Side Gig Summit

Hey there L$G fans!

This post contains an affiliate link. If you click on it and buy a pass, I will receive a commission. For more information, view my Disclosure.

I’m excited to let you all know that I got the opportunity to be part of LessDebtMoreWine.com ‘s awesome Side Gig Summit, happening now!

Every day until September 4th, the fabulous Liz Stapleton will be posting videos of interviews she’s conducted with over 25 experts on different side gigs.

Each interview will focus on what a newbie can do to start making money doing that side gig. If you’ve been thinking about getting in on the gig economy, this might be the push you’ve been waiting for.

The best thing (in my totally non-biased opinion) about the summit is that yours truly is in it! My interview, in which Liz and I talk about how you can get started tutoring for money, comes out September 1st. Go check it out, along with all the other amazing hustlers’ videos.

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Already working on a side gig? These videos are still for you. My friend Katherine, AKA The Bookkeeping Artist, has an interview in which she discusses how to manage all the cash you’re pulling in from your hustle. You also might get inspired with ways to boost your income and reach. We all have room to improve, right?

These videos are free to view the day they are posted and for 24 afterwards. If you want to maintain access to rewatch your favorites in the future, you can purchase an All-Access pass, which gets you lifetime access to all the interviews.

This ends my shameless plug of the day. I’m so excited for some great stuff coming down the pipe for L$G. Next post = back to normal, I promise.

Welcome to 2018! What’s Your New Hotness?

Hey there, welcome to the new year!

You feeling that New Year, New You vibe? Me too. I’d just like to throw out a little question to all the money nerdlings out there:

What’s the new hotness in your life?

Is it a present, a person, a pet?

This year, I want you to consider making your wealth the new hotness.

Consider that this time next year, you’ll be another year older and another year forward in your journey to where you want to go.  Imagine looking back on 2018 and saying “This year, I took steps to make sure I’ll never be broke again,” or “Because of what I saved this year, I know I’ll have enough money to retire,” or if you’re competitive, even “I took charge of my money this year and I’m now secretly wealthier than all my friends.” Wouldn’t it feel AMAZING??

Whatever your motivation is, use it to make 2018 the year you build your financial foundations. Learn what you don’t know, Save what you can, and Grow your wealth.

It’s easy to get swept up in the all the possibilities a new year brings. Maybe you’ll finally get those 6-pack abs, or that hot BF or GF, or that promotion, or that round-the-world trip. I hope you get all those things.

But in the meantime, keep Learning, $aving, and Growing. You can do it!

Love,

Elizabeth Signature

How one teen started a business by accident

I tutor students during the week, and I always like to ask a little about what their passions are so I can get to know them a little better. This helps me tailor the lessons a bit, but also gets them comfortable in class.

Last week, I was working through a cost/revenue problem with a high school student and he just casually said “Oh, I get it. It’s kinda like the business I started.”

I’m sorry, but you can’t just say that around me and NOT expect to get quizzed about it. Afterwards, I asked him if I could share his story anonymously on here and he agreed. For the purposes of our story, I’m going to call him Evan.

Evan’s story

The business began with a hobby, which we’re going to say was building models. Evan was part of a group who built models together. At some point, Evan was looking to purchase some materials for his models and went looking online to find them. The cheapest decent items he could find were only sold in bulk from China. The price per unit was too good to pass up, though, so he bought a big old box.

Obviously, he had way more than he needed, so he started selling off the others to members of his hobby group. The next time those other people needed something for their models, they turned to him, and he turned to the internet again.

Soon enough, he was the go-to guy for model-building materials. Already, he had a little business.

What really kicked him into gear, though, was when a friend who attends a nearby university started a model-building club there and hit up Evan to provide gear for the club.

Evan suddenly found himself making enough money that he was able to quit the part-time job he had. He’s now saving money for college and planning how he’s going to move the business online so he doesn’t have to lug the boxes around himself.

Lessons to take away

I love this story for a couple of reasons.

First, Evan is a high schooler, but he’s already learned that he can take the idea of supply and demand and turn it to his advantage. He used his own needs to tell him where there was an opportunity and didn’t think “Oh, I’m a kid, I can’t do that.”

