Screw the huge salary and 80-hour workweeks. Do your benefits help you actually LIVE your life? Read More...

When you start a new job — including your first job — salary seems like the most important issue.

Making money is important.

We all enjoy eating and most of us like to have a little fun, too.

But it’s not just about the salary or the hourly wage. When my now-ex-husband got his first real job after, I was shocked, shocked, at how much easier life became with the addition of benefits.

For years, we’d been without benefits, with me cobbling together a “package” using IRAs, individual health insurance, and other financial accounts and tools. And then that glorious time came.

The time of benefits.

Health insurance is your BFF.

The biggest bonus was health insurance. We’d been paying for private health insurance for a decade, using my earnings as a freelancer to pay for everything. Every year, as has been the case for decades, prices went up. That’s the nature of health insurance. And for families and individuals without health benefits, it can be almost unmanageable.

With my ex’s employer subsidizing our coverage, our premium was cut in half, and we had a better plan. That was money in our pockets — on top of the fact that he was making more money.

I swear, one of the biggest disappointments of the divorce was the prospect of going back to being entirely responsible for my own health insurance.

Luckily, accepting a remote job with Student Loan Hero a year after the divorce helped the situation. I now work for a company that pays my entire health insurance premium. It’s a huge load off my budget and my mind.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have an employer who pays the whole premium. However, your employer might be paying as much as 68% of your premium if you have health benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are paying $250 per month for your health benefits, there’s a good chance they cost as much as $368. That’s a savings of $118 a month. It’s like making an extra $1,416 a year.

Paid vacation days are totes amazing.

Get paid even while you aren’t at work? Yes, please!

If you can negotiate a package that allows you to take vacation days and still get paid for them, you are doing something right. It might be worth it to accept a little less in terms of salary if you don’t have to worry how you’ll make up the money for the days you missed to attend SXSW.

Many companies offer 14 days a year of paid vacation. Others might offer a little less or a little more. Check into how much paid vacation you get and see if you can negotiate a little more to make up for a slightly lower salary.

Even if you don’t get paid vacation days, some companies are willing to offer extra personal days (although you won’t get paid for these).

If you could take extra time off to live life, would you take it even if you aren’t getting paid? I would.

Just being able to take that time can be a huge relief. And, if you get into a side hustle, you can use some of that time off to potentially make money doing something you like more.

Don’t discount time off — paid or unpaid — when it comes to your job.

Nothing beats flexibility.

Money Isn't Everything: Are Your Benefits On Fleek?

There is nothing — nothing — I value more than freedom and flexibility. Increasingly, companies are offering benefits that include flexible work schedules.

Thanks to technology, a number of jobs now come with location independence, and there are some companies that allow completely remote workers. I work for one of those companies myself. It’s an amazing perk that can be almost as valuable as another $10,000 a year.

Even if you don’t get to work in your jammies or from the coffee shop every day, you might be able to negotiate telecommuting privileges for two or three days a week or customize your schedule to come in earlier or later in the day. Being able to manage your schedule around your life is a big plus.

I have a friend who is willing to accept a little less in terms of salary because his employer allows him to work three 12-hour days a week. That means that he has four days off each week, and is still considered full-time and enjoys health benefits. That level of flexibility is worth $7,000 a year to him.

Is there a way for you to get some sort of concession like that? Maybe it’s coming in from 10 am to 6 pm. Or maybe it’s going in at 7:00 am to be done at 3 pm. Perhaps you just want a two-hour lunch break so you can go to the gym in the middle of the day, or meet your friends.

No matter what it is, the ability to boost your quality of life makes a huge difference in your job satisfaction and performance.

How fierce is your retirement plan?

No matter how much money you make, investing can help you prepare for the future.

The easiest way to invest is through your company’s retirement plan. Your money is automatically withheld from your paycheck and invested for the future.

And if your company’s plan is truly fierce, you’ll get an employer match. That’s free money that goes toward your future, building your retirement portfolio. It’s hard to beat that.

Companies that offer good retirement plan benefits can get a leg up in attracting talented workers. And you benefit as well. So what if you don’t get another $9,000 a year? The reality is that the value of a retirement plan with an employer match is worth way more than that. The free money that goes into your account and grows through the magic of compound returns ends up being worth waaaaay more than that in the long run.

Other epic benefits.

Companies are interested in attracting the best and the brightest, and if that’s you, there are plenty of other epic benefits that you might be able to enjoy at the right company — and that might be worth more than mere money:

  • On-site fitness center or a paid membership to a local gym
  • Meals in a cafeteria that serves actual food
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Student loan repayment help
  • Career development and training resources
  • Equipment, such as a smartphone or a laptop
  • Attractive and diverse workspaces (including open offices, standing desks, and other innovative perks)

There are a number of companies willing to offer high-end perks, ranging from concerts to concierge services.

So, while you might not get a huge salary, you might end up with a better quality of life. What’s the point of having a big salary if you end up working 60 to 70 hours a week and you don’t have any time to enjoy the money?

The reality of salary vs. benefits.

Before you get hung up salary, think of your preferred lifestyle. Your life is going to such if you work 80 hours a week with no time for true enjoyment.

You might have a lot of money, but are you enjoying life now?

There’s more to life than work. There’s more to life than having a lot of money. We often see money as a status symbol, but does it help you live better? Will it help you develop more meaningful relationships?

When you think of your compensation package holistically, including the value of the benefits and the kind of life you can live, things change.

The right benefits can be worth more than a few thousand extra dollars per year.

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Always coming up short when you’re out. Never paying their fair share. What do you do when you’re always covering? Read More...

We’ve all had that friend. You know the one.

When the dinner bill comes, they severely underestimate their share (let alone account for tax and tip). You spot them $10 here and $20 there — and they always “forget” to pay you back.

But you let it slide every time. After all, what’s a few bucks among good friends?

That used to be your attitude.

Lately, your desire for a person’s company has a perfect negative correlation to how much of their crap you are required to put up with. You are, in fact, too old for this shit.

