ideally, your mentors should help guide you through large and small career decisions.

July: Become an expert

If you’re not yet an expert or influencer in your field, consider making that a priority for 2019.

“Speak at conferences, publish articles or a book, teach a webinar or appear as a guest on a podcast. The opportunities are limitless to put yourself out there so don’t be afraid to brag a little bit,” Chapman says.

If you’ve got a sizable LinkedIn network, consider publishing a short article weekly on topics related to your industry. Or, you can try your hand at blogging if you have a lot to say about a particular topic.

“Building your expertise will create a demand for you,” Chapman says.

August: Improve your interview skills

Job-hopping can be rewarding if it leads to a better position or pay. But you’ll have to get through the interview process first.

“Interviewing is an art form and requires a lot of preparation,” Chapman says.

Try these tips for nailing interviews every time:

  • Get to know the company you’re interviewing for
  • Research the most commonly asked interview questions
  • Tell stories with your answers
  • Use concrete examples to showcase your skills and experience
  • Ask insightful questions
  • Let your “you” shine through

Most importantly, remember to follow up. In a Robert Half survey, 100% of hiring managers said they want to hear from job candidates after the initial interview is over.

September: Negotiate a better salary

Chapman raises a good point about getting ahead in 2019: “What’s the point of all this work if you don’t increase your salary as a result?”

To get paid what you’re worth, start by researching average salaries for someone with your experience and in your field. PayScale and Glassdoor are a couple of helpful resources to check out.

Hone in on your preferred salary number, then commit to broaching the subject of a pay raise with your employer.

“Have a conversation about total compensation, including salary, time off, insurance and retirement benefits,” Chapman says.

“Get them talking, try not to reveal your numbers first and be prepared to walk away if you don’t receive the salary you feel you deserve.”

October: Stay engaged

Career coach Mark Anthony Dyson says it’s critical to stay in career advancement mode and avoid developing tunnel vision in your current role.

“It takes so long to get traction in a job search when you’ve disengaged from your network, industry trends and being active in your industry’s organizations,” says Dyson.

So, remember to stay in touch with your network regularly. You can do that by:

  • Subscribing to trade magazines for your industry
  • Reading industry-specific blogs
  • Following industry bigwigs on social media

November: Ask for feedback

Rather than cringing away from criticism, use it to your advantage.

“One thing that’s often underrated but can have serious consequences for professional and personal development is learning how to take genuine feedback graciously,” says Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of online performance software provider Mettl.

“When someone gives you feedback in their capacity as your colleague, friend, peer, manager, boss or associate, appreciate it, take in stride and filter it to get to the crux of what you need to improve — skills, attitude or personality,” says Kapoor.

December: Show your gratitude

As another year winds down, celebrate your wins and use career setbacks as learning tools. And remember to show your appreciation to the people who have helped you along your career path so far.

You don’t necessarily need to buy pricey gifts but sending out holiday cards or a personalized notes can close out the year on a positive note.

 

4 Career Moves You Should Make This Year

New year. New career moves.

Think of this year as a new opportunity to take your career to the next level. Yup, there’s no time like the present to make sure you’re happy with your job and career path. It’s also the perfect time to learn new skills or consider a career move.

Leveling up in your career often goes hand-in-hand with your financial goals. This may mean increasing your savings, paying down your debt, and earning more money. If you’re looking to take your professional life to the next level, here are the best career moves you can make this year.

Learn a New Skill

How often do you learn new skills? Well, it’s time to do this. Why? Learning new skills will help you evolve with your career and make you more marketable in your industry.

When I worked at a web design company as a content writer, I made it a point to learn new skills. The industry was often changing and I had to keep up. Plus, I knew that I could make more money by advancing my skills. So, I learned how to do light website coding and SEO (search engine optimization). I wasn’t the only one. One of my coworkers got certified in SEO and in turn, he created a whole new position for himself. Mind you, this company was a start-up so things were flexible. But, you can advance your skills regardless of where you work.

There are plenty of courses available and you don’t have to go back to school for a degree. You can use sites like Udemy and Coursera to search for online courses that interest you. For example, perhaps you can take an affordable social media course online during your spare time. And just think: the courses you take can help you at your current job, or maybe even lead you to start a new side hustle to make extra money. The opportunities are endless.

Ask For a Raise

This is one of the best times of the year to ask your employer for a raise. Companies usually have new budgets set in January and are already considering things like wages, expenses, and goals for the year.

If you haven’t done so already, schedule a sit down with your employer so you can discuss your role over the past year and then broach the subject of getting a raise or promotion. If you have focused on gaining new skills, discuss this with your boss as you can now bring more to the table.

Sometimes it can be intimidating to ask for a raise but it’s worth it. And just think: Most people don’t get raises simply because they don’t ask for them.

Remember: Earning more money each year is a crucial part of advancing your career – not to mention that it helps you keep up with cost of living increases and pay your bills.

