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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ten Useful Strategies for Learning Financial Self-Control

If you’re anything like me, you’re incredibly tempted several times a day to spend money on something that you don’t really need.

Maybe it’s a bottle of Gatorade at the convenience store or out of a vending machine. Maybe it’s an online purchase. Maybe it’s another $5 in tokens for whatever your favorite mobile game is. Maybe it’s a latte from Starbucks. Maybe it’s a lunch out with some of your coworkers. Maybe it’s the bill for your Netflix subscription.

Whatever it is, you spend a few dollars on it – or maybe a few more than a few dollars. And then you forget about it.

This happens again and again and again throughout the month, and by the end of the month, you’re wondering where all of the money went.

“How can we possibly be broke? How can we be making this much money and not saving anything?”

The reason that this is happening can be summed up in three simple words: lack of self-control. Over and over again, you make the short-term choice in a given spending situation without considering the long-term choice. Making the long-term choice is harder, but over the course of your life it’s almost always the better choice – self-control is what helps you to make that long-term choice.

Breaking out of a routine in which you constantly make those short-term choices is quite hard. It’s easy to become very accustomed to having the little pleasures that you want as soon as you want them.

If you’re reading this article, though, you’ve become aware of the dark side of lacking self-control. At the end of the day, you’re left with very little. You’re not making any progress toward any big goals and you’re quite possibly sinking in a pit of credit card debt to boot. You’re unsure where all of the money is going, but you’re also very unsure of your own behavior.

You feel out of control. You have big long-term goals, but they’re just constantly undermined by the short-term choices you make (most of which you basically forget about) and the sense that money (and, in a smaller sense, time) is just vanishing.

What do you do?

Here are ten things you can do. These strategies have bailed me – and many others – out of a great deal of financial trouble over the years. They’ve helped us gain a lot of self-control over the years and restored a sense of being back in the driver’s seat of our financial lives, actually moving toward the financial goals we have for ourselves.

Give these strategies a sincere shot. You’ll be glad you did.

Strategy #1 – Stop Making Excuses

Here’s the cold, hard truth: every single time you buy something that you don’t need, you undercut your future. You take away dollars from getting control over your financial situation and planning for your future and instead give them to something you happen to want in the moment.

Whenever you try to justify that choice, you’re making an excuse for why you can’t get your financial life straight. Maybe it’s just a small thing. Maybe it’s something you really, really, really want. Maybe you have to buy it to impress somebody.

In the end, though, it all comes back to the same cold, hard truth: you chose a short term, forgettable desire over building a financial future for yourself.

If you truly want to have a strong financial future for yourself, stop making excuses for choosing that short-term desire. Stop justifying it. Start realizing that every time you make that choice, it is a setback in terms of your financial future.

Yes, sometimes it’s going to be a good choice to listen to your short term voice and go ahead with it, but the times when that is a good choice are few and far between when your financial house is in disorder and your financial future is in doubt. Stop making excuses. Start making better choices every time you spend a time.

Strategy #2 – Ask Yourself “Will This Help Me Survive?” When It Comes to Every Purchase

One of the biggest challenges to taking financial control of your life is to really look at each and every purchase you’re making, whether with cash or credit. Do you really need that item? Will it help you survive? Is there a less expensive option that will help you survive in the same way?

You should ask this question about every single purchase you make. You should ask this question about every single item you put in your shopping cart. You should ask this question about every single bill that comes in and every single line on that bill.

If the answer is no, buying it does nothing more than set back your plans for getting your debt under control and building some kind of financial future. If the answer is yes, you should immediately be asking yourself if there is a less expensive option for reaching that same goal.

Self-control is born from truly considering the negative consequences of each move you make. Self-control rises up from making the hard choice to say “no” to things you used to say “yes” to without a second thought. Self-control is present when you truly understand the moments when it’s okay to say “yes,” but know that the rest of the time you’re far better off saying “no.”

It all starts with asking the question, over and over and over again, with every penny you spend.

Will this help me survive?

Strategy #3 – Live off of Cash Alone – No Credit

One of the biggest reasons that companies push credit cards so hard – and issue such large credit limits to users with decent credit – is that it distracts the user from how much money they’re actually spending. No actual cash changes hands when you buy something with a credit card, so it’s easy to abstract it and just assume you “have enough” if the credit card transaction goes through.

That’s a recipe for trouble, especially for people who simply pay their credit card bill each month and don’t really think about the consequences of their purchase until one day they realize that their minimum credit card bills are huge, those bills and other debts are keeping them from things they want or need to do, and it’s going to be many years before they can pay them off. It’s a disaster fueled by a lack of self-control when it comes to spending.

The solution, however, is easy: go cash-only. Stop using your credit card at all for a while. If you don’t have the cash in your checking account to cover an expense, then skip it. If you’re finding that you’re running out of cash before the end of the month, figure out how to make it to the end and then use that lesson to make smarter choices the following month.

Financial self-control is like riding a bicycle, and committing to a cash-only lifestyle for a while is much like learning to ride a bicycle using training wheels. Eventually, when you know what you’re doing, you can take the training wheels off and use credit again in a smart fashion, but for now, if you can’t make ends meet and you’re dealing with credit card bills, it’s time to keep things simple and ditch the credit cards for a year or two.

Strategy #4 – Visit Tempting Places with No Money or Credit Cards in Hand

Most people who have difficulty with financial self-control recognize that there are certain places where they are highly likely to make poor decisions and spend money on short-term desires without really thinking about the consequences. The coffee shop. The book shop. The electronics store. The clothes store. Where are your weak points?

One might think that it is sensible advice to just avoid those places, but doing so really doesn’t teach you self control. It just teaches you avoidance.

A much better approach is to sometimes go to those tempting places, but put a very hard cap on what you’re able to spend there. Don’t take a credit card or a debit card in there with you. Take no cash at all, unless you’re going there for a very specific item; in that case, take just enough cash to buy that specific item.

The process of doing this, especially doing this many times, teaches you how to go to those places, be tempted, and resist that temptation. That temptation resistance is the core of self-control.

Strategy #5 – Focus on Participation, Not Buying

Many busy people often buy things out of a desire to keep in touch with a hobby or passion that they don’t really have time for. A person might be a passionate reader, for example, but that person’s life gives little time for the kind of focused reading that he or she really loves, so instead that person buys books that they’d like to read as something of a “substitute” fulfillment.

If you find yourself buying things to fulfill a hobby that you love but can’t find time for, consider altering your schedule and blocking off some devoted time for that hobby. Spend less time on distracting and unfulfilling time wasters such as the internet and television watching and instead focus on actually participating things that you wish you had more time for. Crack a book. Go fishing. Build a new chair in your woodworking shop. Make a scrapbook with the scrapbooking supplies in your closet. Go on a hike.

Do something. Don’t buy something as a weak substitute for doing something. If you don’t have enough time to do something, then look deeply at your time use and eliminate some of the time you waste. Actually participating in something you’re passionate about can be incredibly effective at draining away one’s desire to spend money on more and more things for that passion as a “substitute” for participation. In other words, actually read that stack of books instead of buying more to add to it.

Strategy #6 – Choose Your Social Engagements Wisely

Quite often, people go “out on the town” or meet others for social engagements outside of the home that end up revolving around clubs or restaurants or stores or businesses that strongly encourage spending money. You might go out for dinner somewhere with some friends, then go to a movie, then go to a bar, and before you know it an evening with friends has sapped $100 from your wallet. You might hang out with some friends for the day, but it ends up being a nonstop string of stores and spending money.

Be wary of those social engagements. You shouldn’t have to shell out cash to hang out with friends. Try to find other types of things to do when socializing, either at someone’s home or at a place where spending isn’t really part of the experience, like playing soccer at the local park or having a picnic somewhere.

