How much do you spend each month on your electricity bill? Between blasting the AC during the summer and cranking the heat during the winter, you’re likely spending more than a thousand dollars each year just to keep your lights on.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could skip that bill — for the whole year?
Thanks to a company called OhmConnect, you might be able to.
How to Skip Your Power Bill for a Year
OhmConnect is a free service that works with all the major power companies in California to pay people for saving energy when it matters most to the power grid and the environment.
When you create an account with OhmConnect and link your utility account, you’ll get a text about once a week when a lot of people in your area are using power, asking you to cut back on your power usage for an hour. If you save energy, OhmConnect pays you cash.
Even easier: Let a smart plug do the work for you. So long as you are using less energy than usual during these OhmHours, you’ll get paid — not to mention you’ll likely see a lower power bill each month.
One couple, Michael and Tiffany Edgerle, of Bakersfield, California, was able to earn more than $1,200 in just three months using OhmConnect — enough to pay for their entire power bill for the year.
“When we hit $1,000 in less than three months, I couldn’t believe it” says Michael. “We’ve made this amount of money from something we didn’t even know about a few weeks ago!”
About half their earnings come from payments for OhmHours, and the other half comes from credits for referring people they know to the program. Michael says his family uses a smart thermostat and smart plugs to make things easy.
How to Get Started
Canceling your electricity bill isn’t an option, but making enough free money to pay it off is. Here’s how California residents who use PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison can set up an account with OhmConnect.
Sync it with your online utility account through PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison.
Receive energy usage notifications during “OhmHours” and “AutoOhms” — high-energy-consumption times that trigger non-green power plants to activate in order to support the overtaxed grid.
Head outside or at least turn the TV off until the OhmHour is up. If you have a smart plug connected to any of your devices, they’ll automatically shut off during these high-usage times.
That’s it! OhmConnect rewards you with cash for reducing your energy consumption and helping to prevent blackouts.
Enter your ZIP code here to get started saving energy and earning money. How much could you make this month?
Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
AJ Smith, CEPF® AJ Smith is an award-winning journalist and personal finance expert with more than a decade of experience in television, radio, newspapers, magazines and online content. She has appeared on CNN, The Weather Channel, Wall Street Journal Radio and ABC News Radio. Her work has appeared on websites including MarketWatch, Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance and Credit.com. She is a contributor for Forbes. The SmartAsset VP of Content and Financial Education has degrees from Princeton University and Mississippi State University. AJ was named an honoree of the 2018 Women in Media awards in the Corporate Champions category. She is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®). AJ and her husband also write and illustrate educational children’s books.
What is the Best Way to Pay Off Debt? Snowball Method vs Avalanche Method – SmartAssetClose thinFacebookTwitterGoogle plusLinked inRedditEmail
Tap on the profile icon to edit your financial details.
When you are in debt on multiple credit cards or from multiple sources, like a mix of student loans, credit cards, personal loans, etc. it can be difficult to decide where to start with paying off your debt. Of course, the first thing you should do is calculate and record the balances, minimum payments and interest rates on all of your debts. But after you do this, your numbers might seem overwhelming. Luckily, there are several debt payoff methods to choose from and each has its own set of pros and cons.
Find out now: How much do I need to save for retirement?
The Avalanche Method
Paying off debt with the avalanche method is a great choice if your debts have lots varying interest rates. When you use the debt avalanche method, you basically ignore your debt balances and minimum payments and focus solely on their interest rates. You focus on paying off your highest interest debt first (while still meeting the minimum payments for all debt).
The avalanche method is usually touted as being the fastest and cheapest way to pay off debt because you’ll get rid of your highest interest rate debt first. This will indeed save you some money on interest, and also some time because you’re highest interest rate debt won’t continue racking up compound interest.
But if you are new to paying off debt with intensity, it might be intimidating to you to try and tackle a debt that may not have the lowest balance.