You’d like to stay friends with your broke friend, but it seems like an almost impossible task. If you want to maintain the friendship, it will take a little work. And maybe a couple of drastic measures.

Here’s how to deal with that friend who makes you feel more like a bank than their buddy — without killing the relationship.

Be honest.

The great thing about friends (real friends — not the people you pretend to like out of various social obligations) is that you can tell them the truth and they’ll still be your friend. A true friend gets that sometimes you say and do things out of tough love.

You’re not doing anyone any favors by pretending your pal’s poor money etiquette doesn’t bother you. Besides, leaving those feelings festering just creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone. Your friends can sense your displeasure.

So the next time they leave you hanging with the bill, be up front and tell them how much they owe right then and there. Clear the air.

Add that you’re pretty strapped for cash as well and can’t afford to cover them. Consistently push back rather than ignore the behavior. Eventually, they’ll get it and stop mooching all the time.

And if this honesty does cause a rift in your relationship, it’s probably time to reevaluate whether you two shared a real friendship at all. No one likes being the ATM all the time.

Find cheap or free things to do.

A novel idea, right?

As much as you’re annoyed by your pal’s perpetual brokeness, they likely feel pressured to keep up with the group financially, too. After all, if your group is always going out, the FOMO is real for you — and for your annoying broke friend.

That’s a tough spot to be in. As a friend, though, you can be part of the solution. Find ways to spend quality time together that don’t force your buddy into yet another awkward situation. There’s no reason to hit the clubs every weekend or go out to expensive restaurants.

Besides, one of the best things about friends is that all you really need is each other’s company to have an awesome time.

Check your local weekly for low-cost and free events such as concerts, art exhibits, and movie screenings. Have a picnic at the beach (or in the park). Go for a hike. Get dressed up, pretend you’re rich, and hop from one open house to the next while eating all their snacks along the way.

Or, just have a chill evening at home, playing games and laughing.

No matter what you do, the important thing is that you have fun together — without spending a ton of money. Once you start getting creative about these types of activities, it’s easy to have a good time without breaking the bank.

Consider it a gift.

That Annoying Broke Friend

When your friend does ask for money, and you feel comfortable parting with the cash, treat it as a gift.

Loaning money turns a personal relationship into one of business, which opens the door for guilt and resentment on both sides — especially if the borrower isn’t able to pay up.

When you loan money, things get weird. Often, it’s better to just consider it a gift. Or, take turns paying for each other. However, if your broke friend can’t (or won’t) take a rightful turn, that can get just as ugly. When you give money to someone you are pretty sure won’t pay you back, just think of it as money gone and move on.

Bottom line.

It’s your choice whether or not you want to support your friend financially — and it’s perfectly fine if you do.

Keep in mind, however, that you can’t expect things to change if you continue to enable the situation. If your friend starts to rely on you, and the situation suddenly changes, you could be doing your friend a huge disservice. It’s vital to think through the implications.

Friendship is something that only becomes more precious as you grow older. As you watch your time with friends dwindle, you might worry that soon there will be no one left. As a result, it can be tempting to over-compromise in order to avoid conflict.

But true friendship is also built on honesty and desire to make each other happy. It’s a relationship that involves give and take. If you’re always the giver, it can get old fast. So don’t be afraid to share your feelings in a caring but straightforward manner if things are becoming unbearable.

Besides, you also have to think of your own money situation. At some point, you need to stop sacrificing your own well-being on behalf of someone who offers nothing in return. If your own financial goals are jeopardized in order to keep the peace between you and a broke friend, that friendship probably isn’t worth it in the first place.

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If you can handle a credit card like an adult, you might as well maximize the benefits! These best credit cards offer bonuses and other perks. Read More...

Updated for February 2018! Handling your finances like an adult includes knowing how to deal with credit cards. We all make mistakes sometimes. For me, it was taking a cash advance from a credit card when I hit my personal rock bottom. I felt like I didn’t have any other choice.

But years later, I’ve turned the tables on the credit card industry and now use credit cards to earn cash back and collect points for free travel, which I do often.

Here are my picks for the best credit cards across the different types of credit card offers that are available today. Note: all credit card deals are only worthwhile if you pay your balance off in full each month, like a proper adult. If you have to pay interest or a late payment fee, forget about maximizing credit card offers. Focus on getting your finances in shape first.

Best credit card bonus (for the not-so-typical adult).

Chase Sapphire Reserve 50,000 Bonus Points. Unfortunately, Chase has ended its 100,000 bonus points offer that was available when applying from within a Chase branch. What Chase offers now is the reduced bonus point offer of 50,000 points, for which you can still apply online. That’s still pretty substantial. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, not waived the first year, but you will receive a reimbursement of up to $300 for certain travel expenses like checked-bag fees.

The rest of the benefits may be worth the $150 difference between the reimbursement maximum and the fee. You’ll need to spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months to receive the bonus. Get the 50,000 bonus points and you’re straight fire.

Best cash back credit card offer (for adults who like money).

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. The keys to a good cash back card are avoiding the annual fee, eliminating any hassle to retrieving the cash you earn, and finding a cash-back rate that’s above the average offer. 1% cash back is easy to find, but Blue Cash Everyday beats that with 3% cash back on groceries (limited), 2% at gas stations and certain department stores, and 1% on everything else.

There is currently a bonus offer, too. Apply now to earn $200 in cash back after spending $1,000 within the first three months.

Best travel rewards credit card offer (for adults who have places to be).

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card. If you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card, you should expect to find features that make travel easy. The biggest benefit, especially for the world traveler, is having no foreign transaction fee. Bank of America’s offer makes that happen, and does not charge an annual fee, either.

You earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend, unlimited, and those points are redeemed for a statement credit that covers flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees. There’s no need to convert points to miles or points with a specific airline or hotel chain. Because you use the card normally to pay for your travel expenses, there are no black-out dates.