Some of your “friends” may balk at this. In that case, it’s pretty easy to tell which people in your social calendar are more interested in going out and spending money and which ones are more interested in hanging out with you. The ones who would consistently rather go out and spend money are friendships you can safely minimize in your life.

Strategy #7 – Track Your Spending Very Carefully – and Review It

One big reason that people lose track of their spending and feel like they’re out of control is that they have no single central place to really look at their spending and see where the money is going. You can alleviate that by tracking your spending with care, recording and categorizing every dollar that goes out of your life.

To this day, I track my spending very carefully using You Need a Budget 4. Others use tools like Mint or Quicken to achieve similar results. You can even do the same thing with a pocket notebook and a spreadsheet program. The goal with each tool is the same – record every dime you spend, sort it into categories, and review that spending to see what areas you’re overspending on.

Such reviews are almost always an eye opener. People almost always spend far more on things than they believe that they did, and simply seeing a monthly total of how much you spent at the convenience store or the Google Play store or on Amazon can often really shock you.

Spend some time really thinking about those areas of spending that shocked you the most. Did you really get that much life value out of those purchases? Probably not. How much of your spending at a particular store or on a particular type of item could be eliminated? Quite a bit, most likely.

Strategy #8 – Automate Your Key Savings and Key Bill Payments

This is the old “pay yourself first” strategy, meaning that you take care of important things like paying down debt and saving for the future before anything else and then figure out how to live on what’s left.

The easiest way to do all that is through automation. Have your bank send an automatic payment to your credit card (the one you’re not using right now… remember the earlier strategies) that exceeds your minimum payment each month. Have money automatically taken from your paycheck and put into your 401(k) (or start a Roth IRA and have the cash come straight out of your checking after each paycheck arrives).

The more automatic you can make these things, the better. Some people with irregular paychecks might not be able to fully automate this, but you should be able to do such things with just a click or two using online bill pay, so make sure that you have everything in place to do just that.

Strategy #9 – Ask for Help from Your Most Trusted Friends and Family

If you have a trusted inner circle of friends and family, they can be incredibly helpful when it comes to making personal changes like this.

For starters, they can be useful sources of advice that are attuned specifically to your situation and your personal attributes. They know you. They probably have at least some sense of what makes you tick – sometimes even more than you do. That can result in some very useful, very specific advice that works for you specifically.

In addition, having a person that deeply cares for you as a personal support and confidant during a period when you’re making some difficult life changes and life choices can be very empowering. Simply having someone to talk to who will provide an ear can help as you take on these life changes. Having someone who will happily spend time with you doing nothing at all or exploring new activities that don’t cost anything can be very powerful, too.

You might also find a very nice role model in that mix. Perhaps you have friends or family members who have achieved the financial goals you want to achieve and you can use them as mentors to help guide you along the same path. You can pick their brains and learn from their experiences, too.

Close friends and family members can provide all of these things, all of which can be very helpful during a major change in personal habits.

Strategy #10 – Don’t Give Up When You Take a Misstep or Two

Guess what? You’re going to make a spending mistake or two while you figure all of this out. You’re going to buy something without thinking about it. You’re going to make a purchase that you later regret. You’re going to feel like this is all impossible.

First of all, don’t sweat it. Financial progress, like progress in anything else in life, is often a story of taking two steps forward for every one step backward. You can take a lot of steps backward as long as you keep pushing forward.

The goal is to strive to do better than you did before. If you make a mistake, don’t punch yourself over it. Instead, ask why you made that mistake and then strive to not repeat that mistake. Rethink the situation that led you to that mistake and see what you can do to avoid that situation in the future.

Most of all, don’t give up on yourself. The journey is long. No long journey is ever completed without some missteps and setbacks along the way.

Final Thoughts

It can feel almost overwhelming when you finally realize that your financial state is completely out of control. You’re often simultaneously facing significant debt, a lack of any sort of sense as to where your money is going, and a great deal of worry about your future, and that can add up to a dark place in life.

The goal of all of these strategies is singular: it’s all about taking control again. It’s about getting back in touch with where your money is actually going, separating your needs from your wants, and figuring out which uses for your money actually make sense. It’s also about finding support for that change from your family, your friends, and your greater social network, as well as through your personal use of time and energy.

If you work on those things in concert, you’ll find that you’re back in control of your money surprisingly quickly and you’re ready to start heading down a path of debt freedom and financial independence.

Good luck!

The post Ten Useful Strategies for Learning Financial Self-Control appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Watch: Flash Mob Held In Kathmandu To Support Wild Ripperz Crew & Sushant Khatri On Dance+ 2

Two dance crews from Nepal – Wild Ripperz Crew and solo dancer Sushant Khatri have been rocking the stage on Star Plus dance TV reality show Dance+ Season 2. Both of them have made it to Top 6 and are the toughest contenders for the title this year. Wild Ripperz from skipper Dharmesh’ team and Sushant from Shakti Mohan’s team have become the favorites in the show with some of their spectacular performances that didn’t only stun the audiences and judges but also the celebrity guests.

The two have been receiving support from all around the world. And a flash mob was held at Patan Durbar Square in Kathmandu on August 20th in support of both of them. The performance by three dozen dancers was thoroughly enjoyed by the people present at the venue. Rajiv Samar had choreographed the entire sequence for the flash mob organized by Crezona Media Group and managed by Asim Shrestha. The performance was shot by Ujjwal Pyakhurel, Anjon Limbu, Prajwol Ranjit and Aashish Maharjan.

The performance by Wild Ripperz Crew will be aired on Saturday, August 27th and Sushant Khatri’s performance will be aired on Sunday. The voting lines will be open only for two hours from 8 PM to 10 PM (IST), that is 8:15 to 10:15 PM (NST), on Saturday and Sunday. In order to vote for them to help them get into the finals, you’ll have to give a missed call to following numbers:

For Wild Ripperz Crew: 18008333349

For Sushant Khatri: 18008333353

The voting lines are only open for India and one vote will be counted from each phone number.

So guys, be ready to support your favorite dancers. For now, watch this flash mob and let us know what you think of it.

The post Watch: Flash Mob Held In Kathmandu To Support Wild Ripperz Crew & Sushant Khatri On Dance+ 2 appeared first on NeoStuffs.

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Balen Drops New Single, A ‘Happy’ One This Time!

Balen fans are rejoicing as he has recently dropped a brand new single. It had been quite a while since he released his last song and so it came as a pleasant surprise for his fans when he came up with the new song without releasing any teaser or even any announcement about it. The engineer by profession and a rapper by passion, has something fresh for the listeners this time and the latest song is a ‘happy’ one. He has been more into songs raising serious issues and talking about the condition of the nation but this time around, he has done something different.

The song titled ‘Mann Yo Udyo’ is written, composed and performed by Balen himself. Giving him company on hook is Brijesh Shrestha who has also produced the beat for the song. The song talks about the happy feelings of a urban youth who has taken some time out from his busy and hectic city life to roam around the country side all alone by himself. Apart from the song, Balen can also be seen as a carefree and jolly guy in the music video that is shot and edited by Rohsik and Jash.

When asked what made him come up with a ‘happy’ song this time, “I guess I have got matured. I don’t feel like rapping about our leaders and abuse them anymore. I just wrote about things that make me happy and sang with all my heart, that’s what ‘Mann Yo Udyo’ is all about,” Balen told NeoStuffs.

Well, we thoroughly enjoyed the song and its music video. It will definitely make you want to take a trip to a place far away on your own. Watch the video below and let us know what you think of it. You can also download the song for free HERE.

The post Balen Drops New Single, A ‘Happy’ One This Time! appeared first on NeoStuffs.

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How to Build Business Credit

Nearly all of us have heard of someone financing a small business on personal credit cards just to keep the doors open until they become profitable.

