Category: Life Hacks

Live Right, Save Money, Be Happy

Here are some of the tried-and-true methods, along with benefits unique to each approach.

See dentists and doctors regularly

No one likes medical surprises in the form of emergency dental or medical attention. Working adults who neglect doctor and dentist visits are taking serious risks.

Living right and staying healthy means getting the medical attention you need, and getting it routinely. Especially after the age of 50, it's smart to have a full medical exam once per year. There's a reason medical coverage typically reimburses in full for annual check-ups and twice-yearly dental exams. Carriers would much rather pay for a relatively inexpensive wellness exam or check-up than fork over a sizable sum of money for long-term treatment regimens that could have been avoided with preventive care.

Buy life insurance

Purchasing life insurance does two very important things. First, it allows you to provide for your family's financial needs after you're gone. Second, if you get permanent coverage, like a standard whole life policy, you can sell it if you ever need money in an emergency, or for any reason at all.

There's genuine peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved ones are protected from financial stress after you pass away. And if you face unexpected bills and need a ready source of funds, you can simply go online and get several estimates on the sale price of your whole life policy.

The process is fast and simple. Plus, when you sell your life insurance policy, the only amount of the proceeds that are taxable are those that exceed the tax basis (the total amount of premiums you've paid to date). Selling can be a very wise move, too—often, when one spouse passes away, when there's a dire need to pay unexpected medical or other kinds of bills, or the premiums become too high.

Learn how to relax

Stress has the potential to cause medical problems, but it also can make you miserable. The good news is that there are effective ways to beat stress and minimize its effects. Learning to meditate or taking part in guided relaxation sessions are two popular strategies. Regular exercise, stretching, and yoga are other choices that many people find satisfying for keeping stress at bay.

Get enough sleep

When you get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, it's much easier to wake up refreshed and feeling good every morning. Having the inner calm and physical relaxation that comes with regular, restful sleep means being able to take on the day with a positive outlook and a body that's ready to withstand 16 hours of activity. When you realize that sleep is part of your lifestyle, it's easier to make a commitment to get the amount you need.

Know what PMA stands for and learn to have one

There's an entire industry based on the concept of PMA, or positive mental attitude. Classic books about winning friends, influencing people, and simply thinking in order to grow rich point to the immense power of the human mind.

Of course, maintaining a positive attitude is easier said than done. It takes effort, patience, and persistence. But once you decide to cultivate a PMA, you're already finished with the first step of the journey. The upside is that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books and no-cost online videos about how to create a positive outlook and attitude. The rewards are measurable and real and include things like being able to sleep more soundly, handle life's challenges more adeptly, and find solutions in the face of adversity.

Eliminate the negative

As the classic tune from the 1940s suggests, it helps to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. Those timeless words of wisdom contain some potent advice. One way to make your life better is to say goodbye to destructive, negative forces, habits, and ways of thinking.

What does that mean for everyday people who seek self-improvement? It means they have plenty to gain from banishing harmful behaviors like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, taking part in dangerous sports like cliff diving, base jumping, and amateur race driving.

That's not to say there's anything wrong or with those activities when you do them in moderation and with appropriate safety measures in place. But they carry enough risk to make insurance carriers raise rates or flat out deny coverage to participants. So, if you have the desire to purchase an insurance policy that pays a death benefit to someone when you pass away, steer clear of extreme sports and risky hobbies.

Take the time to plan

Planning, both long- and short-range, gives you options and advance warning about financial and other types of problems. Consider making written, detailed plans about buying a first home, your career path, educational goals, relationship goals, whether you want to have a family or not, long-term care insurance, etc. Planning makes things real and attainable. A lifestyle that incorporates planning is a sustainable, rewarding one.

Easy Guide to Cheap Business Currency Transfers

There might be many reasons why your small business isn’t thriving. One of them is the global economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for all that this recession is hitting all businesses hard, it also kicked e-commerce into high gear. Also, going global has become a necessity for businesses. After all, this gives you an opportunity to both cut costs and grow your customer pools.

But doing any kind of business internationally means you will need to send and receive money transfers from abroad. This itself is a costly endeavor. It’s costly enough that the cost of the transfer might eat up all your profit margin.

