Young Money Money: Earn it, Invest it, Spend it Mon, 26 Jun 2017 20:52:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Be Financially Literate While You’re in College Mon, 26 Jun 2017 20:40:40 +0000 You might be physically fit while you’re young and in college, but staying in good financial shape is another matter. Being solvent is easily one of the hardest of accomplishments because there are a lot of other things to focus on: the effort to get good grades, your social life, your love life, and your health. Most students eschew financial considerations in hopes that they’ll make good money with a decent job after college.

Statistically speaking, counting on your postgraduate job does make some sense. In terms of college degree earnings, college grads make $549 per week more than high school grads on average. And, nearly 15 percent more college grads are employed. Yet, student loan debt provides a stark contrast to these numbers. The average class of 2016 grad owes $37,172, and the grand total of nationwide debt is $1.31 trillion (yeah that’s 1.31 with ten zeros after it).

No one would blame you for wanting to keep from apart of that stat. To avoid looming student loan debt, consider the following:

Take Online Courses

Why online courses? To avoid student loan debt, you should work while in college, and online classes allow you more flexibility so you can tailor your schedule accordingly.

Here’s how it works

You have some great options in terms of paying for college:

  • Find an employer who offers tuition assistance: For example, Starbucks will pay for your tuition at Arizona State University, and there are other companies that will help you pay for college as well
  • Apply for federal grants: A grant is basically sponsorship money for your education
  • Apply for scholarships: There are a great many scholarships available from private and public organizations
  • Join the military: A tough pill to swallow for some, but the G.I. Bill can help pay your way through college

Noticing a common trend with all of the above? They require extra legwork, but don’t fret; if you work hard to pay your way through college with all the available options, your time after school will be much more enjoyable.

Student Loan Debt Is Like a Steel Trap

Here’s how it works

You’re not required to begin paying on loans till after you graduate, and even then there’s a grace period. But once the payment terms kick in, they’re a very serious loan, and your history with payments reflects on you for a long time. Never default on student loans—it hurts your FICO credit score. Within the first year, skipping a payment on a fixed-rate 15-year loan will hurt you for the next 22 years. If you default on the loan—which means you don’t make payments for more than 270 days—it will seriously damage your credit score for seven years. You won’t be able to buy a house, it’ll be tough to buy a good car—just don’t do it.

Build Good Credit

If you’re working, you have the opportunity to start building your credit score, meaning when you graduate you’ll be in good financial standing, ready to succeed on your own.

Here’s how it works

Even if you have to take out loans, student debt and credit score are not necessarily poor bedfellows. Save up money while you’re working and then make regular payments on your loan. Don’t make partial payments, pay the entire amount due each time your bill comes around. Credit agencies will take note and your score will climb steadily.

Even during college you can begin building good credit. Get a student credit card and get smart with it. Only make credit purchases you can afford pay off immediately. In other words, make strategic purchases on the card. Check how much you have in the bank, then buy a few things (the fun part), then pay what you owe at the end of the month.

The interest rate on your college card will skyrocket after the initial terms expire, I guarantee it. That’s one reason why you must pay off card debts in full when payment is due. Once you have the chance to get a new card with better terms (such as a cash rewards card), take it. Then, make sure your original card is free of all debts, dispute any incorrect records, and leave the card open with zero debts. This shows creditors you’re responsible.

You Can’t Lose

If you maintain a job during college, look into grants and scholarships, and pay your way, you’ll graduate debt-free and in good financial standing. Maintain that college credit card in good standing along the way. Or, take out loans, get a job, save money, and pay your loans off reliably after you graduate.

You can’t lose with these strategies because you’ll be free of the steel trap that is student loan debt, and your credit score will be stacked to make important purchases. What’s more, you’ll have that degree, which pretty much guarantees you’ll make more money than high school grads. It also guarantees you learned something, and that’s the most valuable thing of all.

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How to Get the Most Out of Buying Your First House Wed, 14 Jun 2017 19:16:12 +0000

When you’re young, buying a house seems either daunting because of the sheer amount of money you need or like a hassle that will tie you down for the future. No more freedom to go anywhere you want, and hello responsibility. But here’s the thing about buying a home: it’s better than investing in gold. In fact it’s one of the best investments you can make.

You have a couple of options: buy a house, make some improvements, and flip it, or buy a house and settle in for the long term until property values really appreciate. In the future you could decide to stay there because you like it, or sell it and find a better place. Flipping the house right away is more of a gamble, but it can definitely pay off.

Flipping a House

Typically, when people want to flip a house they buy a “fixer-upper.” The house in need of repairs can only rise in value—unless the neighborhood is extremely crime-ridden and the other houses are low quality. Even then, improving the fixer-upper from the ground up can make a positive impact on the neighborhood, and value will go up because you’re investing money into it.