It’s a scenario that’s frowned upon by financial advisors and credit professionals alike, but it’s one that happens all the time regardless. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that more than 65% off all business owners use credit for business purchases, but only 50% of those cards are actually in the business’ name.

A much sounder approach to financing a small business begins with establishing good business credit early on, so that when a cash injection is needed there are better options available.

Developing credit history for a new business is not nearly as challenging as it may seem. “It’s easy for businesses to establish business credit, a lot of people just don’t know how to do it,” says nationally recognized financial advisor Chris Bridges, a certified consumer and business credit expert. “You have to get out there and get some accounts opened.”

Dedicated to raising awareness of credit and its impact on people’s lives, Bridges says it’s a matter of simply taking it one step at a time. If you’re wondering how to build business credit for your small business, here are some of the critical first actions recommended by finance and credit industry professionals.

Establish a Federal Employer Identification Number and Then a DUNS Number

This is a one-two punch that constitutes some of the basic, initial groundwork for a new business. A federal Employer Identification Number is used to identify a business entity. And it’s the number used to register with business credit bureaus such as Dun & Bradstreet.

A DUNS number, meanwhile, issued by Dun & Bradstreet, verifies the existence of a business entity globally. It’s also the number businesses are often required to provide when applying for corporate credit.

Don’t Neglect Your Personal Score

When it comes to lending money to a new small business, the business owners’ personal credit score is often part of the equation. It’s one of the few barometers of credit-worthiness available to banks and other lenders when a business is first getting off the ground.

“There’s a lot to be said about building business credit, but when you get down to getting funding, you will always have to use your Social Security number,” explains Bridges. “You can build business credit regardless of personal credit, but the two will eventually meet somewhere… And you want to position yourself to take advantage of opportunities. Good, strong personal credit will take you further as a small business, it will open up more financing opportunities.”

Act Like a Business

When advisors say act like a business, they mean establish accounts in your business’ name, not your personal name. This begins with simple things such as utility bills and leases. It also includes perhaps obtaining a credit card in your company’s name at such places as Staples, Home Deport, or Quill. Each of these small actions helps build your company’s credit profile and history.

“In the early stages, you might need to personally guarantee payment,” says Karim Chehade, Experian’s director of small business. “But the more you establish your business’ name and that information gets reported to us from creditors, the more likely it is you will be able to negotiate and secure better terms for financing, without having to offer personal guarantees.”

Start Early

Don’t wait to apply for business credit cards or credit lines with vendors and suppliers. It’s one of the first steps to take. Businesses with bragworthy credit histories and scores followed this important rule. And again, the simplest way to do this is to establish a store-based credit line.

An important note here. When selecting a company to establish a credit card or credit line with, make sure it’s one that reports to the credit bureaus. Otherwise, the line of credit is not helping to build your business’ payment history.

“Begin with a starter account, with a vendor or a supply company such as Quill or Fed-Ex. In 30 days you have to pay that bill and the information is reported to credit bureaus,” says Bridges.

Pay Your Bills On Time

This seems like a no-brainer, but it is critical, says Chehade.

“Stay current with all agreed-upon terms. It’s very simple, but our experience working with small business owners is that they have so much on their plate,” Chehade explains. “If there was one thing they had to do, I would say make sure they are paying their bills on time. If they are doing that, then the probability of having a negative report goes down.”

A Final Bit of Advice

Get into the habit of continuously monitoring your company’s credit profile, recommends Experian’s Chehade.

What constitutes regularly exactly? About once a month. Check your credit report every 30 days and correct outdated or erroneous information. You can also create alerts so that you’re notified by email of any changes made in your business’ name.

There is no magic number or specific timeline in terms of how long it takes to establish a credit history for your business. Obtaining a business credit card and business identification numbers are the quick part. Developing a specific (and good) credit score takes a bit longer. There needs to be a payment history that credit reporting agencies can use to establish your company’s score.

Bottom line, says Bridges? Get started as soon as possible.

“You’ve got to owe someone. That’s the main message here. You can’t establish business credit without opening at least one account,” she says.

Related Articles

The post How to Build Business Credit appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Best Bank of America Credit Cards

Bank of America® offers 21 unique credit cards, and each one is tailored to a different type of consumer — the frequent flyer, the frequent grocery shopper, even the person who just wants to pay a little more than the minimum payment every month. I looked at all of the cards Bank of America® has to offer, pulled out five of its best options, and created a guide to help you decide which card might be right for you.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks for 2016

Biggest Cashback Rewards

Apply Now on Bank of America's secure website

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card Highlights

Want cash back? Try the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card. This card gets you 1% cash back on every purchase — plus 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (think: Costco), and 3% cash back on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases every quarter.

That last part gets a little complicated, so here’s an example of how it could work: Let’s say you spend $1,500 on groceries and wholesale club purchases, plus $1,000 on gas, hitting your $2,500 maximum for the quarter. You’ll get 2%, or $30, back on the grocery purchases; you’ll also get 3%, or $30, on your gas purchases. Plus, you’ll get 1% cash back on all other purchases, including any grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases over $2,500.

Is this card right for you?

Those are a lot of perks, and they get even better when you factor in the card’s 0% intro APR for 12 months. Balance transfers made within the first 60 days of account opening also get a 0% intro APR for 12 months (although they do come with a 3% fee, or $10 minimum charge.)

What are the drawbacks? As with any cash rewards card, there’s a temptation to spend as much as possible to get the maximum reward. Going after the $100 cash rewards bonus by spending $500 in the first 90 days makes sense, but pushing yourself to hit that $2,500 maximum every quarter just to earn $50 or $60 doesn’t. Don’t spend more than you can pay back, and don’t be tempted to spend extra just because you’ve got that 12-month 0% intro APR. You’ll still have to pay off that entire balance at some point.

If you’re a student, consider the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card for Students. You get the same benefits and may become eligible for the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program.

Best Perks If You Can’t Afford $2,500 Every Quarter

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BankAmericard Better Balance Rewards® Credit Card Highlights

The BankAmericard Better Balance Rewards® Credit Card is a lot like the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card in terms of balance transfer options: Both cards include a 3% balance transfer fee with a minimum of $10 charged per transfer, and both cards include an 0% intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within the first 60 days of opening your account.

However, the BankAmericard Better Balance Rewards® Credit Card offers one benefit that the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card does not: the opportunity to earn $25 per quarter to put toward your balance. You can earn this $25 by paying more than the minimum payment on time each month, and you can earn up to $100 per year.

Is this card right for you?

Yes, this $25 benefit is smaller than the cash you might earn if you max out your purchases on the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card program. However, a lot of us aren’t going to spend $2,500 every three months on groceries, wholesale clubs, and gas to get that maximum BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card benefit.

Take a look at your spending history and see if you’re likely to earn more money via the Cash Rewards program or the Balance Rewards program. Keep in mind that the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card gets you a $100 online bonus if you spend $500 within the first 90 days, which is the same amount you can earn by using the BankAmericard Better Balance Rewards® Credit Card for an entire year.

If you just want to transfer a balance and pay it off at a 0% intro APR — let’s say you already have a rewards card you like, or you’re trying to avoid making purchases on credit — then this card is a smart choice. Make more than the minimum payment on time every month and you’ll earn rewards that help you pay down your balance more quickly.

Best Travel Perks

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BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card Highlights

Bank of America® has a lot of travel-related credit cards, most of them attached to a specific company: The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card, for example, or the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World MasterCard®. But those cards really make the most sense for people who prefer train travel, or who fly exclusively on Alaska Airlines. If you’re looking for a good travel rewards card that doesn’t limit you to one specific method of travel, BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card is ready to help.

With the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card, you earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on purchases. You also earn 20,000 online points after making a minimum $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of opening your account. If you are a Bank of America® customer with an active Bank of America® checking or savings account, you could get 10% customer points bonus on every purchase, and Bank of America® Preferred Rewards customers can increase that bonus to 25% or more.

