Saturday, September 3, 2016

Six Facts You Should Know About 0% APR Credit Cards

If you’re considering a zero-interest balance transfer credit card as a means to get out of debt — which can be a vert smart idea — it’s still wise to read the fine print. While it’s true these offers can extend zero interest for anywhere from 12 to 21 months (0% APR simply means your annualized percentage rate on that credit is zero, nada, zilch — it’s free credit), a few caveats and “gotchas” can ruin the deal if you aren’t careful.

Signing up for a 0% balance transfer credit card is no guarantee you’ll get that rate for the long haul. One false move and you could be back in the thick of it with a huge APR and no end in sight. Of course, any potential problems can be avoided if you know what they are – and how to avoid them.

Six Facts About Zero-Interest Credit Cards

Here are six facts you should know as you explore 0% APR credit cards and consider pulling the trigger:

Fact #1: Most cards apply 0% APR to purchases or balance transfers, but not both.

Before you get that 0% APR credit card, make sure you understand how your promotional rate works. A lot of times, the best balance transfer cards extend 0% APR to the balance transfer itself, but not to purchases. Then there are other cards that offer 0% APR on balance transfers for an extended length of time, but only extend that benefit to purchases for six months.

If you use your card to buy stuff while you pay down debt and don’t pay attention to your specific offer, you could be exposing yourself to more credit card interest unwittingly.

Fact #2: If you skip a payment, you might lose your balance transfer offer – or be forced to pay a penalty APR.

While transferring a high-interest balance to a balance transfer credit card can help you save money on interest and get out of debt faster, it’s crucial to make sure you never miss a payment. If you’re considerably late (usually 60 days or more), your 0% APR offer might be cancelled altogether. Worse, the Credit CARD Act of 2009 says you can be charged a penalty APR on your balance if your payment is at least 60 days past due. Since penalty APRs can surge as high as 30%, this is a situation you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

Fact #3: Your regular interest rate comes into play once your introductory offer is over.

There’s a reason cards offer 0% interest for anywhere from 12 to 21 months – they hope to lure you in and get you to pay interest once your introductory offer expires. If you don’t pay off your balance completely during your card’s zero-interest introductory period, that’s exactly what you can expect. Depending on the card, typical interest rates will fall anywhere between 5% and 24.9%.

Fact #4: Pursuing a balance transfer to pay down debt may ding your credit in the short term.

While paying off debt over the long haul is usually a boon to your credit, several of the moves made during a balance transfer can actually hurt your credit in the meantime.

First, let’s note that “new credit” makes up 10% of your FICO score. Because of this, opening a new account means your score might drop a few points temporarily.

Second, transferring a balance doesn’t make the debt go away. And if your credit utilization rate is still high — meaning the amount of your available credit limit that you’re using up — your score will inevitably take a hit.

The good news is, your score has the potential to improve as you pay down debt and improve your credit utilization rate. Remember, the amount you owe makes up 30% of your FICO score, making your utilization rate a huge credit factor you cannot ignore.

Fact #5: A balance transfer offer can’t get you out of debt on its own.

Many people assume they can transfer their high-interest balances and fix their financial lives in one fell swoop. What they don’t realize is, a balance transfer in and of itself will not fix your debt. It might save you plenty of money on interest in the short term, but you still owe the money, and your interest payments can come back with a vengeance once your introductory offer is over and your regular APR returns. For a balance transfer to actually help you get out of debt, you have to use the interest-free period you’re given to pay off your debts – once and for all.

Fact #6: You might pay a fee to transfer your balance.

While the Chase Slate® card doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee for the first 60 days, the vast majority of such cards tack on a fee equal to 3% to 5% of the transferred balance as a condition of your 0% APR agreement.

That means if you’re transferring a $10,000 balance to a 0% APR card and choose a card with a typical 3% balance transfer fee, you’ll owe an additional $300 on top of your balance. While these offers can still be well worth it when you consider the interest savings alone, it’s crucial to factor these fees into your long-term debt repayment plan.

Final Thoughts

A balance transfer offer isn’t the magical solution it’s sometimes made out to be. For these offers to benefit you, you have to follow the rules and take your debts seriously along the way.

With the right strategy, you can easily parlay a balance transfer offer into the debt-free future you deserve. But if you’re not careful, you could wind up exactly where you are now – or worse. Before you move forward, read the fine print and arm yourself with as much information as you can. Chances are, you’re going to need it.

Related Articles:

Have you ever completed a balance transfer offer? Why or why not?

The post Six Facts You Should Know About 0% APR Credit Cards appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Continue Reading…

Friday, September 2, 2016

Best Bad Credit Business Loans for 2016

Being able to raise working capital to stock up on inventory, buy equipment, or pay your employees is a must to keep things running smoothly when you own a small business. While bad credit can be an obstacle to getting a loan from a traditional bank, online lenders offer a way for getting the money your business needs quickly, even when your credit is far from perfect. These lenders look beyond your credit score and consider other factors, such as how long you’ve been in business and how much revenue you’re bringing in, when gauging your creditworthiness. But short- and long-term business loans are not your only choice when you need financing. I also looked at alternatives, such as invoice financing, inventory financing, and merchant cash advances.

The Simple Dollar’s Picks for Best Bad Credit Business Loans

  • Best for New Businesses With No or Bad Credit: OnDeck
  • Best for Small Businesses With Less than $100K in Annual Revenue: Kabbage
  • Best for Established Businesses With Higher Revenues: Dealstruck
  • Best for Invoice Financing: BlueVine
  • Best for Inventory Loans: Fundation
  • Best for Merchant Cash Advances: Capify

How I Picked the Best Bad Credit Business Loans

For this roundup of the best bad credit business loans, I looked at an exhaustive list of criteria to make my final selections. Here’s everything I took into consideration when deciding which lenders rose above the crowd.

  • Funding amount: Small business owners tend to have very different borrowing needs than the average Joe. While you may not be able to borrow as much as you would with an SBA or bank loan, the lenders featured here offer loans in the six-figure range, which is helpful if you need capital for a large expense.
  • Minimum credit requirements: The best lenders understand that your credit score alone isn’t necessarily a measure of your business’s ability to repay a loan. These lenders give you some leeway for approval that a traditional bank may not.
  • Time in business/revenue requirements: Besides your credit score, online lenders are interested in how long your business has been established and its profitability.
  • Funding speed/convenience: Online lenders are appealing because their loan application and funding process is faster than traditional banks. I narrowed my scope to include lenders that make it possible to obtain capital without a lengthy wait time.
  • Website design: A clunky website can lead to frustration when you’re trying to pin down a loan for your business. The best lenders have user-friendly website designs that are transparent and easy to navigate.
  • APR and fees: One trade-off of being able to get a small business loan when you have bad credit is that it often entails paying a higher interest rate or more in fees. The best lenders feature the most competitive rates and keep fees as low as possible.
  • Repayment terms: Before you take on any loan, you need to understand how the payments add up and how long the repayment term is. The goal is finding a loan with terms that are suited towards your business structure.
  • Reputation: When borrowing money, you should be concerned with how reputable the lender is. The online lending marketplace is fairly new, but the best lenders are the ones whose track records have proven them to be trustworthy.