Here are some things to consider when you’re flipping a house for a profit:

  • To actually make good money, you’ll want to buy low in a market where values are rising
  • You need good credit to make this happen—pay off all debts and find out what it takes to raise your score if it’s low
  • You need cash for a down payment
  • If you qualify, you could take take out a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)
  • The better the location, the better off you are when it comes to making a profit
  • As an investor, you’ll pay a higher interest rate on a loan
  • You’ll need to be educated on the real estate market, financing, negotiating with the seller, doing repairs and working with contractors, and which repairs really increase a home’s value

There’s a lot to flipping a house, but if it’s a game you want to play, there’s a ton of cash in the right market.

Once you’ve made your renovations, one big part of selling a house fast is staging. When you’re staging the home, you’re getting rid of all clutter. Locate furniture in such a way as to make it aesthetically pleasing—balance the amount of furniture in each room, float it out away from walls, and make sure each room only has one purpose. Optimize lighting by making sure no furniture is in front of windows. You can place mirrors in rooms strategically to increase natural lighting. When you’re arranging everything in rooms, find the most attractive focal point and arrange around it. Use art, rugs, pillows, and decor to make colors pop. Read some books on feng shui and see what you can do.

Flipping houses isn’t for everyone—in fact very few people can really do it successfully. Another option for making money from your first house is to rent it out.

Renting Out Your House

Being a landlord comes with its fair share of headaches, but it can become a way of generating passive income. Just like it sounds, this is income you earn without doing anything. Once you’ve paid off the mortgage and can afford to pay other people to do repairs, every cent you earn from rent is completely gratis.

Millennials make up a huge chunk of the rental demographic. There are definitely some things you should consider when renting to millennials:

  • Don’t discriminate based on age: If a millennial doesn’t make enough to afford the cost of living in your house, that’s good reason not to rent to them; but if you don’t rent to them because you’re young too, and you know how unreliable people your age are, that’s illegal
  • Make your subletting terms clear: Millennials may want to make some side cash through AirBnB or another vacation rental, make sure they clear it with you beforehand
  • Consider pets: You’ll be more competitive at attracting millennial tenants if you allow pets
  • Make sure everyone’s on the lease: They may want to move in roommates without you knowing
  • Prioritize green housing: Millennials prefer environmentally-friendly housing with things like solar power, ENERGY STAR appliances, and electric car charging stations
  • Prioritize safety: Up-to-date maintenance and renovations will ensure safety and attract good tenants

These considerations apply to all tenants, regardless of age. That said, if you make the place attractive to millennials, you’ll have a huge pool of tenants to choose from. You know from your own experience this is a generation of renters.

Like being a house-flipper, being a landlord isn’t for everyone. In the long term, you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of turning your first house into your first home.

Living in Your First Home

Once again, this is daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you take it one step at a time. Here are the big financial considerations for first-time homeowners:

  • Keep an eye on your budget: You’ve got mortgage payments to make, so don’t blow too much money right away on renovations, furniture and decor.
  • Make sure insurance is covered: You need more than homeowner’s insurance; maintain life insurance, disability insurance, and car insurance payments.
  • Make sure to get tax deductions and credits: There are tax breaks for first-timers; if you have to pay an accountant because of all the paperwork and limited time, do so—it’s worth it.
  • Maintain savings: You never know when an emergency will hit, so keep a savings pillow of at least a couple grand beneath you.
  • Keep records: Keep receipts of all purchases for your home, so you can maximize tax write-offs.

This last one is more important than it seems at first. If you have precise records on renovations and remodeling expenses, you’ll know exactly how much more the place is worth when it comes time to sell. With this baseline number and current property values, you’ll be able to determine a good asking price for the property.

As you continue on in your first home, make renovations you can afford and maintain the place to the utmost. There will come a time when property values are higher than they were when you made your purchase. That’s when you want to put your house on the market. There are absolutely no regrets if you put a positive effort into this. In the end, you’ll be ready to retire in a better place than you started.

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Self Employed? Here’s How to Make Good Money Thu, 18 May 2017 15:12:05 +0000

Oftentimes, the stereotype of the young, self-employed businessperson is like that of the starving artist. You’re eking out a living, existing on ramen and chips. You’re a “flash in the pan.” During your brief time on Earth hardly anyone will hear of you. Hopefully, after years and years of hard work, you’ll be able to retire on the money you frugally stashed away in your IRA.

Okay so the IRA part doesn’t normally figure into the starving artist stereotype, but it sounds familiar right? As a young self-employed American, you’re used to hearing that—after you pay off your student debt—it’s wise to start saving for retirement. At the same time, you’re used to hearing you have to spend money to make money. So which is it? Set aside money now or use it to create more wealth?

You’re interested in making more money now—otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. To do so, take advantage of your unique position and use the right tools.

Your Brand, Your Unique Position

Your brand is more than just your name, logo, and the colors you choose. Your brand is your unique style, it’s every aspect of how you represent yourself to your audience. There’s no one else exactly like you. If you’re self-employed, you have the advantage of being able to use your distinct personality and experiences to inform your brand.