While you are developing a strategy for going global, you need to find a way to cut your currency costs. The good news is that today there are companies that allow you to reduce the cost of both the transfer and foreign currency exchange (FX or forex). But you’ll need to think carefully to pick the one that will benefit your business most in the long term.

How expensive are international money transfers?

The costs of foreign currency exchange and international money transfer fees are not the only issues you need to consider if you want to avoid being ripped off while traveling. As a business, making payments to suppliers or accepting them from customers also come with an FX price tag. And that price might be over 10 percent of the transfer volume.

Any small business trying to go global will know that the profit margin for this venture might be so small that 10 percent makes it unviable. But of course, the actual cost of international money transfers depends on many factors. The foremost is what financial institution you are using to make the transfer.

The traditional way to go is to use a bank wire transfer. That’s the safest method of international money transfers. However, it’s also one of the most expensive. For example, in the US the average outgoing international transfer fee is $45. Add to that the money lost during foreign currency exchange. Banks always use an unfavorable FX rate due to their high FX margins. Also, the fees (meaning your losses) might increase with the transfer volume.

Also, remember that some currency corridors to developing countries are far more expensive. There are still some African countries where a transfer can cost up to 20 percent!

Western Union and MoneyGram are hardly better in terms of fees—these services are sometimes more expensive than banks. PayPal is better. However, it will cost you about 5 percent of the transfer and it also doesn’t use the best FX rates.

All in all, the most common international transfer methods are expensive. But now there are FX companies created to solve this specific problem.

How to cut the cost of global business money transfers

While outrageous, transfer fees from banks and popular money transfer services don’t seem that bad for small transactions. However, as these losses grow with the transfer volume, a payment to a supplier or some international investment might end up costing you thousands. You need a specialized and affordable solution for large business transfers. Today such a solution comes from FX companies, also called online money transfer companies. These are companies like Moneycorp, WorldFirst, or OFX.

FX companies specialize in offering cheap and fast currency transfer services. Top providers among them have multiple offices in different parts of the world. The platforms are online-based, which means you can manage your account fully using nothing but a smartphone app.

The number of supported currencies varies depending on the provider. However, all these companies operate using the same principles. They all offer:

  • Low or no fees. In the majority of cases, FX companies don’t charge transfer fees at all. If they do, the cost of the transfer rarely rises over 1-3%.
  • Low FX margins. Foreign currency exchange rate margins are where banks make a lot of money. However, as FX companies run off the volume of transferred funds, they strive to keep the margins low. At the moment, WorldFirst has the lowest margins in the industry (0.25-0.15 percent for large business transfers).

FX companies can be used not only to help cut the costs of regular business payments, but they are also a great help to everyone who wants to invest overseas (in property, for example). They can also be used to pay salaries to remote workers.

But bear in mind that not all online money transfer companies are suited for businesses. Only the ones that offer corporate services are capable of handling the paperwork and other requirements that businesses might have.

FX companies: benefits beyond affordability

FX companies not only help you cut the costs of international money transfers, but they can also be used to mitigate currency exposure risk that every international business faces. This type of risk is unavoidable because currency exchange rates are fluid.

However, sometimes this fluidity turns into outright volatility. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a great surge of FX volatility. Tthis volatility will likely last for a while due to the global economic recession. Therefore, FX risks are now extremely high.

FX companies offer their business customers access to hedging tools. This means that you get a chance to minimize these risks with little effort. For example, you can use forward contracts, which allow you to get the FX rate fixed at a certain point for up to a year. So, even if the exchange rate changes unfavorably during this time, you will be protected.

For international business, currency hedging is essential for budgeting. In fact, without hedging against the currency risks in some manner planning a budget becomes almost impossible.

But, of course, one needs to be a financial expert with ample forex experience to use hedging effectively. Otherwise, you will not know exactly when to use which tool to achieve maximum long-term benefits for your company.

FX companies solve this problem as well because they offer not only a wide range of currency services but also guidance. Simply put, they can provide you with advice and information necessary to make good currency decisions. This means that your business won’t have to pay extra to outsource a specialist for this.