These points never expire, and you can redeem your points for a statement credit that you can use on travel expenses purchased via the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card, including flights, baggage fees, hotels, cruises, rental cars, and vacation packages. (“Statement credit” means that the money can only be used to pay off travel expenses currently on your credit statement, so you have to book your travel before you use your points. You can also redeem your points for cash or gift cards, but your points will be redeemed at a lower value. Redemption starts at 2,500 points.)

Also, unlike all the other Bank of America® cards I’ve highlighted, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card has no foreign transaction fees — which is a great benefit for international travelers.

Is this card right for you? 

I think it comes down to whether you want to be rewarded in cash, airline miles, or points. It is a little hard to determine what these travel reward points are worth; Bank of America® includes a points calculator so you can see how your purchase dollars might come out as points (and then get translated back into dollars), but the calculator also states that your rewards will depend on your individual purchases.

Play around with the points calculator and see if this credit card would be a better value for you than the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card. If you have a favorite airline, or if you’re a frequent cruise or Amtrak traveler, check out those individual cards as well.

If you’re a student who wants to earn points for travel, check out the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card for Students, which gives you the same benefits and the opportunity to become eligible for the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program.

Lowest APR

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BankAmericard® Credit Card Highlights

If you’re looking for low APR, look no further than the BankAmericard® Credit Card. This card offers a variable APR of 11.24% to 21.24%, depending on your creditworthiness — which is the lowest APR offered by Bank of America®.

You also receive an 0% intro APR for 18 months for all balance transfers made in the first 60 days. Each balance transfer comes with a 3% fee or a minimum of $10 per transfer.

Is this card right for you?

The BankAmericard® Credit Card is pretty great if you’re looking for the lowest possible APR, but think carefully about what you’re leaving on the table if you choose to get this card. I’ve highlighted three other Bank of America® cards that offer cash rewards, balance credits, or travel credits — and their APRs are only a few points higher than the BankAmericard® Credit Card.

If you’re planning to pay off your balance in full every month, a low APR becomes less important. If you know you’re going to have to carry a balance on your credit card, the BankAmericard® Credit Card is worth considering, but so is the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card, which gets you a 0% intro APR for 12 months followed by a variable APR of 13.24% to 23.24%, plus you’re earning cashback rewards.

This card is good for people who aren’t interested in earning rewards — maybe you’ve got another airline miles card you’re already using — and do expect to occasionally carry a balance on one of their credit cards. If you have to carry a small balance a few times every year (like paying off holiday spending), a low APR card can be the right choice.

If you’re a student, consider the BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students. This card comes with the same benefits as the BankAmericard® Credit Card, including the 11.24% to 21.24% variable APR and the 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers made in the first 60 days.

Best to Establish or Rebuild Your Credit

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BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card Highlights

The BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card requires a security deposit of at least $300 — that’s the “secured” part — and offers a maximum credit limit of up to $4,900 depending on your income, your ability to pay, and the amount of your security deposit. After 12 months, you may qualify to have your security deposit returned.

The BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card is the only card on this list with an annual fee, which means you’ll pay $39 for the privilege of using the card. You’ll get a 20.49% APR, with a penalty APR of up to 29.99% if you make a late payment. You’ll also get hit with a penalty fee of up to $37 per late payment, so do your best to make your payments on time.

Is this card right for you?

This all sounds like a lot of money, just to get a credit card. But don’t let the idea of a security deposit or an annual fee hold you back from establishing or rebuilding your credit. Building a credit history and proving you can manage credit effectively will help you in the long run, both in terms of getting an unsecured credit card (like the other cards on this list) and in terms of getting a car loan, a mortgage, or other types of credit.

The Bottom Line

Deciding what credit card is right for you starts with understanding how you’re going to use the card. Are you paying off a balance? Are you rebuilding your credit? Are you looking for rewards on grocery and gas purchases? Once you know what kind of credit consumer you are, use this guide to determine which Bank of America® credit card fits your situation. Or check out Bank of America®’s complete list of credit cards to see if any of them are right for you!

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How to Minimize and Get Maximum Value from a Book Collection

My wife and I are both lifelong reading addicts. We have shelves and boxes full of books around our home, even after several “purges” of our collection, and we could easily pare it down quite a bit more if needed in order to free up space.

If you’re a book lover, the first thing you’re probably thinking to yourself is how on earth we were able to convince ourselves to downsize our book collection without serious heartache. A good book can be like an old friend, containing thoughts and ideas and memories that can feel almost as real as anything we experience. How can a person just get rid of that? And why would a person do that?

Well, the reasons why are obvious. A large book collection takes up space, which necessitates more living space to house it, which costs money. A large book collection also represents a sunk cost, meaning it cost money to acquire the collection and it also represents at least some value sitting there. And, let’s be honest, most of that book collection is just “sitting there.” You’re not actively reading the books and many of them really aren’t being used for decoration (unless you happen to live in a home with an entire wall that’s a bookshelf that basically turns it into decor).

I’ve minimized my book collection several times (many people like to give me books as gifts and I do have an occasional weakness for new ones, so it eventually re-inflates a little). Here’s the strategy I use for paring things down, along with some of the techniques I use for getting value out of the books I get rid of.

Four Key Questions

I pare down my collection by going through each book that I own and asking myself these four questions as honestly as I can.

Will I read this book again in the next year or two? If the answer is no, I get rid of it. The strong likelihood is that if I’m not going to re-read this book or even look at this book in the next year or two, then it deserves to be in the hands of someone who will read it in the next year or two. This ends up eliminating a lot of my collection.

Is this book rare enough that I won’t be able to easily get it from the library (or another legal, free source)? Even if it’s a book that I might re-read soon, if I can get it from the library with ease, I’ll get rid of it. This ends up eliminating a lot more of my collection.

Do I use it for regular reference? If the answer is yes, then I keep it around. This includes some of my favorite cookbooks, cooking references, tabletop gaming books, and books like Your Money or Your Life that I refer to in my professional work. This usually keeps some books in my collection that would have been discarded by the previous questions.

Is there a very clear and very exceptional sentimental reason to keep it? I have a few books that I want to keep for deep sentimental reasons that go beyond simply loving the experience of reading the book. I have books personally signed by authors. I have books that were given to me by loved ones and have these really wonderful personal notes on the inside cover. These books are kept for sentimental reasons, though I could downsize them at some point if it were really necessary.

Basically, I eliminate books I’ve already read and have no real reason to keep around for regular reference.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Quite often, book owners will fall into the “sunk cost fallacy” when it comes to their book collection. They’ll look at the MSRP of the books that they own, recognize that they probably won’t get that much value out of them (usually, they won’t get anything close to that), and use that as justification for keeping the books.

The reasoning is that if you have a book you bought for $10, selling it for $1 means that you’ve lost money on the deal, so it’s better to just hold onto the book. That’s a fallacy.

The truth is that once you’ve spent the $10 on the book, it’s gone. Books are not a financial investment (unless you’re talking about super-rare books that collectors might want). Books are items that you buy for personal enrichment and the item itself devalues significantly as soon as you pay money for it and walk out of the store with it. The initial amount you paid is already gone. You’re never getting it back. At best, you can recover a fraction of it.

Here’s the way I look at that sunk cost. I have a book on my shelf that I’ve already read. I have the possibility of selling it for $0.50 or $1 or something like that. If I saw this book for $0.50 or $1 at a used book sale, would I buy it given that I’ve already read it and given that I can probably get it from the library should I really want to read it again someday? The answer is almost always no. In that case, why am I keeping it on my shelf instead of having that $0.50 or $1 in my pocket that I would get from selling it?