Right now, this card is offering 20,000 bonus points which can be used to book airfare or hotel stays without restrictions.

Best balance transfer credit card (for adults who need to simplify).

Bank AmeriCard. If there’s one thing you want from a credit card you wish to use to transfer a balance, it’s the lack of a fee. If there’s another thing you want, it’s a low interest rate so you can pay off that balance transfer without any extra costs. BankAmericard has the perfect offer. For the first 60 days, you can transfer balances from your other cards for free, and you’ll have 15 months to pay off that balance without paying a cent in interest (0% APR) as long as you pay at least the minimum due each month.

This is the perfect opportunity to consolidate your balances across several cards and create one manageable, monthly payment. But pay the balance in full within the 15-month period! As a bonus, your purchases during the first 60 days will also be treated to the same 0% APR for the first 15 months.

Best credit card offer for students (for adults who are trying to adult).

Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students. I got my first credit card in college. I signed up and got a free tee-shirt. You get more when you are approved for Citi’s card for college students, probably the credit card offer with the most chill. There’s 2,500 bonus points available for those who sign up, and you have to spend only $500 in the first three months to qualify.

The purpose of a student card is to help you build credit, so don’t expect too many frills besides the basic rewards and introductory 0% APR for 7 months.

Best small business credit card (for adults who think they’re important).

Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express. This is the standard, and if you’re building your business beyond yourself, this is a great choice. Watch out for the $175 annual fee (waived for the first year) with the AmEx Business Gold Rewards Card. But, there’s currently a 50,000 bonus points offer, requiring only $5,000 in purchases over the first three months.

This is a charge card, not a credit card, so you pay your bill in full every month.

Best credit card for building credit (for adults who are just starting to adult).

Discover it Secured Credit Card. Building credit can be difficult if you didn’t have certain advantages growing up, like parents who had their own solid credit and a desire to ensure you were starting your adult life with good credit. Without those benefits, creating a solid financial future for yourself and your family will have more obstacles.

Secured credit cards help establish credit, which allows you to qualify for better mortgage rates (or a mortgage at all) when the time comes, better interest rates for other loans, better prices on insurance, and even better apartments. While you’ll be approved for the Discover it Secured Credit Card without a credit history, this is more than just a basic card. You earn cash back on every purchase (limited) and receive your FICO credit score for free.

What’s in your wallet?

Tell us what kind of card (or cards) you have. And what’s the best feature or you? Cash back, travel rewards, or something else?

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You don’t need big bucks to get a jump on everyone else. Read More...

Investing is one of those things that most of us stick in the “stuff I’ll have enough money to do later” file. We see investing as something you do when you aren’t broke af.

The best time to start investing is now, while you’re still young enough to recover from mistakes — and while you have time on your side. Even if you’re no longer “young,” you’ll never be younger than you are today, so investing belongs on today’s to-do list, not tomorrow’s.

It seems like a hopeless situation when you’re struggling with money right now. You know you should put your money to work, but you don’t have enough money to buy a couple hundred shares of Apple stock.

If you think you don’t have enough money to start investing, the good news is that you’re probably wrong. Even when you’re broke, you can still begin investing. It doesn’t take much to get started, and it’s also easier than you think.

Use a company retirement plan.

Now that you’ve got a real job, there’s a good chance that you have the option to contribute to a retirement plan offered by your employer. Many of us don’t think of putting money in a 401(k) as investing, but it is. There’s no substitute for good benefits, and if your company offers a plan, jump on it.

Talk to HR, and have some of your money diverted to a 401(k). If your company offers a match, that’s free money that you can use to invest. You won’t miss what you never see, which is why an automatic contribution from your paycheck is one of the best strategies when you want to invest when you’re broke. You won’t even miss the money from your paycheck. Just put away a small percentage of your paycheck to start —5% — or even 1%.

Your paycheck will be a smidge smaller but you won’t even notice — until you get those quarterly statements that show you how you’ve saved without realizing it.

Make dollar-cost averaging your bae.

The idea behind dollar-cost averaging is that you take a set amount of money each month (and you can start investing with as little as $25 or even less with WealthSimple) and invest it. Buy as many shares as you can with that money. Dollar-cost averaging is especially effective when you use your money to purchase low-cost index mutual funds or ETFs.

Here’s an example: With a regular paycheck going to a regular checking account, set up a plan at WealthSimple to automatically invest just $10 every paycheck. It adds up quickly, but you’ll barely notice it.

Indexing FTW.

Index funds and ETFs take all the work out of picking stocks. You get access to a section of the market, so the diversification is taken care of and you don’t have to worry about what happens when you choose wrong. I’m boring as hell when it comes to investing because I’m still into indexing. It’s how I roll.

If you’re putting money aside in a 401(k) from your paycheck, you’re already dollar-cost averaging — and probably indexing to boot.

If your company doesn’t have a retirement plan, you can still open your own. Many companies will let you open an IRA and put in as little as $50 per month (or even less). Make it automatic and you won’t have to think about it. I also like using Betterment to help me reach my goals. If you have $100 per month to invest, this can be a great way to get started.

Over time, you’ll grow your portfolio through consistency.

DRIP it up.

I like to invest in index funds and ETFs that pay dividends and automatically invest them. Many brokers and companies offer DRIPs, or plans that take dividends paid out to you and automatically use the money to buy additional shares.

Investing in dividends makes sense because dividends are payouts companies make based on the number of shares you own.

Use DRIPs to automatically buy more shares, and your next payout is larger. You can buy more shares and then get a bigger payout. It’s a beautiful cycle. My decision to use dollar-cost averaging with DRIP funds is the reason that my portfolio kept growing, even during the Great Recession.

You can find out more by watching this Facebook live on how to invest using dividends.

TBH, DRIPs seem pointless at first, especially if you invest when you’re broke. Who cares if you got a 20-cent payout? With automatic reinvesting, though, the cycle continues and eventually, as you stick with the dollar-cost averaging to buy more shares, and as your payouts get bigger, everything builds on itself.