Related Article: Debt Settlement
The Snowball Method
The debt snowball method focuses only on the size of your debt balances. You’ll rank your debts in order from smallest balance to highest balance, ignoring their interest rates and minimum payments. Then you’ll pay them off in that order.
This method is a good one to choose if you feel that having small successes more frequently will keep you motivated to continue paying off debt. These psychological wins can help you avoid debt payoff fatigue if you have many debts to eliminate.
As you pay off your smallest debts, you wont’t see your disposable income rise. Instead, you’ll roll the payment you were making each month from the first one you payoff into the payment for your next debt. For example, if you were putting $100 each month toward a debt, once it is paid off you will earmark that $100 each month to more quickly paying off your next debt. This is when your snowball will begin to roll faster and gain momentum.
Some people may choose to do a hybrid debt payoff method by combining the avalanche and snowball methods. For instance, I chose to pay off my smallest balance first, which would follow the snowball method. I also rolled my minimum payment toward my next debt, but instead of tackling my next smallest balance, I decided to move to a debt with a higher balance and my highest interest rate. This may not make sense to everyone, but in a hybrid situation you can use emotional and logical thinking to help you make a decision that fits with the best of both worlds.
6 Ways to Pay Off Debt Faster
In the end, there’s no right or wrong way to pay off debt. Everyone’s situation is different, so what works for one person may not work so well for someone else. What really matters is that you continue to make progress toward your goal of becoming debt free.
Kayla Sloan Kayla Sloan is a writer with an expertise in debt, budgeting and saving money. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. Kayla’s work has been featured across the web, including on The Huffington Post, Time, credit.com and AOL. You can follow her as she blogs about her journey out of debt at www.kaylasloan.com.
After many months without traveling for fun, lots of people are itching to get on a plane, train, or automobile.
The term used to describe this is “revenge travel.” It’s the urge to start traveling again after being home for a long time, and to make up for things we didn’t do during shutdowns, quarantines, health concerns, or all of the above.
The Delta variant of the virus has changed things a bit, with reports that it may be starting to suppress travel demand. But people are still planning for when things get better.
A survey by CreditCards.com found that 66% of respondents planned to treat themselves post-pandemic without knowing how they’d pay for their splurges, and travel was one of the top items on people’s splurge lists.
But unless you’ve been saving up, revenge travel can really ruin your finances.
Here’s some advice to quench your thirst for travel without drowning yourself in debt.
Be Ready for Wait Lists
It’s tempting to want to blow the budget on a great experience. You deserve it, right? And you’re not alone.
An April 2021 survey of 2,000 adults by Discover said 70% of Americans want to travel again and half were planning one or two vacations within six months. Their top reasons for traveling:
37% to relax
18% visit family and friends
10% experience a change of scenery
Travel professionals are certainly noticing this pent-up demand, and in some cases it’s leading to wait lists, said Malori Asman, owner of Amazing Journeys, a Pittsburgh-based company that specializes in group travel.
Since 2020, Asman and her team have been in a constant cycle of canceling and rebooking, canceling and rebooking. As they’ve done so, and as people have waited for tours to be rebooked, wait lists on those tours have grown.
Asman has noticed that some people are willing to spend more than they were before. It’s both pent-up demand and rationalizing (as in, hey, we didn’t spend anything on travel in 2020).
“That’s where you find people a little bit more free and easy with their travel plans and their travel funds.”
Don’t Go Into Debt Funding Your Revenge Travel
The same CreditCards.com survey that said many adults had no idea how they’d pay for their sprees also showed 44% were willing to go into debt to treat themselves, with one of the top treats being — you guessed it — travel.
Certified financial planner Mary Bell Carlson, also known as the Chief Financial Mom, calls it the “we deserve” mentality, and our ability to get easy credit contributes to it. The Discover survey found that more than half of those surveyed planned to pay for their revenge travel with a credit card.
“That’s a horrible idea,” Carlson said.