You’ve already sunk that cost into the book. It’s not coming back. Instead, look at what gets you into the best position from where you’re at right now. That’s the best way to look at almost all of your non-investment possessions.

Getting Value Out of the Discarded Books

So, you’ve decided to get rid of a bunch of your books. Now what? How do you get value out of them?

Here are five things that I typically do with books when I’m clearing out my own book collection.

Have a book swap with friends. Many of my friends are voracious readers as well and we all accumulate books. Every once in a while, we’ll come together, each of us bringing a box of books, and do some one-for-one book swapping with no intention of ever getting the books back. At the end of the swap, all of us have a pile of new books to read, ones that our friends have usually read (so we can talk about these books with them).

Use Paperbackswap. This is essentially the same thing as a big book swap with friends, except it’s online, there are lots of friends, and it’s done via USPS Media Mail, meaning it costs a buck or two to do a swap. It’s also done asymmetrically, which means you trade a book for a “credit” and then you later use that “credit” for any of their listed books.

Have a yard sale with smart pricing. This is a great way to sell off a large bulk of books with minimal effort. Just put them all out on a table with a sign that says “$1 per book on Friday, $0.50 per book on Saturday, $0.25 per book on Sunday – first come, first served.” (You can adjust the prices a little if you wish.) You’d be surprised to find that most of the books sell on Friday or Saturday with a sale like that.

Use Craigslist or a community swap site. If you don’t have a full free weekend to have a book sale as with the above suggestion, you can do much the same on Craigslist. However, you’ll have to list all of the books individually and you may end up having to deliver (or having people stop by to pick up) many different bundles of books. If you do it this way, you may want to offer discounts to people who buy large bundles at once.

Use eBay for individual items with notable value. If you have specific books that are valuable on their own, like first editions or signed editions, you may be able to get a good price for such books on eBay or Amazon Marketplace. In general, this is a very inefficient way to sell individual used books, given the time involved and the costs of shipping and the relatively low bids most books will receive, but it’s a great avenue for individual books with high value.

Final Thoughts

I know quite well how challenging it can be for a book lover to pare down his or her book collection, but for me, the motivation to do so came from three places.

First, books sitting on my shelf unread could be enjoyed by others, including my friends. A book is meant to be read. It’s not meant to sit forever on a shelf.

Second, those books have value. Every book sitting on my shelf can get me at least a quarter, and some can get me quite a bit more than that, and I can put that money to work. Many can be traded for other books that I haven’t actually read.

Finally, shelves stuffed with books I probably won’t read again take up space in my home and require me to have more living space than I otherwise need. That means higher rent, higher insurance rates, and so on.

Add those together and it really does make sense to downsize, especially when considering the advantages of the local library.

If you’re a book lover, take a hard look at your collection and ask yourself why you’re holding onto many of the books. You might find a new motivation to clear out space, get some new books to read, and put a few dollars in your pocket.

The post How to Minimize and Get Maximum Value from a Book Collection appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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How Small Businesses Can Save On Credit Card Processing Fees

When it comes to accepting credit cards as payment, small businesses are “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t” – as in, they stand to lose income no matter which decision they make. Since approximately 35% of people preferred credit to any other type of payment in 2014, small businesses could miss out on sales if they refuse to accept credit cards altogether. But since typical merchant account companies charge up to 5% for each transaction, the costs of accepting credit can add up fast.

So, what’s a business to do? By and large, most businesses – and even small ones – grin and bear it. Better yet, they build the cost of accepting credit into the retail price of everything they sell.

Four Tips to Help You Save On Credit Card Processing Fees

But there are additional ways businesses can save on credit card processing, and they aren’t that hard to implement, either. If you’re a business owner who’s tired of paying huge credit card processing fees, here are a few tips that can minimize your pain:

Tip #1: Set a firm minimum for consumers who use credit.

To reduce the damage caused by credit card processing fees, some merchants up the ante in terms of how much their customers must spend. In other words, they set a minimum for each transaction they process with credit, say $10.

When faced with a purchase minimum to use credit, consumers can either turn to cash or spend more – both options that benefit your business. If customers opt for cash, you’ll avoid credit card processing fees altogether. But if they spend a bit more so they can use credit, the extra revenue can help offset credit card processing fees.

To implement this strategy, all you have to do is post your new rule prominently by the cash register and inform your employees of the change. Then, follow up to make sure they follow through. It’s as simple as that.

Tip #2: Shop around before you choose a credit card processing company.

Credit card processing companies have to compete to attract (and keep) clients just like everyone else. As a result, credit card processing fees can vary depending on the company you choose. One might offer a lower rate to lure in new customers, while another might charge more for the exact same thing. Either way, it pays to shop around to find the best deal – especially when we’re talking about a difference of a percentage point or more of your credit sales.

One small business owner we interviewed in 2015 said she switched from her old credit card processing service to Square, and praised their straightforward fees. “One month I looked at my bank account and [my credit card processor] had taken $2,500 out of my account just for fees,” said Coffee Break Cafe owner Jen Ormond. “And I was like, I’m paying more in credit card fees than I am for rent. So I literally went to Apple that day and I bought the [Square] swiper, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

To find a few processing firms for comparison’s sake, check with other businesses in your area and ask who they use. A simple search of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) may also turn up companies in your area while letting you check their credentials along the way. You can check out the Simple Dollar’s guide to credit card processing services as well.

Before you sign up to use anyone’s service, make sure you understand their fee structure and how it works. Saving a percentage point or even half a percentage point on credit sales can be huge for your bottom line, but failing to conduct due diligence can be costly.

Tip #3: Buy your own credit card terminal instead of leasing one.

When you sign up with a credit card processing company, you’ll find some firms also rent the equipment as well. While that might sound convenient, you should know that renting a POS system is much like renting anything else – as in, you’ll pay a lot more over time than if you had just bought the equipment outright.

A quick search of an office supply store shows that credit card terminals run anywhere from $100 to $600. Depending on how much you’re asked to pay to rent one, purchasing your own processor could easily pay for itself in a short amount of time.

Tip #4: Make sure your employees aren’t entering credit information manually.

Because credit card information entered manually can mean a higher incidence of fraud, credit card processing firms charge more for these transactions. Because of this, you’ll want to go out of your way to make sure each credit transaction is processed through your POS system by either a swipe or the “dip” of a chip-enabled credit card.

To make this step happen, you should train your employees and cashiers to avoid entering card information manually at all costs. And if possible, you can also try to limit credit purchases made over the phone.

Even if the additional charge for entering credit manually is only a half percentage point more, those fees can cut into your profits dramatically over many months and years.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a business owner who is struggling to come to terms with their credit card processing fees, there are a handful of ways to lessen the burden without alienating your customers. Remember, small fees can make a huge difference to your bottom line over the long haul. Credit card processing fees may be unavoidable, but you can reduce them with a few simple steps.

Related Articles:

How much do you pay in credit card processing fees? Have you tried any of these strategies to reduce your fees over time?

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

31 Days to Financial Independence (Day 2): Finding Direction in the Deep End and Cleaning Up the Shallows

“31 Days to Financial Independence” is an ongoing series that appears every Thursday on The Simple Dollar. You might want to start this series from the beginning!

In the first part of this series, we took a long look at the things that shape our lives – the things we spend our money, time, and energy on – and figured out which ones were most important to us. More specifically, we chose roughly five things that were of prime importance and five more that were of secondary importance. Going through that first exercise is vital for everything that follows, so before you continue, take some time to jump back to that first exercise and try it. It’s an essential exercise for figuring out your path to financial independence.

The key thing to remember with that exercise is that you’re figuring out what areas of your life are “deep” and which ones are not. The “deep” areas are the ones that you’re willing to devote your spare time and energy and your money to, both in the sense of enjoying those things and in the sense of preserving and securing those things for the future. The other elements of life – the things that you find less important – are things that you can and should cut back to an absolute minimum.

