6 Real-Life Money Lessons You Can Learn From Monopoly

When I was growing up, my favorite board game was Monopoly. Recently, I decided to re-explore the game with my nieces and nephews. And, wow! I realize now just how many life lessons can be learned from this classic game.

For starters, Monopoly is a game of strategy that offers ways to manage your money while teaching you about building a secure financial future. And trust me, you can learn a lot about how to get ahead financially by playing Monopoly.

Thinking about dusting off your childhood Monopoly game? While you’re at it, here are my top 6 real-life money lessons from this timeless board game:

1. Start saving early

When playing Monopoly, if you don’t begin investing early, you’ll be forced out of the game sooner rather than later. Why? Because the bulk of your cash will be spent paying out rent to those smart enough to buy property early on.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Start Investing as Soon as Possible

With the burden of student loan debt, high living costs and wages that aren’t keeping pace, you may think it’s impossible to start investing now. But, here’s the truth: even stashing away a few dollars a week will add up to a nice nest egg over time – due to the magic of compound interest.

What’s compound interest? This is when interest accumulates on the interest you’ve already earned on your money. So, investing now in your future self will result in greater wealth down the line.

Let’s take a look at a quick example of this with a “$250 a month strategy,” which assumes an 8% average annual investment return. Take a look at how an investment of $250 a month would grow, starting at the following ages:

  • Age 25: You’ll accumulate $878,570 by age 65
  • Age 35: You’ll accumulate $375,073 by age 65
  • Age 45: You’ll accumulate $148,236 by age 65

Your next question may be: But what if I don’t have any money to begin investing right now? That’s ok! As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” As a first step, check to see if your employer sponsors a 401(k) retirement plan with a matching contribution. Once you find out the percentage your employer will match, ensure that you contribute at least that amount (otherwise, you’ll be throwing away free money).

Next, let technology help you automate the process of growing your money! Apps like Acorns are perfect for first-time investors who may not have a ton of extra money. By automating, you can invest even your spare change into well-diversified portfolios.

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

You won’t win a game of Monopoly if you only invest in a single property, even if you load it up with all the cute little green houses that (fake) money can buy. The best game players purchase multiple properties, preferably at least one from each color group. This increases the chances of collecting rent across the board.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Diversify Your Assets

If you’re new to investing, it might be difficult to properly diversify your portfolio across different asset classes. However, there are ways to get started. For example, perhaps you can consider investing in mutual funds, which offer diversification benefits because they hold dozens or even hundreds of investments. Overall, when it comes to investing, it’s important to do your own research. At the same time, there’s no shame in asking for help from a financial expert or even a friend well-versed in financial matters. You can search for a fee-based financial advisor here.

3. Plan for the unexpected

Even though it’s important to start buying properties as soon as possible in the game, you still need to have a cash buffer when unexpected expenses pop up. As soon as I get my money from the banker at the beginning of the game, I stash $300 under my side of the board. This comes in handy whenever I have to pay taxes or rent to another player later on.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Always have a rainy day fund.

We all need to have extra funds available for emergencies like medical expenses, car trouble or home repairs. One of the easiest ways to build up your emergency fund quickly is to automate your savings. Chime makes it easy for you do this by helping you to save as soon as you get paid. If you open a Chime bank account and select Automatic Savings, Chime will automatically transfer 10% of every paycheck directly into your savings account.

4. Generate passive income

In Monopoly, nothing is sweeter than owning a hotel. Why? Hotel ownership is a winning strategy because it means you can charge the highest rent when someone lands on one of your squares.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Start earning passive income while you sleep

We all have skills and talents that can be packaged into a product that generates passive income. For example, perhaps you can create an online course and sell it or start a YouTube channel chronicling your fitness journey. Maybe you can even rent out a room in your apartment or house.

5. Practice discipline

Although we discussed the importance of buying properties, this doesn’t mean you should purchase every single property you land on. Being thoughtful and strategic with your hard-earned Monopoly money will go a long way if you want to be the last player standing.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Go on a fiscal fast

If you’ve been overspending lately, then it might be time for a fiscal fast. This is like going on a diet, but for your finances. The idea of a fiscal fast is to completely eliminate all non-essential spending – like coffee runs – for a specific period of time, such as seven days. The key to success is to transfer all the money you would have spent during the weekend or month into a savings account. I’ve done seven fiscal fasts in the past year and a half. Each time I’ve saved between $250 and $300. This helped me get rid of my credit card debt a lot quicker.

6. Negotiate like a pro

If you’re a Monopoly geek like me then you know that sometimes you have to trade property just to stay in the game. And, depending on who the other players are, you may have to step up your negotiation skills in order to make a mutually beneficial deal.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Use your negotiating skills to ask for a higher salary

You may be uncomfortable asking for a raise because you don’t want to come across as being too pushy. Or, perhaps you don’t want to face being turned down. In fact, only 37 percent of millennials have ever asked for a raise, according to PayScale.

But, did you know that the odds of receiving a pay upgrade are actually in your favor? A 2015 study published in Time Magazine showed that 44 percent of people who asked for a raise got the amount they wanted, while 31 percent got less than they asked for. This means that three out of four people who asked for a raise actually got it!

