Clayton Daniel shows how you can use the money and time you have today to fund your ideal lifestyle.

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Show Notes

Our regular hosts, Harlan and Miranda, are joined today by regular contributor and guest co-host, Jana Lynch. Today’s guest is Clayton Daniel, author of Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle.

What is it that you really want out of life? Are you spending too much time at work? Here’s how to stop feeling like you’re wasting the best years of your life.

Happiness and fulfillment come about when you identify what you want and find ways to achieve it with the resources (time and money) that you do have.

Clayton Daniel is a personal finance expert specializing in cognitive minimalism: the belief that outsourcing the greatest stresses in life such as money to technology and automation, result in better performance across every other area of life. Visit Clayton online at Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle.

Clayton spent ten years of his corporate career in accounting and financial advice. As personal finance flourished online, Clayton identified a broadening gap between what could be offered through financial planning, and what genuinely helped people succeed in achieving what they wanted out of life.

Clayton’s professional experience is in tax accounting, and financial advice with Dixon Advisory, AMP and his own company Hillross Silverstone. He has worked with the AFA, XY Adviser and the University of NSW.

Listen to the podcast audio by using the player above.

Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Edited and mixed bySteven Flato

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We hear horror stories about taxes, but for most people, it’s not so bad. Here’s what you need to know as a tax filing virgin.

Ugh. Taxes.

Preparing your taxes for the first time isn’t exactly fun.

The good news, though, is that it doesn’t have be scary. We hear horror stories, but it’s not as bad as all that.

A little knowledge goes a long way. Before you get caught up in a worry spiral, here are a few things to know about preparing your taxes for the first time:

There’s plenty of free tax help available.

First of all, realize that there is plenty of free tax help available to you.

If you live in a college town, there’s a good chance that you can get help from students in the accounting program. Many business departments encourage students to prepare tax returns, and their instructors double-check their work.

Also, see if your local area has a VITA program. These sites help you prepare your taxes if you make $54,000 or less. It’s a good way to get another pair of eyes and some solid support for your tax prep needs.

You can even file your taxes for free.

If you’re doing your taxes for the first time, there’s a good chance you qualify to file for free. Assuming your household income is less than $64,000, you can take advantage of Free File.

Well-known companies like TurboTax and H&R Block participate in Free File options. Plus, depending on your state, you might even get free help filing your state taxes.

You don’t have to itemize for good tax deductions.

When you hear words like “itemize,” you probably zone out. The good news is that you probably don’t have to worry about itemizing when preparing your taxes for the first time. You won’t even miss out on some pretty sweet deductions, either.

Some of the deductions you’re most likely to take this go are on the first page of your Form 1040. These include:

  • Moving expenses (if you move for work)
  • Student loan interest
  • Tuition and fees
  • Portion of your self-employment tax (if you have a side gig)

There are other deductions you can take without itemizing, such as contributions to your Health Savings Account and to your Traditional IRA.

You can keep digital records.

It’s possible to prepare your taxes with the help of your phone. On top of that, you can keep digital records of your receipts and other records you might need. An app like Shoeboxed can help you manage everything digitally, so there’s no need to mess with paper.

Just scan everything or snap a picture and manage it digitally so you can streamline the process. It makes things easier, whether you’re filing taxes for the first time or the tenth.

File an extension if you need to.

Stressed about getting everything done by April 15?

Slow down, take a deep breath. Then file an extension. The last thing you want to do is rush through the process and make unnecessary mistakes.

While filing an extension doesn’t protect you from paying if you owe (but, really, if this is your first time with taxes, you probably don’t), but it can give you time to get your shit together.

It’s much less stressful to file an extension than try to get everything done on time if you’ve fallen behind. And you don’t even need any special reason to file for an extension.

You’ll feel better in the future if you plan ahead and manage your taxes as you go through the year, but for now, file that extension if you feel the pressure to get done on time.

Stay away from scams and refund anticipation loans.

Even seasoned tax filers sometimes make poor decisions — and that includes getting scammed.