It’s all about building a foundation and being consistent. As you put into practice these strategies TOGETHER, you are likely to see results over time.

Use your pocket change.

If you are absolutely certain that you can’t spare $50 a month for investing, consider using Acorns.

This app connects to your bank account and automatically rounds up your recent purchases and puts the difference in an investment account. The fees aren’t my favorite, but if you aren’t investing at all, and this will get you started, it’s better than nothing.

And once you get the hang of setting money aside, the next step is to open a Roth IRA at a brokerage — one that will result in fewer overall fees.

Commit to your money.

Once you start investing, look for ways to invest more. Don’t forget to increase the amount you invest as you earn more and climb the career ladder.

The spare change you invest now won’t completely fund your future. But it will give you a good start and help you start a habit that can benefit you for the rest of your life.

4 easy ways to start investing right now.

Even if you’re broke af, you can start investing today. Here are a few recommended actions you can take immediately, even if you don’t think you have spare change.


WealthSimple arrived in the United States after its success in Canada, and its strength is its cost. When you’re starting out with investing, you don’t want fees digging into your profits.

There’s no charge to transfer money from a bank account into your WealthSimple account. I started out with a $10 weekly investment, but you could start with $5 a month if you want, or if that’s all you can afford right now.

And there’s a special deal right now. If you open an account, you will receive a $50 bonus. Open an account today and get that $50.

When you sign up, you fill out a short questionnaire to determine how your money should be invested using a mix of exchange-traded funds — one of the most frugal ways to invest in stocks and bonds. You can accept their suggestions —and if you’re new to investing, that’s what we would suggest you do — or change them to suit your tastes if you have a little more experience with investing.

If your account stays under $5,000, you will not be charged any fee for the first year. Above or after that, the management fee is a small 0.5% — though, if you find yourself with more than $100,000 invested, they’ll reduce your fee to 0.4%. This is a great deal when it comes to investing, especially if you’re starting out with just a little bit of cash to invest.


If you’re open to a different kind of approach to investing, take a look at LendingClub. Rather than investing in stocks and bonds, you’re investing in loans. The returns are similar to stocks, and the risk is managed. The only drawback is that your investment is a little less liquid. That means if you need the money you’ve invested in an emergency situation, it might be hard to withdraw immediately. (That’s why it’s always best to have an emergency fund.)

LendingClub helps you pick out the best investments and gives you a good idea of what you can expect to return. You can use your investment to create an income stream. There’s a higher minimum investment of $1,000, but you can save up in a savings account until you are ready to start. After that, you can increase your investment with only $25.

Open an account with LendingClub today.

Ally Invest.

Ally Invest is a discount brokerage with truly low prices. Yes, the $4.95 fee per trade will cut into your profits if you invest small amounts in stocks or ETFs. If you want to invest frequently, WealthSimple mentioned above might be a better option, though your investment selection is limited. On the other hand, Ally Invest really lets you take control of your investments. There’s less guidance, but more flexibility.

Ally Invest used to be known as TradeKing, which made its name as one of the most popular discount online brokerages.

Open an account with Ally Invest today.


This is one of the godfathers of robo-investing. Betterment uses ETFs to help you reach your goals through asset allocation. You’ll be asked questions about your objectives, and your time frame. I love Betterment and use it to save for retirement, as well as to save up for travel.

You don’t need a ton to get started investing with Betterment, and your account comes with free automatic rebalancing and tax loss harvesting, if applicable. I also like how easy it is to adjust your investments for new goals. Plus, with the IRA, you have the option to have Betterment figure out how to max it out each year.

Open an account with Betterment today.

Learn how to invest and get started today.

There are three great options above for getting started with your investment portfolio. One of the great things about these options is that you can take advantage of time-tested strategies used by the best investors in the world.

Get started, and then learn more about investing. While I mostly stick to indexing, after I got started just putting something away, I discovered that I could learn more about investing and experiment a little. Now, I invest in REITs, and occasionally try the odd cryptocurrency. You don’t want to stake your future on these types of investments, but as you learn, you can try new things with “extra” money.

Every adult should have an investment account, and every adult should invest for their future, regardless of how difficult it might feel to let go of even $1 of cash today.

Your future you will thank your today you. All you need to do is just take one simple step forward today — even if it’s not a huge step.

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When I began my debt-freedom journey one of the biggest issues that I worried about was how my life would change.

Now, let’s think about that for a moment.

I was financially overextended, stressed out, and dealing with chronic anxiety from all of the debt that I was dealing with. But, my biggest concerns were:

  1. Would I lose the lifestyle that I had paid too much for?
  2. Would I have a somewhat normal social life during the debt repayment process?

Like many people, I spent a lot of money on going out to eat, trips, fashion, and fun. I thought that paying off debt would mean an end to all of that.

I soon discovered that I could have had all of those things in my life — if I reimagined how those wants would have a place in my life without financing them with debt.

Fortunately for you, I’ve figured out a ton of ways to have an amazing life doing pretty much the same stuff as before for free (or cheap) without affecting the quality of my experiences.

Get free stuff: how this works.

First, you actually have to believe that there are cool, fun, free, and amazing things that you could be enjoying right now!

I continue to be amazed by all of the free stuff that I get to do on a monthly basis. Tequila tasting and class? Check! Mixology class? Check! Professional development workshops? Check! Free travel? Check! I’ve done them all.

Now, you’re probably wondering: where on earth I’m finding all of these free events and resources?

Before I begin looking, I make sure that I am very clear about the free stuff I’m looking for. I’m specifically interested in the following types of free goods and services:

  • Experiences that enhance my social life.
  • Ways to educate myself for free.
  • Professional development opportunities.
  • Travel
  • Delicious meals
  • Classes
  • Clothing
  • Coffee (ahem)

I do not look for the following free goods and services:

  • Fast food-I don’t eat it.
  • Professional services such as hair care. I’ll pay for that or do it myself!