Final Thoughts

Although you never really know what “chance” card life may deal you, it’s important to face your money obstacles head on. And, armed with these money lessons from Monopoly, you’ll learn some key tools to effectively handle your finances, navigate money challenges, and hopefully come out a winner!

 

5 Money Lessons I Learned from Mean Girls

Happy National Mean Girls Day!

In case you’re unfamiliar, October 3rd is an unofficial holiday commemorating the anniversary of the 2004 cult classic and all the life lessons it taught us. This year is extra special, though, because Mean Girls is making its way to Broadway.

And, in honor of the milestone, I am excited to take this opportunity to share with you 5 money lessons I learned from Mean Girls:

Don’t worry about keeping up with the Plastics

We can’t talk about Mean Girls without mentioning the Plastics, AKA the “it girls” at North Shore High School (NSHS). The Plastics are made up of Regina George, Gretchen Wieners, Karen Smith and later, Cady Heron. Responsible for catch phrases like “you can’t sit with us” and “on Wednesdays we wear pink;” you either hated the Plastics or secretly tried to be just like them…or a combination of both.

Money Lesson: Financial anxiety is the number one stressor for Americans. And, making money decisions to please others or keep up appearances can have serious consequences. In some cases, you may find yourself overspending every month and not being able to pay your bills on time or even creating a cycle of debt that becomes difficult to overcome.

The good news is that once you realize that money doesn’t buy happiness, you can start to prioritize your financial goals. You can also figure out the best budget for you, based on your personality type.

It’s time to come to terms with reality

When Janis tells Cady that she’s, “Plastic. Cold, shiny, hard plastic,” it turns out to be exactly the wake-up call she needed to address her own behavior. As the movie wraps up, Cady soon begins to “suck the poison out of her life.” Dramatic, I know.

Money Lesson: This point is particularly personal as someone who lived in debt denial a few years ago. I didn’t even know exactly how much I owed because, at times, it felt much easier to avoid or ignore the fact that my second biggest monthly payment happened to be servicing debt.

But one day I decided to add up all my debt: student loans, credit cards and a car loan. This exercise turned out to be much more freeing than I could have imagined. By coming face to face with the $50,000 elephant in the room, I was able to devise a plan to create the lifestyle of my dreams a lot quicker than I ever imagined.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question

Okay, so maybe when Regina asked if “butter is a carb” she was pushing it a bit. But seriously, don’t be afraid to ask questions because this is one of the best ways to learn.

Money Lesson: The same principle can be applied to beefing up our financial knowledge. Be sure to do your own research and ask questions when it comes to making big decisions such as opening your first bank account after college. If you need more help, you can also consider reaching out to a fee-based financial advisor who can help you create a roadmap for your financial future.

Always have a backup plan

Remember when Cady and the Plastics performed at the talent show and the radio stopped working? Fortunately, instead of running off the stage, Cady got the entire room to join her in signing an impromptu rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Easy enough.

But what happens when unexpected events pop up that are much more serious? Examples include things like trips to the emergency room, car repairs or even a sudden layoff.

Money Lesson: With an emergency fund, you won’t have to worry about how you’ll handle these surprise expenses. A good rule of thumb is to save three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Your fund should also be kept separate from your regular checking or even your regular savings account.

Try not to obsess

As you might have already realized, Regina was paranoid about her weight. So much so that it seemed to consume her thoughts each day – pun intended. In the long run though, her obsession over being the so-called perfect size did more harm than good.

Regina opted for crash diets instead of developing healthy habits like eating balanced meals or exercising regularly and her plan soon backfired.

Money Lesson: Just like making solid choices for your physical health, creating healthy financial routines will help you set the stage for long-term success. Not sure where to start? Automating your savings is one of the easiest habits to implement. In fact, with a Chime bank account, you can save money with every paystub by automatically direct 10% of your paycheck into your savings account. Putting your savings on autopilot removes the guesswork and gives you peace of mind when it comes to your finances.

And how fetch is that?

 

Walter White’s Smart Money Moves

If you’re a TV fan, you’ve probably watched AMC Networks’ Breaking Bad.

The popular series follows the exploits of Walter White as he turns to a life of crime by manufacturing meth in order to pay off his hospital bills. One of the reasons I, like many viewers, was drawn to the show was because of its highs and lows. While I have no idea what the life of a meth manufacturer is actually like, Breaking Bad seemed to be a realistic snapshot of this lifestyle.

On closer analysis of the show, there are a lot of financial insights that we can take away. I’m not saying that you should turn to a life of crime to make your millions, but I am suggesting that you can apply these anecdotes to your personal or professional financial life.

If you dig a little deeper with me, perhaps you’ll also discover some smart money moves unveiled through the life and times of Walter White.

Create a Scalable System to Maximize Earnings

One of the aspects of the show that made it seem believable was the fact that Walt didn’t just jump in and become an overnight drug lord. In fact, for most of the series, he bumbled along trying to do things the easy and quick way instead of creating a system to maximize his earning potential.

For example, after cooking up a batch of meth, Jesse would spend the night slinging the dope for a few hundred dollars each night. In the end, Walt realizes that he will have to make a big change if they’re going to earn the $737,000 needed to complete his cancer treatments.