This kind of shift – going deeper on the things you really care about while stepping back from the things you don’t care as much about – is easier said than done, but I consider it an absolutely essential key to successful personal finance. The reality is that many people get themselves into financial trouble by spreading themselves too thin. They try to spend money on every whim that crosses their path, but in doing so find that they don’t have nearly enough money left over for the things they care about most. The same phenomenon is true for a person’s money and energy – they waste it on things of lesser importance and find that they have little left for the things that they really care about.

Great, but what on earth does all of this have to do with fixing my finances!? I need help with my debt! Here’s the reality of it: the reason you’re in debt is because you’ve stretched your life an ocean wide and only a few inches deep.

You’re devoting money to all kinds of things that are really unimportant in the big scheme of things, but the modern world and all of its marketing and distraction has convinced you that many such unimportant things are vital to you. So you give it some money – you buy some things – and maybe you give it some time, too, but not enough of either to really make it meaningful and worthwhile.

To fix that, you need to start with some real life basics, and that’s what the first steps of truly fixing your finances are all about. It’s all about figuring out what you really care about, giving those things proper feeding and nutrition, and then cutting back on all of the stuff that you don’t really care about all that much.

Once you start really committing to those kinds of changes – and we’re heading right down that road – what you’re going to find is that you’re suddenly spending a lot less money and you suddenly have more time and money for the things that you care about. You’ll have money left over each month with which to tackle that debt.

Here’s the reality about debt: you can’t really tackle it unless you’re consistently spending less than you earn, and you probably didn’t build up debt unless you’re consistently spending more than you earn. Something has to change before you can transition from consistently spending more than you earn to consistently spending less than you earn. I consider that to be the first and most fundamental step of personal finance change, and that’s the exact thing we’re addressing right now.

So let’s get on with it, shall we?

The problem at hand is the idea of being spread too thin, something we started to address in the first day of this journey to financial independence. How can a person fix that problem? I don’t think there is a ready-made answer that works for everyone, unfortunately, but what I can talk about is what works for me. Figuring out a strategy for dealing with this conflict has been utterly transformative in my life, giving me the time and space and resources to really commit myself to things I care about without feeling overcommitted.

For me, the solution has been establishing what I call “deep” goals. These are very long term goals that I set for my life as a whole that turn the vague “deep” areas of life that we established last time into something more tangible, concrete, meaningful, and exciting.

At the same time, in order to find room for these ‘deep’ goals, I commit myself to cleaning up the shallows – dealing with the difficulty of letting go of some habits and responsibilities that a person has recognized as being less important in life.

Here’s your game plan for doing just that.

Exercise #2: Establishing ‘Deep’ Goals and Cleaning up the Shallows

During the previous exercise, we focused in on identifying three or four key areas of life that really mattered to us, as well as five or so secondary areas of life that were important but not quite as vital. The idea behind this was that these were the areas that we would go “deep” on, committing adequate money and time and energy to, and we would allow the other areas of our life to go “shallow” (committing minimal time, money, and energy).

For me, this list of items ended up looking like this:

Being a good husband
Being a good father
Reading
Learning new things
Playing board games
Hiking
Writing
Getting in better shape
Having a rich network of friends
Being involved in a couple of community groups

This is what really matters to me in my life. I’m family oriented, I value personal growth, I like activities that make me think, and I want to be a strong participant in my community. That really describes me well, at least in terms of what I most care about.

As I said before, your list will probably be different. You may even find that, as you reflect on it, some surprising things bubble up to the top, while some other things are really unimportant to you.

A person’s life should center around those key things and the things they need to do to preserve them. Everything else in life should involve minimal distraction in the form of money, time, and energy.

The thing is, while I’m excited about each of these areas in my life, many of those areas are also nebulous. They might describe something a person can be doing… but how exactly does one “be a good husband”?

More than that, these things don’t really help me decide things to do today that really help me live out these things. (I’m not really going to tackle this on day #2… that’s going to be day #3… but it’s worth mentioning here.)

So, let’s start bringing these things to life.

First, ask yourself what exactly you would need to do to feel as though you have accomplished a specific item on your list over the next ten years. Yes, we’re thinking big here. Why? Big things inspire us. They feel challenging, sure, but they make us feel like we’re really changing our lives and achieving something… and we are.

Let me pull out a few items on my list and show you what that looks like.

What exactly do I need to do to be a good husband over the next ten years? Be a consistent listener and communicator. Support my wife in her choices. Make her laugh and smile. But what does that all boil down to? It adds up to committing time regularly toward supporting her in whatever way she needs.

So, here’s my goal: I will support Sarah to a depth that exceeds what I would want her to support me, regardless of momentary reciprocation. In other words, I will actively be there for her for whatever she needs – an ear, a kiss, some companionship, a laugh, a helping hand, honesty. (We’ll worry about specifics tomorrow.)

What exactly do I need to do to become well-read over the next ten years? I think it would involve reading a large number of meaningful and thought-provoking books, not just page turners (but a few of those, too). A book, to me, is meaningful if it changes how I see the world and it’s thought-provoking if it makes me think.

So, here’s my goal: I will consistently read challenging books and progress through them at a steady, strong pace. This is reasonable because, if you notice, this is one of my major forms of entertainment going forward. I’m essentially saying that a significant chunk of my free time is going to be devoted to reading challenging books going forward.

Notice that this does not include buying books or owning books, but reading them. Going to the bookstore does not fulfill this goal. I should try to get these books as inexpensively as possible, which means I’m going to be hitting the library a lot.

What exactly do I need to do to be a good father over the next ten years? It involves time. It involves listening. It involves trying to understand who each of my children is now, not necessarily the image I have of them from their younger days.

This brings me to my goal for my children: I will give them regular focused time, attention, listening, and conversation beyond meeting their basic needs. By doing this, I can hopefully be there for them at every step along their path to adulthood and understand how they are doing and growing as people.

What exactly do I need to do to be a hiker over the next ten years? I absolutely love hiking and trail walking. There are few things more enjoyable to me than exploring trails of varying difficulty and finding unique and beautiful vistas. The problem, as always, is carving out time to do it.

So, what kind of goal can I set? I will walk at least one significant trail or go on at least one significant off-trail hike per week, on average, for the next ten years. By “significant,” I simply mean a trail that’s new to me that is longer than a mile. This is actually a fairly specific goal, which will make the next part of this exercise (tomorrow’s part) easy.

What exactly do I need to do to get myself in better physical shape over the next ten years? This actually lines up well with hiking, but it needs to go beyond that. I want a fitness routine I can follow easily that produces the kind of results I want.

So, here’s my goal: I want to average 10,000 steps a day, triple my “pounds overhead in ten minutes,” and move up twenty rungs on the fitness ladder in the next ten years. These are the fitness tools I’ve found the most success with over the last several years, so I’m going to stick with them and push them as hard as I can. Again, as with the previous goal, this one’s pretty specific, which is a good thing.

If I do this same exercise with every single item on my list, I’ll have a clear list of the ways in which I’ll spend the hours of my life that I’m not maintaining myself and that I’m not working to do these things or preserve them.

Let’s do one more. What exactly do I need to do to dive deeply into tabletop gaming over the next ten years? This might seem like a strange one, but tabletop gaming is perhaps my most “fun” hobby. I get a great deal of enjoyment out of playing board and card and other tabletop games. So, how can I dig deeper into this hobby?

It’s simple: I want to play every game in my top 100 games list at least ten times. That might seem straightforward, but I have a taste for some rather long games – multi-hour strategic affairs. Not only that, I remake my top 100 list every year, something I do purely for fun to reflect my changing tastes and kind of take stock of where I’m at with the hobby, so it will actually end up being more than 100 games. This goal is all about playing games I already love as opposed to acquiring new ones, so it’s both personally exciting and also takes the edge off of spending money and acquiring things.