Secondly, when people in his club started asking him for other materials, Evan didn’t just tell them where to buy their own boxes, he took the initiative to order them himself. He saw the demand as opportunity and realized he could use his experience to help his friends AND himself. They still got materials for cheaper than they could otherwise, and he made some money.

Lastly, he is thinking of the future. He’s already done more than many people his age would have with his idea, but he keeps thinking about the next step. He said he plans to to continue the business in college, and he’s going to learn so much about entrepreneurship that I’m kind of envious.

Wrap up

Are you secretly yearning to be an entrepreneur? Take a look around at the stuff you take for granted. What activity or passion do you have that you could monetize?

Whether you sell a physical good like Evan is doing or you sell services like mowing lawns or scooping dog poop, there’s something out there you can try. And for those of you who are applying to college soon, I’ll tell you what I told Evan: taking initiative and putting yourself out there looks killer on a college essay. Go stretch your entrepreneurial muscles!

Need a little side hustle inspiration? Check out Side Hustle Nation’s list of potential side hustles to see if one could be for you. or Penny Hoarder for some ideas.

Do I really have to invest?

First off, if you don’t know what I mean when I say “investing”, check out What is investing? and then come back.

All good? Okay.

Instead of jumping into why you should invest, maybe we should address some reasons people have for not investing.

1. It seems hard

Many things seem hard or confusing before you try them. Algebra is mysterious and complicated until you learn the basics of math that make it work. Foreign languages are nonsense until you learn the vocabulary and sentence structure. Investing is the same. Also, there’s no rule that says you have to become an investing genius. You just need to know enough to understand where you are putting your money, what it is doing there, and when you plan to take it out.

2. It sounds risky

I like to think of investing like skydiving. It’s a lot of fun, but there are many different levels of risk. Some people like to throw their money into risky situations, chasing the thrill of the big win but always risking the big fall. These are the base jumpers of the investing world. (Seriously, base jumping is crazy.)

Some people like to take some bigger risks, but in a more controlled and planned way. These are the people who skydive, and invest, solo.

Most of us, however, prefer tandem skydiving. This way, we can enjoy the thrill while firmly strapped to someone who knows the ropes and won’t let us get out of control. Investing with the help of a financial planner or at least some guidance from a broker is the best choice for many of us, and that’s okay.

The one thing we can’t do, however, is just sit on the ground and watch others jump out of planes. It sounds super safe, but you end up missing out on a huge opportunity, and will probably regret it later when everyone else is reaping the rewards.
Long analogy short, investing will never be completely without risk, but neither is life, and there are plenty of ways to minimize your risk and still invest.

3. I’m not rich

Investing is so tied to the idea of wealth in our culture that it’s tempting to to think that the ONLY people who can invest are those who already have oodles of money, which is simply not true, especially today. The internet has made it incredibly easy for anyone to invest.

Many brokerages allow you to open investment accounts with small amounts, and there are several apps that are designed to allow people to easily set aside little chunks of money to invest. We won’t get into them in this post, but for now, know that they exist and being wealthy already is absolutely not a requirement to be able to invest.

4. I don’t understand business

If you want to work on Wall Street or in business management, a business or finance degree will definitely help you out. But if you’re just investing for yourself, there’s no degree required.

You should still educate yourself on how to invest and what investments might be best for your situation and values, but modern investment tools and financial planners exist so that you DON’T have to be an expert. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on with your money, but you don’t have to invest alone.

But can’t I just use a savings account?

Having a savings account is important, but it’s not enough on its own. At some point, you’re going to have to invest.

I know it’s hard to think about spending $100 today on something you won’t get to enjoy for years, maybe decades. It’s the ultimate delayed gratification. However, as hard as it can be to set aside that money now, it’s pretty much the only way the average person making an average salary can hope to become a millionaire. Given enough time and a little luck, the $100 could turn into $500 or more down the line.

Still need convincing?

Let’s look at the math!

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Don’t look at me like that, it’ll be fine.