How to choose the right FX company for your business

The first thing you should consider when looking for an FX company for your business is its accreditation. These businesses operate within multiple jurisdictions and the industry itself is poorly regulated, so you need to choose companies that are audited by trustworthy authorities. For example, WorldFirst is monitored by the Financial Conduct Authority of the UK.

You should only work with companies that are transparent and certified to work in your country. This will limit your choices somewhat as these companies aren't yet found around the globe.

Another important factor is currency selection on offer. You need to be sure that the company you choose will be able to meet all your needs. However, as you can have more than one account, you can work with several companies simultaneously. But in this case, you will need to exercise extra caution when choosing these services.

Finally, be sure to study detailed reviews of every FX company you consider. Read both customer testimonials and professional reviews that highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of the company. This way, you will be able to make a choice that will help your own business prosper.

5 Tips for Building a Side Business

You’ve probably noticed that people are embracing entrepreneurship like never before. Due to the widespread availability of technological business tools, there’s never been a better time to become your own boss. With an internet connection and a smart-phone or laptop, you can work from just about anywhere on the planet.

If you’ve been dreaming of quitting your day job to start a business, you might be wondering if taking such a big leap is worth it.

While there’s nothing wrong with holding down a W-2 job and getting a steady paycheck, having income from your own business comes with many upsides. But if you’ve been dreaming of quitting your day job to start a business, you might be wondering if taking such a big leap is worth it.

The good news is that there are incremental ways to become self-employed that are stable and reduce your risk, instead of plunging abruptly into a precarious financial position. In this chapter excerpt from Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers, you’ll learn practical strategies for building a solo business while keeping the security of a regular job.

Tips for building a business on the side

Becoming your own boss may seem glamorous from the outside, but it can have stressful pitfalls, such as little pay, no insurance benefits, and unpredictable clients. However, you can avoid or minimize some of the downsides by maintaining a reliable day job while you grow your solo business.

Having the security of a job and the excitement of becoming a solopreneur gives you lots of upside with much less risk. A steady paycheck may give you the confidence you need to take business risks—such as buying more advertising, equipment, or software—that will make your venture more profitable.

Having the security of a job and the excitement of becoming a solopreneur gives you lots of upside with much less risk.

Aside from maintaining a reliable income stream, being both an employee and an entrepreneur can make you a better worker. In my experience, growing a side business also builds skills and experiences that make you more effective at your regular job. You may even find your side hustle revives an appreciation for your day job. There’s a lot to like about having a salary, benefits, and other perks, after all.

Whether you decide to be both an employee and your own boss for weeks or years, it will take some juggling to manage successfully. Here are five tips to face your career fears responsibly and prepare for the future by adding entrepreneurship to your resume on the side.

Define your vision for success

Before changing your job or making the transition from employee to self-employed solopreneur, take the time to define what you truly want to achieve in your career. Sometimes your ideas about success come from other people, and they can cause you to follow a career path that never truly fulfills you.

Maybe your boss thinks you should regularly work late so you can climb the corporate ladder, or a parent says you should go to graduate school. You might take a lucrative job in a field you’re not crazy about because that’s what your friends are doing. But if that job requires frequent travel when all you truly want is to start a family, care for aging parents, or spend time enjoying where you live, you’ll never be happy.

Never let external markers of success, such as a big paycheck or a fancy job title, become more important than your heartfelt calling and goals for your life.

If you don’t pause periodically to reflect on what success means to you, it becomes easier to follow other people’s priorities when it comes to your work. If your decisions aren’t purposefully leading you toward a life that excites you, you’ll likely wander away from what you genuinely want.

Never let external markers of success, such as a big paycheck or a fancy job title, become more important than your heartfelt calling and goals for your life.

That said, getting in touch with your real desires isn’t always easy, and you might have to listen carefully to hear your inner voice. Try incorporating some quiet time into your daily routine. When you first wake up or when you’re settling down at bedtime, think about what you’re grateful for—but also what you’d like your life to be. Consider your definition of success and any changes you’d like to make to your life in the near and distant future.

Ask yourself the following questions to better understand your values and get clarity on your unique vision for success:

  • What type of work makes me happiest? 
  • Where do I want to live? 
  • What types of people do I want in my work life?
  • What does a good life mean to me?