Now, the tables turn to you. Take that list of “deep areas” in your life that you developed on Day 1 of this journey and reword each one of them into a ten year goal. Each one can be as specific or as vague as you want, depending on your motivations.

Some people thrive on very specific and measurable goals so they can track their progress over time (me, for instance). Others thrive more on general direction, so less specific goals actually work better for them – some interpret this as not even having goals at all and yet they still find great success.

Don’t be afraid to spend some time on this step. It’s sometimes harder than you expect it to be. However, finding even a little bit of overall direction in a significant area of your life can be incredibly empowering.

At this point, we’re left with a few additional pieces. First, how will you earn income in order to do these things? This means that it makes sense to set a long-term professional goal or two. My long term professional goal centers around providing strong personal finance and life advice on a highly consistent basis, for example.

Second, how will you maintain yourself? Similarly, this means you should set some kind of investment goal for yourself, as well as perhaps some goals related to minimizing spending. My goal is to simply contribute a certain percentage of my income to financial independence / early retirement.

Finally, how will you clear out the shallows? This is very tricky, and it deserves some careful consideration.

As I stated above, the “shallows” refers to the areas of your life that you devote a little bit of time and energy and money and other resources to, but not extensive time and energy. It’s a small part of your life, but it consumes an amount of money (and perhaps time) that’s above and beyond what it should be consuming.

As you rethink your life, your goal should be to leave the elements of your life that you’re not focusing on high and dry. You need to dial all of them down to the minimum.

So, now’s the time to go back through the billing statements and the time diary that you accumulated during the first step and ask yourself which things you spent money and time on are ones that you’re not “going deep” on.

Your broad goal should be to absolutely minimize the spending and the time devoted to each of those areas. This is probably going to be a fairly big goal, and it’s also going to take a lot of your time in the near future. However, as you move through it and come out the other side, you’ll find yourself in far better shape than before.

Why is “cleaning out the shallows” so important? The reason is that you’ve committed more than the minimum time and energy and money to these things in the past, and it can be a difficult transition to moving to minimal time and energy and money for those things.

Remember, this is all about general directions. You’re trying to give some overall shape to where your life is going to head in the future in terms of how you use your money, your time, and your energy. Rather than just having some sense of vague things that are important to you, you want a sense that you’re really digging into something.

One last thing, and this is a big one: what do you do if you start to realize that maybe you left out something important, or you overemphasized something less important to you? Don’t worry about it! It’s absolutely normal during this process to rethink things about your life and decide that some things are more important to you and other things are less important. In fact, if you don’t have those kinds of shifts, then you’re probably not thinking about what really matters to you, in which case you’re going to stay trapped in a cycle of never having enough time or money for the big things you care about and wondering why you’re always in debt and feel strangled for time.

Next time, we’re going to start talking about specifics for these goals. We’re going to break these bigger goals and directions down into actionable things that you can take on today. From there, we’ll start really digging into cleaning up the shallows, because that’s where a lot of the hard work really lies.

The post 31 Days to Financial Independence (Day 2): Finding Direction in the Deep End and Cleaning Up the Shallows appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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‘Surke Thaili’ Creates History, Becomes First Nepali Song To Cross 10 Million YouTube Views

Surke Thaili Khai‘, a soundtrack from ‘Woda No. 6’, has created history today to become not only the first Nepali song, but the first Nepali video of any category to cross 10 million views on YouTube. The song uploaded on the video sharing platform on August 6, 2015 took a little over a year to reach the ‘Crore Club‘. The song written by Rajan Raj Siwakoti is sung by hiself along with Anju Panta and Raju Biswokarma. The film starring Deepak Raj Giri, Priyanka Karki, Jitu Nepal, Kedar Ghimire, Sitaram Kattel, Dayahang Rai, Wilson Bikram Rai, Dipa Shree Niraula, Shivahari Poudel and Kishor Khatiwada was released on September 18 and was a commercial hit. The comedy film produced by Nirmal Sharma under the banner of Aama Saraswoti Gita Devi Films is directed by Ujwal Ghimire. Listen to the song again because no matter how many times you listen to it, you just can’t get enough of it. Right?

The post ‘Surke Thaili’ Creates History, Becomes First Nepali Song To Cross 10 Million YouTube Views appeared first on NeoStuffs.

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Are You a Freelancer… or an Exploited Worker?

Two in five workers will be independent contractors by 2020, according to one study. That’s an estimated 60 million of us toiling without the restrictions (or benefits) of full-time employment.

The downside, of course, is that this freedom isn’t necessarily free: For every freelancer you meet who shrugged off the shackles of Corporate America and struck out on his own, you’ll meet several who were forced into part-time, contract, or temporary work by the economy. And, regardless of how you became a freelancer, working on your own means going without even the illusion of job security, as well as common benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.

If you’re a freelancer, though, the first question to ask isn’t whether you adopted the lifestyle on purpose, or even if it suits you — but rather, are you really a freelancer in the first place? If you work for one primary client, and that client can dictate the terms of your work… the answer might well be no. In this worst-of-both-worlds scenario, you’re treated like an employee, without receiving any of the benefits.

In determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the IRS and the Department of Labor are concerned primarily with two things: control and independence.

The IRS offers three common law rules that establish whether or not a worker is an employee:

  • Behavioral: Does your employer/client control your work, and the way in which you do it?
  • Financial: Are the business aspects of the job controlled by the entity that pays you? For example, does the company provide the supplies and equipment you use to do your job?
  • Type of relationship: Does the work continue on an ongoing basis, or do you do a certain amount of work by a certain date and time? Does the company provide sick time, vacation time, and benefits like health insurance or retirement plans?

Now, meeting some of these criteria doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an employee, and not meeting some of them doesn’t mean you’re a contractor. Only an employment attorney can really tell you whether or not you’re secretly an employee, by legal standards.

Forget legal standards for a minute. What about practical ones?

Independent workers who want to stay independent need a few things—enough money to live on, but also autonomy, satisfying work, and the ability to combine making a living with living a life.

The financial piece is obvious: If you’re forced to work 80 hours a week, indefinitely, to make ends meet, you’ll probably find yourself crawling back to the cubicle farm sooner rather than later. Ditto if you can’t find enough work to sustain yourself.

Autonomy is a less obvious requirement for a successful, long-term freelancer, but it’s equally important. If you have to work regular hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or so), five days a week, and your boss can tell you when to jump and how high… you’re not a freelancer in spirit, regardless of what the law says.

Truly independent workers control their time and work, to the extent that they can decide to change their hours, graciously decline a project, or rearrange their priorities without asking for permission from another person or business. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be working regular business hours most days, or that you’ll want to get in the habit of saying no to requests from paying clients — being reliable and available is essential for anyone who’s running their own business. But if you don’t feel like you can say no — even if you want to — you’re not really independent.

In short, if you can’t take an afternoon off now and then or switch your projects around without getting the thumbs up from someone else, you’re probably not a true freelancer — but rather a contracted employee in a precarious position.

Note: This post is provided for informational purposes only and doesn’t constitute legal advice. If you think there’s a chance that you’ve been misclassified as a freelancer or contract worker, consult with an employment attorney to learn your rights.

Related Articles: 

The post Are You a Freelancer… or an Exploited Worker? appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hey Flipkart, Fuck You & Your Racist Ad Stereotyping Nepalese As Watchmen!

Bollywood and Indian TV have been stereotyping Nepalese/Gorkhali people as watchmen since forever and the latest offender to join the list is the so called India’s largest e-commerce portal, Flipkart. The latest ad titled ‘Flipkart Assured – Kids Are Back – Sahebji’s Jogging Shoes’ has three kids – a sahebji and two watchmen, one of whom is seen wearing the traditional Bhadgauley Topi and hence, portrayed as a Nepali/Gorkha.