Watch out for tax preparers that are willing to fudge the numbers a bit or claim that you are “guaranteed” something before they even know your situation.

Stick with the old standbys when you first file your taxes. Reputable and well-known tax prep software, or those retail tax prep places are usually good bets for tax filing virgins. As your situation becomes more complicated, you can start looking for more tailored advice.

While you’re at it, watch out for people who will “accelerate” your refund. In most cases, those are costly loans that come with huge fees.

The truth is that, even if you are doing your taxes for the first time, you can get your refund fast by filing electronically and choosing the direct deposit option. You don’t need an expensive loan to get your refund quickly.

Double-check everything before you send it in.

Before you send in your return, make sure that you check everything.

Even if you trust your tax preparer, look over everything. If you find a mistake after hit send, you have to file an amended return, and that is a real pain in the ass. You can only file an amended return in hardcopy.

Whether your doing taxes for the first time, or you’re an old pro, take a few minutes to review your return, and see if it makes sense. You’ll be happy you did.

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As long as you are shameless at pinching pennies and strangers don’t creep you out, you can make bank with the sharing economy.

One of the best developments for people’s money in the digital age is the ability to take advantage of the sharing economy. You can hack your way to substantial budget savings.

When I discovered that I could save money with a few simple strategies and my phone, I drank the kool-aid to begin hacking my savings, and you should too.

Are you still paying full-price?

If you’re paying full price for anything, I have to ask: how much money you’re making to leave cash on the table? The best thing about the sharing economy is that you are rewarded for talking about your favorite goods and services.

You get discounts, access to promos, and a host of other budget-saving perks. Thanks to the rise of the sharing economy, you can do more while spending less.

What is the sharing economy?

When we talk about the sharing economy let’s talk about what that actually means. It’s a system that allows citizen/consumers to share: their own skills, actual homes, cares, or affiliate links to save money or make money through collaboration.

It’s the best thing ever.

I love the sharing economy and hope you’ll embrace it like I have.

How to save money with the sharing economy.

Let’s walk through the process of saving your money the sharing economy way.

First, it pains me to ask this, but, do you have a smartphone? Not everyone is a millennial. You just may be the one random person who is a holdout or from a different generation stopping by to see what Adulting is all about.

Ok, now that we’ve established that your technology is from this century let’s ease into some of the easiest ways you can share your way to savings. 

Figure out your money habits. Ask yourself (and be honest): are you a shopper, a saver, or a mix of both? Do you love to travel? Or do you stay home? By asking yourself these questions you’re better able to scout out the right apps and websites that will help you save your money.

I lean towards the spending side of things so I had to find sharing economy tools that help me manage that habit and save me money at the same time.

Download the right tools.

Now that you’ve figured out your money habits, download the Honey extension to Chrome.

I love Honey! Basically, it finds coupon codes and applies them to before you finalize your purchase. How is this a part of the sharing economy?

While Honey is a little outside of what I will talk about later but part of the sharing economy is to share information with your friends and family.  Basically, one of the most important components to the sharing economy is sharing ways that people can save or make more money with cool digital tools.

You can also download other extensions and tools like Ebates and Swagbucks. These tools can help you pocket a little extra change each time you buy.

Evangelize your favorite tools.

Next, become a cheerleader for your favorite apps, products, or resources.

Companies want you to become evangelists for their products. They have created affiliate programs for their customers to share shoutouts about their favorite products and companies. The customer (you) receives either credit towards future purchases or cash. Nice.

A couple of years ago I discovered that (an online consignment store) had an affiliate program and I was able to share my way to almost $2,000 in clothing credit. Yep, that was a lot of clothing and I ended up buying clothes for my friend’s kids.

If you’re curious about whether or not your favorite product or company has an affiliate program, go to your personal profile for the product or service and see if there is an affiliate link. Companies like Ibotta, Digit, Ebates, and more all provide an affiliate link to members who sign up to use their product.

Stop by the library.

The next stop in slashing your budget is checking out your local library.