Why? Because while you’re vacationing, the interest-rate meter isn’t. You may plan to put $2,000 on your credit card for a vacation, but unless you pay it off right away, interest rates will quickly add to the bill. “By the time you pay it off, you’re paying astronomically more than you ever thought of paying for that vacation.”
During the early stages of the pandemic, Carlson said, many people began saving more than they had before. But they’re starting to return to their old spending habits.
So how do you get out of your house without ruining your financial future?
Try to make your travel plans fit your travel budget, Carlson suggests. See what you can afford before setting your heart on a family trip to Waikiki. Maybe it’s Walla Walla Washington, instead, or something just a car ride away.
Or, wait a little while longer and save for what you want.
“I get it, you want to get out. So find something that fits within the money you have or the money you have saved.”
Here’s some advice about how to build a travel fund to help pay for future trips and avoid the post-pandemic urge to overspend.
Get the Family Involved in Travel Planning
Finding a vacation you can afford might not be as difficult as it sounds. Carlson suggests getting the family involved.
Case in point: One of her recent family outings with three children under the age of five. They drove three hours to a theme park for a big overnight family adventure. What did her kids love more than anything? The hotel pool.
“We literally could have gone to a hotel down the street and they would have loved it just as much,” she said.
The takeaway? Let it be a family discussion. “Say, hey look, we have 500 bucks, do you guys want to go on vacation? And if so, where do we go?”
Chances are the kids won’t opt for the pricey locales and destinations that the adults will. Even better, said Carlson, “Having the kids’ input into what matters to them is more meaningful than anything in terms of the dollar amounts. It’s the memories you make and the experiences you have.”
A road trip might be a good option, especially with these tips to save money along the way.
If the family decides to do something bigger, Carlson suggests saving a bit each month and in a year, you’ll have the amount you need. “Put it away where you don’t get tempted to spend it.”
Don’t Let Social Media Sway You
After not traveling, it may seem like everyone is out and about. It’s easy for FOMO to take over.
Don’t be fooled.
Social media “is a perfectionist’s worst nightmare because you compare your worst to someone else’s best,” Carlson said.
She suggests instead of looking at everyone else’s experiences, find your own. That might mean booking a nearby hotel (with a pool!), ordering pizza, and having a family movie night.
Protect Your Investment with Travel Insurance
No matter what you decide to do, protecting the money you invest in travel is important.
That means buying travel insurance, mainly in case you need to cancel or change your plans or if you get sick or injured on your vacation.
According to Squaremouth, an online tool for quoting, comparing, and buying travel insurance, many destinations and cruise lines are now requiring proof of travel insurance mainly to make sure they’re covered if they get sick while traveling. This includes many Caribbean destinations that are popular because of their proximity to the United States and their openness to tourists.
Buying a policy should add about 4% to the cost of the trip, the company says.
Amazing Journeys’ Asman recommends that whatever travel insurance you buy it includes cancellation coverage and lists COVID-19 as a covered reason, so if you or a travel companion is diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to departure, you can cancel.
Some policies will cover cancellations for any reason, but those will cost more — up to about 40%. And if you do cancel, you might not get the total amount back, just a percentage.
Asman adds that it’s important to look for coverage that will cover medical treatment and/or hospitalization when you’re away from home, and to make sure that includes treatment for COVID-19. “I always recommend cancellation insurance,” she said.
Now Take That Vacation! Just Make Sure You Can Afford It
There are many things you can do and places you can go, even if it isn’t an around-the-world cruise. It will still be fun.
“By now, everyone needs a vacation, and that’s totally fine,” said Carlson. “But do it within your means.”
After many months of going nowhere, Amazing Journeys’ first group trip finally hit the road for South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.
“We are just over the moon,” Asman said. “People are just so excited to get out and be together.”
Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.
DoctorAxe.com and the co-founder of Ancient Nutrition.
Josh was someone I wanted to meet because he had a similar career trajectory I did. While he was originally a chiropractor, he eventually quit his practice to work on his online business.