Forget about offending Nepali people who do have access to all the Indian TV channels; the company have offended their fellow citizens as well. The people from the ad agency who created this commercial must have slept during the Geography classes and that’s why they have no idea that there are around 20 million Indian Gorkhas who are engaged in various professions and are living respectful lives in the country where they are still treated as outsiders by such arrogant and unprofessional people.

Obviously, the portrayal of the watchman has outraged the community and it has not been taken lightly by the Indian Gorkhas. Gorkha Youth and Students’ Association of India (GYASA) have filed a complaint letter to the Delhi Police, saying, “Their advertisement makes a mockery of the Gorkha community, and stereotypes us as being Chowkidars, with overly exaggerated and highly offensive (which they may consider as being funny) Hindi accent.”

“Stereotyping a community is the most basic forms of racissm and by promoting their business using racist stereotyping; Flipkar has shown how insensitive they are and at the same time exposed the hypocrisy of our great nation. While we cry for blood when and Indian is ‘stereotyped and racially abused’ in foreign shores, we tend to silently accept stereotyping as an accepted form of comedy when it is done to the minorities of our own nation,” the letter further read.

We are hopeful that the case is taken seriously and a strict action is taken against the people engaged in the making of the racist commercial.

Watch the commercial below and let us know what do you think of this entire controversy.

If you have something to say, you can find Flipkart on Twitter as @flipkart.

The post Hey Flipkart, Fuck You & Your Racist Ad Stereotyping Nepalese As Watchmen! appeared first on NeoStuffs.

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Your Vision for Retirement – and How to Save for It

Retirement means different things to different people.

To my parents, it largely means a simple day-to-day life. It means plenty of time to engage in their hobbies and interests at home. It doesn’t include any major changes in lifestyle after retirement, just a lot of additional free time. Without the expense of having to work and without the cost of some of the conveniences necessary to keep working, their life is actually far cheaper than it was before.

To my wife, it means travel. Not necessarily high cost travel, but doing things like visiting every national park in the United States or going on fairly low key international trips together. While the cost of our professional lives will drop, our life will take on additional expenses due to the travel and other things she wants to do. We’ll probably need as much or more in retirement than what we do now.

Then there’s my vision. For me, retirement simply means the financial freedom to launch whatever career I want to launch, and that means the freedom to throw my heart and soul into becoming a successful novelist. I’ll earn some income from this – and potentially a lot of income – and the expenses are pretty much nonexistent, all things considered. The amount of money needed in retirement for this path is the lowest of all of these options, because it’s pretty cheap like my parents and has a good possibility of additional income.

(For those curious, Sarah and I are planning on a hybrid of our two paths. When we’re not traveling, I plan to be writing as much as I can, so we’re meeting in the middle.)

Obviously, a person’s retirement planning changes radically depending on the kind of path they wish to follow. Let’s take a look at some of the potential routes one might follow.

Retirement as Perpetual Vacation – $$$ Needed

To an extent, this is the path that Sarah envisions for our retirement. She’d love to spend the summer on the road in an RV, going all over the United States and Canada, visiting cities and national parks and weird roadside attractions, just the two of us. Although it’s not quite as expensive as some things we might be doing, it’s certainly expensive.

Does your vision of retirement involve doing or buying a lot of expensive things? Does it involve tons of golf? Does it involve lots of travel? Does it involve no more work?

If those things sound like the retirement you’d like to have, you’re going to probably need more income than you currently have, which means you’re going to need to kick your retirement planning into overdrive.

You’re going to have to save as much as possible each year. The general rule of thumb is that if you save 10% of your income starting at age 25, you’ll be right on time with retirement at age 65. This assumes a “normal” retirement, meaning that your expenses go down a little bit mostly because you’re not commuting and buying a work wardrobe, but living your life more or less the same as before. If you’re going to elevate your lifestyle in retirement, you need to be saving more than 10% per year starting at age 25 in order to retire with this lifestyle.

You’re probably going to have to retire later rather than earlier. There are two big reasons for this. First, people often don’t start saving for retirement until after age 25, and since forty years of retirement savings growth is necessary to make these numbers work, you’re going to have to retire later if you started later. Similarly, many people do not commit to saving more than 10% of their income to retirement. If you add both of those factors together, it’s very likely that in order to have this type of retirement, you’re going to have to wait unless you’re willing to save far more than 10% per year.

Retirement as Hobby Time – $$ Needed

This is the path that my parents have taken. It’s what I like to think of as a “quiet” retirement, in that it doesn’t involve a lot of travel or flashy purchases, but it also doesn’t involve a continuation of work.

This is the perfect path for someone with low-cost hobbies or interests that they really want to dig into when they retire. My father, for example, is a voracious gardener, and my mother has a ton of hobbies that have bloomed since they both stepped away from the workforce. None of them are particularly expensive hobbies, but they’re all personally fulfilling ones.

This path will require much less money than the “expensive” retirement plan. In fact, your overall living expenses will drop as you’ll no longer need to pay for commuting or other such expenses.

You can save a modest amount each year and make it here. If you start saving around 10% of your income each year starting at age 25, you’ll have a very solid financial basis for this type of retirement when you reach 65 or even when you reach 60 or 62. You can save a little less than 10% of your income and still make it by age 65, or you can start a little later (preferably before age 32 or so) and still make it by age 65.

You can actually retire early (or retire on time if you have a shorter timeline) if you save aggressively. If you’re at age 25 and you start saving, say, 15% per year, you’ll be able to retire with this lifestyle around age 50 or 55. Similarly, if you wait until age 35 or 40 and start saving 15% of your income each year, you’ll be able to retire at a typical retirement age with this lifestyle.

Retirement as Second Career – $ Needed

This is the path I want to follow. I want to be working until I am actually incapable of it, though I eventually want to move more and more toward working purely on projects of my own interest, such as my long-planned sci-fi series of novels. I’ve got a lot of ideas of things I’d enjoy doing once I stop writing for The Simple Dollar (should that become less interesting to me down the road), but none of them really involve just digging into hobbies.

The reality of this path isn’t too different than a quiet retirement described in the previous section, except that there’s a strong chance of earning significant income during this “retirement.” Thus, you really don’t have to save as much and you can actually get started even earlier.

You can save a fairly small amount each year and “retire” at a normal age with this approach. If this type of retirement sounds appealing at age 25, you can get away with it by saving a fairly small amount each year – 7% or 8%. However, I’d encourage you to save at least 10% for the simple reason that your life may change between now and then and, even if it doesn’t, saving a little more means “retiring” early.

You can save even a modest amount and retire a little early, or save a lot and retire very early. This is the path that I’m on. I didn’t really start planning in earnest for this until I was in my early thirties, but once I figured out what I wanted to do, I started socking away a large percentage each year. I hope to be doing this full time when my last child leaves the nest, which is when I’m approaching age fifty. If you start saving 15% or more of your income with the intent of diving into an unknown career when you “retire,” you can make it in just a decade or two.

Final Thoughts

Many financial articles and books talk about this “ready-made” retirement plan and give you a hard and fast number that you should be saving each month. The problem with that approach is that it removes the “personal” from the equation. It doesn’t take into account how different “retirement” might look for different people.

My vision of “retirement” looks a lot different than my parents’ vision, and that looks different than my wife’s parents’ vision, and that looks a lot different than my wife’s vision. We all have different ideas of what we want retirement to look like, so it makes a lot of sense that our retirement savings plans are going to be quite different from one another.

When you start thinking about your own retirement, don’t start with just dollars and cents. Instead, start thinking about the destination and how quickly you want to get there. The faster you want to get there, the more you want to save; the more expensive the destination, the more you want to save.

The path is up to you.

The post Your Vision for Retirement – and How to Save for It appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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