Yep, it’s a little geeky, but some libraries have begun a program called “The Library of Things.” Basically, you can check out items that you would normally purchase. I am currently on the waitlist for a GoPro. Some libraries allow patrons to check out sewing machines, videos, and projectors. The list goes on.


There are also bartering communities and sharing systems where members pay a small fee to check out an item that they would use infrequently.

Maybe you’re about to do a small remodeling project and need a piece of equipment to work on this project. Instead of buying that equipment for a couple of hundred dollars, you could rent it for a nominal fee.

Grow your income in the sharing economy.

Are you broke and you’re a great driver and not creeped out by strangers? 

Driving for Uber or Lyft may be a great way to grow your income. Likewise, you can open up your home as an Airbnb host and make money by hosting guests to your town.

There are tons of ways to make a little extra scratch with the sharing economy.

Perhaps the best thing about the sharing economy is the ease at which you can be rewarded for sharing your strengths, your time, or your home. You work hard for your money, don’t throw it away, and have fun while your discover all the ways that you can save or make money in today’s sharing economy.

You work hard for your money; don’t throw it away. Have fun while you discover all the ways that you can save or make money in today’s sharing economy.

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You could embarrass yourself and cause money problems if you screw up writing a check.

Checkbooks are almost obsolete. But the old form of transferring money from one person to another is not quite ready to give up the ghost. Venmo might be fine for working out how to split the dinner check when you’re out with friends, and online bill pay definitely reduces headaches, but sometimes you have to pay a bill or put an initial payment down on a car, and you need to use a personal check.

File this under Essential Financial Skills for now. Having this skill makes you a financial bad-ass, or at least a budding financial bad-ass.

Checks come in books from companies that partner with your bank. Or you can order them separately for any checking account from independent checkbook companies. You can get fancy designs, which always cost money, or you can get a basic, traditional check design like the one I’ll use as an example here.

The fancy designs cost more. But whenever I open a new checking account, I make sure the bank will provide at least the first box of checks for free, if not free boxes of checks for the entire time I own the account.

Personal checkbooks usually have two options: single or duplicate. Duplicate checks just have special paper underneath each check that duplicates what you write so you have a record of it. That makes is easier to balance your checkbook and watch your finances.

The single checks assume you will remember what you paid, and they usually come with a check register. I always choose the duplicate checks because I find them more convenient when writing out a number of checks at a time, which I often do when I pay my bills.

Here’s an important piece of advice: Don’t write a check for money that you do not have in your checking account. Always track your finances so you know how much is available to pay. If you have $1,000 in your account and you know your $500 rent is about to be deducted from that account, you can’t write a check for $600 until you get more money.

Don’t try to beat the system thinking you’ll deposit more by the time someone cashes your check. Many checks are cashed electronically now and the money will disappear fast. It isn’t worth the overdraft fees or returned check fees.

Here’s what a typical check will look like once you’ve written it out. Take a look at this sample and the explanations below. (Someone seems to have a sizable power service bill from the Pulsar Quasar Electric & Gas company.)

Cash me at da bank, how bow dah?

Naturally, your check won’t have “VOID” and “NOT A REAL CHECK” written on it. That’s just so no one’s inclined to try to use this graphic for any other purpose than as an example.

Here are the parts of the check as labeled above, and what you need to know about each section.