The Best Bad Credit Business Loans

Small business term loans allow you to borrow a specific amount of money and repay it over a set period of time. These three online lenders offer term loans to newer and established businesses that lack a stellar credit rating.

Best for New Businesses With No Credit or Bad Credit

Learn More on's secure website

OnDeck earns high marks for convenience and speed, with borrowers able to get their hands on up to $500,000 in funding in as little as 24 hours. You can choose between short- and long-term loans, with repayment periods extending up to 36 months. Payments can be made daily or weekly, depending on what works best for your business.

A credit score of 500 is the minimum needed to qualify, assuming you’ve been in business for at least 9 months and you’re generating $75,000 or more in revenue annually. That makes it better suited to businesses that are still in the growing stage and maybe haven’t had as much time to build up their credit history. An OnDeck loan might be just what you need if you’re ready to take a newer business to the next level.

Who it’s good for: OnDeck loans are good for businesses that have bad credit or a thin credit file, but have the means to repay a loan quickly.

Who should look elsewhere: While OnDeck works with borrowers in more than 700 industries, certain business aren’t eligible for loans. Those include pawn shops, used car dealers, attorneys, travel agents, and gun sellers.

Best for Businesses With Less Than $100K in Annual Revenue

Learn More on's secure website

A working capital loan from Kabbage can put up to $100,000 in your PayPal or bank account almost immediately after you’re approved. There’s no minimum credit score needed. You just have to be in business for at least 12 months and have $50,000 in annual revenue. Kabbage term loans are worth a look if you run a small business, like a specialty boutique or a repair service, that has modest but steady revenues.

I spoke with a Kabbage customer service rep to clarify how its rates and fees work. It doesn’t charge a traditional APR. Instead, you repay either 1/6 or 1/12 of the loan amount each month, depending on your loan term. You also pay a monthly fee of 1.75% to 13% of the loan amount, based on approval.

With the six-month plan, the fee is higher the first two months, then it drops to 1% for the remainder of the loan term. With a 12-month loan, the fee is higher for the first six months and is reduced to 1% for the remaining six months. The lower the fee, the more money you’ll save.

If you borrow $60,000 for six months with a 3% fee, your regular payment would equal $10,000 per month. For the first two months, you’d pay an additional $1,800 per month for the fee. After that, the fee would decrease to $600 per month. Altogether, you’d pay a total of $6,000 in fees, which works out to an APR of 34.26%.

Who it’s good for: Kabbage’s flexible qualification requirements make it attractive to smaller businesses that aren’t generating a ton of revenue. It’s also suited towards business owners with credit scores below 500.

Who should look elsewhere: You’ll want to set your sights somewhere else if you need to borrow more than $100,000. Also, the effective APR can be high if you’re charged a higher monthly service fee.

Best for Established Business With Higher Revenues

Learn More on's secure website

If you’ve got at least two years of operating history under your belt and $150,000 or more in annual revenue, Dealstruck could be the lender for you. Borrowers who have a credit score of at least 600 can qualify and loan amounts go up to $500,000.

Dealstruck recently updated its repayment terms. Currently, term loans are available for 12, 24, or 36 months. There’s a 4.99% origination fee, which is something to keep in mind if you’re applying for a larger loan. If you were to take out a $500,000 loan, the origination fee would cost you $24,950, which is certainly not chump change. By comparison, OnDeck’s origination fee for a first time loan is 2.5-4%, which would cost between $12,500-$20,000. You should note that both Dealstruck and OnDeck deduct the origination fee upfront from the loan proceeds.

With a term loan from Dealstruck, you can pay the balance down over the course of 36 months. That can be helpful if you need a bigger loan and more time to pay it off, like with the purchase of a large piece of equipment. It also helps to simplify your budgeting and long-term forecasting when you have a fixed payment.

Who it’s good for: A Dealstruck loan makes sense if you want to stretch out repayment so the monthly payments are as low as possible and you meet the minimum in-business requirements.

Who should look elsewhere: While Dealstruck’s rates start at 9.99%, that rate applies to borrowers whose credit scores are 675 or better. A score of 600 will get you an APR somewhere in the neighborhood of 22.99% to 27.99%, so Dealstruck may not be for those who qualify for a lower APR elsewhere.

Bad Credit Business Term Loans At A Glance

Borrowing Limits
Credit Requirements
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
Origination Fee
Repayment Terms
OnDeck $5,000 to $500,000 One owner must have a 500+ credit score. At least 9 months in business and $75,000 in annual revenue. Short-term loans: APRs starting at 9%
Long-term loans: APRs starting at 5.99%
1st loan: 2.5-4% of loan amount
2nd loan: 2.25-3% of loan amount
3rd+ loan: 0-3% of loan amount
Short-term loans: 3 to 12 months
Long-term loans: 15 to 36 months
Kabbage $1,000 to $100,000 No minimum credit score needed. At least one year in business and $50,000 annual revenue. Borrowers repay 1/6 or 1/12 of the loan amount each month, based on the loan term. A fee ranging from 1.5% to 13% of the loan amount None 6 or 12 months (minimum loan amount of $15,000 required for 12-month term)
Dealstruck $25,000 to $500,000 600+ minimum credit score. At least 1 year in business and $150,000 in annual revenue. APRs starting at 9.99% for qualified borrowers. 4.99% of loan amount 12, 24, or 36 months

The Best Alternative Financing for Businesses With Bad Credit

If you have outstanding invoices, inventory that you plan to purchase or daily credit card receipts, these alternative lenders may be able to help meet your funding needs. You can use your unpaid invoices, the value of your future inventory, or your credit card sales as collateral for financing, and not have to rely on your credit score alone.

Best for Invoice Financing

Learn More on's secure website

BlueVine is designed for businesses that need an advance of up to $500,000 on their outstanding invoices and can’t afford to wait for financing. One of its best features is the fact that it takes just minutes to apply and funding is available in as little as one day.

There’s no origination fee and you can advance as much as 85% of your outstanding invoices. You then pay BlueVine back over a period of 1 to 12 weeks, along with a weekly fee, equal to a percentage of the advance amount. The standard rate is 1% per week, but you’ll need to go through the quote process to find out if you qualify for a higher or lower rate.

So what kind of business should consider BlueVine? Invoice factoring can be a boon for service-based businesses that don’t have any inventory or cash receipts to borrow against. If you run a small marketing firm or you’re a website designer, for instance, invoice financing could fill temporary cash flow gaps.