I figured I would meet him eventually since he also lived in Nashville, but lo and behold, we discovered our new nextdoor neighbor was the COO of Ancient Nutrition — one of his companies!
It’s just crazy how many more entrepreneurs live in this area. There are so many people I can connect with and learn from, and that’s something I was definitely missing.
Another fun fact: Dan from the country duo Dan + Shay was my neighbor for a while, and he lived with his family just a few doors down. We wound up making friends with his family and even went on vacation with them.
Basically, none of these things could have happened in Illinois.
The Bottom Line
If you think taking on almost $1 million in debt for a big move sounds crazy, I totally get that. But when I add up all the blessings we got in return, I feel confident moving was one of the smartest decisions we have ever made.
We listened to the nudge God gave us, and we put our fears aside to move toward something new — something better. Along the way, we learned that sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to get what you really want. And time and time again, I’ve learned you often have to give up something good to get something great!
When I look around at our Nashville home and our kids who are truly thriving, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I may have a house payment now, but I have so much more.
Good Financial Cents, and author of the personal finance book Soldier of Finance. Jeff is an Iraqi combat veteran and served 9 years in the Army National Guard. His work is regularly featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Inc.com and Entrepreneur.
The S&P 500 index is hovering around record highs as of August 2021. But plenty of things could disrupt the economy, like the delta variant of COVID-19 and the supply shortages that are making prices of just about everything soar. With so much uncertainty, you may be worried that the stock market will crash again.
First, the bad news: Yes, the stock market will crash again at some point. Stock market crashes are completely normal. The stock market has crashed 21 times — defined as a drop of 20% or more from its peak — since the Wall Street crash of 1929. It’s inevitable that it will crash at some point. We just don’t know when.
Now the good news: Historically, though, the stock market has always recovered over time.
If you start preparing now, your finances will bounce back next time the market crashes as well.
5 Ways to Prepare for a Stock Market Crash
The problem is that many people don’t start thinking about how to prepare for a stock market crash until after the market has already crashed. But if you take action now, you’ll mitigate the damage later.
1. Don’t Try to Time Your Way Out
Some people attempt what’s known as market timing, which means they try to cash out their investments before the market crashes. Or they don’t invest when stocks are surging because they think the market is overpriced.
The problem is that even the best minds on Wall Street can’t predict the market’s highs and lows. The stock market could stay hot for a long time. If you avoid investing out of fear or because you’re hoping to invest when the market dips, you could miss out on significant gains.
A better strategy is to practice dollar-cost averaging, which means you invest a set amount at regular intervals. If you invest in a 401(k) or a similar employer-sponsored retirement account, you’re already doing this since you’re investing money from each paycheck. The same goes for if you automatically invest each month in a Roth IRA or traditional IRA. Over time, dollar-cost averaging tends to produce better returns than trying to time the market.
2. Build Your Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is the best investment you can make if you’re worried about a stock market crash. You need a cash cushion in case you’re hit with a big expense or a job loss right after the market has tanked. Otherwise, you may have to dip into your 401(k) or other investments before they’ve had time to recover. If you’re younger than 59 ½, you could also face early withdrawal penalties.
If you don’t have at least a six-month emergency fund, make building one a high priority. Of course, this is a long-term goal that may take years to achieve. But any safety net you’re able to build is a win.
Try to budget at least 10% of your paycheck for emergency savings. If that’s not doable or you want to speed up your progress, taking on a side hustle to build your reserves is a good strategy.
If you’re approaching retirement or you’ve already retired, it’s especially important to make sure you have ample cash reserves. An ill-timed crash can devastate your retirement plans by forcing you to sell investments before they’ve recovered or claim Social Security too early.
Consider meeting with a fee-based financial adviser if you’re retired or plan to retire in the next five years. They can help you determine how much cash you should have on hand and whether you have the right ratio of stocks vs. bonds.
3. Limit Individual Stocks to 5% of Your Portfolio
Maintaining a diversified portfolio is essential to weathering a stock market crash. If you invest in stocks of individual companies, try to limit any single investment to no more than 5% of your overall portfolio.