  1. Your address. If you ordered checks from the bank, this should be the address on your account. If you purchased checks separately, this will be whatever address you provided when you bought them. Make sure it’s accurate. But it will not hold up your money if it is incorrect. Some companies prefer you to also include your phone number, which you can write below your address or on the memo line (area 7) if you are so inclined.
  2. The check number. You should write your checks out in numerical order as much as possible. That makes it so much easier to tell, when looking at your bank statement or activity, if someone still hasn’t cashed your check.
  3. The date. When you write a check, put that day’s date here, and spell the month name out so there’s no chance of confusion. Pre-dating a check is when you write an earlier date. That’s completely unnecessary. If the company receives the check late, it’s still late, regardless of the date that’s written on the check. Post-dating is the opposite: writing a date that’s later than the current date. Some will do this when they know a deposit is coming and they don’t have money they need to cover the check in the bank account yet. Here’s the problem: any recipient can cash a check before the date that’s written on this line. Post-dating does not protect you. You could ask nicely and maybe the recipient won’t cash or deposit the check until the date you specify, but no one is required to wait. Big companies won’t. They’ll just ignore your post-dating attempt.
  4. The name of the recipient. This will either be a person’s name or a business name. Double-check the name, including the spelling. If the name is not correct, it can cause problems for the recipient when he or she (or the business) attempts to deposit it. Fill any blank space on this line with a line. This slightly helps prevent fraud, and I like to put a line wherever there is empty space.
  5. The dollar amount of the check. Write out the amount in Arabic numerals. If there are no cents, I like drawing a line as pictured above instead of writing the double-zero in 5,722.00. This is a personal preference.
  6. The amount of the check written out. Spell out the amount of the check. If you run out of space for the cents, you can draw a horizontal line and put the amount of cents all the way to the right above the line. Put two cross marks (exes) underneath the line. (See the second example below.) You don’t need to write the word “dollars” because that is already printed on the check. The word “and” should only be used in place of the decimal point in the amount.
  7. The memo line. Write something on this line that helps the recipient identify what that payment is for — or if you use duplicate checks, you can also use the memo line for a reminder for yourself. Some companies instruct you to use this for your account number or phone number.
  8. Your signature. Paper checks are not valid without your signature. Don’t forget to sign your check before you send it away or hand it to the person or company you’re trying to pay.
  9. Bank information. The number on the left is your bank’s routing (ABA) number. The next number on the bottom line of the check is your account number. Together, these two numbers identify your account and allow a bank to process your check. You should keep these numbers private, between you and the recipient only. The third set of digits is your check number. It should match the number at the top (indicated with a “2” in the example).

Here’s an alternative example without a round dollar amount, so you can see how the cents are written both in area 5 and area 6.

You have a number of options when writing amounts, and it doesn’t really make a difference exactly how you do it, as long as the amounts are absolutely clear, and the amounts in area 5 and area 6 match exactly.

If you don’t get checks for free through your bank account, you can order blank checks from any number of companies. Some of the most recognizable are Harland Clarke, Deluxe, and Checks Unlimited, but you can find more options on Vistaprint, Costco, and any number of other services and professional printers. You can even print your own.

Someday, paper checks will likely be eliminated from the banking system completely, but that’s a long way down the road. For now, even though they’re not as necessary in everyday life, you may still need to write occasional paper checks. Now you know what you need to know.

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Develop the money management skills that will have you adulting financially in no time. Like a boss.

Resolutions are for suckers.

Well, sort of.

The idea of accomplishing specific yearly goals almost always ends up being a pipe dream. There’s a better way.

Rather than setting hard benchmarks that lead to clear win/lose scenarios, try aiming to improve in a more general sense. When you take away the pressure of abject failure, it’s much easier to work towards a better you.

For most of us, that probably includes learning how to better manage our finances.

Money management skills may not be the most important thing you could work on, but it’s probably the most needed. When’s the last time you checked your credit score? Re-filled your emergency fund? Talked to a financial advisor?

Even if you’ve done all these things recently, there’s probably a blind spot somewhere in your financial habits. Here’s how you can spot those weaknesses and address them.

Find your weak points.

Working on your money management skills is like trying to lose weight. You have to know what your weak points are if you want to see success. Are you eating too much or not exercising enough? Knowing where you’re deficient is the only way you can reach your goal.

Personal finance is the same way. You have to investigate what’s going wrong before you can improve anything. Are you spending more than you earn? Are your expenses too high? Are you not saving enough?

Go through your bank and credit card statements for the last couple months and write down how much you’re spending and saving. Divide your expenses into the following categories:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • Healthcare
  • Transportation
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment
  • Debt Payments
  • Utilities
  • Miscellaneous

Seeing your expenses laid out will show where you’re going wrong.