Start with the best practices for building your brand:

  • Concentrate on experiences: Each time a potential or existing client comes in contact with your brand, it’s an experience. Think hard about the wording and images you’ll use anytime you’re going to represent your brand, and look at examples of experiential marketing to create contact points.
  • Be consistent: On your website, social media, in person, and anywhere else you represent your brand, you’ll be delivering messages. Think ahead about the tone of your messages and what you want to them to convey. Be consistent with your delivery.
  • Develop and curate supportive content: You’ll absolutely want a blog to support your brand, with posts that pair directly with your vision. Include your blog posts in social media activity. Look for like-minded and supportive content from great bloggers and authors. Follow them, include their posts in your social media feed, and reach out to them for guest posts. Try guest posting on their sites and ask them to guest post on yours.
  • Be different: Showcase your uniqueness by taking risks. Start a podcast, develop videos for YouTube and other social media channels, partner with artists and poets, self-publish books, sponsor events that align with your values, hire a mascot—look for things your competitors aren’t doing and do them.
  • Enlist ambassadors: One simple way to create brand ambassadors is to ask for guest posts on your blog, and make sure the posts support your brand values. Also, ask clients to review you online, and if you have employees, empower them to post on your social media pages and write blog posts. Make sure to impart your vision to them clearly so that they represent your brand accurately.

Always look at what your competitors are doing, and think about what you can do to distinguish yourself. Again, take risks; people won’t be able to tell you’re unique unless you put yourself out there.

How will this make you money? The brands that truly succeed create visibility. Build your brand tirelessly and people will pay more attention to you than they do your competitors.

The Right Tools

You want to be able to build your brand and become a thought leader in your industry. But how will you be able to do that if you’re spending all your time and energy on the nuts and bolts of running your business? Use tools to help run the business and save money at the same time.

Marketing Automation

If you don’t automate your marketing, you’ll have to do everything manually, including putting up social media posts and blog posts, doing search engine optimization, sending emails, and so much more. These aren’t a cure-all, but take a look at the best marketing automation tools available. You’re still going to have to be the brains behind your marketing campaigns, but software makes executing a campaign a whole lot easier.

Invoice Software 

Filling out and sending invoices to clients individually takes time you could be spending building your brand. As with almost every aspect of modern business, you could use software to solve this problem. Invoice software lets you customize invoices based on your brand’s colors, logo, and fonts. You can create and send invoices from your smartphone, and you can automate recurring invoices for clients with whom you have ongoing business. Also, you won’t be repeatedly entering information in fields, because the software does that automatically.

Mileage Tracking Software

You can write off business miles on your taxes, but who wants to manually track their miles, log them, and report them when the time comes? Mileage tracking software does the work for you. It’s a great idea to meet with clients face-to-face, but don’t spend more money than you should on the trip to get there.


You can run pretty much every aspect of your business with Excel; from inventory management, to bookkeeping, to payroll, to crawling the web for data, the list goes on and on. Excel can automate any part of your business having to do with numbers—you just have learn how to tell it what to do. Don’t despair about learning Excel, check out a free course on all things Excel-related. All the information you need to learn Excel is available online.

In conclusion, making money when you’re self-employed is about maximizing your brand potential and using the right tools. What can you offer to your audience that’s different and better than your competitors? How can you use tools to reach a wider audience while saving time and money? Master your branding and harness technology, and you’re well on your way to making good money.

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Save Money During The Big Move Thu, 18 May 2017 14:18:55 +0000

Moving across the country costs quite a bit of money and time, but there are a few tips and tricks you can follow to save yourself some money. Whether you’re able to loop your neighbors into helping, save yourself from a few hidden costs, or are able to relax and spend less, it’s up to you to make the most of your budget.

Do It Yourself

You can save money moving if you don’t have many possessions, a large automobile, and several muscled friends. Moving yourself across the country typically costs anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000, depending on how far you’re going and how much stuff you have. You can cut corners by going to local grocers and liquor stores to get free boxes, staying with relatives and friends as you drive, and moving during an off-season, when gas and hotels are more economically priced.

Moving by yourself doesn’t have to be expensive, if you plan it well, get help, and aren’t moving a lot of stuff or people.The real secret is to get rid of things you don’t need. Many items can be given to thrift stores or food banks as a tax deductible donation, which can even further reduce the cost of your move.

Save On Hidden Costs (Be Prepared)

Moving in maintenance, being improperly insured, utility connection fees, and replacing something that you left thousands of miles away will all bite a chunk out of your budget. While moving, you should call your insurance company and update your auto insurance. In some states you have 30 days and the change might just be an address update, but in other states, you may have to up your coverage or get a different provider.

Once you move in, turning on the utilities, replacing items you left behind, and small maintenance projects (like putting on seasonal windows or replacing the locks) will drain the rest of your move in budget. You should arrange some of this before you arrive, or at least call and check out prices/deposits that might be required. Nothing kills a budget like an unplanned bill.

Relax. It’s Best To Leave The Hard Stuff With Someone Else

It can be more economical to hire someone to move for you. With a moving company, an interstate move averages $5,630. That can save you time, stress, and money. You can have more time to spend making friends with your new neighbors and exploring your town, and your valuables will be insured with professional movers.

If you’re looking to save money, stress, and time by hiring a professional mover, consider moving during an off-season, being flexible with your dates, and talking to several moving companies. Shopping around for a moving company will help you get the best move for the lowest price.