This exercise isn’t something you do once to figure out the arc of your entire life. You need to come back to these fundamental questions during different seasons of your life and career, because the answers may change, sometimes repeatedly.

Over time, your working life is sure to change, in both good and bad ways. When you find yourself getting restless or feeling like you want more from your job, slow down and become more introspective. It can reveal a lot about what your next career or business move should be.

RELATED: How to Create Your Own Self-Employed Benefits Package 

Create a side gig

Even when you’re clear about what you want, one of the fastest ways to ruin your financial future is to take a flying leap from a steady paycheck. Jumping from a day job into an uncertain, full-time venture too early could mean trouble. You might face significant financial struggles and even get into debt. Many businesses take years of hard work before they’re profitable enough to support you.

If you slowly add entrepreneurial experience to your career, you’re likely to gain a variety of skills that will make you more valuable to employers.

Hanging on to your day job gives you the financial security you need to try out new business ideas, especially if you have a spouse, partner, or kids who depend on your income.

The best side gigs combine work that you’re excited about with something that you’re uniquely positioned to provide. These businesses may also come with a large existing customer base or appeal to customers who are willing to pay you well for the skills and experience you offer.

I was a part-time entrepreneur for a decade before I said goodbye to my employer. I enjoyed having a mix of job stability and entrepreneurial upside. Plus, I found that expanding my career by adding self-employment to a W-2 job made me much better at both.

If you slowly add entrepreneurial experience to your career, you’re likely to gain a variety of skills that will make you more valuable to employers. It may be easier to experiment with business-formation ideas when you have less financial stress or know a side gig could actually complement your existing career.

The bottom line is that creating a business on the side protects your income, diversifies your network, and improves your skills, instead of leaving you financially vulnerable. If you enjoy your entrepreneurial work and find that it pairs well with your day job, the benefits and personal growth can really pay off.

Negotiate your job flexibility

If you plan to start a business on the side, or you already have, you know you’ll be working more, perhaps a lot more. You might need to work early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends to fit it all in. That could stress your relationships or cause you to burn out if you don’t take some precautions.

Consider some different ways that you can tailor your business for your day job, and vice versa.

Once you’re confident about your business idea or begin seeing increasing revenues, you may find that you need more flexibility in your schedule. At that point, consider some different ways that you can tailor your business for your day job, and vice versa.

In 2008, my employer began feeling the financial pinch of the Great Recession. My podcasting and blogging career had started to take off by that point, so instead of allowing my position to get downsized, I proposed a solution that my boss liked. I’d work four days a week for a couple of months and then go down to three days a week for the rest of the year. Then we’d reevaluate where the company stood and discuss whether he could still afford to keep me on as an employee.

My employer would save money by paying me less, and I’d have more time to work on creating content, partnering with brands, and writing my first book, while still having a regular paycheck coming in. If I hadn’t suggested that solution, my company wouldn’t have known that I was willing to cut my hours. I didn’t offer to tell my boss what my plans were for my newfound free time, and he didn’t ask.

You may be able to negotiate with your employer for more schedule flexibility.

You too may be able to negotiate with your employer for more flexibility. You might ask to work fewer hours, to maintain the same total number of hours but work fewer days per week, or to work from home a day or two each week.

If you have a long commute or spend a significant amount of time getting ready, packing a lunch, and getting out the door in the morning, working remotely could save a lot more time than you think. Then you can invest that saved time in your side business.

Find more time in your day

If you can’t get more flexibility or you worry that even asking for it could put your day job in jeopardy, there are other options. One is to structure non-negotiable time for your business into your day. For instance, make a rule that you’ll step away from your desk for a solid hour (or longer if possible) during lunch to accomplish something meaningful for your business.

Find a nearby cafe or reserve a conference room in your office where you can work and eat undisturbed. I did that for many years, and it’s incredible how much you can accomplish in 45 minutes if you truly focus. If you can’t find enough quiet or privacy in your office, you could even work in your car.

It’s incredible how much you can accomplish in 45 minutes if you truly focus.