Whenever you invest in stocks, you risk losing money just because the market is down. But the risks of investing in individual stocks are greater compared to investing in index funds that move up and down with the overall stock market. For example, there’s the risk that one industry will be hit especially hard, as occurred with tech stocks during the dot-com crash, and risks specific to a company, like poor management decisions or increased competition.
4. Rethink Risky Investments
If you’ve made a lot of money on risky investments like meme stocks (think GameStop and AMC), penny stocks or Dogecoin, think very carefully about whether it’s time to sell. There’s nothing wrong with investing a small amount of money in a high-risk investment, provided that you have adequate savings and you don’t have high-interest debt. But these investments are highly volatile, so your losses could be especially steep.
5. Decide Now if You Want to Invest More
A stock market crash can be a great opportunity to invest more if you have the stomach for it. Provided that you have a solid emergency fund and you’re investing for retirement, you could set aside extra money to invest when the stock market crashes.
Because it’s natural to panic when stocks nosedive, make a plan now. For example, you could decide that you’ll invest $X extra if the S&P 500 index falls below 4,000. Or if there’s a stock you want to buy, you could decide that you’ll buy it if the price drops below a certain level.
This may seem counterintuitive to what we said about not trying to time the market. To be clear, saving money to invest when stock dips is a strategy you should use only if you’re already dollar-cost averaging by investing for retirement. But if your finances are in good shape and it fits with your risk tolerance, it’s OK to prepare for some bargain hunting next time stocks crash.
What Should You Do When the Market Crashes?
Probably nothing. A stock market crash is panic-inducing, but it’s best not to make major decisions about money from a place of fear. Keep investing in your 401(k) after a crash unless your financial situation has drastically changed. Avoid checking your account daily.
It’s never pleasant to see your net worth nosedive. But if you don’t sell your investments at a loss, you really haven’t lost money. With time and patience, your finances will eventually recover.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
If you’re looking for more than a few thousands bucks in extra cash, it seems like the only options are doing a cash-out refinance on your home or applying for a HELOC or other interest-laden loan.
Between added debt and interest payments, are you really getting the most out of your money? And what if you don’t want to take on even more debt?
Another option you have is called a home co-investment — and a company called Unison is letting people take advantage of their home equity now for a share of the home’s increase in value (or any potential loss) later. All without any monthly payments or interest.
Get Up To Half a Million Dollars to Update Your Home, Consolidate Debt or Plan Your Retirement
All the things you would want to do with the money from your home equity loan or cash-out refinance, you can do with a home co-investment — without a monthly payment.
Unison will invest up to $500,000 or up to 17.5% of your home’s value — determined by an independent appraiser. It won’t affect your current mortgage, and Unison doesn’t take any ownership of your property. Then they’ll wire the co-investment amount, minus a 3.0% transaction fee and settlement costs, straight to your bank account.
What you do with that money is up to you. A lot of people use it to upgrade their home and increase its value. But if you want to use it to go back to school or put it into the stock market and let it grow, you can.
When you sell your home, if the home value increases, Unison will share the profit. If the home value decreases, in most cases, Unison will share in the loss with you. Just like any other investment, they know there’s always a risk alongside any potential reward. Either way, you can access the equity in your home now — without a refinance or home equity loan.
Here’s an example: If your home is worth $300,000 right now, Unison can give you up to $52,500 as an investment (minus the transaction fee and settlement fees — so it doesn’t come out of your pocket).
If you sell your house 10 years in the future for $400,000, Unison gets their investment back, plus their share of the profit. But if you sell your house for $200,000, Unison’s share of the loss would exceed the amount of the co-investment you received, and you would not owe Unison. The amount Unison can lose is limited to its initial investment in the home.
Take 2 Minutes to See How Much Cash You Can Get
To get started, just enter your home address and email to see if you prequalify — and how much Unison can invest with you. Once you complete your application, if you’re approved, you can have cash in your bank account — without monthly payments or additional debt.