Look For a Full-Time Job With Benefits

When looking for a new job, most people focus on the salary as the top factor. While it’s important to make sure you’re getting paid well and on time, it’s also important to consider the benefits package. If your current job doesn’t offer a benefits package, it may be time to start looking for a new job.

Vacation days, medical insurance, and a 401(k) plan can help you get ahead financially. If your employer offers a great health plan, that’s a major win. The same goes with an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

So, if you’re working part-time or don’t have benefits at your current job, consider seeking a full-time job and negotiating for a benefits package that will help support your lifestyle and protect your family.

Establish an Extra Income Stream

How many income streams do you have? The average self-made millionaire has seven.

Think about it: If you’re looking to make extra money during your spare time, you can monetize one of your hobbies and earn money doing something you enjoy. Or, perhaps you can leverage a skill to create a new side hustle and generate an entirely new income stream.

For example, consider writing e-books, selling items online, walking dogs, investing in real estate, selling homemade products on Etsy, or even running errands. If you don’t want to start a business from scratch, you can even take advantage of the gig economy and drive for Uber or Lyft on the side. The extra money you earn can be added back into your budget or used to accelerate debt payoff. You can also earmark your extra cash toward a large purchase or upcoming vacation.

Who knows, you may even launch a side business that will eventually replace your main job!

Take Your Career to the Next Level

Whether you’re gunning for a promotion or want to start a side hustle, make 2019 the year that you take your career to the next level.

Start by determining what you want your career to look like in one year, five years or 10 years. Then, focus on learning at least one new skill and exploring other options to make extra money. This may lead to a lucrative side hustle, a new job, or a raise or promotion at your current job.

One final tip: The more secure you make your career, the more secure your finances will be over time.

 

Why You Should Spend With Your Debit Card vs. Credit Card This Holiday Season

The holiday season is approaching and you know what that means — spending money. Whether it’s buying gifts for loved ones or booking flights to travel home, the holiday season typically means a spike in spending for many of us.

And, because you may spend more than at other times of the year, you’re probably going to use credit cards. But, did you know that while credit cards offer some cool rewards like cash back, using your debit card is often a wiser choice? Read on to learn why.

1. You spend only what you have

Everyone wants to think they’re responsible with credit and only buy what they can afford. Well, a lot of people are wrong. According to a 2017 study by Magnify Money, 68 percent of consumers attributed their holiday debt to credit cards.

Of the consumers surveyed, 44 percent racked up more than $1,000 and five percent accumulated more than $5,000 in credit card balances. More disturbing is the fact that half of those consumers noted that it will take more than three months to pay off the debt they accrued during the holidays. That’s more than a quarter of the entire year!

When you use a debit card, however, you spend only what you have in your bank account. And, this helps you become more mindful and realistic about your budget. Using a debit card during the holiday season can also help you avoid fees and that dreaded holiday credit card debt.

2. You don’t have to worry about making another payment

The holiday season can make the most organized person run around like a headless chicken. Everyone’s schedule seems packed to the brim and there’s always something else added to the to-do list (Think: “Buy white elephant gift for the company party.”)

When you’re so busy, some of your normal day-to-day duties can fall to the wayside. And, if you don’t have auto-pay set up, you can potentially miss a credit card payment. Another common problem during the busy holiday season: You say you’ll “do it later” and then when you remember to pay your bill, it’s late.

When you use a debit card, however, you don’t have to add anything else to your to-do list – including making yet another payment. The money comes straight from your bank account and you don’t have to do a thing.

3. A debit card is free to use

One of the biggest perks with using credit cards is the rewards, like cash-back and airline miles. But oftentime the best rewards cards come with an annual fee and the conversion on the rewards isn’t as great as you think. In many cases, miles are literally worth about a penny per mile or less.

So, you may actually be spending your money on an annual fee, high interest rates, late fees, and more – without getting much in return.

Here’s where debit cards take center stage. Debit cards are free and can help you avoid debt.

4. Your debit card can help you save

At Chime, we’re all about helping you save money when you spend money. It’s all about balance. Am I right?

With this in mind, check out Chime’s round-up savings program, where every time you use your debit card, we round-up the purchase to the nearest dollar and put it into your Savings Account. This way you can effortlessly save and know that you’re being financially responsible at the same time.

5. Stop fraud instantly

There are no two ways about it: Fraud can be rampant during the holiday season. A lot of credit card enthusiasts think this is a solid reason to use credit over debit.

But, your debit card can offer protections that are similar to your credit card. For example, if you suspect any fraudulent uses on your Chime card or your card goes missing, you can simply go into the app and immediately put a halt on purchases by disabling transactions. No need to stay on a long customer service line (who wants to talk on the phone?!) and no need for lengthy emails. Just put a stop to it, now.

Not only that, but Chime alerts you any time you use your debit card. So, if your debit card get into the wrong hands, you’ll know right away.

Bottom line

The holiday season should be a time of joy and fun, not stress and debt.

Using debit instead of credit can help you keep your spending in check, plus you’ll have one less thing to worry about. So, this holiday season: Try spending only what you have and enjoy the season with family and friends. It sure beats worrying about money!

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.