If working on your business during your lunch hour isn’t possible with your day job, consider coming to the office an hour earlier or staying later. You could also work on your business in a nearby coffee shop or a co-working space (where drop-in memberships can often be had for the same price as joining a gym) before or after your job. The idea is to create a routine that builds in regular time to focus entirely on your venture and to complete essential tasks.

Another option is to outsource a portion of your work. If you can afford to delegate tasks to freelancers, that can help you balance your to-do lists.

When your day job is so unpredictable that it prevents you from working on your side gig for long periods, consider getting a different job with a more reliable schedule. If you’re truly committed to getting your business off the ground, you may need a position with more flexibility so you can do both more easily.

Have a solid exit strategy

Having an exit strategy is a common concept in the business world. Partners and investors want to know what will happen after clearly defined milestones are reached, such as taking a company public or selling it after a certain profit margin is achieved.

But employees should create exit strategies, too. It’s a great way to force yourself to think about the future and what you would or should do next. With a W-2 job, you never know what’s around the corner.

It’s wise to start every professional relationship with an idea of how it could end.

Your company could suddenly downsize after a merger or an unexpected loss of market share. Your department could be reorganized after new leadership begins. All these scenarios have happened to me at some point in my career.

It’s wise to start every professional relationship with an idea of how it could end. This ensures that you’re never caught entirely off-guard. Knowing that you’ve thought about the end of a job or a business partnership can make you feel more secure about a potential split.

If you’re unprepared for an interruption in work or business income, it can be devastating to your emotional and financial life. So whether you’re laid off or you voluntarily quit, prepare for it now.

If you have a financial runway to find new opportunities or you’ve built an income from a side business, quitting or getting fired can be a positive experience. Having a good exit strategy can make the difference between feeling crushed by a job loss or becoming empowered by it.

Got Cash? What to Do with Extra Money

I received a great email from Magen L., who says:

I no longer have any retirement savings because I cashed it all out to pay my debt. We also sold our home and moved into an apartment just as the pandemic was hitting. With the sale of our house, the fact that my husband is working overtime, and the stimulus money, we've saved nearly $10,000 and should have more by the end of the year. My primary question is, what should we do with it?

Right now, I have our extra money in a low-interest bank savings [account], and I'm considering moving it to a high-yield savings [account] as our emergency fund. Is that a good idea? For additional money we save, I intend to use it as a down payment on a new house. However, should I be investing in Roth IRAs instead? What is the best option?

Another question comes from Bianca G., who says:

I have zero credit card debt, but I have a car loan and a student loan. I will be receiving a large amount of money sometime next year. If my fiancé and I want to buy a home, is it better to pay off my car first and then my student loan, or should I just pay down a big portion of my student loan?

Thanks Megan and Bianca for your questions. I'll answer them and give you a three-step plan to prioritize your extra money and make your finances more secure. No matter if you're a good saver or you get a cash windfall from a tax refund, an inheritance, or the sale of a home, extra money should never be squandered.

What to do with extra cash

Maybe you're like Magen and have extra cash that could be working harder for you, but you're not sure what to do with it. You may even be paralyzed and do nothing because you have a deep-seated fear of making a big mistake with your cash.

In some cases, having your money sit idle is precisely the right financial move. But it depends on whether or not you've accomplished three fundamental financial goals, which we'll cover.

To know the right way to manage extra cash, you need to step back and take a holistic view of your entire financial life.

To know the right way to manage extra cash, you need to step back and take a holistic view of your entire financial life. Consider what you're doing right and where you're vulnerable.

Try using a three-pronged approach that I call the PIP plan, which stands for:

  1. Prepare for the unexpected
  2. Invest for the future
  3. Pay off high-interest debt

Let's examine each one to understand how to use the PIP (prepare, invest, and pay off) approach for your situation.

How to prepare for the unexpected

The first fundamental goal you should have is to prepare for the unexpected. As you know, life is full of surprises. Some of them bring happiness, but there's an infinite number of devastating events that could hurt you financially.

In an instant, you could get fired from your job, experience a natural disaster, get a severe illness, or lose a spouse. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that we have to be as mentally, physically, and financially prepared as possible for what may be around the corner. 