The most recent U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the average household income in the United States in 2014 was $65,751. This includes both one- and two-income households. Let’s imagine you make exactly that amount. A very nice salary for a single person. (I’m going to ignore taxes for the sake of this math problem, FYI.)

According to the U.S Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average person saves about 5.7% of his or her income, which works out to about $3,748 a year for someone making the average household income.

If you socked that much away in a savings account every year for 30 years and got an average of 1.5% interest compounded monthly, you’d have saved about $147,767. Note that this interest rate is higher than you can get now, but may be lower than what you can get in the future.

Pssst. Did your eyes glaze over during that last paragraph? Need a refresher on compound interest? Hop on over to What is Compound Interest?

A six-digit bank account number is awesome, right? Except most people need from $800,000 to $1 million to retire comfortably today, and because of inflation it will probably be more by the time you’re old enough to retire.

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Yeah, sorry to burst that bubble.

Of course, you might be able to save more than $3,748 a year, especially because you probably won’t make the same amount of money every year for 30 years, but where does a lot of the other $700,000 come from?

Yep. Investing.

Say you invested that same amount every year for 30 years and assume a reasonable 5% return. You’d end up with almost $250,000 in that account alone, according to the EdwardJones.com Investment Calculator.

Sounds good, right? A healthy combination of saving and investing will make retired-you very happy.

There are many ways to invest, and everyone’s investing style is a little different, but unless you plan to live as a hermit in the woods, you’re going to have to do it. No excuses.

Ready to start saving up to invest? Find out which of the four kinds of savers you are to help you get started!

Snow day? Money day!(w/ Printables)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Snow Day Season!

In the winter, students all over the country wear their pajamas inside out and flush ice cubes down the toilet, hoping they’ll wake up to several inches of snow and no school.

And every so often, it works! (Not really, but it’s fun to imagine it might.)

Building snowmen and going sledding are both super fun, but after several snow days, you might find yourself looking for other things to do.

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Sure, you could binge the newest Netflix shows, play a video game, finally learn how to knit, or *gasp* finish all of your homework, but I’m going to make a radical suggestion: make a money plan.

Many money experts and companies encourage adults to set aside one weekday per quarter (every three months) to look through their money situation and change or update anything that needs attention.

Teens and college students may not have much money to manage, but it’s always good to know where you stand and have a plan in mind for the future.

So this year, I invite you to set aside at least an hour or two during a snow day (or teacher work day, or whatever) to take note of what you have, what you want, and how you’re going to get there.

To help, I’ve created a few printables that you can use (for free!) to help you get and stay organized with your money, even if all you have is a piggy bank.

Let me know if you use them and if you have any suggestions for edits or for other printables!

 

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A simple sheet with 12 steps to reaching your savings goals.

 

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For a quick round-up of your cash and accounts.

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If you just want to sketch out some of those awesome dreams and goals!

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The classic envelope system of putting aside money.

 

How to build credit as a teen

Credit is an amazing word. It gets used for all sorts of things, like crediting a source in a research paper or giving your brother credit for not stealing all your Cheetos even though they were RIGHT THERE waiting to be stolen.

In the money world, credit is a big deal. Without credit cards, online shopping would be much harder, and without lines of credit like mortgages and car loans, a whole lot of people wouldn’t be able to afford houses or cars.

The word credit actually comes from a Latin word meaning belief or trust, which makes sense because when someone loans you money, he or she is trusting that you will pay it back. Credit scores were invented to represent how likely it is that you’ll do that.

Trouble is, credit scores are based on a lot of factors, all of which reflect your history using credit. Without a credit score, you won’t get money from most lenders. So, how do you get credit if you don’t already have it?

How do I get credit?

Creating a credit profile can seem like a Catch-22 because many credit-building sources require a credit score!

I remember thinking that this was confusing and unfair when I was first looking to build credit, too. Luckily, there are a couple of side doors into the world of credit that can help get you started at any age.

If you’re a minor…

If you’re under 18 in the US, you cannot qualify to borrow money or open a credit card of your own. However, there are still ways to start building a healthy credit record with the help of your parents or legal guardians.

Become a registered user on an adult’s card.