Long distance moving is hard and can be costly. You can save some cash by moving yourself, making friends help you, preparing in advance, budgeting for the hidden costs, and donating your extra items to a charity. Or you can do nothing, find the most economically priced movers, and simply set a day to leave.

How to Make Change a Positive Experience for Your Millennial Employees Thu, 11 May 2017 19:10:05 +0000

Starting your own business? You’ll need to hire and retain some excellent talent. Millennials are highly trained and skilled, and they’re ready to join your workforce. Yet, at work 71% of millennials are not engaged, and 47% will switch jobs if this doesn’t improve.

As the millennial generation begins to mature and make career inroads, observers keep noting a salient trend: these young people change jobs a lot. Good employers are eager to buck the attrition trend and invest much-needed retention efforts in valuable millennial employees. But why do us millennials jump from job to job so often to begin with?

There’s a lot of competition for our talent. And, there are constant, often abrupt changes happening. Companies get bought out, they grow in leaps and bounds, they alter direction, or they dwindle and suddenly die. In today’s business world, change is the only constant.

You must find strength in change and help employees view developments in a positive light, even if they’re negative. This starts with management.

Empower Managers

According to Terry Petracca, an HR expert from MEL, managers are the number one reason employees leave organizations. This applies big-time to situations of company upheaval and change. Petracca believes authenticity is the number one way for managers to establish a relationship of trust with employees. She says, “A manager needs their employees to believe them because they’re the gatekeeper for truth and knowledge about the company.”

In order for a manager to be authentic, in order for a manager to impart “truth and knowledge” to employees during a time of change, you must empower your managers:

  • Encourage transparency
  • Regularly brief managers with all the facts and bottom line information that affects change
  • Reinforce and encourage their leadership abilities
  • Give them a voice throughout the transitional process, seriously consider their suggestions and act on them whenever possible

Although change is inevitable, losing employees isn’t. Employees value honesty and rapport with you and your managers. Managers are particularly close to employees during day-to-day operations. When they build strong rapport with employees through honesty and communication, employees are less likely to leave. The manager effectively leads them through change as it happens.

Encourage Stress Management

When you’re under a ton of stress due to transition, it can be hard to recognize employees are too. The weight feels like it’s all on you. For anyone, stress triggers a fight or flight response. For employees who aren’t as rooted in the business as you are, it’s easier to quit when stress gets overwhelming. Ignore the fact that employees are stressed, and risk losing employees—and that includes managers.

Coach employees on stress relief tactics; doing so will acknowledge and validate their feelings. They probably know these tactics already, but a quick refresher on the following stress relief techniques will provide everyone with a welcome moment of levity:

  • Listen to music: Listening to relaxing music can lower blood pressure and reduce the release of cortisol, a chemical related to stress
  • Talk to a friend: In and out of the workplace, communicating with someone about stressors really puts things in perspective
  • Coach yourself through it: The most successful individuals know the value of positive self-talk
  • Eat a healthy diet: Foods with high Omega-3 content, such as fish, can help reduce stress symptoms
  • Get humorous: Laughter releases endorphins and minimizes release of cortisol and adrenaline
  • Drink green tea instead of coffee: While coffee increases adrenaline, green tea has an amino acid called theanine, which has a calming effect
  • Practice mindfulness: This is the act of paying attention to one’s senses, thoughts, and surroundings (more on this important one later)
  • Get exercise: Exercise also releases endorphins and relieves stress
  • Get plenty of sleep: Seven to eight hours
  • Do breathing exercises: Deep breathing oxygenates your blood and increases calm

The more you care for the psychological state of your employees under stress, the more likely they are to stick with you. Mindfulness can even improve performance under stress.

Psychologist Ellen Langer has been studying mindfulness for 40 years. She says, “If everyone is working in the same context and is fully present, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a superior coordinated performance.” She lists improvements in attention, creativity, interpersonal relationships, and stress management as benefits of mindfulness. “Question the belief that you’re the only one who can do it, that there’s only one way to do it, and that the company will collapse if you don’t do it. When you open your views to be mindful, the stress just dissipates.”

Know Best Practices

Langer’s advice on mindfulness can truly guide the entire change management process. Because each company is unique, there is no single set of rules or practices guaranteed to be best for your situation. Context determines the way to manage change. Yet, rules do provide guideposts. Being aware of them is like being a musician who masters the basics to enable improvisation and innovation.

Change management best practices make sense—after all, this is about initiating change as well as letting it happen:

  • Change from the top down: As a leader, take a proactive role in delineating how change will take place and who will be on the change management team
  • Pay attention to timing: You may feel a big shakeup is necessary, but can your company handle it all at once? Is right now the best time? What’s a realistic timeline to mitigate risk?
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate: Facilitate communication routinely the whole way through, and disclose technical details to management
  • Pay attention to process: Watch the extent to which various stakeholders in the process need differing levels of assistance and resources, and solicit feedback
  • Plan on disruption: Even when everything seems in place for a transition to go off without a hitch, the theme here is that change is constant; prepare for things not to go as planned, and pinpoint areas where problems may arise

There are a lot of variables that leave room for disruption, such as problems or advances in technology, budget issues, compliance with local and state statutes, personnel losses, etc. Leave room for flexibility. At the same time, with best practices you’re maintaining the framework and order within which disruption and stress are good things.