While no amount of money can reverse a tragedy, having safety nets can protect your finances. That makes coping with a tragedy easier.

Getting equipped for the unexpected is an ongoing challenge. Your approach should change over time because it depends on your income, debt, number of dependents, and breadwinners in a family.

While no amount of money can reverse a tragedy, having safety nets—such as an emergency fund and various types of insurance—can protect your finances. That makes coping with a tragedy easier.

Everyone should accumulate an emergency fund equal to at least three to six months' worth of their living expenses. For instance, if you spend $3,000 a month on essentials—such as housing, utilities, food, and debt payments—make a goal to keep at least $9,000 in an FDIC-insured bank savings account.

While keeping that much in savings may sound boring, the goal for an emergency fund is safety, not growth. The idea is to have immediate access to your cash when you need it. That's why I don't recommend investing your emergency money unless you have more than a six-month reserve.

The goal for an emergency fund is safety, not growth.

If you don't have enough saved, aim to bridge the gap over a reasonable period. For instance, you could save one half of your target over two years or one third over three years. You can put your goal on autopilot by creating an automatic monthly transfer from your checking into your savings account.

Megan mentioned using high-yield savings, which can be a good option because it pays a bit more interest for large balances. However, the higher rate typically comes with limitations, such as applying only to a threshold balance, so be sure to understand the account terms.

Insurance protects your finances

Another critical aspect of preparing for the unexpected is having enough of the right kinds of insurance. Here are some policies you may need:

  • Auto insurance if you drive your own or someone else's vehicle
  • Homeowners insurance, which is typically required when you have a mortgage
  • Renters insurance if you rent a home or apartment
  • Health insurance, which pays a portion of your medical bills
  • Disability insurance replaces a percentage of income if you get sick or injured and can no longer work
  • Life insurance if you have dependents or debt co-signers who would suffer financial hardship if you died

RELATED: How to Create Foolproof Safety Nets

How to invest for your future

Once you get as prepared as possible for the unexpected by building an emergency fund and getting the right kinds of insurance, the next goal I mentioned is investing for retirement. That’s the “I” in PIP, right behind prepare for the unexpected.

Investments can go down in value—you should never invest money you can’t live without.

While many people use the terms saving and investing interchangeably, they’re not the same. Let’s clarify the difference between investing and saving so you can think strategically about them:

Saving is for the money you expect to spend within the next few years and don’t want to risk losing it. In other words, you save money that you want to keep 100% safe because you know you’ll need it or because you could need it. While it won’t earn much interest, you’ll be able to tap it in an instant.

Investing is for the money you expect to spend in the future, such as in five or more years. Purchasing an investment means you’re exposing money to some amount of risk to make it grow. Investments can go down in value; therefore, you should never invest money you can’t live without.

In general, I recommend that you invest through a qualified retirement account, such as a workplace plan or an IRA, which come with tax benefits to boost your growth. My recommendation is to contribute no less than 10% to 15% of your pre-tax income for retirement.

Magen mentioned Roth IRAs, and it may be a good option for her to rebuild her retirement savings. For 2020, you can contribute up to $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re over age 50, to a traditional or a Roth IRA. You typically must have income to qualify for an IRA. However, if you’re married and file taxes jointly, a non-working spouse can max out an IRA based on household income.

For workplace retirement plans, such as a 401(k), you can contribute up to $19,500, or $26,000 if you’re over 50 for 2020. Some employers match a certain percent of contributions, which turbocharges your account. That’s why it’s wise to invest enough to max out any free retirement matching at work. If your employer kicks in matching funds, you can exceed the annual contribution limits that I mentioned.

RELATED: A 5-Point Checklist for How to Invest Money Wisely

How to pay off high-interest debt

Once you're working on the first two parts of my PIP plan by preparing for the unexpected and investing for the future, you're in a perfect position also to pay off high-interest debt, the final "P."

Always tackle your high-interest debts before any other debts because they cost you the most. They usually include credit cards, car loans, personal loans, and payday loans with double-digit interest rates. Remember that when you pay off a credit card that charges 18%, that's just like earning 18% on an investment after taxes—pretty impressive!