It takes just minutes to get started and see how much of a co-investment Unison can make. What will you do with your money?
Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Take a look at your electricity bill from last month. Is it in the hundreds? More?
Even if you have energy-efficient appliances and are quick to turn off the lights when you leave a room, there’s still energy to be saved in your home — but how? Is unplugging the toaster really going to make a difference?
The answer lies in technology. Let your home make smart energy decisions for you — based on your lifestyle — and you could see your HVAC energy usage drop by about 23% when using simple tools, like flexible scheduling, remote access and geofencing. And you may even be able to get one of these smart devices for free.
Your Utility Company May Be Offering Rebates on This Smart Thermostat
Right now, utility companies all over the country are offering rebates on Sensi smart thermostats to reduce energy consumption — and help their customers save money. Some are even offering up to $125 back, covering most — if not all — of the cost for the smart thermostat. Enter your ZIP code to see if you qualify for a rebate from your local utility
Sensi smart thermostats are made by Emerson, a company that’s been in the temperature-control business for nearly 130 years — so they know a thing or two about keeping your home comfortable.
Want to know how much using a smart thermostat could save you? Use the savings calculator to get an estimate. You could be cutting hundreds of dollars from your bill every year — or more — for little to no investment on your part. Sounds like a no-brainer.
What Makes a Smart Thermostat Better For Your Life — and Your Wallet?
Sure, there are a lot of things you can do to limit your energy usage and effectively lower your electricity bill — but they may take more effort than you’d like to put in.
Unplugging everything before going to bed at night and swapping out all your appliances for new energy-efficient ones can help… but boy, are they annoying tasks to take on.
But the Sensi smart thermostat works by connecting to almost any temperature control system and letting you set up flexible scheduling for your AC. Work outside the house? It’ll raise the temperature in your home to a low-energy number, then cool it back down when you come home every day.
If you step out to brunch and forget to change the temperature before you lock the door, you can use the app to set, change and program your thermostat while you’re waiting on your eggs Benedict.
And while the app is nice, if you have a smart home system like Alexa or Google Home, you can ask your home assistant to raise or lower the temperature for you. Saving energy has never been so simple.
By setting up a smart program with your Sensi smart thermostat, you can save about 23% on your home’s HVAC energy usage. Imagine what that can do for your utility costs (or see exactly what it could do with Sensi’s cost savings calculator)!
See if You Can Get a Sensi Smart Thermostat For Free
It takes less than 30 seconds to see how much money you could be saving by setting up a Sensi smart thermostat in your home. And it doesn’t take much longer to actually install it yourself — you don’t need special wiring in your home for the most popular model, so you could have it on your wall within 15 minutes.
Curious if you can get a smart thermostat for free and save hundreds of dollars on your energy bill this year? Just enter your ZIP code now and see if you qualify to get up to $125 back on your new smart thermostat.
Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
*Energy savings are calculated by comparing operation time for a nationwide sample of Sensi users with temperature adjustments averaging 4° in comparison to users with no adjustments. Savings vary based on equipment type/condition, insulation, climate & temperature adjustment size/frequency.
If there’s one thing millionaires might all agree on, it’s that passive income is a smart piece of a successful financial plan. It’s more money in their accounts without sacrificing much — if any — of their very expensive time.
So while side hustles are great, true passive income can be even better. There are lots of ways to do this, including investing in real estate. But it’s not just about becoming a landlord or investing in a publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT). If you are one of the millions of Americans who qualifies as an accredited investor, you can also invest in private equity real estate.
An online real estate investing platform called CrowdStreet has helped thousands of accredited investors earn more than $245 million in truly passive returns — and can help you build your real estate investment portfolio, too.
Invest in Commercial Real Estate Without Working in Commercial Real Estate
CrowdStreet has created a community where accredited investors can connect with commercial real estate developers and firms all over the country.