Compare your spending to your income. Are you spending almost 90% of what you earn? Are your loans taking a huge chunk of your income? That might explain why you can’t seem to save for emergencies or retirement.

Before you can work on a solution, you have to figure out what the problem is.

Start small.

Once you’ve identified what’s going wrong, you might be tempted to jump in the deep end. Don’t. Starting too quickly will lead to burnout and exhaustion, even before you’ve reached the one-month mark.

Don’t. Starting too quickly will lead to burnout and exhaustion, even before you’ve reached the one-month mark.

Starting too quickly will lead to burnout and exhaustion, even before you’ve reached the one-month mark.

Start with small, measured changes. For example, if you eat out three times a week, try cutting back to one or two. Then after a month, see if you can dial that back even further.

Going cold turkey might work for some people, but it can backfire for others. Like working out, if you do too much too fast, you might end up injured and less motivated than before.

Changing your financial habits and building better money management skills take time, so be patient with yourself and confident in the direction you’re heading. If you’re putting in consistent work, you’ll get there eventually.

Try different methods.

When you Google “how to budget,” you find millions of search results. Some experts recommend the cash envelope method, while others advocate using a mobile app. Each method has its own proponents who claim that nothing else works as well. In reality, it all depends on the person.

The best budgeting method is the one that works for you — and that you stick to in the long run.

If you’ve failed at budgeting or saving in the past, maybe the method you chose sealed your fate. Try a few different strategies until you find one that works for your personality and tendencies.

Seek outside inspiration.

No matter your financial goal, making the journey with other people is better than going it alone. You can find a community of like-minded people on internet forums, by taking financial classes or even searching on Facebook.

A community can make you feel more supported in your goals. Personal finance is still a taboo amongst many groups of people, so seek the support of strangers if your own loved ones are squeamish about the subject.

Reading finance blogs and books, as well as listening to podcasts, can inspire different ideas and serve as educational tools.

No matter what you’re trying to do, there’s someone out there writing about how they did it.

Track your progress.

When I decided to pay off my student loans quickly, I started blogging about it. I thought I’d feel more committed to my goal if I made it public. That ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I tracked my progress on the blog – celebrating when I made big payments, when my balance got down to four figures and when I made my last payment. My readers supported me throughout my journey, especially when I felt stressed and discouraged.

You don’t have to start a public blog, but it can help to document what you’re doing. A simple notebook or journal – even a private blog that’s password-protected – can work.

Seeing where you’ve been can make you feel better about where you’re going, especially when it starts to feel like a slog.

Money management skills don’t just appear. You need to cultivate them. Make an effort to improve, track your progress, and reap the long-term benefit of better finances.

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Every year you have to wade through health insurance plans. It’s such a PITA. We’ve got your guide to figuring it out.

The best way to support is to subscribe and leave us an honest review. Thank you!

Choosing health insurance is a huge PITA. You know it. We know it. Everyone knows it.

Unfortunately, it has to be done.

In this episode, we talk about the realities of the health care system, and we discuss what you need to know when navigating your choices. It’s never pretty, but you can make the best of the situation.


  • An overview of the health care and insurance system.
  • Reasons that choosing health coverage is so difficult.
  • What you need to know about costs and health care coverage.
  • The ACA and your health care choices.
  • Tips for figuring out what coverage you need.
  • Strategies for evaluating your health insurance options.
  • Understanding health insurance alphabet soup: HMO, HSA, PPO, EPO.
  • When a high-deductible plan might make sense (and when to avoid it).
  • Ideas for reducing health care costs.

Pay attention to our “do nows” so that you can start mapping out your next steps for getting the right health insurance, including understanding how provider networks work. Our listener question deals with your options for affordable health insurance.

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Difficulties of choosing health insurance
Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart

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You’re a grown-ass adult. It’s time to suck it up, get a job, and stop taking money from Mom and Dad.

According to a 2016 Fidelity study, 47% of millennials have received some sort of monetary support from their parents. This support was “most likely to take the form of help with a cell phone bill, utilities or groceries.”