The takeaway here: If you’re doing grunt work to earn money, and everything you earn requires intensive attention, this might not be the best way to maximize your earning potential. Instead, try creating a system that works for you. Later in the series, for example, Walt works in Gustavo Fring’s lab and begins sending product overseas. This, in turn, allows him to augment his income without a lot of tedious and time-consuming work. With a system in place and clearly defined roles, every step of the process moves seamlessly and even assistants know exactly what to do. To learn a bit more about creating business systems for your own side hustle, try reading Michael Gerber’s book The E Myth Revisited.

Have a Savings Plan

Throughout the series, Walt hides his money in various locations. It makes sense – hard-earned drug money can’t exactly be deposited into banks. Even though hiding cash this way is a bit careless, it’s actually a good lesson for those who want to grow their wealth.

As Walt’s empire grows, so does his money. He systematically stockpiles it. And, Skylar even starts storing it in a storage unit – built into the garage wall – because there’s simply too much cash. Walt only uses what he needs to keep growing the business. The rest is left in his storage unit.

Using this fictional story, you can take a more practical approach to your savings. Because you likely bank electronically, you don’t need to dig holes in the desert to stash your cash. Instead, you can borrow tips from David Bach’s book The Automatic Millionaire and begin to save automatically. This will allow you to focus on earning more money.

Pass Money Onto Your Heirs

Walt earned far more than the $737,000 he needed to take care of both his own and his family’s needs. But he ran into a big problem. He didn’t know how to transfer the money to his son. Even if he figured out how to move the money, his son didn’t want it and the police would likely confiscate it anyway.

Fortunately for Walt, his rich friends had already established a foundation for drug abuse victims. This provided the perfect outlet. He could launder his money, create a trust, and pass millions onto his son after he was gone.

What can you learn from this – the legal way? Even when you have earned your money, it’s important to find a way to pass it onto your heirs. Seeking advice from a fee-based financial advisor, estate attorney or accountant will guide you toward the best financial options for you. Expert advice will also help you properly set up a will or a trust.

The Takeaway

Walter earned more than $80 million during his two year career as a drug kingpin. But he didn’t always make the best financial decisions with that money (it’s hard when people are trying to kill you, arrest you, and steal your goods). Nonetheless, as we’ve shown you in this story, you can still take away some important money lessons from Walt. Just keep this in mind: whatever you do, don’t bury your money in the desert. It could get stolen and you won’t earn any interest.

 

5 Ways To Be More Like Sherlock With Your Money, and 1 Way Not To

In BBC’s version of Sherlock Holmes, the super sleuth doesn’t seem to care much about money. Sherlock instead lives for his cases. He even refuses an advance check for “The Blind Banker” because he didn’t need an incentive to crack the case.

But here’s the reality: Sherlock isn’t wealthy — at least not wealthy enough to afford a flat on his own. So, like anyone else, this sleuth has to learn how to manage his money. To help him get a clue about handling his finances, here are our top 5 tips, along with what you can learn from Sherlock’s mistakes.

1. Be committed to your goals

To say that Sherlock is dedicated to his cases is an understatement. He was even willing to put his health at risk with a drug trip to prove that Jim Moriarty is indeed dead.

When it comes to your financial habits, “the game is on” every single day. If you get too complacent with managing your money – even for a month or two – you can be vulnerable to unexpected expenses that can cripple you financially.

To stay the course, first, review your current plans for budgeting and saving. Then, determine if you’re doing everything you can to improve your financial situation. To help you out, use a bank account like the Chime Spending Account, which allows you to get instant notifications to track your spending.

Another tip: If you’re paying off debt, make sure you’re on an accelerated payoff plan and stick to it.

2. Automate as much as possible

Daydreaming about your life when you become financially independent is exciting. Maybe you have plans to travel the world, have a nice house, or start a business.

But doing the day-to-day stuff like paying bills? As Sherlock would say, “Dull, boring, predictable.” The fact of the matter is that you have more important things to do than track every little financial detail. Fortunately, financial institutions make it easy to automate most of these actions.

If you have a recurring expense, for instance, check to see if there’s a way to automate making monthly payments via your bank, and sign up for autopay on your credit cards and loans. You can also set up automatic transfers for retirement and other savings goals. The more you automate your money management, the more time you’ll have for things you actually enjoy.

3. Have an insatiable appetite to learn

If something is important to Sherlock, he’ll move heaven and earth to learn as much as he can about it.

While no one is asking you to memorize 243 types of tobacco ash, it’s good to know about different financial apps and services so that you can get a handle on your own money management.

It’s also a good idea to educate yourself about your credit score and how your actions affect your future savings goals, like socking money away for college and retirement. In addition, some investment options may offer better tax advantages than others. By educating yourself, you’ll be well-versed in the best strategies for you and your future goals.

The key here is to avoid making a financial decision based on something someone else told you. Instead, take the time to research your options to come to your own judgment.

4. Focus on the things that matter

Despite Sherlock’s know-it-all nature, there are some areas where his knowledge is lacking. For example, when asked whether the earth orbits the sun, he says:

“What does that matter? So we go round the sun! If we went round the moon, or round and round the garden like a teddy bear, it wouldn’t make any difference.”

When it comes to your money, one thing that doesn’t make any difference is what other people are doing with their money. If your friends are buying a big house or driving shiny cars, you don’t have to follow suit. Instead, focus on your own financial goals and work to achieve them. Comparing your situation with that of your peers can set you back and make it hard to recover.

5. Take out the emotion

When on a case, Sherlock remains utterly impassive; all that matters are the facts. Yet, in reality,  things can get emotional when money comes into play. When house shopping, for example, emotions can cause you to buy a house you can’t afford. When at the mall, you might be more interested in how you look in a pair of jeans than how much those pants cost.

Although there can be room for emotional spending, it’s advisable to keep it to a minimum. This will help you avoid overspending. With a large purchase, take at least 24 hours to decide whether it’s the right choice. Doing this can help cut down on buyer’s remorse and keep more cash in your bank account.

One Thing to Learn from Sherlock’s Mistakes: Know Your Limits

In the very first episode of Sherlock, our favorite detective seriously considers taking a pill that could kill him. Why? To prove that he’s smarter than his antagonist. Fortunately, level-headed John Watson saved his life.

Similarly, you may feel like you’re clever enough to take on big risks and come away unscathed. You might consider skimping on health or life insurance or trying your hand at day trading stocks. But, here’s a dose of reality: If you can afford adequate insurance, it’s wise to have it. And unless you’re an experienced investor, it might be better to stick to mutual funds.

It doesn’t take a detective to uncover this piece of advice: even if you consider yourself savvy with money, it’s best to know and respect your limits.


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Odd Money Lessons We Can Learn from Silicon Valley’s Erlich

Sorry diehard Silicon Valley fans: Tech incubator leader and resident oddball Erlich Bachman has left the show. However, we can still learn a thing or two from the TV character who says whatever he wants. In fact, Erlich has been teaching us important money lessons from the very first episode of Silicon Valley.

Not convinced? Read on as we point out odd money lessons straight from one of the strangest characters on the popular HBO series.

Take Advantage Of Opportunities

When Erlich accompanies Jian-Yang to an investor meeting, he turns Jian-Yang’s original idea for an app for octopus recipes into one that recognizes food based on images.The resultant app, called SeeFood, got offered $200,000 in seed funding.

When Jian-Yang wanted to turn down the financial backing, Erlich delivers an honest opinion of the situation: “You know who walks away from that kind of money, Jian-Yang? Richard, a crazy person. He walked away from $10 million. Now look at him: wet pants, stealing towels, babbling about technical issues that he can’t solve. Is this how you want to end up?”

Erlich’s unfiltered advice is pretty spot on here: Don’t turn down a good opportunity when you see one. Yes, this may not have been part of Jian-Yang’s original plan, but $200,000 is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when you want to build a company and position yourself for better career opportunities.

Although you may not be able to count on funding like this for your business idea, you can still learn a valuable lesson here. Namely, always be on the lookout for opportunities to augment your earnings, like starting a side hustlenegotiating your salary, or finding a higher paying job.

Negotiate Like a Pro to Increase Your Income

When Pied Piper, the company started by the main character Richard Hendricks, starts bleeding money, Richard and part-owner Erlich end up pitching the company to venture capitalists. As negotiations continue, they both realize that their rude behavior is actually leading to more interest in their startup. Erlich then decides to then take over the negotiations and tells Richard, “If they want to negotiate using hostility and rudeness, well, they picked the wrong guy.”

What follows is a montage of meetings where Erlich spews out insult after insult. In the first meeting, he interrupts the potential investor and insults the firm’s decor and choice of logo. In subsequent meetings, Erlich makes rude comments about someone’s appearance and even insults his spouse. These unconventional negotiation tactics end up leading to a $100 million valuation for Pied Piper.

Although this insulting approach worked on a television series, I’m not advocating hurling insults at potential investors. But, I am saying that to make more money, you need to learn how to negotiate to get what you want. To do this, start by researching what employers want and use this to your advantage – just like Erlich did when he discovered that being rude was working in his favor.

If you’re looking to get a raise, for example, talk to your boss and point out ways in which you’ve already helped boost the company’s bottom line. You can also highlight other ways you’ve helped the firm grow. Or if you’re negotiating your salary at a new job, find out what the median salary is for comparable positions, compare this with your work experience and be prepared to ask for what you deserve.

Be Meticulous With Your Money

Erlich really loves his yogurt. So much so that he gets mad when the spoon he uses to scoop the jam out of the divided yogurt snack container isn’t clean. He then goes on to explain how he left a note to inform everyone that the “narrow spoon” is to be used for the purpose of eating his yogurt.

To further illustrate his point, he goes into a tirade about the design of the yogurt packaging and how much food is wasted if you don’t use the proper equipment. Yes, he even expounds on the ideal jam to yogurt ratio.

If there’s anything we can learn about Erlich’s yogurt obsession, it’s that you can use this mentality to be meticulous with your money. Perhaps this means learning about asset management fees and how they can eat into your retirement savings, or understanding how to minimize your taxes. It could also mean doing relevant research before making a major financial decision. After all, nobody should care more about your money than you do, just like no one cares more about how to eat yogurt than Erlich.

Next episode

Erlich may not be the most likable character on Silicon Valley, but he sure does know a thing or two about managing money wisely. If anything, laugh at his antics, glean a few money lessons, and pray that the popular series will be just as hilarious without him.

 

Harry Potter’s Best Money Decision and Why It Matters

Despite growing up in a Muggle home, Harry Potter was a skilled wizard. It wasn’t just his wizardry acumen that made Harry smart, though. One of the best decisions he ever made had to do with money. Yup, Harry decided against a major purchase and saved his money instead.

Let me explain. Before his third year at school, Harry spent a few weeks at the Leaky Cauldron after accidentally blowing up his aunt like a balloon. During his time exploring Diagon Alley, he came across an advertisement for the Firebolt, the fastest broom in the world:

“Harry didn’t like to think how much gold the Firebolt would cost. He had never wanted anything as much in his whole life — but he had never lost a Quidditch match on his Nimbus Two Thousand, and what was the point in emptying his Gringotts vault for the Firebolt, when he had a very good broom already?”

Harry Potter fanatics know that Harry ended up getting a Firebolt as a gift from his godfather Sirius Black. But if Harry had emptied his Gringotts vault for the broom, the future of the wizarding world might have taken a turn for the worse.

Let’s take a closer look at the positive effects of Harry’s wise money move.

Harry Potter and the joke shop

Just one school year later, Harry won the Triwizard Tournament purse worth 1,000 Galleons. But after watching the co-winner Cedric Diggory die and barely escape death himself, Harry didn’t want it.

Instead of keeping it, he gave it to Fred and George Weasley to open a joke shop. When they initially refused his generous offer, he insisted, saying, “Listen, if you don’t take it, I’m throwing it down the drain. I don’t want it and I don’t need it. But I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to need them more than usual before long.”

The Weasleys opened their shop shortly before all hell broke loose in the wizarding world. As the Death Eaters seized control of the Ministry of Magic, Fred and George cheered up the wizarding community with products like “U-No-Poo” and “Umbridge on Unicycle.”

Later, the twins expanded their product mix to include Defense Against the Dark Arts lines. Shield hats, gloves, and cloaks were indispensable for Ministry employees who couldn’t conjure a decent Shield Charm to protect themselves. In other words, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes made a big difference during a difficult time. Just think – had Harry spent all his money on the Firebolt a year earlier, he may not have been able to give the twins his gold.

Building and maintaining a position of strength

Harry Potter’s money was passed down to him by his parents, and he understood that squandering it was out of the question.

Sure, he dropped 30 Galleons on Omnioculars for himself, Ron, and Hermione at the Quidditch World Cup. He also bought an entire cart worth of treats during his first trip on the Hogwarts Express. At the same time, he wasn’t going to sell his inheritance for a broom, no matter how badly he wanted it.

Because of that decision, Harry wasn’t desperate for gold during his fourth year at school. He didn’t need the Triwizard Tournament winnings and had the freedom to choose to give it away. He was in a position of strength.

The takeaway

Although it would be nice to have generational wealth like Harry, it’s not in the cards for most of us. With that said, we can all take a page from Harry’s book and learn a valuable money lesson. And that is: It’s important to have savings goals while also taking advantage of unexpected chances to invest, give to those in need, or do something you’ve always wanted to do.

If you’re looking to make and save more money, use these 3 tips to build and maintain financial strength.

1. Stick to your budget. Creating a budget is the easy part. Sticking to it month after month is what makes budgeting hard. The Chime Spending Account makes the process easier by letting you view your transactions and analyze your spending on the go.

Here’s another tip: When it comes to large purchases, avoid making emotional decisions. Give yourself time to think things over before you buy. Ask yourself how a purchase fits in with your financial goals and whether you actually need it. Indeed, look to Harry for financial sense here: When it came to the Firebolt, he already had a solid broom and decided he didn’t need a new one.

2. Make savings a priority. According to a study by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the biggest financial worry people have is not having enough savings.

To help you start saving money right now, treat your savings like another bill with an automatic transfer coming out of your checking account at the beginning of the month. To get going, Chime has an Automatic Savings program that helps you save throughout the month. Just use your Chime Visa Debit card for all your purchases and Chime will round up each transaction and automatically transfer the round-up from your Spending Account to your Chime Savings Account.

As you get into the habit of saving all the time, you’ll have more freedom to do what you want with your money.

3. Build strength in other areas. Focusing solely on money isn’t the only way to establish and maintain financial strength. For example, keeping yourself physically healthy can prevent major medical costs.

Developing new skills is also essential. For example, learning how to fix your own car means you don’t have to take your car to a repair shop every time it breaks down. Another tip: Developing a hobby into a side business can increase your income.

As you can see, every day you have the power to decide how to spend, save and increase your income. Are you ready to boost your financial strength so that you have the freedom to answer the door when opportunity knocks?

 

5 Magical Money Lessons from the World of Harry Potter

Harry Potter may be iconic for the millennial generation. After all, we had the privilege of growing up alongside our favorite characters for the past 20 years. (Don’t worry, I can’t believe Harry Potter has been around that long either!)

The stories and characters are certainly worth revisiting time and time again. Besides the series’ tales about love, friendship, and bravery, Harry Potter teaches valuable lessons about money.

It’s true. If you look a bit deeper, here are some takeaway money lessons woven into the fabric of the Harry Potter books, movies, and brand.

You Need to Have a Will

After living in a cupboard under the stairs for 11 years, Harry Potter not only finds out he’s a wizard, but he also learns that his parents left him a considerable amount of money.