You want change. You want problems. Without them you don’t improve, you remain stagnant and your employees move onto bigger and better things. Be mindful of change management strategy, and watch your employees flourish as your business does as well.



Top 5 Vehicle Modifications That Save You Cash Mon, 01 May 2017 22:30:12 +0000

Spending a lot on your car is a drag, so you’re probably already familiar with some DIY tips to save money on your car. Those tips—such as keeping tires properly inflated and doing your own maintenance—are essential to any vehicle owner. They’re the basics. Now it’s time to learn about some great vehicle modifications that will take your savings to the next level. Master those basics of saving money on your car, and you can use the savings to make modifications like these. They’ll make your auto hum, and you’ll be singing as you save money down the road.

Cold Air Intake

For any vehicle, a cold air intake modification helps the engine achieve more with its airflow. Think of the engine like a gigantic lung. The more fresh air you get in your lungs, the better you feel, because you’re getting more oxygen to your brain. When your engine gets more cold air, it improves combustion, which lets it open up and get more horsepower and torque at better fuel efficiency. Get an intake that shuts off the engine bay from the filter area so you’re getting cold air—not the hot stuff.

Cat-back Exhaust

“Cat-back” is short for catalytic converter-back system. The cat-back modification is very popular for vehicles like the F-150, because it increases torque and horsepower. It includes a rear pipe, muffler, and resonator. The modification makes it so exhaust gases are less restricted, releasing pressure to improve gas mileage. Essentially, your engine breathes easier because the cat-back mod makes it easier to release exhaust. The engine does less work, improving fuel efficiency, and the free flow of gases means you get better torque and horsepower.

Strut Bars

A strut bar, otherwise known as a strut tower brace, gives you better handling around corners. You can get strut bars for the upper and lower portions of your front and rear struts. They back up your frame, reducing chassis flex and giving it extra support so it can handle more stress. This reduces the amount of energy your engine has to expend, improving efficiency. Your vehicle will ride over bumps, ruts, and potholes smoother than it would without struts bars. If your car doesn’t have them already, give it a go.

HID Lights

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights consume 35 percent less electricity than halogens and put out 300 percent more light. These things are great because you’re using less power to get more performance. This prolongs battery life, or if you’re driving an electric vehicle (EV), HIDs will help you go longer on a single charge. For hybrid vehicles, you’ll get better gas mileage because the traction engine won’t have to work quite as hard to power the electric engine.


Better Tires

Low rolling resistance tires improve gas mileage by up to 3%. Granted, if you need a ton of traction because of slippery conditions, these might not be the tires for you. But new advancements with a substance called silica help low rolling resistance tires get great traction, because the silica is a very sticky substance. Overall, to increase performance and efficiency, there isn’t a better modification than a tire upgrade.

The Pros, Cons, and In-betweens of Starting Your Own Business Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:47:19 +0000

A black and white world doesn’t exist. If I were to tell you, “There’s absolutely no downside to starting your own business”, I would be be wrong. Rather, starting your own enterprise involves entering a world of complexity you’ve only glimpsed from the outskirts.

The good news: about one-third of new businesses survive 10 years or longer, while about half survive five years or longer. If you’re really in this for the long-term and are ready to go all out, you stand a good chance of sticking around. If you’re not, you stand a good chance of being among the two-thirds who fail.


  • There’s a lot of assistance available: Simply Google “How to start a business” and there’s a wealth of information. The Small Business Association offers a ton of resources, and you can attend conferences, or other meetups; for an example of the type of info available, check out my article about saving money on internet marketing.
  • There are a ton of options: For one, the possibility of e-commerce opens up a world in which all you need is a product and a website. If you don’t have your own product, there are organizations like Amway that supply products for you to sell. The Amway model is called “Direct Selling”, it typically provides a supplemental option for aspiring entrepreneurs. Three million people worldwide are Amway “Independent Business Owners”, and the direct selling model—in general, not just Amway’s—brought in $36.12 billion in 2015.
  • You can do what you want: What you do with your business is only limited by your own ambition. If you want to keep it small, keep it small. If you want to go big, do your best to appeal to a wider and wider audience.
  • You can offer true personalization: You are the shop-next-door, the equivalent of today’s mom-and-pop operation, the underdog, the face of what has made America great from the get-go. You can get to know your customers face-to-face, learn their names, what they like, what their friends like, and, ultimately, what your target audience wants and needs.
  • You can end your job search: Young adults ages 20-28 change careers an average of seven times before arriving where they want to be; start a business doing something you really want to do, and stop the vicious cycle of looking for a new job and being dissatisfied with what you find.


  • There’s a lot of responsibility: Some people thrive on responsibility and love it, while for others the level of responsibility involved in starting a business is just too much. Before starting a business, evaluate what type of person you are and ask yourself if you’re willing to invest your entire life in it.
  • There’s a ton of competition: On one hand, the many advanced, ravenous competitors make it tough to gain an advantage; on the other, competition is good for business because your competitors will push you to be better.
  • You can’t just sit there and focus on product: If your offering is all you’re passionate about, this can be a difficult truth to recognize: a great deal of your success will depend on marketing and branding, networking with other business owners, maintaining inventory and keeping air-tight books. This is why it’s important to raise funds for hiring consultants and specialists, but nothing beats learning how to do everything yourself.


  • People try to take advantage of you: The more your business grows, the more you’ll be on the radar of other businesses and individuals who will try to take advantage of you in one way or another—and there’s simply no escaping the fact that there are bad actors in the world. Beware, do your homework, and don’t go into business with anyone unless they’re squeaky clean. Make sure their proposition is legitimate in terms of how you’ll come out on the other end.
  • You can end up being out-of-touch, overconfident, or overly-stressed: Of course, this won’t necessarily happen, but single-mindedness can be the result of overzealous pursuit. Out of Forbes’ reasons why businesses fail, a big one is leadership failure. The other reasons, such as failure to properly communicate a value proposition, stem from the owner being disconnected from the people upon which the business depends.
  • It’s about nothing but money: In the beginning, making good money was going to be a byproduct, not the end-all-be-all, because you were passionate about people and ideas, not just money; don’t let dollar signs become your only reason for doing business. Those bad actors I talked about earlier? They’re motivated by moolah.
  • It becomes ho-hum: You’re not doing anything different, you’re set in your ways, and so are the people who keep you afloat; continue on this way, and you’ll soon find yourself gasping for air.

The great thing about starting a business is the cons depend on you. Decide to steer clear of the bad actors, not to be one yourself, and to stay attuned to the evolving business world. Evolve with it, even ahead of it, and you’ll see more pros than cons.

Entrepreneurs: How to Minimize Marketing Spend Online Wed, 12 Apr 2017 15:11:41 +0000 Are you a young entrepreneur going into business for the first time? If there’s anything you don’t have a lot of at the outset, it’s money. In terms of cash flow, 28% of small businesses that go bankrupt have big problems with their financial structure. There are a multitude of expenses, from product development, to finding and leasing a quality brick-and-mortar location, to hiring and training staff, to paying consultants and accountants—the list goes on.

Thankfully, many of your first-time expenses are tax deductible. You can deduct up to $5,000 in your first year of doing business. After that, deduct your remaining expenses in installments over a period of 5 years.

Things like property, vehicles, and inventory aren’t expenses—they’re capital expenditures. Over time, you can write off the cost of tangible items through depreciation. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that you have to invest money in capital expenditures at the beginning. The same applies for expenses; you could spend well over $5,000 at the beginning. With both capital expenditures and expenses, you have a year during which you’re on your own, and you may not see any return on investment (ROI) unless you do some high quality marketing.

That’s where this guide comes in. If you lower your marketing spend, you may be able to write off all of your marketing expenses in the first year. A great place to start is right here, on the internet.

Understand Google and Internet Advertising

If you’re planning on drawing in customers, invest in a website. There will be costs, such as web hosting fees. If you want to minimize your overall spend, check out a free course on how to make a website. You can DIY and achieve awesome results. It’s purely a matter of how much time and effort you put into your site.

Once you have a site, consider the matter of making yourself visible online. There are several ways of going about this, but let me just get straight to the reality of the situation: You can spend plenty of money on advertising, but not achieve any results. When it comes to display ads, publishers and advertisers have to cope with the fact that over 200 million people use ad-blockers. You are 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash than click a display ad, and 33% of people find ads “intolerable”.

As a first-time entrepreneur, you’re nowhere near the point where you’re a publisher who can prompt people to whitelist you on their ad-blocker extension. The best, and most inexpensive way for you to gain visibility online is to rank as high as you can in Google.

There are two ways to do this. You can buy AdWords, meaning that if you pay Google for certain keywords related to your business, you’ll show up at the top of the page when someone enters that particular search phrase. The unfortunate thing about AdWords is that if someone clicks on your ad, but doesn’t buy anything, you still pay for that click. Also, if you’re looking to compete on a national level, the competition for your keywords will be incredibly fierce unless your product is so niche nobody else is selling it. Fierce competition equals expensive keywords.

The second way to rank in Google is the organic way, otherwise known as content marketing. Organic can also be the least expensive. Start a blog on your website and create informative content related to your product or service. Put the keywords you want to rank for in your posts, but don’t overdo it. Make sure the meta structure of your site is also in good shape. Send clear signals about what you want to rank for. Next, guest post on high authority blogs and create backlinks to your content. Particularly since you’re the business owner, many different sites will want to hear from you.

This is all part of the complex and competitive world of SEO. Before you undertake this, make sure you know exactly what the deal is with Google and links. Some links to your site can be negative, some can be great. You want good links to your site, and you want internal links between your pages, ultimately funneling the user to product pages where they can make purchases. The only way they’re going buy anything is if you’ve convinced them along the way.