Registered users get access to the perks of the credit card, but are not responsible for paying for charges made on the card. Living the dream.

Of course, this option requires a lot of trust on the part of the person allowing you onto his or her account, so if you want to remain on good terms with this person, don’t go hog-wild with the credit card.

My dad did this for me when I was first starting out, and it was understood that the card was for emergency use only. Otherwise, I used my debit card. I’m so thankful now that I got the benefit of his years of credit background and good money management. It made getting my first apartment much easier. Thanks, Dad! 🙂

If you’re 18 and over…

Becoming a registered user is also an option for non-minors, but once you’re legally an adult, a lot of other options open up, too.

Have an adult co-sign on your first loan or credit card.

Co-signers are basically there to reassure the credit-givers that SOMEONE will pay them back, even if you flake out. This means they are on the hook for any money you borrow or charge if you don’t pay it back, so, again, don’t abuse this privilege if you want to keep your relationship with your co-signer healthy.

Get a secured credit card.

This one you can do all on your own! Secured credit cards are designed to help people build enough credit to get a real, big-person card.

To get a secured card, you’ll usually have to pay a deposit equal to what the card’s credit limit is. It then works just like a real card, including interest rates on unpaid balances. When you are ready to graduate to an unsecured card, pay off any balance on the unsecured card and you’ll get your deposit back.

If you’re interested, WalletHub has a nice list of 10+ Best Secured Credit Cards for 2017.

Report your rent payments.

If you’re living off-campus at college or just living on your own, using a service that reports your rent payments to the credit bureaus can help you build credit without needing a credit card or loan. You’re going to be paying rent anyway, so why not benefit from it?

These services typically charge you a fee for each payment they report or each month you use them, and some charge a set-up fee. However, in the long run, a higher credit score could save you much more money in the future, so a rent payment reporting service might be worth it if you can afford it.

You might need to get your landlord or apartment office on board, and not all rent-reporting services report to all three credit bureaus, so make sure you read all the fine print before shelling out any money.

Popular services include RentReporters, Rent Kharma, Rent Track, PayYourRent, and ClearNow. I have not personally used any of these services, so I can’t endorse any one of them over any other.

Take out a credit-builder loan.

Some banks and credit unions will loan small amounts of money to people with bad or no credit with the goal of building those people’s credit score.

There’s a catch, though.

When you get one of these loans, you don’t actually get the money. The bank puts it into an account, where it waits for you to complete the payments on it. THEN you get the money.

This is clearly not a loan for people who actually need the money for something right away. It really is only for building a payment history. However, the amounts are small, sometimes only $100, and the potential bumps to your credit are large, so if you are 100% sure you can pay all the installments, this could be a nice way to add some points to your score.

Be careful

Don’t over-extend yourself trying to do all of these things in a hurry. Pick one or two ways you want to start building credit, and put those into action. If, after a few months, you’re still on track and want to explore other options, feel free.

Remember that no matter what methods of credit creation you use, the best thing you can do to boost your score is to make payments on time. Do that consistently, and your score will rise naturally.

Why buying a $10,000 watch for your girlfriend is a bad idea

Yep, you read that title correctly. The idea of dropping that much cash on anything, especially a gift, is crazy for most adults, never mind teens, but I had a student a couple of years ago who did just that.

Here’s the scenario: Bob [obviously not his real name] had a girlfriend. Bob also had a savings account his parents had set up for him that contained roughly $10,000. Bob and his GF were going through a rough patch because, well, high school. Bob thinks “I know! A gift will help me show her I love her and will make her happy!” Then, during what I can only think must have been a moment of insanity, Bob spent almost every penny of that savings on a fancy watch for his lady.

I nearly fainted when he told me. I can only imagine what happened when his parents found out what had happened to that savings account. Also, his GF and her parents were uncomfortable with how expensive the gift was and it just made Bob’s relationship problems worse.

Okay, so, this was a crazy move, but there’s more to take away from this event than that. Let’s look at this a little more closely.

 

What were Bob’s mistakes?