Once I know what I want, it becomes very easy to get free stuff I’m looking for. I will be candid and say that it the bigger the city you live in the easier it is to find free goods and services. However, there are freebies everywhere, so don’t count out your small town.


Your network doesn’t have to be huge, but, it helps to know people.

Spend some time actively meeting new people in your community at least once a month. Volunteer, attend regular meetings, basically be the person who shows up regularly, is helpful and shares cool tips and information with the people that you’re meeting.

Likewise, they will share similar information. I can’t tell you how many great deals I would have missed out on if I didn’t have the network that I do. Just having that network has clued me into awesome musical performances, cool classes, and insider tips and deals.

I’m officially obsessed with this amazing resource.

If you’re not familiar with Meetup, it was created in New York City after the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. It was a way to create and grow community.

Since then, it has morphed into a way to an incredible community building resource internationally. Here are examples of some of the free things that I’ve attended via Meetup: mixology classes in Denver (and may have gotten really drunk), hiking in the Blue Mountains of Australia, and digital marketing classes for my online business to name a few.

You can even find people for activities like book clubs, board game nights, and diner’s clubs. With meetup, you can find cool things to do and meet interesting people without spending a lot of money.

How does Meetup work? Well, it’s free to sign up for 95% of Meetup groups. Some group organizers will have a small fee to sign up, but I’ve never seen anything over $5.

The wonderful thing about Meetup is that the group leaders get group pricing for the different events that they put together. You get discounts, or even split the bill, making it cheaper for everyone.

In larger areas, for larger meetup groups, it’s also possible to connect with sponsors — like the large whiskey producer that provided the free mixology class that I attended. Free booze and lessons on how to mix up? Score!

Facebook Events.

In the past couple of years, I began paying more attention to the Facebook Events being shared in my feed.

I was amazed to find that there were so many free and inexpensive things to do in my town. I discovered that businesses often create one-off free events to get people to come in their doors and hopefully get enticed into continuing to come back for more.

Some events were to celebrate an anniversary or special event such as the Aspen-Snowmass 50th anniversary. They sold $6.50 lift tickets for a day of skiing. I’m on the lookout for other ski resort anniversaries in the upcoming years.

From live music at a local venue, to lectures in the park, to team trivia nights, to free help with your taxes, pay attention to Facebook Events. When you mark that you’re interested in something, you might be surprised that similar events appear in your feed. Many of these events are free or cheap.

Google it.

Your city probably hosts a ton of local events that you may be unaware of. Spend some time researching free or discounted days at the following places:

  • Museums
  • Recreation centers
  • Libraries
  • Botanical gardens
  • Coworking spaces

Because it’s the beginning of the New Year this is a fantastic time to spend half an hour looking for free fun for the year to come. Put the events on your calendar now!

Plus, Google is a great way to find promo codes. Before I buy something online, I do a quick search to see if I can get a percentage off — or even get free shipping.


I enjoy volunteering as much as the next person, I just think people spend time thinking about the value of their time. Basically, I’m at the point where I want to get paid for everything that I do.

That said, volunteering is a great way to gain access to festivals, sporting events, and more. Want to check out the music festival? Volunteer to help set up the stage, doing some cleanup, or collect tickets. I know EMTs who volunteer in their off-hours to be available about sporting events and concerts. They get free admission and most of the night is usually slow.

However, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the value of your time and the event that you would like to attend. Sometimes, it’s worth it to just pay the money and have a relaxing experience.

Create an Event.

This year I plan on creating the events that I would love to attend. I would also like to be paid for them as well (we’ll see how that goes).

Depending on the type of event that you’re creating this could be a huge time commitment. Again, don’t do this for free if it’s something that you should be paid for.

But, if you can organize a big enough event, you might be able to get sponsors and others to pick up the cost. Have fun, raise your stock in the community, and maybe get paid, too. That’s not bad for a day’s work.

Have fun.

Enjoy the journey as you find awesome events to attend throughout the year.

I love how I’ve saved thousands over the past year by spending a brief amount of time each week to find ways to continue to enjoy the same quality of life without going broke.

You can, too. It turns into a quest — one you can achieve with a little effort.

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You’re saving all right. You’re just putting your money in the wrong place. Read More...

Saving money is like eating healthy, sleeping or exercising. All the expert advice tends to boil down to one thing – you should do more of it.

But while working hard is great, working smart is even better. You can save every spare penny you earn, but planning for your financial future isn’t just about being frugal. You need to make sure that money is allocated properly and put to specific use.

Think of it like eating a balanced diet versus living on broccoli, chicken breast, and tap water. Sure, those are very healthy options, but a good diet requires some diversification and a little forethought to prevent vitamin deficiencies. Planning for your financial future takes a similar approach.

Your savings are a powerful tool – are you putting that money to good use?

The wrong place for your emergency fund.

When I ask people where they keep their emergency fund, they often say something like, “Oh, it’s in my regular checking account.”

Wrong. Keeping your emergency fund in your everyday checking account is like keeping a box of cookies on the counter when you’re on a diet. You should store your emergency fund like you’d hide the last box of Thin Mints — out of sight, out of mind. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to spend your money.

Other people have told me they invest all or part of their emergency fund — another bad choice. Since you can’t plan on when you’ll need your emergency fund, you shouldn’t risk it in the stock market.

(Miranda’s note: Actually, I have a bit of a disagreement here with our writer. I even keep part of my emergency fund in a taxable investment account. See how I emergency fund in this video done for Facebook Live.)

An emergency fund should always be liquid or easily accessible, like in a savings or money market account. Some consumers store theirs in a certificate of deposit (CD),  which has a maturity date. If you access your CD beforehand, you may forfeit several month’s worth of interest and pay a fee.

Carefully consider how and when you might need to access your emergency fund and come up with a plan for making sure you get the money you need.

The wrong place for your retirement fund.

A few weeks ago, my friend Martha asked me if she should move her IRA account to a different bank. She had been investing steadily for a few years but hadn’t seen any huge returns. For the past eight years, we’ve seen the second-longest bull market on record, so Martha should have seen growth in her IRA.

I asked her what she was investing in.

“Nothing,” she told me. “I didn’t realize an IRA was an investment account.”

Martha made a classic error I see from lots of new investors. They open an IRA or a 401k, fund it every month and then fail to choose investments. The money languishes in their cash settlement account, not growing at all.

Thankfully, Martha caught this mistake in her late 20s. A financial planner friend of mine told me about a client who spent decades depositing money in her IRA without making sure she was actually investing. She was in her 50s when he realized what was happening. If she had been investing, she could have retired already. Now she has to work at least another decade.

If you already have an IRA or 401k set up, access your account to see where that money is actually going. Is it set up in an index fund, a bond fund or a target-date fund? Or are you like my friend Martha?

You don’t want to be saving enough for retirement but putting it in the wrong place. The key to growing wealth over time is the right amount of money combined with consistent investment over a couple of decades.

Call the customer service department if you’re confused on how to select a fund since these websites can be painful to navigate. I had to do this when setting up my IRA with Vanguard. Not sure what kind of fund to choose? Talk to a financial planner who can take into account your age, current portfolio and risk tolerance to create an appropriate mix.

The wrong place for your short-term savings.

My friend Lauren recently told me she was saving for her down payment in an Acorns account. Acorns is an app that rounds up your transactions to the nearest dollar and invests the difference in low-fee funds. It’s a great app for people who want to maximize their investments without doing a lot of legwork.

She was probably saving enough each month to work toward her goal. However, because the money was in the stock market, a large market event could have wiped out the down payment fund and ruined her plans.

Investing the money you might need within a couple years means you’re gambling with your savings. Sure, the market might go up and you could see a boost to your car fund or vacation savings goal — but stocks could also drop, leaving you with less.

Here’s what I do: My husband and I have separate savings accounts for our car repair/replacement fund, down payment fund, and vacation fund. If we need to pay for an oil change, I can transfer the money from our car repair fund into our regular checking account.

Our savings accounts have an interest rate of 1%, so we earn a few bucks every month. It’s not the double-digit returns we’d get if we invested the money, but there’s no risk of losing the principal.

Figure out where your money should be.

Yes, you need to make sure you’re saving enough money for your goals. But it’s also important to consider where you put that money. For long-term goals like saving for retirement and paying for your child’s college, you can consider using index funds and dollar-cost averaging over time.

With shorter-term goals, more liquid accounts with a guarantee of principal can make sense. Think about when you might need to access your money, your current risk tolerance, and plan accordingly.

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Last year’s finances were rough? No problem. Here’s how to make smart money moves. Read More...

The end of 2017 found many Americans scratching their heads in confusion. A massive tax cut bill was passed at the end of December, and let’s be honest, the whole year was basically crazy.

While it will probably take awhile for you to figure out what the tax bill means for you personally, there are a number of smart financial moves that you can put into place as you work through your next year’s financial goals.

Do a financial audit.

One of the most important financial actions that I take at the end of each year (and the beginning of the new one) is taking the time to do a financial audit. Let’s be clear, a financial audit is not an opportunity to rag on yourself for making financial mistakes. It’s an opportunity to look at what did and did not financially work for you in the previous year.

Financial audits are relatively easy to do but can be a little time consuming if you haven’t been using systems to help you look proactively at your finances throughout the year. I’m currently in the middle of doing my audit for 2017 and one of the expenses that I will be cutting back on is going out for coffee. I love going out for coffee and I typically only order the smallest sized coffee on the menu…and sometimes a little treat.

But, I’ve spent some time really looking at the math and those inexpensive visits added up to the equivalent of paying off a credit card. I average $5 per visit and typically go to the coffee shop five or six times every week. Six visits to the coffee shop equal $30 per week. Multiply that by four and that equals $120 per month or $1,440 spent in coffee shops during a year. That’s a trip to Colombia!

Where’s Your money going?

Besides looking at mindless spending habits, spend some time looking at your expenses. Be candid with yourself about what does or does not serve you well financially. Review the following:

  • Phone service. Is it too expensive? Do you have an opportunity to get the same or similar service for less?
  • Insurance policies. My car insurance policy has just come up for renewal. In my opinion,  it’s way too expensive, so I’m looking to change my car insurance and have begun researching different policies so that I can make the switch.
  • Groceries. This one is hard because you have to eat. Think about your grocery shopping habits. Ask yourself the following: do I go to the store too often? Do I experience a lot of food waste? Am I using my pantry staples and rotating them out? Do I take advantage of savings apps like Ibotta when I go grocery shopping?
  • Subscriptions. Spend time checking all of the services that you’re subscribed to and get rid of the subscriptions you’re not using. Don’t forget to check your apps! You may need to go to the Google store to unsubscribe or change certain app subscriptions.

When working through your financial audit, spend some time thinking about what is important to you financially and what you would like to have happen during the year with your money.

Be honest.

If you love getting mani/pedis, getting your beard trimmed by a barber (for the gents) or going skiing, be honest about that with yourself. As you work on your 2018 finances you may find yourself resistant to making certain financial changes because it feels like you won’t be able to do what you enjoy.

As you work on your 2018 budget, add line items for those activities or services that you enjoy and figure out what you’re willing to spend in a year on those items. Because you’ve worked through your financial audit before this step, you may find yourself lowering or increasing the amount that you’re willing to spend on different parts of your life.

I love going out for coffee and it’s an important part of my social life, but it’s not worth spending $1440 a year. I also love getting manicures and pedicures. But, I only did that once last year in Dallas as a treat. I would prefer to have these every other month if possible, so I’m looking at the cost for manicures in particular because I’m able to do a pretty decent pedicure.

Being honest about what you enjoy in your life will help you avoid overspending because you’ve already practiced honesty in your budget.

Make it mindless.

Sign up for a free money management platform such as Wize-Fi or Personal Capital to help you track your expenses. These platforms help alert users to different trends in their spending habits and, in some cases, may alert users to the amount of fees or interest that they are paying for different loans, credit cards, or services that they’re using.

If you struggle with saving money, set up automatic savings withdrawals. You may work with your human resource department to save more money in your 401k or automatically send money to a hard-to-get savings account.

Set up as many systems as possible to make achieving your financial goals as easy as possible.

Talk to a tax professional.

Given the changes to the tax code that were signed into law at the end of December, it may a good idea to speak with a well-vetted tax professional about what you should expect in regards to your tax situation in the upcoming years.

Set audacious financial goals.

But, before you do, read Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny. Then, set some bad-ass financial goals for the upcoming year that are attainable, but a little scary. Then, as Barbara Stanny encourages her readers to do, take small consistent actions daily to help work you towards achieving the financial goals that you’ve set for 2018.

Good luck taking charge of your finances in 2018!

What are your financial plans for this year? Any specific tool that is helpful? Let us know in the AdultingHALP Facebook community.

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Every adult needs investments. It doesn’t have to be complicated, though. Invest today so you can live your best life tomorrow. Read More...

Disclosure: may be compensated if you take action after visiting certain links in this article at no cost to you. We stand by our editorial integrity and would not be linking to or discussing this topic if we didn’t believe it was in the best interest of you, our audience.

You should start investing, like, yesterday. Any hesitation means you’re losing out on potential growth. You may have debt, you may be struggling to put food on the table, but what’s going to save you is going to be investing. Even if it’s just a little.

Do you even 401(k)?

If you’re lucky enough to have a job, and you’re even luckier to have a job that offers a 401(k) plan, you should take advantage of it. They’re not perfect, and some are better than others, but often your company offers you free money to take advantage of it.

This is part of your compensation, so you should do it. If you don’t, it’s like telling your boss to keep part of your paycheck because you don’t need it. So just get started with the 401(k) and worry about what to do with it later. We can help you with that, too, so check for the links below.


If you don’t have a 401(k) plan, take matters into your own hands and open an IRA. WealthSimple is my favorite option because you don’t need to save up hundreds or thousands of dollars before you start. You can start right now with even $5. Or $100. Or $20. Whatever you might be able to spare — and really try to make it work.

Because the amount doesn’t matter, especially at first. It’s just about getting in the habit.

So open an account at WealthSimple today. There are no fees while your account is less than $5,000, and as you refer friends, you’ll eliminate fees as your account grows.

As you set up your account, all you need to do is choose the investing style that fits you, and WealthSimple worries about how your money is invested. It’s a good hands-off way to invest, so you can know that your money is invested the way you want. You can take your time to learn more about index funds and choosing investments on your own, and when you’re ready, move to a different platform. But you shouldn’t hold off until you know everything about investing. The most important factor is starting early, so that’s where WealthSimple comes into play.

Get handsy with Vanguard

If you prefer a more hands-on approach, Vanguard is the next best option. You do have to save up before starting with Vanguard, though. They have account minimums, and that might make it difficult for a lot of people. So start with WealthSimple, and once your account hits $5,000 (won’t that be a nice day?), move your account to Vanguard. I like Vanguard’s “Total Stock Market Index Fund.”

Whether you invest at WealthSimple or Vanguard, you should choose a Traditional IRA if you don’t have a 401(k) or a Roth IRA if you do. That’s going to allow your money to grow without any kind of tax consequences until you retire.

The key is to just invest your money and leave it alone for 10, 20, or 30 years — or more. That’s the first type of investing you want to tackle.

So let’s say you’re a little more financially secure and you’re ready for taking some more advanced investing steps. You are contributing to your 401(k), you have an IRA, so you’re saving for retirement, but you want investments that will help you grow your net worth without having to wait for retirement. Well, now let’s look at what you should do about that, but only if you can answer yes to these questions.

  • Are you taking full advantage of your 401(k) benefits? That means investing at least as much to get the full matching contribution if your job offers it.
  • Are you maximizing your IRA? The government says most people are allowed to contribute up to $5,500 each year.
  • Do you have a sufficient emergency fund or plan? What happens if you lose your job and can’t find a new one right away? Do you have savings that will cover your living expenses?
  • Is your debt under control? You’re making progress with paying off your debt if you have any. With student loans, you’re paying at least the maximum each month, and with credit cards, you’re paying them in full every month or aggressively paying down old debt.

If you qualify, you are free to invest some of your extra money every month. It’s better than spending it, anyway. Vanguard is another good choice. But don’t fall into the trap of picking stocks or trying to predict what the “market” is going to do. You can’t beat the market, not consistently. So even for regular, non-retirement accounts, the best choice is the something like Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund, and the best place to get that is directly from Vanguard.

Don’t go to your local bank and ask about investments. They will sell you something you don’t need.

So don’t wait. Get started right now with WealthSimple or Vanguard.

Bonus alert! WealthSimple is offering $100 in bonuses to the first 100 new accounts from readers and listeners! That’s $10,000 in bonuses in total just for our audience! You’ll receive $50 when you open the account and another $50 if you invest $100,000! Now, that’s a lot to invest. But we know that some in our audience might qualify. Regardless, get your $50 right away by opening an account at WealthSimple!

More Best Investing Accounts

If you’re not satisfied with WealthSimple or Vanguard, here are some more suggestions based on our experience at

  • Betterment. Betterment is another managed account like WealthSimple. It was one of the first automated managed investment accounts, and very popular with young investors who don’t want to choose their own funds, stocks, or bonds.
  • Fidelity. Like Vanguard, Fidelity is a discount brokerage that offers its own index funds as well as stock trading.
  • Ally Invest. Recently merged with TradeKing, Ally Invest is a discount brokerage that lets you choose your investments.
  • Capital One Investing. ShareBuilder is now Capital One Investing. They have low-cost trades, so this is a great option for dabbling with the occasional stock investing (but don’t go crazy making trades!).