Understand Social Media Marketing

Social media is a great tool for valuable, inexpensive marketing. You’ve probably seen plenty of it during your personal time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social media sites you might use. There are entire websites devoted to the topic of social media marketing; it’s an art, just as content marketing is to Google.

This is a huge subject so here’s a digestible, step-by-step intro:

  • Set up your business page on Facebook, which is the social grandaddy
  • Decide on your Twitter handle, and start your business Twitter account
  • Sign up with one or two other platforms on which you’d really like to see some engagement; i.e. you’re appealing to a young audience, and they’re all over Instagram and Snapchat
  • On your website, provide social media buttons for sharing content and liking your company
  • Consult these four social media rules for businesses:
  1. Along with promotional content, provide valuable information related to your niche
  2. Pay attention to your brand message by using the right words, images, and other media
  3. Post at good times; e.g. Facebook users prefer 1-4pm, Google+ users 9-11am
  4. Create conversations that evoke emotions
  • Pay attention to video marketing trends and take advantage of them; people love video—about 65% of viewers will visit your website after watching your video
  • There are so many great free tools you can use for social media marketing; even just looking at these will help give you an idea of all the different things you can do
  • Respond to your audience as quickly as possible when they reach out to you

Overall, your reach on social media can be huge and you can get started on most networks for free. Link up your content marketing efforts with your social media efforts. Think about who your customers are and what type of customers you want, then design your marketing messages accordingly. Put your heart into this, and you’ll get great results for a very small investment.




Buying a home is better than investing in gold. But how do you get started? Wed, 29 Mar 2017 22:52:59 +0000

Wondering how to begin investing, but uncertain about how the economy is going to go, and therefore, how stocks will do? Gold and real estate are a couple of your investment options if you’re not too excited about stocks.

Gold is a hedge, one investors use as backup against the dollar. If the dollar doesn’t do well vs. other currencies, the logic says gold will be a strong commodity that fetches demand around the world. But, if the dollar does well, gold isn’t going to yield great returns. Essentially, gold and the dollar compete against each other. Real estate, on the other hand, is a long-term investment that many view as safer than gold.

There will always be a demand for real estate, no matter what the dollar does. True, you can lose on real estate. But that’s if you sell when property values are lower than they were when you bought the place. You can always rent your house out, creating steady income, until the right time to sell comes along. Real estate is your smartest investment, for one because it gives you positive cash flow. But if you buy gold when it’s valuable, there’s a chance the dollar won’t tank to the same extent again. But more than that, there’s good chance you would’ve made more money on stocks or real estate.

Need any more convincing? The housing market is healthy–it’s not in a bubble like it was when the Great Recession hit. In 2016, foreclosure rates were the lowest they’ve been since 2000, and June saw property values appreciate at a rate of 5.7%, which means there’s good demand. In general it looks like lenders and buyers have learned from mistakes that led to the housing crisis. Barring some sort of unforeseen housing market disaster, the recovery can (and should) continue. Even if there’s a big collapse, this guide will help you stay away from an investment that will ruin you.

If you’ve still got your heart set on bullion, people have discovered gold in their backyards with a metal detector. In one case, US Army postal inspectors used a military-grade detector to uncover $153,150 worth of gold. So if you buy a house, there’s always the chance you’ll strike two kinds of paydirt, the practical real estate investment kind, and the shiny yellow kind.

Evaluate what you can afford

Essentially, you want to find out which properties you can afford that are going to deliver the best long-term value. There are multiple types of real estate you could invest in, but since this is your first time, I’m going to concentrate on residential real estate. Invest in a home, and you can live in it and rent out the other rooms as well. That way, your tenants make your mortgage payments for you. Once you’re ready, you can move somewhere else and begin to really take advantage of your property’s full earning potential.

The other scenario is you have a family. In that case you’re still making a good investment, because down the line, once you’ve paid off your mortgage and hopefully made some improvements on your home, you can either sell for a profit or become a landlord. Either way, you’ve made a secure investment that will pay off.

Check your credit. If your credit history is bad, do your best to fix your credit score by paying off any outstanding credit debts and debts on other loans. Check to see if there are any errors on the report, and if so, dispute them. If you have any accounts in collections, set up a payment plan to get them out. If you’re in the position to do so, pay off a credit card completely and leave it open. Have a reliable friend add you as an authorized user on their credit card. Next, find a mortgage lender and get a pre-approval letter.

A property in need of renovation can be a solid investment for your money. An FHA Rehab Loan covers both the cost of the mortgage and the cost of renovations. To qualify for one, you must do the following:

  • Find a fixer-upper house in need of rehab
  • Find a qualified lender
  • Meet the lender’s minimum credit score requirement, debt-to-income ratio requirement, and provide proof of income

After the loan is approved, your lender sets up a Repair Escrow Account, and you must begin renovating within 30 days of closing and complete renovations in less than six months.

Particularly if you have great credit and property values are high in the surrounding area, a Rehab Loan could help you flip a house (meaning you fix it then sell it) and make a great short-term return on your investment.