From apartment complexes and hotels to industrial warehouses and medical labs, CrowdStreet opens up investment opportunities in commercial real estate projects to any U.S.-based qualified investor. And yes, that could be you, even if you don’t know it. Many people don’t realize they’re already accredited. If, for the last two years, you’ve made more than $200K annually as an individual or $300K jointly with your spouse, or you have a net worth of more than $1 million (excluding your primary residence), or you’re a holder in good standing of the Series 7, Series 65, or Series 82 licenses, you’re likely already an accredited investor.
Here’s how it works: CrowdStreet conducts objective reviews of projects all over the country and selects only a few deals from best-in-class sponsors (aka real estate developers) to add to their Marketplace. Only about 5% of projects they source are ultimately selected for inclusion on the Marketplace.
Then investors can review each project — including the expected returns and length of investment period — and decide if the deal is right for their portfolio and how much to invest (each sponsor decides the minimum amount for their deal).
And because this is truly a passive income source, that’s it! You’re not a landlord or property manager; you’re a passive investor. Depending on the business plan, you can potentially earn returns in two ways: through ongoing cash distributions and/or a share of the final selling price. It depends on how the business plan is structured, so be sure to understand that before investing, and choose a deal that aligns with your investing goals.
Keep in mind that every project comes with some amount of risk, so there’s always the chance you could lose your investment. To date, investors have used CrowdStreet to invest in over 524 deals and have earned more than $240 million in distributions. So far, 56 deals have been fully realized, meaning they either sold or refinanced, and those projects have averaged a 17% IRR. You can get their full Marketplace performance stats here.
For context: According to data from Goldman Sachs, the average stock market return over the last 10 years has been just over 9%.
Invest in Real Estate, But Leave the Heavy Lifting to The Experts
CrowdStreet selects its available deals using its expertise in the commercial real estate field — they’re the biggest online commercial real estate investing platform in the U.S. Their team conducts research to determine the metro areas and types of properties with the most opportunity, then chooses opportunities based on its research.
CrowdStreet’s market reports break it all down for you. For example, with an increase in e-commerce sales, Northern New Jersey (just outside of New York City) is their top pick for industrial construction. And Boise, Idaho and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, take the No. 1 and No. 2 spots for build-to-rent construction, based on remote-work trends fueled by millennials.
You can expand your portfolio and invest like a real estate tycoon without inheriting your great-great-grandfather’s real estate development company. And you can own a piece of property without playing landlord or dealing with tenants.
Start Investing in Commercial Real Estate and Potentially Earn True Passive Income
Opening an account with CrowdStreet is free, and with new deals launching every week, you can feel confident you’ll find the right project for you, based on your interests, investment objectives and tolerance for risk.
Remember — you could be an accredited investor and not even know it! Sign up here to see what projects are available. You could start earning passive returns this year.
The pandemic economy has been a roller coaster, especially for service workers. First laid off en masse as businesses shuttered, they now find themselves in high demand as pent up consumers flock back to restaurants and retailers in person.
To attract and retain workers in the retail industry, Walmart and Target recently unveiled new programs that would pay 100% of the fees associated with earning certain degrees, certificates and diplomas at select colleges and universities.
The education benefits are available to their combined workforce of nearly 2 million, regardless of full-time or part-time status. And they are available on Day 1 of employment. Employees of Sam’s Club, which is part of the Walmart empire, are also eligible.
Both programs are managed by Guild Education, an education-benefits company. Guild’s programs pair employers with training and education providers all across the country.
While higher wages are one way to attract workers, according to Guild, that’s not as effective as education in the long run.
“America’s workforce wants more — wages increasing to $15 an hour isn’t as impactful if there is no internal mobility or path to promotion,” Guild spokesperson Brooke LaRue told The Penny Hoarder. “Education benefits provide opportunities for growth and upskilling that will help equip workers for long-term career mobility and security in the future of work.”
While Target and Walmart both partnered with Guild, the companies’ education benefits are distinct.