Remember that when you pay off a credit card that charges 18%, that's just like earning 18% on an investment after taxes—pretty impressive!

Typical low-interest loans include student loans, mortgages, and home equity lines of credit. These types of debt also come with tax breaks for some of the interest you pay, making them cost even less. So, don't even think about paying them down before implementing your PIP plan.

Getting back to Bianca's situation, she didn't mention having emergency savings or regularly investing for retirement. I recommend using her upcoming cash windfall to set these up before paying off a low-rate student loan.

Let's say Bianca sets aside enough for her emergency fund, purchases any missing insurance, and still has cash left over. She could use some or all of it to pay down her auto loan. Since the auto loan probably has a higher interest rate than her student loan and doesn't come with any tax advantages, it's wise to pay it down first. 

Once you've put your PIP plan into motion, you can work on other goals, such as saving for a house, vacation, college, or any other dream you have. 

Questions to ask when you have extra money

Here are five questions to ask yourself when you have a cash windfall or accumulate savings and aren’t sure what to do with it.

1. Do I have emergency savings?

Having some emergency money is critical for a healthy financial life because no one can predict the future. You might have a considerable unexpected expense or lose income.  

Without emergency money to fall back on, you're living on the edge, financially speaking. So never turn down the opportunity to build a cash reserve before spending money on anything else.

2. Do I contribute to a retirement account at work?

Getting a windfall could be the ticket to getting started with a retirement plan or increasing contributions. It's wise to invest at least 10% to 15% of your gross income for retirement.

Investing in a workplace retirement plan is an excellent way to set aside small amounts of money regularly. You'll build wealth for the future, cut your taxes, and maybe even get some employer matching.

3. Do I have an IRA?

Don't have a job with a retirement plan? Not a problem. If you (or a spouse when you file taxes jointly) have some amount of earned income, you can contribute to a traditional or a Roth IRA. Even if you contribute to a retirement plan at work, you can still max out an IRA in the same year—which is a great way to use a cash windfall.

4. Do I have high-interest debt?

If you have expensive debt, such as credit cards or payday loans, paying them down is the next best way to spend extra money. Take the opportunity to use a windfall to get rid of high-interest debt and stay out of debt in the future. 

5. Do I have other financial goals?

After you’ve built up your emergency fund, have money flowing into tax-advantaged retirement accounts, and are whittling down high-interest debt, start thinking about other financial goals. Do you want to buy a house? Go to graduate school? Send your kids to college?

How to manage a cash windfall

Review your financial situation at least once a year to make sure you’re still on track.

When it comes to managing extra money, always consider the big picture of your financial life and choose strategies that follow my PIP plan in order: prepare for the unexpected, invest for the future, and pay off high-interest debt.

Review your situation at least once a year to make sure you’re still on track. As your life changes, you may need more or less emergency money or insurance coverage.

When your income increases, take the opportunity to bump up your retirement contribution—even increasing it one percent per year can make a huge difference.

And here's another important quick and dirty tip: when you make more money, don't let your cost of living increase as well. If you earn more but maintain or even decrease your expenses, you'll be able to reach your financial goals faster.

Who invented the index fund? A brief (true) history of index funds

Pop quiz! If I asked you, “Who invented the index fund?” what would your answer be? I’ll bet most of you don’t know and don’t care. But those who do care would probably answer, “John Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group.” And that’s what I would have answered too until a few weeks ago.

But, it turns out, this answer is false.

Yes, Bogle founded the first publicly-available index fund. And yes, Bogle is responsible for popularizing and promoting index funds as the “common sense” investment answer for the average person. For this, he deserves much praise.

But Bogle did not invent index funds. In fact, for a long time he was opposed to the very idea of them!

John Bogle did not invent index funds

Recently, while writing the investing lesson for my upcoming Audible course about the basics of financial independence, I found myself deep down a rabbit hole. What started as a simple Google search to verify that Bogle was indeed the creator of index funds led me to a “secret history” of which I’d been completely unaware.

In this article, I’ve done my best to assemble the bits and pieces I discovered while tracking down the origins of index funds. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes here. (If you spot an error or know of additional info that should be included, drop me a line.)

Here then, is a brief history of index funds.