Research the market in your area

Your research into the right home can take multiple forms. A good realtor does all the research for you, and can lead you to properties in your price range in neighborhoods where value is likely to appreciate. Online, you can do all your own research first through sites such as Zillow and Redfin. Look into areas with low crime rates, less inventory than more, and access to desirable resources, such as shopping centers and parks. Once you’ve found an area you like, a realtor will help you get the best deal, and the seller will pay realtor fees. If it’s for sale by owner, ask if they will pay your agent’s commission fee.

Finish the deal

Once you’ve found the home for you, find out what documents your lender needs, provide them, get your loan, and make your offer. Sign a contract with the seller, complete your mortgage application, close the transaction–either through your agent or the seller–and get the keys to your new home.

Keep the place up over the years and make improvements. The value will go up, and you’ll have an investment on your hands that leaves you secure and ready for retirement.

Save money on your first small business brick and mortar location Thu, 02 Mar 2017 23:17:41 +0000 Starting a small business? Real estate will be one of your biggest expenses. Unless you’re committed to doing nothing but ecommerce, there’s no escaping the difficulty of finding just the right location at a price you can afford. Particularly if you’re planning on starting something like a coffee shop, a type of business highly dependent on accessibility, your location is the difference between success and failure.

Getting started

First, you’ve got to determine where the money for your new location is going to come from. Just like The Lenders Network connects homebuyers to lenders, the SBA page on loans and grants is a tool for connecting entrepreneurs to a lender. But loans come at a price. You’ll have to pay the mortgage on your loan, so when all is said and done, you’ll pay more than the actual value of the real estate.

To avoid costly mortgage rates, start with crowdfunding. Indiegogo only charges 4% if you meet your goal, a much smaller amount than you’ll end up paying with a mortgage. Kickstarter allows you to crowdfund the creation of a product–if it takes a brick and mortar location to create that product, acquiring one is part of your campaign. Rockethub bills itself as “The leading global community for entrepreneurs”, with the “Elequity” funding hub as a starting point to guide you through the funding process. Peerbackers also specializes in entrepreneurial and small business funding, with its Crowdfunding Academy there to help educate you on how best to go about crowdfunding your business.

Maximizing your space for sustainability

Once you’ve procured funding to get going, choosing the right location is your next step. In terms of saving money, it pays to think about sustainability.

Have you looked into sustainable commercial real estate? Green buildings can save you up to 20% on utilities alone. If the building isn’t up to sustainability standards, according to Marylhurst University there are income tax credits, rebates, grants, and property tax abatements  “for everything from solar installation projects to interior energy retrofits of commercial buildings”.

If property values on sustainable buildings in your area are too high, the smart route is to identify a building in a good location that hasn’t been updated. Then, determine the price of green renovations and add it to the cost of the building. Next, research the federal, state, and local incentives for installing things like solar panels, double-pane windows, and high quality insulation. Subtract the estimated dollar amount of incentive kickbacks from your first figure, which was the cost of the lease combined with the cost of green renovations. Finally, compare that number with the price of buildings that are already updated for sustainability.

In the long run, you’ll only save money from updated, eco-friendly real estate, because you’ll save on utilities and repairs. You can also use your investment in sustainability as part of your branding, with environmental stewardship as a cornerstone of your business.

Incentives and practical considerations

Incentives don’t just come from modernizing a space for sustainability. Have you ever considered relocating to a different city? In terms of finding the absolute best location for your small business, there are cities such as Chicago that offer grants, loans, fee waivers, tax reductions and land-write downs in exchange for job creation. Do your research on areas where your product is needed, look into state and city incentives, and then consult with the local Small Business Development Center. If you’re willing to relocate beyond the US, consider global hotspots for entrepreneurship, such as Berlin, Tel-Aviv, and London.

Quickbooks points out, “The cheapest choice isn’t always the right choice.” Look for an area with plenty of traffic from your target customers. Be aware of how much competition there is in the area, too. The more competition, the less visibility you’ll have. However, if you find a key price point on which you can undercut competitors, and you have a unique brand, take the risky location with a reasonable price.

When it comes to relocating, some states have lower minimum wage than others. Research minimum wage along with the economic environment of prospective states, and plan accordingly.

In some states, you’ll have multiple power companies to choose from. Find the one with the best rates and be aware of whether they have additional charges during peak hours of use. Large spaces cost more to heat and cool. Don’t get a bigger space than you need. Reserve about 80% of the space for retail, and use low cost rental space for any additional storage, distribution, and offices.

As far as janitorial and maintenance costs, DIY is the cheapest. Another option is to use an app such as TaskRabbit, which connects you to inexpensive and reliable freelance janitors and maintenance personnel.

You’ll need liability insurance in case anyone gets hurt in your store, so use a broker to look hard for the insurance provider with the best rates.

Ultimately, the smart decision on your first location is finding the balance between price and location. A great location with lots of traffic will pay for itself. But if you don’t have a ton of funds at the outset, and don’t want to rack up lots of debt, look for the space with a decent price in a decent area, and work hard at marketing and branding to make customers come to you.

Featured image via Flickr