Who it’s good for: BlueVine offers financing to borrowers who’ve been in business for at least three months, so this one’s ideal if you’ve got a newer business and you need fast financing.

Who should look elsewhere: BlueVine doesn’t work with small businesses in the medical or healthcare industries.

Best for Inventory Financing

Learn More on's secure website

Fundation offers conventional term loans to businesses that need to beef up their inventory. You can apply online in less than 10 minutes and have access to the funds within three days. You’ll be charged an origination fee if you get a loan from Fundation, which ranges from 2% to 5%. Your individual fee is based on your credit rating, time in business, annual revenue, and how much you plan to borrow.

Certain businesses may benefit more from Fundation’s financing than others. For example, let’s say you operate a seasonal business that earns most of its revenue during the summer months. You need a loan to purchase inventory for the coming season and you anticipate being able to pay it off in 12 months or less once the inventory sells.

In that scenario, getting an inventory loan through Fundation might make sense. The inventory serves as the collateral for the loan, and you’re not stuck paying for this season’s inventory two or three years into the future.

Who it’s good for: Fundation is a solid choice if you’re looking for convenient financing to purchase the inventory your business needs, particularly for seasonal businesses.

Who should look elsewhere: Fundation only works with businesses that have at least two years of business history, so if your business is newer than that, you won’t be able to get funding.

Best for Merchant Cash Advances

Learn More on's secure website

Out of all six lenders I’ve included, Capify has the most generous borrowing limits. You can get an advance as low as $5,000 or as high as $1,000,000 — if you’ve got the debit and credit card sales to back it up.

Capify charges a factor rate instead of an APR to assess fees and interest. This rate is expressed as a decimal point. I spoke with a Capify representative who advised that factor rates and repayment terms are customized to each borrower’s needs, so if you’re interested in getting an advance, you’ll have to go through the free quote process for more details.

If you run a business like a boutique or restaurant that does a high volume of credit card sales on a daily basis, a merchant cash advance from Capify may be more attractive than a term loan or invoice financing. You can pay the advance back from your daily receipts and the amount you pay can go up or down, based on your sales. If you find yourself in a lull, your payment adjusts accordingly so you’re not straining to keep up with what you owe.

Who it’s good for: A merchant cash advance from Capify is good for businesses that have steady credit and debit card receipts and need money to cover payroll, hire employees, or renovate their premises.

Who should look elsewhere: Repayment is made on a daily basis so if you don’t have daily cash flow, an advance from Capify probably won’t work for your business.

Bad Credit Business Alternative Financing At A Glance

Borrowing Limits
Credit Requirements
Rates and Fees
Repayment Terms
BlueVine $20,000 to $500,000 530+ credit score or higher. At least 3 months in business and a minimum of $10,000 in monthly revenue. Borrowers pay a weekly fee, with a standard rate of 1% per week. 1 to 12 weeks
Fundation $20,000 to $500,000 600+ credit score or higher. At least 2 years in business and $100,000 in revenue. APRs start at 7.99%.
Origination fee ranges from 2% to 5%.
1 to 4 years
Capify $5,000 to $1,000,000 60+ days of credit card processing history. At least $5,000/month in credit card sales. Borrowers are charged a factor rate, which is tailored to their specific needs. Repayment terms are also determined on a case-by-case basis.

Did You Know?

How do the interest and fees compare?

One of the most important things you can’t afford to overlook when choosing a bad credit business loan is cost. Invoice financing terms, for example, are going to be different from what you’d get with a term loan, but they may be more favorable for certain kinds of businesses than others.

In my line of work, I’m sometimes waiting 30 to 60 days for a client to pay an outstanding invoice. Fortunately, I have minimal operating expenses and other clients that pay more regularly. On the other hand, the wait time to get paid could be tough for those who run a service-based business with employees. Think cleaning companies, subcontractors, or caterers.

If they know that cash is on the way, however, they could borrow against their invoices to pay their workers, then when the client makes good on the invoice they can pay the finance company back. Stretching out repayment over 12 or 24 months with a term loan wouldn’t make sense in that scenario.

Watch out for potential pitfalls

Taking on a loan can help you grow your business or stay afloat when cash is tight, but it’s not without certain risks. There are two things in particular that you need to consider thoroughly before committing to a bad credit business loan.

  1. Cost: Borrowing money for your business when you have bad credit almost certainly means paying more in interest and fees than you would if you had good credit. If you’re taking on a six-figure loan, a higher APR can add thousands to your total payoff. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to understand how the lender calculates the interest on your loan and how the fees break down. Essentially, you have to be sure any return on investment you get from having access to financing justifies the cost.
  1. Liability: Even when a lender isn’t asking for collateral, they may ask you for a personal guarantee or a blanket lien. Both can put your personal assets at risk if something goes awry and you’re not able to make good on what you borrowed. The lender could seek a judgment against your business and you personally, meaning they could attach your bank accounts or property to try and collect. If a lender’s asking for a personal guarantee or a blanket lien as a condition for borrowing money, you need to fully understand what that means before signing on the dotted line.

Improve your credit rating for better loan terms

Bad credit business loans can be very useful, but they can also be an expensive way to meet your financing needs. Working on raising your personal credit score and establishing a positive business credit history are wise moves if you want to expand your borrowing horizon.

Boost your personal credit score

  • Pay bills on time. When a lender checks your personal credit score, it’s most often your FICO score they’re looking at. Thirty-five percent of your FICO score is based on your payment history, so paying on time is the best way to make your credit shine.
  • Pay down balances. Thirty percent of your FICO score is based on your credit utilization. This refers to how much of your total available credit you’re using. To keep your score moving up instead of down, shoot for using 30% or less of your available credit.
  • Keep old credit accounts open. The age of your credit history influences 15% of your credit score. Leaving older accounts open can work in your favor where your score is concerned.
  • Utilize different types of credit. Ten percent of your FICO score is based on your credit mix. Revolving lines of credit (like credit cards) and installment loans are weighted differently, so using both is a good way to balance your score out.
  • Minimize how often you apply for credit. Applications for new credit show up on your credit report and count towards 10% of your score. Each time you apply, a few points are shaved off, so forgo the temptation to open new accounts unless you absolutely need to.

Build good credit for your business

  • Incorporate your business. When you’re running a business as a sole proprietor, there’s no dividing line between your personal and business assets, income, or credit. Incorporating allows you to establish a separate credit identity for your business, apart from your personal score.
  • Establish vendor credit. One of the easiest ways to get credit in your business’s name is to set up vendor or trade accounts. You can then register with Dun & Bradstreet to create a business credit file. If you’re paying your invoices on time and keeping your tradeline balances low, those two things can work together to help your business credit rating.
  • Get a business credit card. Business credit cards can be a great way to earn some money-saving rewards and build credit for your business. You’ll have to use your personal information to apply and offer a personal guarantee, but your account activity will show up on your business credit report. Again, paying on time and using 30% or less of your credit limit are the smartest ways to raise your business credit score.

The Bottom Line

Having bad credit doesn’t mean that a small business loan is out of your reach and working towards raising your personal and business credit score can put you in a stronger position to find lower rates in the future. OnDeck is a good place to start if you’re looking for term loans, but ultimately it’s going to depend on your business, so shop around and consider the alternatives. Also, it’s always a good idea to give the fine print a thorough read-through before you commit to anything. After all, the lender will be looking closely at your financials and business background, so it’s just as important that you perform your own due diligence to be sure that you’ve made the right choice for your business.

The post Best Bad Credit Business Loans for 2016 appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Continue Reading…

Gaurika Singh Donates Rs. 200,000 To Maiti Nepal

Gaurika Singh is currently in Nepal with her parents and she has been engaged in a lot of activities. The youngest Olympian at Rio 2016 was invited by Dil Bhushan Pathak to his show Tough Talk that airs on Kantipur. The talk show that is considered as one of the best TV shows in Nepal had Gaurika along with her mother, Garima Rana Singh. The UK based swimmer was also invited and felicitated by president Bidhya Devi Bhandari at Shital Niwas.

Earlier this week on Wednesday, Singh was declared as the Goodwill Ambassador for Maiti Nepal in the fight against human trafficking by the founder Anuradha Koirala. The 13-year-old later donated an amount of Rs. 200,000 to the organization. She handed over the cheque to the CNN Hero at Maiti Nepal. It was the amount that was awarded to her by the Nepal Government for representing Nepal in international events.

Last year in April when Singh was in Kathmandu to compete at the national championships, she had donated her winnings from the competition to a charity to rebuild schools damaged by the devastating earthquake.

Gaurika is not only the youngest Olympian but probably the youngest Nepalese philanthropist as well. And what makes us even more proud of her is that she donates her own earnings, not her parents’ money.

This little girl has a heart of gold. Respect!

gaurika maiti 2

Gaurika after being declared as the Goodwill Ambassador for Maiti Nepal by CNN Hero Anuradha Koirala

gaurika prez

Gaurika being felicitated by president Bidhya Devi Bhandari.

The post Gaurika Singh Donates Rs. 200,000 To Maiti Nepal appeared first on NeoStuffs.

Continue Reading…

Five Key Things to Think About If You’re Considering a Path to Early Retirement

Going down a path toward retiring early, whether you’re in the middle of your career and looking to just shave a few years off or you’re early in your career and looking to shave off a decade or two, is like running a very long footrace on uneven ground. You can see that amazing finish line in your head, but there’s a lot of ground to cover first and some real potential for something unexpected to happen.

Almost all financial success that we experience in life comes from thinking through the options carefully and making a smart decision. This is true from the small stuff, such as whether to buy store brand pasta or not, to the big stuff like, well, retiring early.

If the idea of spending below your income level throughout your career in exchange for the ability to retire early or increase your career options later is an appealing one to you – and it is very appealing to me – then I encourage you to think through these five key things very carefully.

1. Children will almost definitely delay your early retirement.

I would be “retired” right now if I did not have children. Because Sarah and I chose to have children, my “retirement” will probably come shortly after our youngest graduates from high school, and he’s in early elementary school.

That’s a pretty big change, but it reflects the reality and the expense of having children. I don’t regret the choice to have children, but I’m also not in denial about the financial impact they’ve had on our life.

Unless you’re neglectful, children come with a lot of expenses. You’re feeding and clothing and housing a child for eighteen years. You provide toiletries for that child, learning materials for that child, household supplies for that child, medical care for the child. You’re also likely to buy the child gifts and treats at various points.

There’s also the impact that having a child has on your career. You’re going to wind up taking time off for your child. Your child is going to devour spare time that you might have otherwise used on a side gig or on self improvement or on career advancement. Your child is also going to eat into your sleep time, especially when the child is young, but also during the teen years.

That’s not to say that having a child isn’t rewarding. It is very rewarding. However, those rewards are very personal in nature and don’t show up in a financial balance sheet.

If you’re considering having children – or already have children – and you’re also considering early retirement, you need to recognize that the presence of children will slow down your progress toward that goal. Take that into consideration when making either decision.

2. You won’t be “keeping up with the Joneses.”

If I look up and down the block we live on, virtually everyone has newer cars than we do. Our two vehicles are currently seven and thirteen years old and the oldest vehicle owned by any of our neighbors, by our best estimation, is also about seven years old. We drive the old cars on our block, in other words.

My children are close friends with a few kids on the block and they all have neat toys and gadgets that far outstrip what our own children have. The same goes for the adults in each house, too.

The thing is, I could get really worked up over this. I could feel jealous about it and want to buy a new car or a bunch of new gadgets to “keep up.”

But why? How does that really fulfill what I want out of life?

Even though I have that perspective, there are still times when I feel pangs of jealousy. I sometimes want to have all of the things that they have, even though I know in a broader sense that I am making the best choice for me in the long term.

You’ll have to deal with that contradiction constantly, and when you choose to “keep up with the Joneses” – or keep up with people in your social group or keep up with people in your online communities – you’re going to end up paying the price in terms of achieving your early retirement goals.

Buying things that you personally value is fine, but when that value is hyperinflated by a desire to “keep up,” it’s a purchase that ends up not having much lasting value. Mastering this idea is harder than it sounds, but it’s essential for early retirement.

3. You have to be somewhat selective in your “little treats.”

Many people fill their life with little treats, like stopping at a coffee shop to pick up a morning latte and a bagel or stopping at a bookstore regularly or stopping at a convenience store in the evening to pick up a six pack of beer.

Often, people consume far more “little treats” than they think they do. These “little treats” are often very forgettable, in that they’re low cost, consumed quickly (or just added to collections without a second thought), and then completely forgotten within an hour or two.

The catch is that the costs of these little treats add up, while at the same time the frequency and forgettability of these treats makes them essentially meaningless in terms of providing lasting pleasure. They provide a very small, very short term burst of pleasure in exchange for a chunk of your future.

The best solution is not to give up “treats,” but spread them out so that you also get joy out of the anticipation and they’re no longer forgettable. You can get almost as much joy out of a monthly visit to a coffee shop, for example, than you do out of a daily stop, because that monthly stop is a genuine treat and feels special.

Mastering that distinction and breaking away from the daily and weekly routines that center around little treats is a very big key in any financial turnaround, but many people choose to frame that change as utter misery. Without it, however, the resources you need for early retirement just flow right out of your pockets without building any kind of future for yourself and, at the same time, you’re sacrificing the anticipation and the “specialness” of many of the treats in your life.

It’s a difficult shift, but a necessary one.

4. You will be criticized by people you trust who think you’re being a fool.

In fact, you’re probably better off just keeping your plans to yourself in mixed company, because you’ll almost always be greeted with disbelief and strange criticism when you mention your plans.

Most people simply don’t accept that early retirement is even possible for themselves or for someone at their approximate income level. Remember, 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and paycheck to paycheck life is in direct opposition to early retirement. You can’t possibly retire early if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, so 76% of the people in America have immediately closed off the possibility of early retirement for themselves. Even among the rest of Americans, many are saving for a normal retirement or even a slightly late retirement.

The idea that someone is doing something different is usually met with a pretty critical response, and you need to accept that you’re going to hear some criticism – most of it unfounded – if you choose this route. People will basically tell you that early retirement is impossible or imply that you must be living like a hermit when neither one is remotely true.

Don’t let such criticism bother you, but be aware that it will come. Know how to handle it politely. My typical response is that even if things don’t work out exactly like I want, I’m pretty happy with my life right now and I will have plenty for a traditional retirement.

5. You need to have a plan for what to do after you “retire.”

Let’s say you do retire early. You’re done working at, say, age 50 or so. What are you going to do then?

At that point, you have more than three decades left in your life, most of which should involve pretty good health. You suddenly have tons of free time. How will you fill it?

The reason for thinking about this question now rather than later is that, if you don’t have a good vision for this time, why are you retiring early? Without some kind of a plan for the years after retiring, it’s kind of fruitless to retire early.

For me, retirement is more of a tool to launch another career path, one that won’t necessarily earn a lot of money but will provide a lot of personal enjoyment. The day when I walk away from “work” isn’t a day when I become idle. It’s a day when I leap into new plans.

What are your plans? And, if you don’t have those plans, why are you retiring early?

Final Thoughts

Early retirement isn’t an easy path. It’s one that’s fraught with temptations and distractions and big questions about why you’re even doing this.

Thinking about those things early on, before they’re in the way of your progress, can make all the difference between success and failure.

Let these ideas be food for thought for you as you think about your own journey toward retirement, early or otherwise.

The post Five Key Things to Think About If You’re Considering a Path to Early Retirement appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Continue Reading…

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Best Visa Credit Card for 2016

There are a lot of really great Visa cards out there. Banks, airlines, and major retailers all regularly hand out Visa cards to help you spend money and earn specific rewards. For this “best Visa” roundup, I’m going to focus on Visa cards distributed by major banks, and highlight eight different cards that are great for earning cash back, earning travel rewards, transferring a balance, and more.

I selected these cards after looking at a lot of Visas and comparing rewards, APRs, and other benefits. These aren’t the only great Visa cards — I don’t have enough space to list them all — but they’re all solid choices if you’re looking to start a new line of credit.

The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks

Best for Travel Rewards

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Highlights

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a favorite at The Simple Dollar — in fact, it has named the card its all-time favorite rewards card. And those rewards are juicy: 2 points for money spent on dining and travel (which includes anything from Uber rides to hotel stays to air fare), and 1 point for all other purchases — plus 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account.

Once you earn those points, you’ll want to be sure to redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. If you use Chase Ultimate Rewards, your points are worth 25% more — those 50,000 bonus points, for example, are now worth $625 toward travel expenses (80 points per dollar). You can also transfer those points one-to-one with other big-name programs, like Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Marriott.

The only downside to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is if you don’t travel (or dine out) a lot to begin with — while those two categories are broad, they don’t jive with everyone’s lifestyle, and they are the only way to get double points. It’s a travel card that rewards you the more you travel.

Apply Now on U.S. Bank's secure website

U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card Highlights

If you’re looking for a card that rewards you with travel perks for everyday at-home stuff, I like the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card. You’ll earn 1 point for every $1 you spend on purchases, but you also have the opportunity to earn double points on gas stations, grocery stores, or airlines — whichever of the three is your top spending category that billing cycle — and on most cellphone service providers. There are triple points, too, for qualifying charitable donations.

You also earn 20,000 bonus points if you spend $2,000 in the first four months of your account opening, which U.S. Bank states is worth up to a $400 plane ticket. That’s a smaller intro bonus than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s 50,000 points and $625 — but if you can’t afford $4,000 in three months, it’s still a nice bump.

The U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa® Signature Card also comes with little extras like an allowance for in-flight meals, a free rental car each year, and the opportunity to earn frequent flyer miles. If you’re not a frequent flier, your points can also be used for cruises, hotels, and even gift cards.

Both these cards are great if you want travel perks that can be used in lots of ways — choosing the best one for you means taking a look at your lifestyle and your spending habits. 

Best for Earning Cash Back

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom® Highlights

If you prefer rewards in the form of cash as opposed to points, there are two cards you’ll want to look at. First up is the Chase Freedom®. It gets you 5% cash back (!) on up to $1,500 in purchases within specific categories that change every quarter, and 1% cash back on everything else. Plus, there’s the chance to earn an extra $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of opening your account — and no, that $500 doesn’t have to be confined to a specific spending category.

For example, if you max out your Chase Freedom® rewards and spend $1,500 on that quarter’s chosen categories, you’ll get 5% back on that $1,500, or $75. Maybe you spend an additional $2,000 that quarter and get 1% cash back on every purchase, or $20, bringing your total cash back rewards to $95. (Check the Chase Freedom® 2016 Cash Back Calendar to see upcoming cash back categories. They’re all really broad, like “restaurants” or “gas.”)

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ Highlights

The other card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited℠. This card gives you a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases, plus the same $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of opening your account.

To compare offers, let’s say you spent the same amount of money — $3,500 total — using your Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ card. You’d get a flat 1.5% cash back, or $52.50. That’s about half the cash you could earn with the Chase Freedom® card, but keep in mind that you can only max out those Chase Freedom® rewards if you commit to spending $1,500 on whatever categories get the 5% cash back bonus that quarter. You’ll have to figure out which cash back plan is best for you. My advice: Look through your spending history over the last year and do the math.

Looking to level up your rewards even more?

Consider bundling two cards together. Our favorite combo is the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With those two, you always get double points for travel and dining, plus 5x points on whichever category is in play with Chase Freedom®. Even better, you can pool your points and redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Best to Transfer a Balance

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Chase Slate® Highlights

If you’re looking to transfer a balance and pay it off interest-free, Chase Slate® has what you need. You’ll get a 15-month 0% intro APR on both balance transfers and new purchases, giving you over a year to pay off an old balance interest-free (as well as any other purchases you make during that time).

Three of the other Chase rewards cards I’ve mentioned already also offer this 15-month 0% intro APR, but there’s one big reason why Chase Slate® stands out for balance transfers: You don’t pay balance transfer fees on anything transferred within the first 60 days of opening your account. For comparison, Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ both have 5% balance transfer fees — which is also what you’ll pay on balances transferred to Chase Slate® after the 60-day intro period.

Here’s how your Chase Slate® savings might work: If you are transferring a $3,000 balance to one of the Chase cards that include a 5% balance transfer fee, you’ll pay $150 to make that transfer. If you are transferring to Chase Slate® within the first 60 days, that transfer will be $0. It’s a great deal, and one of the only cards out there — Visa or otherwise — that gives you a fee-free period at all.

Best for Rebuilding Your Credit

Apply Now on U.S. Bank's secure website

U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card Highlights

If you want to rebuild your credit, consider signing up with either the U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card or the Wells Fargo Secured Visa® Credit Card. These two secured Visa cards are nearly identical. Both require a deposit to open up a line of credit; both have APRs of 19.24%; and both are designed to help you establish or rebuild your credit. The idea behind a secured card: Once you’ve proven you can manage credit responsibly and pay off your balances, you’ll upgrade to an unsecured card and get your deposit back.

Apply Now on Wells Fargo's secure website

Wells Fargo Secured Visa® Credit Card Highlights

Here’s where the cards differ: The U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card lets you make a deposit of $300 to $5,000, while the Wells Fargo Secured Visa® Credit Card allows a deposit from $300 all the way up to $10,000. Your credit line is equivalent to the deposit you make, so if you want more than $5,000 in credit, you’ll want to use the Wells Fargo Secured Visa® Credit Card.

On the other hand, the U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card lets you earn interest on your deposit and the Wells Fargo Secured Visa® Credit Card does not. You aren’t going to earn a lot of interest on a $300 deposit, but if you’re thinking about depositing a few thousand dollars, it’s worth keeping in mind. (Also, I’d advise strongly against putting your entire savings or emergency fund into a secured credit card just to get a higher line of credit. You want to be able to pay off your balance no matter what happens — otherwise you could lose your deposit, not to mention all of that good credit you’re building up.)

Lastly: The U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card has an annual fee of $29 and the Wells Fargo Secured Visa® Credit Card’s annual fee is only $25. For some of us, $4 can be a huge difference.

Lowest APR

Full disclosure: If you’re looking for a Visa with low APR, the best place to start might be your local bank. I have a Commerce Bank Special Connections® Visa® with Rewards card that comes with a 10.49% – 20.49% variable APR and cash back rewards, but that’s because I used to live in Illinois and had a Commerce Bank checking account. (I actually called Commerce Bank to confirm that anyone could apply for this card — not just people with Commerce Bank accounts — and the company said it was available to everyone.) If you’ve got a small, local bank nearby, it’s worth looking into its credit card offerings.

Apply Now on USAA's secure website

USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa® Signature Highlights

For another option, there’s the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa® Signature, which has a variable APR of 12.15% – 26.15% and gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. It’s a great card — but is only available to people with a military affiliation (whether you’re in the military, joining the military, a military veteran, or have a parent or spouse in the military), so it won’t be applicable to everyone.

The Perks of Using a Visa

All of my Visa credit card recommendations are based on the perks that their issuers dictate — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s great rewards, for example, are decided by Chase, not by Visa. But Visa does bake in some extras as well.

In the US, there are really only two types of Visa cards: Platinum and Signature. The Platinum card is pretty basic, featuring customer service, emergency card replacement, and rental car collision damage coverage. Visa Signature cards are more robust, including everything from roadside dispatch and a 24/7 concierge to deals on sporting events, emergency travel assistance and extended warranty coverage.

There’s also a new, elite Visa Infinite tier — so new that the US doesn’t even have a website for it yet. Only two cards are currently available at the Infinite tier (the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and the Crystal Visa Infinite Credit Card), and it’s basically a souped-up version of the Signature with even more luxe perks, like $100 off round-trip domestic flights, VIP “welcome service,” and a portfolio of high-end hotels.  

Some cards have “Signature” included in right in their name, but often the only way to see what tier a card is available at (and that you quality for) is to apply.

The Bottom Line

Visa has way more credit card options than I can highlight in a single post, but these eight cards all offer excellent benefits or rewards. If you’re looking for a Visa credit card to help you transfer a balance, earn cash back or travel rewards, or rebuild your credit, start here.

The post Best Visa Credit Card for 2016 appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Continue Reading…

31 Days to Financial Independence (Day 3): Finding Daily Direction and Meaning

“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 previous entry in this series, we started looking at how to build a meaningful life that isn’t centered around spending money but instead is centered around spending time doing the things you love and minimizing the time and money spent on the other things you care about.

We separated these concepts into the “shallows” (the many, many things in life that are relatively unimportant and thus merit only minimal time and money spent) and the “deep” (the handful of things in life that are actually deeply important to us and thus merit using our time) and then went on to describe general goals, both for finding direction in the deep parts of life as well as cleaning up the shallows in order to cut down on the time and money invested in those things.

Today, we’re going to translate many of those things into specific daily direction with the goal of building some deeply fulfilling life routines that don’t require a constant outpouring of money and also give us plenty of space and time for the things we care about most.

I consider this to be the foundation of healthy personal finance today. As I said in the previous entries, people often spread themselves an ocean wide and an inch deep. They commit themselves to far more things than they can ever realistically manage, then they throw money at those things in order to maximize convenience and to substitute for not having enough time; in other words, they buy books because they don’t have time to read because it feels like a good substitute. People also often devote lots of time to things that are really less important in their lives just because they’re convenient and because they don’t have real direction in the other areas of their life (think of channel surfing or aimless web surfing, for example).

All of this adds up to some very painful results. People often end up settling into a paycheck-to-paycheck routine because they’re spending money on many, many different areas in their life, some of which they don’t care about much in comparison and others to cover up for their lack of time management and lack of direction. They don’t spend enough time on the things they care about most, which brings a sense of personal sadness, and they end up spending time on things that are very secondary in terms of true importance, which adds another layer of personal sadness. It ends up being a very difficult stew.

The solution, as we’ve been discussing for the last couple of entries in this series, is to separate life into the “deep” and the “shallows.” The “deep” is simply the handful of things we truly care about in life, which is different for each person. These are the things that we truly want to commit time and energy toward. These are the things that we’re happy to work hard to maintain, improve, and protect. The “shallows” are the countless other things in life – the things we dabble in without real joy, the things we’re committed to for various reasons, and so on. These are the things that we spend more money and time on than we need to, but in the end we really don’t care that much about them. They end up draining us and taking away from the “deep.”

Great, but how does this actually affect my daily life? That’s the question we want to answer today.

In a given day, each and every one of us spends some time taking care of basic needs like sleep, eating, and personal hygiene. Most of us spend some time working to earn a living. The remaining time is spent however we want – engaging in personal interests, taking care of previously committed responsibilities, and so on.

In an ideal life, the time spent on basic care and on working to earn an income are there so that we can invest our remaining time into things we deeply care about. The thing is, our lives often route us away from doing that and we end up paying the price in our finances and our overall happiness.

It’s time to build a “given day” that corrects all of that.