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Choosing a health plan sucks. But it has to be done. Here’s how to do it with as little pain as possible. Read More...

Once in a while, we present LIVE! Subscribe on YouTube to hear about future events, and share your questions about or suggestions for our next discussions!

Show Notes

Are you trying to figure out a health plan? During open enrollment, it can be difficult to decide what to pick. After all, there can be a lot of choices. You want to make sure you get the right one for you.

Today we’re joined by Jennifer Jackson from ADLT 101. She talks about the first time she tried to find a health plan. We’ll talk about how to make the most of your company options, and what to watch for the next time the government exchanges are open.

Health insurance is one of those things you need as an adult, whether you think you’ll get sick or not.

Find Jennifer on Twitter and Facebook.

You can always ask us questions in the #Adulting community on Facebook as well.

Watch the video above or listen to the audio podcast below.

Hosted byHarlan L. Landes and Miranda Marquit
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart

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Your savings account is a freeloader. Put your money to work by investing now. Read More...

When I want something in another room, I send my son to get it. It’s what kids are for. The best way to get work done is to get someone else to do it for you.

That’s the principle behind investing. When you invest, your money does the heavy lifting. With $25 and a willingness to automatically transfer money into your first investment account each month, you can enjoy the benefits of letting your money work.

It’s not something that will lead to huge returns immediately, but over time you might be surprised to see how your money grows.

Get off your assets.

No one likes freeloaders. If someone is sleeping at your place, you at least want them to do the dishes. When your money sits in a savings account, it’s sleeping on the couch without helping out with anything.

You’ll never build the wealth you need for financial freedom if you don’t move your assets. Once you have built up a comfortable emergency fund, stop relying entirely on that savings account and open an investment account. It’s easy enough, even if you only have $25 to start.

Your first investment account should be with a broker that allows you to invest a small amount of money to begin with. There are accounts that allow you to start with as little as $5 a week. If you have a little more, you can start investing with a service like Betterment with $100 a month.

All you need is the same information you use to open a bank account, and your bank account information. Set up an automatic investment plan so that money is automatically moved from your bank account to your investment account. You can also use a service like Acorns to automatically invest your pocket change.

Have an open relationship with your money.

Don’t be loyal to one bank account or even to your first investment account. It’s ok to work your assets in any way that helps you build wealth.

Start with your company’s tax-advantaged retirement account. If your company offers a 401(k) and you contribute, you’re investing. Use that to your advantage, and take the biggest match possible. Many people don’t think of company retirement plans as investing, but it is. It’s the easiest way to open your first investment account, and you can reap benefits for years to come.

You don’t need to be a one-account investor, though. If you have the right information, you can open an account with an online discount broker (like TradeKing or E*Trade), robo advisor (like Betterment), or a “traditional” company like Vanguard or Fidelity. There are a number of ways for you to open different investment accounts to fulfill different purposes. If you don’t like what’s offered by your company’s plan, get the maximum match, then open an account with a different broker.

Get your money out there to make an effort. I was pleasantly surprised the other day to discover that my regular effort with my money has been paying off. I’ve been contributing to a travel fund, and my money has been busy. It’s worked for me, and with the help of compound interest, is already offering a great return.

How to open your first investment account.

When you’re ready to spread a little more canvas with your money, keep the following in mind:

Get personal.

You need identifying information to open an investment account. Your name, address, birth date, Social Security number, and bank account information will be needed. The law requires brokers to collect this information from you.

Have your personal information ready. Even if you open an account using the internet, having it nearby keeps you from being timed out of the session before you’re ready.

If you do open your investment account using the internet, make sure you are on a private connection. Do it from a password-protected network, not public Wi-Fi. This is sensitive stuff and you don’t want it out there.

Index funds are better to start.

They aren’t sexy, but index funds, which follow set groups of stocks, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or the S&P 500, can be an easy way to get the most out of your investing dollar. You don’t have to pick stocks (which can get tricky), and you enjoy instant diversity.

Some discount brokers, like Acorns and Betterment, won’t let you pick your own funds. However, they usually have access to low-cost ETFs that are broad enough to provide you with the diversity and performance that keeps pace with the market in general. And that’s exactly what you need when you start out.

Do it in your sleep.

Put your assets to work while you sleep. Schedule automatic transfers from your account to the investment account. Most brokers offer an “automatic investment plan.” Sign up for it. It’s better when things happen while you’re not thinking about them.

Start small.

Even if you’re broke af, you can still afford to invest. With some discount brokers, it’s possible to automatically invest $5 a month. You eventually need to step it up and show your investment account some love, but starting small gives you the chance to let your money begin. The longer your money is at it, the greater the chance you’ll see bigger results down the road.

You still need to boost your contributions over time, though. As soon as you can, increase the amount you invest. You don’t want to sit on your assets when you have them. They should be out working hard for you.

The following, from Calculate My Wealth, shows you how you should be working your assets. Start investing $100 per month at age 22, and do it until you’re 65, and here’s what you could have:


Unlike investments, that savings account is definitely a freeloader.

Make investing a priority.

There are a lot of things you could be doing with your money. Investing should be a priority. Yes, you need to pay down debt (especially if it comes with a high interest rate). And you have bills. You’d probably like to enjoy an evening out on occasion. But if you have even a little, tiny bit you can put toward investing, make it a priority.

In many ways, it’s about the habit. Start the habit of investing if you want to make a difference in your financial life. Once you get started and see the good results of your efforts, you’ll want to do even more investing.

Get started, and then look for ways to boost your contributions. No, $5 a week isn’t going to make all your retirement dreams come true. But if you start with that $5 a week, and then you make room to boost it to $10 a week after a couple months, pretty soon you’ll find that you have more money than you thought to invest.

Skip one night out a month. And invest the money you would have spent. Start a side hustle. Invest any money you make. Your account will build much faster that way.

Whether you make it a point to have money taken from your paycheck each month for your retirement account, or whether you invest your pocket change (or do a little of both!), the important thing is to get started and make investing a priority going forward.

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