Although his parents died at a very young age, when Harry was just a baby, it’s clear they had a financial plan in place. They planned to leave their gold to Harry. Just think what would have happened to Harry if his parents didn’t plan for the future before their demise. Life definitely would have been harder for him as you can be certain his aunt and uncle wouldn’t have helped him pay for school supplies. Perhaps a wise takeaway: Save for your retirement when you’re young and make sure to list beneficiaries on all of your savings and investment accounts.

The Power of Compound Interest

Harry not only benefits from his parents’ will, but he also reaps the rewards of compound interest. That’s right. He left his money untouched for 11 years, and when he opens his vault for the first time at Gringott’s Wizarding Bank, he discovers that he has piles and piles of money. Even Harry is astounded at the amount of gold in his vault.

Imagine how big of a fortune you can amass if you start investing now and leave your account untouched for years. If this is daunting, you can start growing your savings right now simply by automating your savings with the help of a bank account like Chime.

Frugality Works

Harry’s friends, the Weasleys, may not have much money, but they certainly know how to make it work for them.

Although they were belittled throughout the series by Draco Malfoy and others, the Weasleys continued to wear hand-me-downs and homemade clothes to save money. They also live in a modest home that has clearly been the subject of many DIY home projects over the years. Molly’s clothes are worn and patched in the movies and they opt to travel by floo powder rather than buying individual broomsticks for each family member.

You Can Turn Your Passion into Profits

Fred and George Weasley are the jokesters of their family and are always playing pranks on their mother and other family members.

Eventually, they start creating their own magical joke products, which they sell to other students at Hogwarts for extra money. From there, they start a mail-order business to sell more of their products.

The Weasleys eventually saved up enough money and, along with a loan from Harry, opened up their own store-front in the famous Diagon Alley. The lesson here is that it is possible to turn your passion into profits.

Money Doesn’t Always Equal Happiness

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the Harry Potter series is that more money doesn’t always equal more happiness. In fact, there are times when the complete opposite is true: The more money you have, the more miserable you are.

For instance, both the Dursleys and the Malfoys are portrayed as wealthy, and yet they are always seeking more – more money, more power, more stuff.

On the other hand, the Weasleys are some of the poorest characters and they are always happy spending time with those they love. Isn’t this what life is truly about?

 

5 of the Most Important Money Lessons from Game of Thrones

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, then you probably can’t get enough of the intriguing storylines surrounding savagery, politics, and lust. However, one of my favorite aspects of this fantasy series is that teaches us more than a thing or two about money that can be applied to our real lives. With that said, let’s figure out which Game of Thrones character you are most like and how you can learn from their money missteps.

Spoiler Alert: If you’re still catching up on the series ahead of the Season 7 premiere on July 16, then watch out for a few spoilers ahead.

Robert Baratheon

King Robert was known for his sense of humor, love of food (and drink) and for being a womanizer. Unfortunately, his “live for the moment” attitude meant he often spent far beyond his means. As a result, his kingdom was forced to borrow heavily from the Iron Bank and turn to House Tyrell for a bailout.

Although they probably didn’t blow their funds on feasts and tournaments, many millennials can still relate to Robert’s situation. The average 2016 college graduate has over $37,000 in student debt, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Advice: It’s time to fight the Mountain (of debt)…and win! Your first step is to write down all your debt. Once you have a true picture of how much you owe, then you can devise a plan to get rid of this financial burden sooner rather than later. With the debt snowball method, as soon as your smallest debt is paid off, use the freed up money to tackle your next debt even faster. Alternatively, you could choose the debt avalanche approach where you focus on paying off the highest interest-bearing debt first. Stay focused by envisioning a life with zero payments whatsoever.

Arya Stark

Arya has been my favorite character since the series premiere because she doesn’t conform to society’s expectations, is independent and brave to boot. However, the events of Season 6, Episode 7 show that if you let your guard down even for a brief moment, you put yourself at serious risk. This same principle can be applied to protecting your financial assets.

Advice: If you don’t have a solid plan for protecting your financial assets, then it could end up costing you thousands of dollars. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recommends several tips for securing your personal financial information such as using strong passwords and PINs, maintaining your computer security, using your own computer and being careful when using wireless internet connects. It is also a good idea to check your bank or credit statements regularly to ensure that all transactions were ones you actually made or authorized.

Cersei Lannister

Cersei, along with her brothers Jaime and Tyrion, may as well belong to House Gold instead of House Lannister. Her hair is blonde, her family seal depicts a golden lion and her family’s castle is literally built upon a gold mine. Not surprisingly, the Lannisters have not worried about money for a very long time. However, Cersei’s decision to default on the kingdom’s debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos has far-reaching consequences that her family’s money cannot erase.

Advice: Your money past does not have to determine your financial future. However, taking a good look at your money history from childhood to today offers an excellent starting point to building a better relationship with your finances. For example, you may have learned growing up that money is meant to be spent and so you struggle with sticking to a budget. Or it could be that your experiences led you to be obsessively frugal.

Once you become aware of how you view money, you can begin to find new ways to think about making healthier financial decisions. You can also consider seeking the help of a financial therapist or fee-based financial advisor who can help you create a plan for getting a good handle on your finances.

Petyr Baelish

Petyr Baelish, better known as Littlefinger, is the scheming Master of Coin whose behind-the-scenes manipulation leads to many of the show’s most surprising events. I wouldn’t exactly call him an ethical character, but there’s a lot we can learn from his strategic mind. He definitely knows how to play the long game.

Advice: While you or I may not have an entire kingdom depending on us, the takeaway is that it is never too early to start executing a plan for long-term financial success. A great way to begin investing in your future is to see if your employer sponsors a 401(k) retirement plan with a matching contribution. Once you find out the percentage your employer will match, ensure that you contribute at least that amount (otherwise, you’ll be throwing away free money).

Theon Greyjoy

Theon Greyjoy is a confused fellow who made the foolish decision to go to war in order to gain recognition from his father. In the end, his actions led to disastrous outcomes. Similar consequences may result when we allow our emotions to determine our financial moves.

Advice: One of the most common emotional money decisions we make is overspending. The first step to dealing with this habit is to identify your trigger. Is it a bad day at work? Or an argument with your significant other? Once you identify the sparks, you can start to implement measures to ensure they don’t lead to a fire.

If I’m having a stressful day and head to the mall for a break I try to only bring a small amount of cash with me and leave the credit cards at home. This completely removes the temptation to spend on things I don’t need and which probably won’t make me happier anyway.

Another excellent option is to use a debit card. Debit cards allow you to only spend the amount that available in your spending or checking account. You might consider creating a zero-based budget to ensure that each dollar that comes into your account has a purpose. To make things easier, opening a Chime bank account helps you stay on top of your finances and save with features like daily balance notifications and Automatic Savings.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of your Game of Thrones personality match up, “Go on. Do your duty.” Turn your financial goals into reality!

 

5 Worst Money Myths Perpetuated by TV Shows

If you’ve watched much TV, you’ve probably noticed that most programs don’t depict real life.

I get it. Real life is boring. A TV show about someone who works 40 hours a week and then comes home to cook and wash the dishes probably wouldn’t generate high ratings. But on the other hand, TV and pop culture creates a damaging false illusion – one that leaves many young people dissatisfied with the reality of “adulting” and properly managing their finances.

Here’s a look at the 5 worst money myths perpetuated by pop culture.

1. You Never Have to Work

The fact that television characters hardly ever seem to work is something that I never really thought about until I was old enough to have to work.

Suddenly, I realized that my favorite TV characters not only never (or hardly ever) had to work, but they always seemed to have plenty of money to eat out, go shopping, and pay for whatever else they wanted. The only real exceptions are shows that are 100% based on the workplace, like The Office.

But, the truth is, your money will run out quickly if you never go to work and continue to spend money on anything and everything.

2. You Can Eat at Home One Time to Fix Your Financial Problems

Have you ever noticed that when TV characters do acknowledge their financial problems, they are usually able to fix them by making only one frugal decision – one time?

Take Gilmore Girls for example. Rory and Lorelai occasionally mention having money problems. After this, they’ll usually forgo their daily ritual of eating out to stay home instead. But, by the next day, they’re back to eating out every meal, seemingly without a care in the world.

If only we could make a frugal decision one time in real life to offset our expensive habits and solve our money problems. Alas, it doesn’t work this way, so don’t fall for this money myth.

3. Debt Goes Away Overnight

Whenever you do see pop culture featuring characters with debt, it never seems like a long-term problem. By the end of the episode, the character has somehow found a genius way to make tons of money overnight and pay off all his or her debt. Take “Confessions of a Shopaholic” for example.

The main character, Rebecca, has a shopping problem and has racked up thousands of dollars on her credit cards buying clothes, shoes, and more. By the end of the episode, she’s sold most of the items in her over-stuffed closet to become debt-free.

While there’s definitely value in those items and you can indeed sell them to help pay back your debt (I’ve done it!), there’s no way most people could raise enough money selling used items to get completely out of debt. Instead, it usually takes time and hard work to pay down your debt.

4. Everything Can Be Fixed Without Consequences

Have you ever noticed things in a TV show get broken, only to have them look good as new again the very next episode?

If the furniture gets smashed up, or an intricate glass window is broken, it always looks perfect within minutes, or at least by the next episode. The characters never even talk about the cost to repair or replace these damages, nor do they ever show them dealing with getting items fixed.

Even in the off-chance that the characters discuss money problems, they somehow always get their things fixed or replaced without a care or second thought.

5. You Can Live a Comfortable Life on Minimum Wage

Again, this comes back to reality being boring. Yet, it’s pretty misleading that TV characters can work at obviously minimum wage jobs and afford mansions.

In reality, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour isn’t enough to afford rent for a two-bedroom in any state in the country. And yet, TV characters who work at low-paying jobs commonly live in million dollar homes and apartments without any mention of money problems or how they pay the rent.

Seeing is Not Believing

With all these money myths being perpetuated by pop culture, it’s no wonder young people have a warped reality of what adulting is really like when they enter the real world. These myths have set them up for a harsh wake-up call. Perhaps the moral of this story is: Don’t believe all that you see on TV.

 

How to Save Money at Music Festivals

Music festivals are a great excuse to round up a group of your best friends, see your favorite artists and hang out with thousands of other music lovers in a beautiful location.

Unfortunately, these events – often held over several days – can be expensive. Not only that, but the recent Fyre Festival disaster elevated the term “buyer beware” to a whole new level. In the case of Fyre, festival-goers paid $1,200 for tickets to what they thought would be a luxury music experience in the Bahamas. They arrived to find sparse unassembled tents, cheese sandwiches, and canceled bands. If these festival-goers learned anything, it was this: Do your research and choose a festival with an excellent reputation and track record. You can start your search on a site like The Festival Guy, which offers up information on a variety of festivals and performers. It’s also a good idea to check reviews on sites like Consequence of Sound (COS) and of course, ask your friends which festivals they like the best.

Once you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to plan an affordable trip to a music festival. Before you do this, however, here’s a dose of reality: The $1,200 ticket price to Fyre isn’t that much higher than a frugal Coachella experience, which will run you about $1,006, according to Time Magazine. But, if you’re mindful of your money and follow these 7 steps, you can still get the VIP festival experience on a budget. Take a look:

Step #1: Decide on A Budget

As a first step, decide how much you’re willing to spend on the festival. Maybe this is your big splurge of the year and you want to go all out, or maybe this is merely the first of a summer filled with music festivals. Once you’ve come up with your max number, you can then decide how much you want to spend. If you don’t want to cut back on any festivals or travel costs, all is not lost. Perhaps you can work a side hustle for a few months beforehand to cover the extra expenses.

Step #2: Plan Ahead to Save on Ticket Prices

One of the biggest expenses associated with music festivals is the admission ticket. In fact, Coachella 2017’s general admission ticket was $399, while the VIP ticket was $899. Yet, with a bit of planning, you may be able to avoid paying for tickets altogether. Here’s how: Festivals run on volunteers. By volunteering, you get free admission. In return, you help check people in, clean up after performances, or work in another capacity. The trick is to apply months ahead of time as volunteer spots fill up fast.

As a volunteer, the perks are plentiful. For starters, you get access to areas and events that the average ticket holder doesn’t. Sure, you might be at the Kendrick Lamar private party because you’re there to pick up empty bottles. But, at least you’re at the Kendrick Lamar private party!

If volunteering is not an option, planning ahead can still save you money as some festivals offer early bird discounts for tickets purchased months in advance. At the very least, buying early means you can snag general admission tickets, which are often hundreds of dollars cheaper than VIP packages. For example, ACL General Admission tickets are $255, whereas the VIP passes are $1,100. General admission tickets often sell out in the first few days of sales, so acting fast saves you big time.

Step #3: Skip Festival Food and Drinks

Everyone knows festival food tent prices are inflated and generally not so healthy either.

So, why not skip eating the food sold there altogether? You can do this by brown-bagging it. Although some festivals may not allow you to bring in your own food, you can often get away with this by putting small snacks in your pockets, like granola bars and fruit. Also, if you plan ahead, you can eat before arriving at the festival. This way you won’t crave the tent food and spend money unnecessarily.

If you’re camping at the festival, you can certainly bring your own food and this makes perfect sense. You can cook what you want and save money. If you drove to the festival, you can even shop ahead of time at low-priced grocery stores so that you can avoid shopping at more expensive convenient stores near the festival grounds.

Step #4: Plan Your Travel Wisely

Depending on how far away you live from the festival, transportation costs can vary widely. If you have to fly, be sure to research flight prices on comparison sites like Kayak or Priceline. Southwest Airlines is not part of third party flight aggregator sites so be sure to check Southwest flight deals separately.

If you can avoid purchasing airline tickets, explore bus fares and train ticket costs. You’re best bet: carpooling. Getting four friends in a car together means you can split parking and gas costs.

Step #5: Fashion on a budget

Let’s face it: music festivals are an Instagram free-for-all. You’ll want to frame the perfect shot and load it up with the perfect hashtags.

In order to get that perfect shot, you might think you need to spend a ton of cash on clothes and photo tools. Yes, a shot of you in a Free People top, paired with your Ray-Bans, might score a lot of likes. It can also wipe out your budget. To save money on the clothes you’ll be rocking to concerts during the day, skip the name brands. Festivals are a no rules playground. Pick up your threads at a thrift store, or borrow from a friend. Better yet, pair clothes you already own together in new ways to make your outfits feel fresh.

By saving money on your fashion-forward clothes, you can spend a bit extra on important outerwear that you may need, especially if you’re camping. For deals on outerwear, be sure to check out sales at stores like REI and L.L,Bean. This way you may be able to score some high-quality outdoorsy clothes that last for several music festivals.

Step #6: Where to Stay

If possible, camping at a music festival will give you the VIP experience. Tent camping at Coachella, for example, costs $113/night. You might think of camping as roughing it, but you’ll be on festival grounds 24/7. That means any pop-up parties, shows, or random dance parties will be yours for the taking.

If you prefer to stay off-site and camping isn’t your style, check out nearby options on  Airbnb. You and your friends might be able to score an affordable house rental and split the cost or perhaps you can split up and rent a couple of rooms with local Airbnb hosts.

Step #7: Festival Insurance

If you’re concerned about protecting your investment in your music festival experience, you might want to consider purchasing travel insurance. Yes, it’s an added expense, but it’s also a good way to ensure that you won’t lose your money if you get sick and can’t attend. Or, if the festival is canceled or a complete mess, like Fyre, you can file a claim with your travel insurance company to try to get your cash back. To shop for affordable travel insurance, check out InsureMyTrip.com and Smartmouth.com.