Exercise 3a: Emptying the Shallows

The first step is to look at all of the things you spend time on and extra money on that aren’t part of the things you care most about. These are things you have already identified.

This exercise is simple: go through that time diary and your spending records and identify every dollar spent and every chunk of time spent outside of required personal care and work. For each of those, ask yourself whether it’s in line with the “deep” parts of your life. Make a list of everything for which you answer “no.”

Then, go through that list of wasteful parts of your life and ask yourself what you need to do to eliminate that item or draw it back to an absolute minimum.

For example, let’s say you spend two hours a day watching television but you recognize that it’s not something that you really care about. What can you do to basically eliminate that from your life? One strategy is to simply unplug the television for a while. That way, you push yourself out of the routine of television watching.

What if you’re spending too much time online? Maybe you can find a way to set your computer to minimize web browsing time using a tool like StayFocusd. Maybe you can just do away with your home computer altogether for a while, or just unplug it during the week, or unplug it on the weekends. Make it harder for you to simply jump into web browsing.

What if you’re on a committee or involved with a group but you’ve come to realize you don’t really value it? You can simply step down from that group. Give them plenty of time to transition to someone new for your role, but focus on leaving and making things easy for someone else to handle it.

If you find you’re spending too much on things you don’t care about, like household products, make the active choice to switch to store brands. Stop buying name brand laundry detergent and buy the inexpensive store brand version if your laundry isn’t one of your core life priorities.

All you’re looking for are things you can do to actively cut back time and money spent in the areas of your life that you don’t care about. You’re looking for specific actions you can take to make that change or new little routines you can adopt. Try to find at least one change you can make for each of those time and money wasters on your list.

What you’re really doing here is emptying out the shallows of your life. You’re cutting to the absolute minimum the time and energy and money you spend on things you don’t really care too much about – and that’s a good thing. Why waste your money and your life on things you don’t really care that much about?

You’re going to find yourself at the end of this with a big checklist of things to do. Take that checklist seriously. Work hard to knock items off that list. Buy store brands. Step back from minor responsibilities that eat up your time. Eliminate time-wasting hobbies. Don’t worry – you’ll fill that time (and that spending) with more meaningful things.

It’s worth noting here that this is an exercise worth doing on a fairly regular basis. You’ll often find that, over time, you end up filling up the shallows a little bit again, plus you may find that the core things that are meaningful for you shift a little over time. This exercise is wonderful for tightening things up right now, but it’s a reflection of who you are and where you’re at in life right now. You’ll change, and so will this exercise.

Exercise 3b: Filling Time in Meaningful Ways

What you’re going to find as you do the previous exercise is that you suddenly have more time available and more money available than you previously thought.

The question is what do you do with that time and that money?

We’re going to focus on the money changes for the rest of the month, but for now, let’s look at the time changes. Spending your time in a more personally fulfilling way makes almost everything in life easier to achieve, after all. Plus, once you are in a place where you feel like your day-to-day life is really meaningful, putting aside money to protect that life seems like a better and better choice. Thus, it makes sense to start here.

In the second day of “31 Days to Financial Independence”, you came up with a list of goals that you want to achieve over the coming years that are in line with the things you consider to be the most valuable portions of your life. These goals are focused on doing things, not acquiring things.

Today, we’re going to translate those big goals into things you can actually do each and every day (or at least each and every week).

All you have to do is walk through each of those big goals you came up with in that exercise and translate them into something you could do if you had, say, a couple of hours a week or half an hour a day to devote to it. In other words, you’re setting a series of to-dos or very short term goals for yourself that are in line with your deepest values. These things should each be fulfilling for you and many of them should be quite fun, too.

As an example, I’ll pull out the six goals I identified during day two and list them here:

I will support Sarah to a depth that exceeds what I would want her to support me, regardless of momentary reciprocation.

I will give my children regular focused time, attention, listening, and conversation beyond meeting their basic needs.

I will consistently read challenging books and progress through them at a steady, strong pace.

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 10 years.

I want to average 10,000 steps a day, triple my “pounds overhead in 10 minutes,” and move up 20 rungs on my fitness ladder in the next 10 years.

I want to play every game in my top 100 board games list at least 10 times.

What do each of these goals translate into if I’m looking at things to achieve today or to achieve this week?

For the first goal, centered around supporting my wife, I simply take aside about thirty minutes each day to have a meaningful conversation with her. Our schedules often don’t overlap all that well, as sometimes I’m already taking children to soccer practice or something like that when she gets home, but we usually have at least some time to spend together. Each day, I need to just take about thirty minutes and focus on her. Ask her how her day is going and listen carefully. Ask her what’s on her mind and listen carefully. Spend some of that time helping her with things around the house that matter to her. Pull her close to me and give her a kiss and a tight little hug. It’s just a way for me to ensure that our relationship remains strong, to help her with her challenges, and to make sure she knows I’m always there for her, no matter what.

(Of course, this is in addition to the normal stuff we might do together in a given day or week.)

For the second goal, centered around being a good father, I try to have a meaningful conversation with each child every day and engage in a meaningful activity with them at least once a week. On school days, I usually handle this by being there when they get off the bus. I have a snack waiting for them, then I sit down with each of them for five or ten minutes and talk to them about their day, one on one. We’ll go through any homework they have or other stuff from school, and I make sure to give each of them a hug. On weekends, we usually do something together as a family each day.

Once a week, though, after school and on the weeknight when it fits (usually on a Wednesday), I plan something special that we can do for a few hours. Maybe we’ll go in a hike in the woods. Maybe we’ll play a big board game. Maybe we’ll paint miniatures (that’s actually what we did after school yesterday). Maybe we’ll build a mousetrap-powered car, or make paper rockets and get them to fly with an air pump, or fly some kites in the park. I simply set aside Wednesday afternoons for some sort of special activity with the kids.

Noticing some themes yet? What I’m essentially doing is setting aside blocks of time for those core meaningful activities. That time comes from the time I’ve cut back on by “emptying out my shallows” in the first exercise in this article.

For my third goal, focusing on reading challenging books, I simply devote a minimum of half an hour a day to focused reading or audiobook listening – and it’s honestly usually an hour. I usually block off an hour for it, but I don’t allow anything to cut it down to less than half an hour. Usually, I do this in the hour before my children come home from school because my writing productivity starts to drop in the early afternoon (I usually wake up very early to start working). I often listen to audiobooks here, for reasons that I’ll discuss below – I get them from the library.

(I could also easily schedule this in the evening, but I’ve found that if I’m trying to absorb ideas, I’m very poor at it in the late evening. Instead, I fill that last hour or two before bed with housework-related tasks.)

For my fourth goal, focusing on trail walking, I schedule a trail walk every other weekend during the school year and many during the summer months. I also sometimes fit one in during the week at a relatively local park if things work out.

For the weekend and summer walks, I usually plan them with my family in mind. For the weekday walks, they’re usually solo jaunts.

For my fifth goal, focusing on exercise, I simply take a walk each day and do my version of the “fitness ladder” twice a day. I usually take my walk during the middle of the day as a “break” from work, and I often listen to an audiobook during the walk. I usually do the fitness ladder at the beginning and then again at the end of my typical workday. On the weekends, I do the fitness ladder right when I wake up and then one other time during the day, and we usually go on a multi-mile family walk when the weather is nice.

I often listen to an audiobook on my walk, which overlaps nicely with my reading goal. My weekend walks are often trail hikes, which overlaps nicely with my hiking goal. Sometimes, I even hit the trifecta of listening to an audiobook while hiking, which actually nails all three goals that day.

Basically, the walking and the fitness ladder make up my personal exercise routine, except that I can do it at home (or nearby, in the case of walking). My version of the “lifetime fitness ladder” is based upon this one, but steals some ideas from other home bodyweight exercise routines and focuses on the things I’m really interested in (core strength being a big one and aerobic fitness being another).

The final goal I mentioned above, focusing on board games, is met by going to a community game night once a week and taking along a classic board game already on my shelf to play. My focus is on getting that game to the table, whether that means playing with others who are familiar with the game or teaching it to new people. Aside from that, I just play whatever other people want to play. If I have a free evening, I will play a solo game (there are a lot of good ones out there) or play one with my family – again, drawing from the ones on my shelf.

The focus here is on play counts, as my overall goal is to play my 100 favorite games (of which I own most of them) at least 10 times each. I want to play every single game I own several times in addition to that goal. Since spending time online isn’t one of my “deep areas,” I’m also cutting back on the time I spend online on gaming forums and devoting that time to actually playing the board games I already have.

Again, there are a few huge themes running through all of these examples.

First of all, I’m moving forward on personal life goals. These are things I want to achieve in life because they’re important to me or tied to areas of deep personal joy. These daily steps move me forward on those goals.

Second, I greatly enjoy the daily activities. I feel wonderful when I’m hiking or playing a great game or engaging with a great book. Those things are part of a fulfilling life for me and knowing that they’re part of my daily routine is great.

Third, I find the time for these things by basically eliminating time spent on things less important to me. Television isn’t important to me, so I almost never watch it. Web surfing isn’t important to me, so I rarely do that unless it’s work related these days. Some of my community commitments weren’t that important to me, so I stepped down from them in a polite fashion and transitioned the work to others.

Fourth, these goals are almost all centered around actually doing things and not spending money. They all rely on using things I already have and have wanted to enjoy. Even with the board game hobby, I’m playing games I already have. With the reading hobby, I’m using resources from the library. None of them are centered around spending, so I have little motivation in my daily routine to spend.

Finally, having a life that’s fulfilling every single day makes it easy to buckle down, work hard in my professional life, and put aside money because those things preserve this fulfilling life. I want to work hard, work smart, and save what I have. Beyond that, I want to work hard to reach a point where I have even more time for fulfillment.

The table then turns to you. From Day 2, you have this list of things you want to “go deep” with, the things you want to be central in your life. How can you actually “go deep” on those things every day, or at least every week? Spend some real time thinking about each item on your list and how you could deeply engage in each of those items today for personal enjoyment and progress on those goals. Remember, the time will come from cleaning out the shallows and the focus is on doing, not spending.

Good luck!

The post 31 Days to Financial Independence (Day 3): Finding Daily Direction and Meaning appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Continue Reading…

Five Ways Stay-at-Home Parents Can Get Back Into the Workforce

The number of stay-at-home moms rose during and after the Great Recession, reaching 29% of American mothers in 2012, according to Pew Research. But, not all of these moms were choosing to opt out of the workforce; Pew notes that the mini-boom was driven by a variety of “economic and societal factors,” including labor-force participation.

In other words, some mothers may have chosen to stay home with the kids simply because they couldn’t find work. This is also true of many stay-at-home dads, whose numbers surged during and after the recession.

If that’s the case, we may see former stay-at-home parents returning to the workforce as the job market continues to improve. If, that is, they can make the transition back.

It’s hard enough to get hired when you’re not currently employed – it’s even more challenging when there’s a substantial gap in your resume. For various unfair reasons, many hiring managers seem determined to only interview candidates who are looking for a job while they have a job. Tack on a few years outside the workforce, and your resume could wind up on the bottom of the pile.

But, it doesn’t have to. With a little ingenuity and planning, you can get back to work. Here are five strategies to try:

1. Emphasize skills, not timelines.

The first option is the simplest, but only if you’ve been out of the workforce a relatively short period of time: choose a resume format that shows what you can do, not the history of what you’ve done. A functional resume highlights your skills – exactly what you want the hiring manager to see – instead of the gap in your resume.

2. Volunteer.

If you need to get back to work for financial reasons, you’re not going to want to hear about working for free as an option to get you there. But, if you have a little time to get back to earning money, volunteering can be a way to make it happen.

Offering your time and effort to a charity accomplishes two things, both of which are helpful to anyone at any point in their career: It helps you gain valuable skills and experience, and it builds your network. You never know when you’ll find out that your fellow volunteer has a full-time job open at the employer of your dreams.

3. Temp or freelance.

Companies make up all sorts of reasons to turn down applicants, but it really comes down to fear of commitment. When an organization takes on a full-time employee, they’re saying that they’ll pay for their salary and increasingly expensive benefits until such a time as they decide to stop. That sounds less permanent than an employee might like, especially given that most states in the U.S. permit at-will employment, but it does mean that they’re stuck with workers until they decide to go through the onerous termination process. If they pick wrong, it’ll cost them.

Hiring a temporary, freelance, or contract worker, in contrast, is low commitment. If it doesn’t work out, they just stop offering projects or contract extensions. This makes it easier for them to overlook the gaps in your recent experience, and concentrate on your skills and achievements.

One caveat if you go this route: Unless you also prefer the low-commitment career lifestyle, keep looking for full-time work. Once you’ve bridged that resume gap, there’s no reason to keep working as a contractor, and you don’t want to fall into the permalance trap.

4. Look into ‘returnships.’

Return-to-work programs, in which companies offer internships to workers returning to the  workforce after a break, are still few and far between, but the trend seems to be picking up. iRelaunch, which keeps a list of returnship programs, notes that returnships have been gaining steam since around 2004.

5. Retrain for something new.

If you didn’t love your old job, and you’re ready for something new, there’s no time like right after a career break to make a change. You don’t have to commit to years of school, either; coding boot camps and year-long certificate programs make it possible to switch to a new career as a skilled professional – and maybe even score some internships along the way.

Related Articles:

The post Five Ways Stay-at-Home Parents Can Get Back Into the Workforce appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Continue Reading…

Popular Bla Bla's


Latest Bla Bla's on Fun2Sh

Powered by Blogger.
Copyright © Funtoosh Blog