The cost to raise children today is much more expensive than ever before in history. In fact, between 2000 and 2010, the cost to raise a child increased 40% or $60,000. The most recent estimate from the USDA is that the cost to raise a child from birth to the age of 18, not including college, is $233,610.

If you’re taking money from Mom and Dad, you’re part of the problem. They’ve spent enough just to raise you, and now you’re asking for moar?

Every generation since the 1980s lives with their parents longer or boomerang back to the nest more frequently than the generation before them. Boomerang kids are now at its highest level since World War II.

When is enough enough?

Here are eight signs when it’s time to kindly thank Mom and Dad for their investment and walk away.

You have a job.

If you have a job, start cutting back on your parental monetary fund. Even if you only cut back a little at a time because you’re starting your career, the goal should be to become fiscally independent as soon as reasonably possible.

If you find your fiscal dependency is scheduled to last in perpetuity, you’re not doing it right.

You don’t have a job, but should.

If you don’t have a job but should, it’s time to grow up and get a job. Over time, complaints about the economy, who’s president, who’s not president, fairness or unfairness of life are excuses.

As entrepreneur and author Ryan Blair said, “If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” Over time, you own your lack of employment or your underemployment.

Stop taking money from Mom and Dad and get make your own money. Everyone will be much happier in the long run.

You hear your parents fighting about money.

As much as the cost of having and raising children have grown, so too has the cost of adulting.

Adult expenses, such as healthcare, medicine, and taxes have grown and wages have not. This means it’s harder and harder for Mom and Dad to get by from paycheck to paycheck.

By 35%, money is the leading cause of stress in relationships. Don’t add to Mom and Dad’s financial stress by being a financial leech. If you hear or sense financial friction between Mom and Dad, it’s time for you to become economically independent.

Your parents drop hints that it’s time you pay your own way.

It’s often hard for parents to push their kids fully and completely out of the proverbial nest. Therefore, they’ll drop sly or even passive-aggressive hints that it’s time you pay your on way.

If you hear comments such as “It would be nice if someone paid for me once in a while” or “It’s nice you have all that money (even when you don’t pay for a thing),” it may be time you paid for your own things.

Stop taking money from Mom and Dad when even they have exhausted their patience. You’re not that special.

Your parents are approaching retirement.

It’s more expensive to retire in America than ever. This trend has continued for decades over many presidential administrations.

Older Americans are finding it harder to hold onto jobs, if they can even retain incomes that keep up with the rate of inflation. As housing, healthcare, and prescription drugs costs increase, Social Security becomes less and less helpful.

Many parents have sacrificed retirement nest eggs to put children through college. As you may be struggling with student loan debt, Mom and Dad may be struggling with retirement insecurity.

As your parents approach retirement, within maybe decades, it’s time to stop stealing from their future.

Put on your big-person pants, stop taking money from Mom and Dad, and become a contributing member of society.

When your parents are in retirement.

If your parents are in retirement and you’re still taking their money, stop.

When you have nicer things than your parents.

If any or all aspects of your life (think: car, vacations, home, phone) are nicer than your parent’s, then it’s time to stop relying on parental funding.

Sure, mom may not need or want the new iPhone and dad may hate the idea of taking on a new car payment. That doesn’t mean they want to forsake a fat retirement account for your “phat” lifestyle.

If you’re living like The Kardashians and they’re living like Rosanne and Dan Conner, it’s time to cut the purse strings.

When you can cover your own essentials.

There will always be parents who can’t stop giving money to their children and grandchildren. It’s cute when grandparents give money to grandchildren. It’s not cute when parents give money to adult children.

While there may be many reasons for their drive to do so, there’s one reason to make them stop. You don’t need their money.

These are just a few of the reason to stop making Mom and Dad take care of you. At some point, it’s not their responsibility to take care of you. You need to stop taking money from Mom and Dad.

Do both them and yourself a favor and make this decision independently. And do it sooner rather than later. You’ll both be happier for it.

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