1. Assuming his relationship problems could be solved with money

Healthy relationships should never center around money. Relationships, by definition, are based on relations between people and how they interact. Of course, money can, and does, affect relationships all the time, but it should never be the number one thing holding people together or pushing them apart. If it is, then the relationship isn’t a healthy one.

Before you throw money at a problem with your significant other — or your friends, or your parents — think about whether there’s anything else you could do to patch things up. Sometimes a good talk, a sincere apology, or a sweet note will do more good than material things ever could. This is especially important when you’re young and have very little money to be throwing around in the first place.

2. Sacrificing one relationship for another

Bob’s parents had been more than generous in setting up that savings account, and I would bet they did it with the idea that this would help him in the future. Maybe he would run into a rough patch in college or afterward and this money would be his emergency fund. Or maybe he could have used it to buy a home. You know what they didn’t expect him to use it for? Gifts for his GF.

Chances are good Bob was thinking “Hey, it’s my money now, I can use it for whatever I want.” While that may have been true, I guarantee that such a waste of their gift destroyed his parents’ trust in his ability to make good decisions and appreciate their generosity. Bob will probably spend years working to rebuild that trust.

3. Not considering the future

This is the biggie. While Bob certainly has some short-term work to do on his relationship skills, the long-term effects of his mistake are going to echo for years. Saving up an extra $10,000 isn’t easy in your teens and twenties. By being given a head start, Bob might have been able to start a retirement account or other investment fund that could have been making him money while he was still young. Having a head start with saving and investing, even by a few years, can have massive rewards later in life.

What can $10,000 do?

If you find yourself tempted to spend, do something Bob obviously did not: ask yourself what else you could use that money for. If any of it sounds better than what you’re about to buy, don’t spend the money.

So now let’s consider what $10,000 could have gotten Bob, other than a watch and a heap o’ trouble.

1. Security

This is the simplest answer to what the money could have provided for Bob. He was approaching college, a time when people are usually broke, and that money could have given him a cushion to help pay for college or even helped him move to his dream location after school to snag a job without taking on debt.

2. Experiences

Ten thousand dollars could have funded a pretty sweet trip around the world for Bob. Along the same lines, he could have used his stash of cash towards a study abroad program during college. Perhaps he could have taken a class in something he’d like to learn but couldn’t in school, like pottery or cooking. Any of these experiences would have given Bob a new perspective on the world, which is priceless.

3. More money

By investing the money, Bob could have actually used it to make more money for himself with basically no effort on his part. Even if he’d left it in the savings account, he could have made money, albeit a tiny amount.

4. A business

In today’s digital world, it’s pretty easy to start an online business, and plenty of teens have taken advantage of this. One of my students made a bunch of money for college through buying and selling high-end sneakers online. Ten thousand dollars would have bought Bob plenty of starter inventory if he’d wanted to start something like that.

Okay, I think you get the point. Bob made a huge mistake. Luckily, being young gives him the advantage of having plenty of time to recover from that mistake, but next time you feel your emotions pushing you to spend money, ask yourself if you’ll regret it in the future. I guarantee you Bob does.

Why does L$G exist?

Learn, Save, Grow is the result of almost eight years of talking to American high school students and realizing that most of them have very little understanding of how money works.

Those of us who emerged from college into the Great Recession learned the hard way that money is not a guarantee, and what you do with the money you have is crucial to your success further down the line. Teens and young adults may not usually have buckets of money lying around, but they have the most valuable asset in the world: time. With time, even a small amount of money could make a big difference down the line.

In fact, starting to put away money earlier means you can actually put away less and end up with more money than someone who starts to save ten years later, but saves more. Crazy, right?

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Maybe not bags of coins, though…


In today’s digital world, there is so much information available about money, it’s easy to suffer from info overload and decide it’s not worth trying to understand it all. Learn, Save, Grow is designed to be a hub where the most important ideas are simplified and explained so you can feel more in control. Want just the basics? We’ve got them. Feel like digging a little deeper? We’ll do that for you. We’ll also get into apps and sites that might help navigate the world of money, but we’ll never endorse something we haven’t tried and loved ourselves.

If L$G can help even one person  find the motivation and confidence to save for the future, it’ll be a win. Let’s get started!