Here’s how the two new programs work — and what else you should keep in mind if you want to take advantage of them.
Target’s New Debt-Free Education Benefits
Starting in fall 2021, all of Target’s roughly 340,000 part-time and full-time employees in the U.S. are eligible for its new debt-free education program. For new hires, the benefits are available starting the first day of employment once the program is in effect.
Target employees are eligible for 100% free GEDs, diplomas, certificates, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in certain topics and through Guild partner institutions.
Eligible subject areas include:
Business management and operations
Design and more
The programs are taught through more than 40 non-profit and public schools, colleges and universities, such as:
Oregon State University
Rio Salado College
South New Hampshire University
University of Arizona
University of Central Florida
University of Denver
University of Florida
And the historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) Morehouse College and Paul Quinn College
Target will also cover all costs associated with the programs, such as textbook and course fees. Additionally, English language courses and upskilling bootcamps (industry jargon for continuing education) related to the business-aligned topics are available at no cost.
For education programs outside of the pre-approved Guild network of schools, Target will provide tuition assistance of up to $5,250 for non-master’s programs and up to $10,000 for master’s programs. The benefits are paid upfront and directly to the school to limit out-of-pocket expenses for students.
Walmart’s New Live Better U Education Benefits
Through its Live Better U (LBU) program, Walmart has been providing its U.S. workforce education assistance through Guild Education since 2018. However, the benefits were initially limited to 50 programs at a handful of colleges, and while it largely subsidized the education costs, employees still had to pay $1 per day.
LBU has expanded since then, and starting Aug. 16, Walmart is axing the $1 per day fee.
Once the changes take place, all Walmart and Sam’s Club employees in the U.S. — a workforce of approximately 1.5 million — will be able to receive 100% free college tuition for more than 60 programs at 10 academic institutions.
Eligible academic subjects include:
Health and wellness
Walmart’s academic partners are:
Johnson and Wales University
Purdue University Global
Southern New Hampshire University
University of Arizona
University of Denver
Walmart will also cover the cost of textbooks and other tuition fees associated with English language courses and certain trade-skill and certificate programs “that meet business demand,” according to the program announcement. All LBU benefits are available on the first day of employment.
What Else to Know About Guild Education’s Programs
While the specific schools and subject areas may vary by employer, all Guild Education programs operate similarly.
LaRue said that all students must maintain a certain GPA to stay in their programs cost-free. GPA requirements vary by program. She also said that the overwhelming majority of students complete their programs online, but if you happen to live near one of the institutions your employer is partnering with, you can opt for in-person classes if you prefer.
Online learning isn’t for everyone. If you struggle to stay motivated or have a history of poor academic performance, you should consider in-person learning — where safely available.
To help with that all Guild Education students are assigned a coach that can help with things like registering for classes, balancing work and school and developing a career plan.
Target vs. Walmart: Who Wins the Benefits War?
Target and Walmart are currently locked in a game of one-upmanship to draw in new employees while also keeping current employees from inching toward the door during The Great Resignation.
For those comfortable working on the front lines, it’s a good spot to be in. Wages and benefits are finally starting to make meaningful gains. And it only took a pandemic to urge some employers to act.
In addition to the new education benefits, both Walmart and Target increased wages earlier in the pandemic.
In June 2020, Target announced a $15 company-wide minimum wage. And in February 2021, Walmart answered with an “average wage” increase to $15, but the changes weren’t company wide. It boosted about 425,000 front-line workers’ wages to $13 to $19 an hour, while it’s minimum wage remained at $11.
When it comes to education benefits, there’s a clear winner as well.
“From the employee perspective, Target, in particular, is offering the most comprehensive programs and offerings that we’ve seen,” said Guild Education CEO Rachel Carlson during a recent broadcast of CNBC’s “The Exchange.”
Anytime employers compete with each other to offer better wages and benefits, workers are the real winners.
Adam Hardy is a reporter and editor based in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was previously a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder.