Are You Itching for an Earlier-Than-Expected Retirement?

If you’re like many people, the pandemic has had a profound impact on your worldview. The tragedy and social isolation we’ve experienced have put into sharp focus what’s most important. It’s no surprise, then, that a survey conducted by Ameriprise Financial in January found that 70% of people said the pandemic has increased their desire to enjoy life.

And this desire to live life to the fullest is leading people to accelerate their retirement plans. In fact, nearly one in five (18%) of those surveyed who had a retirement date said they are speeding up their plans to exit the workforce. In most cases, it wasn’t because they were pushed out of jobs or couldn’t find work during the pandemic. In fact, 83% said the decision to retire earlier than anticipated was their choice.

If you’re fortunate to be in the position to accelerate your plans for retirement, you may be looking forward to an exciting new chapter in life when you have more time to do the things you enjoy most. After more than a year of social distancing, perhaps you’re looking forward to traveling and reuniting with friends and family. Unburdened by the demands of work, you may finally have time to tackle projects around the house or pursue your passion for activities like writing, volunteering and exercising.

Whatever your dream retirement looks like, it’s critical you have a plan to pay for it. Before you walk away from your career and the paychecks that come with it, be sure you’ve thought through these fundamental questions about your future spending needs and available sources of income.

Expenses

As a first step, try to estimate what your living costs will look like in retirement by considering the following:

What will your typical monthly expenses be?

Some people assume, often mistakenly, that living costs will be lower in retirement. They often overlook things, such as hobbies and experiences, that can bring fulfillment to your days as a retiree but also come with a price. To avoid this miscalculation, add up your current monthly expenses today (rent or mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, other necessities, taxes and discretionary spending, such as travel) and determine what those expenses will look like when retirement begins.

Some costs – like commuting – may go down, while others – like dining out – may increase.

What new expenses might be added when you have more free time?

You may be planning extensive travel or a major purchase (i.e., vacation home or recreational vehicle). These could add to your retirement expenses.

How will you pay for medical insurance?

If you are leaving an employer, your health care costs could become a bigger factor, particularly if you’re younger than 65 and aren’t yet eligible for Medicare. Longer term, you may need to budget for Medicare’s monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Sources of income

It’s no secret that you need enough money from various sources to meet expenses over the course of your retirement, especially one that could last decades, given today’s life expectancies. If you’re planning to start your retirement earlier than expected, it’s especially important to determine whether your funds will last.

The following questions can help you determine whether your nest egg can sufficiently cover your planned retirement:

Where are your retirement savings invested, what have you accumulated, and what is your withdrawal strategy?

Inventory all of your accounts, including any “orphaned” retirement plans that still reside with previous employers. IRAs and other accounts held at various asset management firms should also be documented and potentially consolidated to simplify the process of taking distributions. Be realistic about how much you can afford to withdraw and not run out of money (no more than 4% of your savings each year is a general rule of thumb to consider).

If you’re unsure of how much you will need, working with a financial adviser can help you to determine how much to withdraw, which accounts to take money from, and when and how to do so to potentially minimize taxes.

When will you begin collecting Social Security?

The earlier you begin, the lower your monthly benefit will be compared to its value if you wait until you reach your full retirement age, which depends on your date of birth. The benefit is reduced for each month before full retirement age. 

As an example, if someone turns 62 (the earliest age for qualification) this year and starts collecting Social Security, their benefit would be about 30% lower than it would be at their full retirement age, which in this case would be 66 years and 10 months.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you delay receiving Social Security benefits until after your full retirement age, your monthly benefit continues to increase until you reach 70. For instance, if the same person from the previous example turns 62 this year and holds off on collecting Social Security benefits until reaching age 70, their full retirement benefit would be a little over 25% larger than the amount they’d receive at their full retirement age. However, waiting may not be the right choice for everyone.

A financial adviser can help you determine an approach that reflects your options and your personal situation.

Decisions you make today have long-term consequences

Starting off on the right foot in retirement, no matter the timing, is critical to your long-term financial security and quality of life. Don’t be hasty in finalizing your decision to retire or choosing to tap retirement income sources like Social Security. Answering these fundamental questions can help you assess whether you have a plan that will support your retirement lifestyle — not just for the initial years of retirement, but also for the long run.

Ameriprise Financial Inc. does not offer tax or legal advice. Consult with a tax adviser or attorney. Investment advisory products and services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC, a registered investment adviser. Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. Member FINRA and SIPC.

Senior Vice President, Financial Advice Strategy and Marketing, Ameriprise Financial

Marcy Keckler is the Senior Vice President, Financial Advice Strategy and Marketing at Ameriprise Financial. She also oversees the Confident Retirement program. Marcy has been with Ameriprise Financial (formerly American Express Financial Advisors) for 21 years in a variety of positions in financial planning, marketing and interactive development.

Source: kiplinger.com

Top 4 Things I Love About Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (And 4 Things I’d Change)

Dave Ramsey has helped thousands of people around the world through the 7 Baby Steps for financial peace and freedom.

The process works.

His book titled the Total Money Makeover has had some impressive sales numbers. The book has sold over 5 million copies and has been on the Wall Street Journal Best-Selling list for over 500 weeks. (That data is from August 2017, over 4 years ago, so it’s sold more by now.)

So, we know that the 7 Baby Steps work. There’s a lot to love above the process, and we will address 4 of those attributes here. We will also cover 4 things that we think could be updated this year (as it has been almost 30 years since the Baby Steps were created).

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7 Baby Steps really do work. There are three great reasons why the plan actual works:

a. The Baby Steps Force You To Get Gazelle Intense When It Comes To Paying Off Debt

I’ll mention this later, but I really appreciate that Dave Ramsey keeps the emergency fund smaller to force you to be gazelle intense. Having such a small emergency fund of $1000 really does force you to get out of debt faster because having too much money in the bank can cause you to stagnate. 

b. Dave Strongly Encourages Your Behavior Modification

Too many financial gurus don’t give it to you straight. They may tell you that you need to invest in real estate or cryptocurrency.  It often feels like a lie that you can achieve financial freedom without putting in a lot of work.

Dave Ramsey comes off as blunt many times, but he forces people to confront that the debt is often our fault (with some exceptions). His bluntness, along with the Baby Steps, forces you to self-reflect.

c. The Plan Is Simple And Shows How You Need To Focus On One Step At A Time

I’ll mention this more below, but it’s evident that his focused intensity on the Baby Steps plan helps you stay focused on the task. You complete the first 3 steps consecutively and the following 4 steps concurrently in a prioritized order. 

You don’t have to multitask. Also, you don’t need to think about another step. You just need to focus on the step at hand.

2) Dave Ramsey Is Right That You Need A Plan

Dave Ramsey has many helpful quotes. One of my favorite of Dave Ramsey’s quotes is, “You must plan your work and then work your plan”. 

Too often we go through life without a plan, but we expect that everything is going to work out just fine. I remember the first time I budgeted.  I thought that I spent a certain amount of money on eating out each month, only to realize that number was much higher.

We need plans. It could be a debt payoff plan to stay on top of your debt. It could also be a budget to understand your income and expenses. Or it could be a plan to pay off your home early as per Baby Step 6.

Dave Ramsey understood that which is why the Baby Steps plan is so useful. You stick to the plan and you get out of debt. Voila.

3) The Baby Steps Get Progressively More Challenging

One thing I noticed early was that the Baby Steps seems to get progressively more challenging. This helps build momentum. It is much easier to save $1000 than to pay off your house early. By starting and taking baby steps, the baby steps themselves actually don’t feel very babyish. 

Paying off your home early per Baby Step 6 feels much more like a big kid step, but it’s still just a Baby Step like the others. It’s impressive how Dave structured these baby steps.

4) The Community Around Dave Ramsey Baby Steps Is Incredible

You don’t have to look far to realize that the community around Dave Ramsey is incredible. You can take a Financial Peace University class at your local church. These classes are excellent to encourage you and help keep you accountable while you eliminate debt. You’ll learn the baby steps inside and out with others in your community. 

You can also be a part of a vibrant Dave Ramsey Facebook Community. Personally, I am a part of many of these communities where I receive a ton of encouragement when sharing wins and losses in the process of debt elimination.

There’s a lot to love about the Dave Ramsey Baby Step method.

Now, let’s cover a few things that could use a refresh.

1) Can Creating A Budget Be Baby Step #1?

I am a budget fanatic. I would love to see a Baby Step dedicated to budgeting. Why? Because budgeting helps you understand where every dollar goes. I used “every dollar” like that on purpose because Dave Ramsey himself created a budget app called EveryDollar for that very purpose.

What better way to understand how much money you have to put towards your emergency fund than starting with a budget.

I am not sure why Dave doesn’t start with a budget, but I would be keen to start the Baby Steps with creating one.

2) Dave Ramsey’s Emergency Fund May Need A Refresh

Dave Ramsey’s emergency fund calls you to save $1,000 in Baby Step 1. Is $1,000 enough? It really depends. 

First, adjusted for inflation, $1,000 in 1990 is now worth $2,043.26 per the US Inflation Calculator.

Dave Ramsey's emergency fund needs to be larger due to inflation

There’s a plethora of questions you can ask yourself when considering whether the emergency fund is big enough, such as:

  1. How much debt do you have to pay off?
  2. Do you own a home?
  3. How old is your car?
  4. How many kids do you have?
  5. Do you have insurance?

Another question I like to ask is, “where do you live?”. Personally, my family and I live in the Bay Area, California where the cost of living tends to be quite high. $1,000 wouldn’t get us very far.

3) Is The Snowball Method The Best Way To Pay Off Debt?

As a refresh, the debt snowball method means that you line up your debts from smallest to largest and pay your monthly extra to your smallest debt first then snowball into higher debts. The debt avalanche method is where you line up your debts from the highest interest rate and use your monthly extra to pay off the highest interest first. The savvy debt method is where you pay off 1-2 of your smallest balances first via snowball before reverting to the avalanche method to save the most in interest.

Dave Ramsey loves the debt snowball method. It has worked for many people, so why wouldn’t he? He feels the opposite for the debt avalanche where he mentions that it doesn’t work.

The challenge is that you could lose thousands in interest if your smallest debts also have the smallest interest rates. This can be possible because higher debt amounts carry a higher risk to the lenders, meaning potentially higher interest rates.

You can see how much the snowball method loses in comparison through this debt payoff calculator which compares interest paid from snowball to savvy methods. For reference, we are comparing 4 debts: $23,000 at 22%, $18,000 at 19%, $12,000 at 9% and $8,000 at 7% interest rate. The monthly payment is $1,825.00

debt snowball versus other debt payoff methods

In this example, you would lose over $3,500 in interest by choosing the snowball method.

Does that mean that the snowball method is always worse? Absolutely not. The snowball method may provide the psychological benefit that you need to exterminate your debt.

You choose the debt payoff app and debt payoff method that is best for you.

4) Should You Follow Dave Ramsey’s Advice And Pay Off Your House Early Or Invest?

Dave Ramsey loves mutual funds and paying off your home early. My question is what if your mutual funds are making so much more in interest than paying off your home would save you?

Wouldn’t the prudent thing be to continue to pay off your home and then get the higher interest from investing in mutual funds?  It’s not a one size fits all solution, but it is something to consider.

There are also often benefits of not paying off your home early such as interest paid being tax-deductible. That said, you would really need to determine whether you would make more money from mutual funds than saving from interest payments to determine what’s best for you.

What Do You Think About The Baby Steps?

The Dave Ramsey Baby Steps have helped thousands around the globe. What do you like about the Baby Steps? Do you agree or disagree with what we would change in 2021?

4 things I love about Dave Ramsey's baby steps and 4 things I'd change

Top 4 Things I Love About Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (And 4 Things I'd Change)

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

How to Approach Your Landlord If You Can’t Pay Rent Next Month

If you’ve been out of work and can’t pay rent, the end of the federal moratorium on evictions is guaranteed to dredge up a ton of stress. But now’s not the time to bury your head in the sand.

By exercising your negotiation muscle, you may be able to strike a deal with your landlord that prevents the worst-case scenario: getting kicked out of your home.

Negotiating a Deal With Your Landlord If You Can’t Pay Rent

When you think you can’t pay rent for the upcoming month, it’s best to talk to your landlord sooner rather than later. Even if you’ve been letting late payment notices stack up, coming to a fair agreement with your landlord can help alleviate some of that financial stress.

Here’s what you should do.

First, Know Your Rights

Matt Koz, finance director for the Tenant Resource Center in Madison, Wisc., recommends that renters do their due diligence to research the eviction laws in their area and see if their city, county or state has a moratorium on eviction proceedings during the pandemic.

There may be an eviction moratorium in your local area that extends past the federal moratorium. For example, New York City’s rental eviction moratorium is in place through the end of August.

Being educated about the tenant laws in your state doesn’t just give peace of mind about whether or not your landlord can evict you during this crisis. It can also help you decide how to best proceed when reaching out to your landlord.

For example, Koz said there could be laws where you live that make it disadvantageous to pay partial rent, if you were thinking of suggesting that to your landlord.

“In some cases, it may be better not to offer terms and wait to see what recourse is available to you,” he said.

Approach Your Landlord with Empathy

You may just think of your landlord as a faceless entity that takes the biggest single chunk of your money every month. But a little kindness can go a long way.

“Lead with empathy,” advises Michael Thomas, an accredited financial counselor and faculty member at the University of Georgia. “It’s very easy to become self-absorbed when we’re experiencing a financial shock.”

He says taking the time out to ask how your landlord is doing and working to establish a relationship can make them more willing to work with you. Understanding where each person is coming from can lead to a resolution that’s best for both parties.

Provide Realistic Solutions

Offering up a solution to your situation can show your willingness to work with your landlord.

You might propose to make a partial payment with a promise to pay the remainder of the rent by a certain date. If you don’t know when you’d be able to make the remaining payment, Koz said it’s reasonable to make an agreement based upon a specific occurrence.

For example, you might ask if you can pay the remainder once your kids’ school starts and you can pick up more hours at work.

Instead of suggesting a partial payment, you could ask to skip paying for one month and spread that payment over the remainder of your lease if you think you’ll be able to pay the following month. Or you could negotiate for an overall reduction in rent given that you sign a new lease locking you in for a longer term.

Another option: Ask your landlord to apply your security deposit to the upcoming rent payment, agreeing to replace it at a later date. Or if you paid your last month’s rent upfront when you first signed your lease, you could ask to apply that money to next month’s rent.

Pro Tip

When trying to come up with a rent solution for the upcoming month, make sure you’re not creating a worse financial situation for yourself later on.

Something else you might consider is bartering. For example, you could agree to do landscape work for your landlord’s properties in exchange for a break on rent.

When trying to strike a deal, Thomas suggests coming up with at least three plausible solutions that work for your budget.

“Go with your best-case scenario first,” he said.

If your landlord won’t agree to that, ask for their input on mitigating the situation before presenting your other options.

Get Agreements in Writing

If you and your landlord are able to agree on an alternative plan for paying rent, make sure to get that deal in writing.

“If [your landlord] were to come back and say we didn’t agree to that, [you can say]: Actually we did and here’s proof,” said Pamela Capalad, a New York-based Certified Financial Planner and founder of Brunch and Budget.

Putting things in writing also helps eliminate misinterpretations of your agreement, she said.

However, when signing a lease addendum or other paperwork, don’t rush into a contract with terms you don’t understand.

“If you’re not sure what you’re signing, you can always try to contact a tenants rights organization or an attorney,” Koz said. “Whatever you sign is something that you’re held to. If you don’t meet the terms of that agreement, you’re back where you started.”

Remember, You’re Not Alone

You may experience shame over not paying rent or fear over potentially losing your home, but try not to let that lead you to making drastic decisions.

“The thing I would recommend, if you can avoid it, is to not take out loans to pay rent,” Capalad said.

It can be comforting to put things in perspective and realize you’re not the only one who can’t pay your rent right now, she said.

4 Additional Solutions If You Can’t Pay Rent

In the event that your landlord won’t budge on requiring you to pay your rent in full, it’s good to have a backup plan. Here are a few ideas.

1. Seek Housing Assistance

Look into local housing assistance or eviction prevention programs for emergency funding to help keep you in your home.

The United Way’s 211 network is a great way to connect to resources in your community. Other charities, like Modest Needs, may also be able to help. Your landlord may even know of housing assistance options in your area.

2. Bring In a Roommate

If you can find a good roommate, you can split housing expenses and lower your financial obligation. Just make sure you properly vet the potential roommate and your landlord approves of the new tenant.

Subleasing your place could be another route to take, provided your landlord allows it and you have somewhere else you can crash in the meantime.

3. Sell Something

Make some extra dough by selling unwanted items around your home. Put that money toward the rent.

You can even make sales while practicing social distancing. Check out these 14 websites for selling things online.

4. Get Another Gig

Get money for rent by landing a new job — or securing a second source of income.

Consider a side gig, like a food delivery driver or a pet sitter, where you’re paid based on how much work you take on. These jobs often pay faster than traditional jobs that run on a biweekly schedule.

Many retailers and restaurants are hiring to make up for a shortage of workers. Some are even offering sweet sign-on bonuses.

Now is also a great time to find a job where you can work remotely. There are several gigs that are perfect for doing virtually, like freelance writing. Check out The Penny Hoarder’s work-from-home job portal for new job opportunities posted every weekday.

Feeling overwhelmed? Create a budget that works for you with our budgeting bootcamp!

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

15 Ways to Save Money Landscaping Your Yard

If you have a yard, you’ve probably daydreamed about what you want it to look like someday. But landscaping costs keep many homeowners from breaking ground.

Whether you want to improve your curb appeal, make your yard more functional, or plant your own botanical oasis, landscaping doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity and forethought, you can have the outdoor space you’ve always wanted without emptying your wallet.

Landscaping Tips to Save Money on Outdoor Living

You don’t need to hire a professional landscaper to have a beautiful backyard. You just have to get your hands dirty. From planting perennials to making your own compost, homeowners have many options when it comes to saving on landscaping costs.

1. Choose a Purpose for Your Space

How you plan to use your outdoor space determines how you landscape it. Decide whether you want to tailor your landscape design to:

  • A play area for kids or pets
  • An outdoor dining and lounging area for yourself and guests
  • A productive herb or vegetable garden
  • A butterfly or bee garden

You can choose more than one, budget and space permitting.

But knowing how you plan to use your yard allows you to make a budget and avoid overspending on unnecessary purchases. It also helps you determine where you can cut costs and what your most significant expenses will be, such as putting in sod or building a ground-level deck.

2. Work With Your Yard

Work with the yard you have instead of trying to create something completely different. For example, if you have large, naturally occurring rocks and boulders in your yard, having them moved costs a lot of money. Rather than paying for removal, work around them by turning them into a rock garden or using flowers and mulch to create an attractive feature piece.

The more you need to change your yard, the more costly landscaping becomes. Uprooting trees, leveling terrain, and relocating rocks are all expensive endeavors. Instead of making your yard into something it isn’t, work with what you have.

3. Salvage Existing Wooden Fencing or Decking

Fences, decks, and patios are crucial components of many yards. And without proper maintenance, they can fall into a state of disrepair. But just because your outdoor wooden structures are looking a little worse for wear doesn’t mean you can’t salvage them for your new landscaping project.

Rather than spending a fortune on replacing an old fence or deck, fix it yourself by:

  • Repairing or replacing damaged and broken boards
  • Pressure-washing aged wood and chipping paint
  • Giving everything a good scrub
  • Applying paint or stain and waterproof sealant
  • Maintaining it each year

A quick trip to a home improvement store like Home Depot to rent a pressure-washer or buy some sealant is bound to cost a lot less than paying a contractor to rebuild your outdoor structure.

4. Choose Fence and Deck Materials Based on Climate and Need

Sometimes, salvaging your wooden fence or deck isn’t practical in the long run. If you need to replace or rebuild a fence, deck, or patio, save some money down the road by choosing materials suited to your climate.

For example, in areas where it’s either particularly hot or humid, wooden structures often need to be maintained and replaced more frequently since they’re constantly exposed to harsh elements like the sun or rain, which can damage and destroy them.

Instead, explore options with a longer lifespan, like brick, concrete, composite, vinyl, or metal. Do a cost-benefit analysis to determine how much you could save in the future for maintenance and replacement costs by choosing an alternative to wood.

5. Use Natural Elements

Found natural elements like rocks and stones are inexpensive alternatives to store-bought pavers and edging. You can also use tree stumps as stools or tables and natural mulch like grass clippings, shredded leaves, or pine needles in your flower beds.

These elements add a rustic and natural appeal to your yard and come at little to no cost. Pick up free rocks in new housing developments or by browsing online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Repurpose dead trees by turning them into furniture. And simply empty your lawn mower bag for free mulch.

6. Create a Lush Lawn

If you have sparse grass coverage or weeds have overtaken your yard, you need to put in some work to grow a healthy lawn. But you don’t need to hire an expensive landscaper to bring your grass back to life. You can take care of weeds by pulling them by hand or using a lawn-friendly weed killer.

For dead or thin grass, try reseeding your lawn to bring it back to life. You can also promote its growth using a high-quality fertilizer, which can also help kill weeds.

Just ensure it’s a match for your soil type and United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone, a measure of a region’s climatic conditions (such as heat and humidity) that helps gardeners determine the likelihood of a plant’s growth and survival.

Local home improvement stores and garden centers only carry plants and materials suited to your zone, so if you buy locally instead of online, you can find products suited to your zone without much effort. And you can always ask a store employee for assistance with choosing materials for your soil type.

If your lawn is too far gone, you may have to plant new grass, which takes a lot of time and effort. It involves stripping your old grass, laying down landscaping fabric and topsoil, and seeding or putting in squares or strips of pre-grown grass, which is called sod.

You can hire a landscaper to install it for you, but doing it yourself can potentially save a lot of money. According to Angi (formerly Angie’s List), it costs between $0.35 to $0.85 per square foot on average to buy sod, depending on what type of grass you get and prices in your area. You also may need to purchase fertilizer, landscaping fabric, and topsoil and rent equipment to grade the lawn.

Hiring a landscaper costs between $1 and $2 per square foot. So doing it yourself could potentially save you several hundred dollars. But it may not be worth it.

Angi also notes that it takes around 40 hours of work, though Home Depot says it only takes two to four hours. Either way, cutting corners could prevent your grass from taking root, costing you more money in the long run. So if you aren’t confident in your abilities, it may save you money to have a pro do it. Get some estimates from professionals and compare the costs of DIY.

Regardless of the state of your lawn, getting it back into tip-top shape is key to having a front yard with curb appeal or a backyard oasis.

But keep maintaining it after you complete your landscaping project. Just like most front yard and backyard landscaping, slacking on lawn care only costs more money in the long run. If you don’t stay on top of grass and weed issues each year, your lawn only gets worse with each season. Remember to weed, seed, fertilize, and water your grass to keep yourself from having to pay for extensive and expensive renovations in the future.

7. Landscape With Native Plants

Native plants are the plants that grow naturally in your hardiness zone. Native plants tend to thrive in your climate and soil, which means they’re low-maintenance and easy to grow, unlike potentially finicky nonnative plants.

Because native gardening often requires less maintenance, it helps save on costs for things like fertilizers, pesticides, and water while still growing healthy and strong. It’s particularly useful for novice gardeners since it can prevent you from wasting money on plants that aren’t suited to your soil or zone or take a lot of extra effort to grow.

As a bonus, they also attract birds, bees, butterflies, and wildlife since they provide familiar shelter and natural diets to various creatures in your region.

You can find native plants by perusing the Native Plant Database or talking to someone at your local plant nursery.

8. Plant Perennials

Unlike annuals, which only bloom for one season, perennial plants come up each year. For example, bulbs like crocuses, daffodils, and irises are typically perennials and sprout each spring. Perennials can also be herbs, ground cover plants, fruit bushes, and vegetables.

Because you only have to plant perennials once, you don’t have to purchase new flowers or plants each year. And they tend to multiply, so over time, you can separate the plants and bulbs and use them in other parts of your garden or trade them with others.

9. Plant From Seed

If you’re growing a garden or flowers, planting from seed rather than buying established plants and sprouts is a lot cheaper, although it requires more work on your part. For example, a packet of basil seeds typically costs between $1 and $3 compared to a single basil plant, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $15, depending on the variety. However, seeds can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to sprout.

You can either sow seeds directly into the ground or start them indoors based on their growing season and germination period.

If you choose to grow indoors, you must purchase some supplies upfront, like starter trays, a grow light, and a growing medium. But you can reuse many of these tools each year, saving you from buying it again each season.

If you plant them outdoors, you just need a garden bed or planter and some soil.

10. Build Your Own Garden Beds

Flower beds and veggie gardens are simple DIY landscaping projects. Putting in a new garden doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can use flower beds or planters around trees or features as natural edging or start a simple herb or vegetable bed in an unused corner of your yard. Some popular options include raised planting beds and container gardens.

Depending on lumber costs and whether you can make one from found wood or old containers you already own, DIY planting beds can be much more cost-effective than buying prefabricated beds. And they’re definitely cheaper than hiring someone to build them for you. That’s especially true if all you want is something simple to house your veggies or keep flowers from spreading.

For more information on using found containers or repurposed materials as plant beds, read our article on saving money on gardening.

11. Join (or Start) a Plant Swap

Plants are probably part of your landscaping plan, whether you’re planting ornamental grasses, succulents, flowers, herbs, or veggies. Unfortunately, plants come with price tags — unless you join or start a local plant swap or seed exchange.

In a plant swap, local gardeners and plant enthusiasts trade their extra seeds or propagated plants. They give you a chance to diversify your garden for free as long as you have sprouts, seeds, or established plants of your own to barter with. Seed exchanges are also sometimes offered as part of the non-book-related free services at public libraries.

You’ll also meet fellow green thumbs who can offer tips and landscaping ideas that may help you to save money and have a more successful garden.

12. Buy Trees Late in the Season

Depending on what type you want and how common they are in your area, trees can come with hefty price tags, especially during peak gardening and landscaping season.

But unlike many flowers, herbs, and vegetables, you don’t have to plant trees early in the growing season. And if you wait, you can save big.

Many garden centers and nurseries offer discounts as the season progresses, with the most significant being in the late summer and early fall. And as long as you get your tree in the ground with enough time to establish roots before winter, waiting a month or two to buy and plant it doesn’t do any harm.

13. Make Your Own Compost

Compost does wonders for your garden. It helps improve your soil structure and fertility and provides beneficial nutrients.

Instead of spending money buying compost to boost your garden beds’ productivity and health, save money, reduce your waste, and help the environment all at once by making your own in a compost heap in your yard or composting container by using discarded organics like kitchen waste and grass clippings.

14. Build a Fire Pit

Fire pits are a popular garden idea that adds to the atmosphere and usability of your yard. They’re perfect for enjoying cool summer evenings and roasting marshmallows. But when purchased from a retailer, they can cost a lot of money.

Instead of buying a fire pit, build your own using rocks, bricks, concrete, or metal. Depending on the materials you use and the size of your fire pit, it could cost you less than $100 to build.

Just ensure you’re legally allowed to have one and that it meets your city’s rules and regulations. For example, most fire pits have to be a certain distance from buildings and permanent structures like fences and sheds.

15. Buy in Bulk

One of the best landscaping tips is buying in bulk to reduce your costs for supplies like soil, mulch, sand, river stones, and crushed rock. If you’re planning a large-scale yard renovation or soil amendment, calculate how much material like soil, rock, and mulch you need and put in a large order instead of making multiple one-off trips to the garden center.

Save even more by asking your neighbors if they need anything and split delivery costs on the order.


Final Word

Landscaping your yard can improve your home’s outdoor living experience and motivate you to spend more time outside. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. You can have a beautiful and inviting yard while keeping costs low.

To keep enjoying your yard year after year, continue maintaining it regularly by seeding, fertilizing, and weeding the lawn; tending to plants and trees; and repairing and sealing fixtures like fences and decks. That will keep you from having to take out a personal loan just to cover landscaping costs in the future.

Source: moneycrashers.com

9 Tips for Working Two Jobs and Keeping Your Sanity

The number of Americans working two jobs — or more — is higher than it has ever been.

Recent data from the Census Bureau reveals that an estimated 7.8% of U.S. workers work more than one job, up from 6.8% in 1996.

The necessity of holding a full-time job plus one or two part-time jobs has become such a prominent part of our culture and economy, that several candidates in the most recent presidential election included it in their platform.

It continues to be a frequent talking point among economists and activists alike. Politics aside, public opinion and basic math prove that the more jobs you have, the more stress comes into your life. It is important (and very doable!) to practice self care to avoid burnout.

Tales from the Second Job Front

Zach Brandner, a recent college graduate in Washington, D.C., works in guest services at a museum during the day and his second job is as a server at a restaurant in the evenings.

“Of course in a dream world, I would be able to make ends meet with just one job,” he says. “But that’s not the case right now, so I’m just rolling with it.”

Brandner says he’s learned the hard way that juggling two jobs can’t push out self-care.

Statistically, women are more likely than men to work multiple part-time jobs. Summer Tuverson of Santa Monica, California, is in a similar situation as Brandner. She works at a doggie day care center and nannying.

“There are a decent amount of similarities between taking care of dogs and children,” she says.  “Especially the cleaning up poop part.”

9 Tips on Working Multiple Jobs

With the help of Zach, Summer, and some experts, here are nine tips for maintaining self-care while working more than a single job.

1. Make Friends at All Your Jobs

Avoid the temptation to punch in, do your job, punch out and repeat.

Brandner: “I was pretty surprised to learn that there are actually a few hidden perks to having more than one place of work. The major one is having more than one new circle of friends. Obviously you’re not going to be best friends with everyone, but making an effort to develop and maintain friendships is a good idea. If you feel you have a support system, or at least someone you can laugh with, your shifts seem shorter and more enjoyable.”

2. Location is Everything

When you look for a full-time job, one of the first things you keep in mind is proximity to your home. Of course, if you have a work from home job, you are always close to your work space.

Depending on your schedule and if you are working outside the home, your second job should  be physically near your first job. (Two work from home jobs? You’ve got this covered.)

If you bust your gas budget because you’re driving all around town, your second income becomes pointless. If you are in a city where you use public transit, make a point to check if the job you have in mind is on your same bus or train route.

3. Let Your Employers Know About One Another

Brandner: “When I first got my second job I felt awkward telling both my managers that I was also working somewhere else. I felt like they would feel like I wasn’t able to give them both 100%. For a while it almost felt like I was cheating on both of them. When I eventually did let them know, they both actually admired my hustle, and ended up being much more receptive and understanding when I had to make slight schedule changes.”

4. When You’re Sick, Do NOT Power Through It

While this tip applies to people with one job, it is especially important for people who deal with twice the same amount of interaction.

If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it is that we need to stay the hell away from other people when we are sick. In the long run, it will not be worth ignoring your symptoms in exchange for that day’s wages, when you are risking exacerbating your own health as well as others’.

If you are working two jobs, you are putting in twice the amount of energy, which will wear you down even more. Be honest with your employers, and they will probably be grateful. Remember, it is illegal for someone to fire you for calling in sick.

5. Normalize Power Napping

Tuverson: “I copied this from the kids I look after. If they get home from school at 1:15 and we need to leave the house for swim lessons at 2:10, it is crucial that they get some rest or lest they be grumpy and lethargic for their poor teacher.

“Sometimes I have similar amounts of time before I need to get going for my next job. I used to think that this only allowed me to scroll through my phone and watch half of a ‘Law and Order’ episode. When I still couldn’t stop yawning, I Googled some tips and started power napping between shifts. It’s been a game changer.”

Tuverson says the key is napping between 10 and 20 minutes. She swears by a little caffeine before the nap which will kick in after you wake up, providing you stick to the short nap.

6. Plan and Prep Your Meals

If you are in your car several times throughout the day, rushing to make it to your next job and then also rushing to finally get home, there is the inevitable temptation to pull over for fast food.

While this is okay once in a while, the initial comfort and convenience of not having to cook will soon backfire, making you (and your wallet) feel worse. Set aside time to prep and prepare meals (and snacks for those 15 minute breaks!) that are easy, cheap, and delicious.

Planning meals is crucial to staying healthy but this task is easily overlooked when you get busy. Learn how to start a meal plan and stick to it. 

7. Remember the Reason for Working a Second Job

Tuverson: “Even with two jobs, it’s not exactly like I’m living in the lap of luxury. But, I am now able to afford a mini-vacation that I would not have been able to otherwise. When I’m on the bus for the third time that day and I have spit up on my blouse (and I’ve forgotten if it’s from a human or animal), I open my wallet and see some pictures I’ve printed out of things I’ll experience on my trip.”

She says that her coworkers look at photos of apartments, cars, even engagement rings to keep their eyes on the prize. The aspirational photos are a good pick-me-up, she says, that reminds them why they are working a second job.

8. Commit to Something That Brings You Joy

Even when you have one job, it may seem like all you have the energy to do after work is eat and go to sleep. On a good day, you could summon the chutzpah to grab a drink or some dinner, but even this can seem like a stretch sometimes.

Still, it is important to have other consistent things in your schedule besides just working.

For example, you could join a book group dedicated to your favorite genre. Read on your lunch breaks and on your transit commute, then spend an hour a month chatting with new friends about your thoughts.

Not only does this increase your social circle and offer an escape, but it also exercises your brain. The Penny Hoarder actually has our own book club, and you can find dozens of others online or in person through your Meetup.com, Goodreads, or your local independent bookstores and libraries.

9. Don’t Get Discouraged

It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get in the groove of working two jobs with differing protocols, expectations and managerial styles.

Any half-decent supervisor will cut you some slack when you start. If you find that you are still having trouble adjusting to a new routine after a couple months or so, let Human Resources know and they can give you some more specific tips.

Olivia Smith is a writer based in Washington, D.C., who has experience in public and political advocacy work. She is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Discover it 5% Cash Back Categories This Quarter (Calendar)

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

The Discover it® Cash Back card is one of the most popular no-annual-fee cash-back credit cards around. In large part, its popularity is due to a tiered rewards program that features a selection of rotating 5% cash-back categories.

Spending eligible to earn 5% cash back is capped at $1,500 per quarter across all bonus categories (combined purchases), so total potential bonus cash back tops out at $300 per year.

Still, that’s a substantial haul for a no-annual-fee credit card, especially with unlimited 1% cash back on virtually all other purchases and a powerful Cashback Match (welcome bonus) that doubles cash-back rewards during the first year.

While the bonus categories change every quarter, the 5% rewards rate never does. That means you can always use the tips below to earn more with your Discover it Cash Back card.

Discover it Cash Back 5% Bonus Category Calendar: 2021

But first, let’s review the Discover cash back calendar for 2021.

  • Q1: Grocery stores, Walgreens, CVS
  • Q2: Gas stations, select screaming services, and wholesale clubs (such as Costco and Sam’s Club)
  • Q3: Restaurants, PayPal
  • Q4: Amazon.com, Target.com, Walmart.com

To earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined category purchases each quarter, you must manually activate your bonus cash back.

Activation isn’t retroactive to the beginning of the quarter, so activate before the first day (that’s Jan. 1, April 1, July 1, and Oct. 1) to get the most out of your card.


Discover it Cash Back 5% Bonus Categories: Q1 2021

From Jan. 1 through March 31, 2021 (the first quarter of 2021), Discover it has two bonus cash-back categories:

  • Grocery stores and supermarkets
  • Walgreens and CVS

Grocery Stores

This category covers purchases made at most supermarkets and small-format grocery stores, including independently owned and operated stores not associated with regional or national chains.

This category explicitly excludes grocery purchases made at Walmart and Target and their respective e-commerce sites. It also excludes grocery purchases made at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.

Walgreens and CVS

This category covers purchases made at drugstore giants Walgreens and CVS.

In-store, online, and app purchases are eligible, although they don’t guarantee online and app purchases made with the assistance of third-party digital wallet technologies qualify.

Purchases made with merchants housed inside Walgreens or CVS locations, such as health clinics, don’t qualify for bonus cash back.


Discover it Cash Back 5% Bonus Categories: Q2 2021

From April 1 through June 30, 2021 (the second quarter of 2021), Discover it has three bonus cash-back categories:

  • Gas stations
  • Select streaming services
  • Warehouse stores

Gas Stations

This category includes purchases made at the pump and inside standalone gas stations. It may not include purchases made at gas stations associated with supermarkets, superstores, and wholesale clubs.

Select Streaming Services

This category includes more than 20 popular streaming, music, and multimedia services, including:

  • Apple Music and Apple TV+
  • AT&T TV Now
  • BET+
  • CBS All Access
  • DAZN
  • Disney+
  • ESPN+
  • Fubo TV
  • Google TV
  • HBO Max
  • Hulu
  • Netflix
  • Pandora
  • Peacock TV
  • Philo
  • Showtime
  • Sirius XM
  • Sling
  • Spotify
  • Starz
  • Vudu
  • YouTube TV

Subscriptions bundled with another product or service may not be eligible. Likewise, subscriptions billed by a third party (such as a cable or satellite provider) may not be eligible.

Wholesale Clubs

This category covers purchases made directly with wholesale clubs, such as Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s.

Purchases of affiliated services, such as travel and home improvements, may not be eligible, depending on how they’re coded. Purchases with third-party merchants located within wholesale clubs may not be eligible either.


Discover it Cash Back 5% Bonus Categories: Q3 2021

From July 1 through Sept. 30, 2021 (the third quarter of 2021), Discover it has two bonus cash-back categories:

  • Restaurants
  • PayPal

Restaurants

This category includes purchases made with vendors classified as full-service restaurants, cafeterias, cafes, and fast-food restaurants.

It excludes prepared foods purchases at supermarkets and other vendors not classified as restaurants.

PayPal

This category includes the following types of transactions:

  • Purchases made through your digital PayPal wallet
  • Money sent to friends and family using your Discover card
  • Point of sale transactions made using PayPal Here

Transactions executed through PayPal’s Xoom transfer app are not eligible for bonus cash back.


Discover it Cash Back 5% Bonus Categories: Q4 2021

From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2021 (the fourth quarter of 2021), Discover it has three bonus cash-back categories:

Amazon.com

This category includes virtually all purchases of products and services at Amazon.com, including (but not limited to):

  • Merchandise sold directly by Amazon.com
  • Merchandise sold by third-party sellers
  • Amazon Prime subscriptions
  • Amazon Fresh orders
  • Amazon digital downloads (including Kindle books)
  • Amazon Local Deals

This category also includes in-store purchases at Amazon Go, Amazon Bookstore, and Amazon 4-Star.

Target.com

This category includes purchases made at Target.com and through the Target app. It excludes purchases made with third-party Target affiliates and point of sale purchases made inside Target superstores.

Walmart.com

This category includes purchases made at Walmart.com and through the Walmart app, including purchases ordered for in-store pickup.

It excludes purchases made with third-party Walmart affiliates and purchases made at points of sale inside Walmart superstores.


How Discover Tracks Cash Back

Discover awards cash back on purchase transactions only — not cashlike transactions, such as:

  • Balance transfers
  • Cash advances, including ATM withdrawals
  • Gift card purchases regardless of where they occur
  • Gaming purchases, including lottery tickets and casino chips

Cash back is calculated on “net purchases” — the total transaction amount, including tax, minus credits like refunds, chargebacks, or manager discounts.

All purchases eligible for cash back, including bonus category purchases, earn unlimited 1% cash back.

Eligible bonus category purchases earn an additional 4% cash back, for a total of 5% cash back up to the $1,500 combined quarterly spending limit.

After you’ve reached the quarterly spending limit, bonus category purchases still earn unlimited 1% cash back.


Tips to Earn More Cash Back With Discover it

Discover’s bonus cash-back categories come and go, which is why they’re called rotating categories. But these tips to maximize your cash-back earnings with Discover it never change. Use them to earn more bonus cash back without compromising your budget.

1. Remind Yourself to Activate Bonus Cash Back Before the Quarter Starts

Discover asks cardholders to activate their 5% cash back categories each quarter. Otherwise, bonus category purchases earn only the baseline cash-back rate of 1%.

The activation itself takes all of 15 seconds from your account dashboard. For busy cardholders, remembering to activate it is the tricky part. Such a small task is easy to lose in the shuffle.

To compound matters, Discover doesn’t grant retroactive bonus cash back. Cardholders who forget to activate until midway through the quarter can’t recover that additional 4% on earlier bonus category purchases.

Maximizing your 5% cash-back earnings — or, at the very least, giving yourself a fighting chance to reach the $1,500 bonus category spending cap — means activating on or before the first day of the quarter.

Fortunately, Discover provides ample time: months, not weeks. If you log into your account more than once per month, you should have multiple opportunities to activate in time. Tilt the odds further in your favor by setting a calendar reminder for the last week of the preceding quarter.

2. Set Up Autopay With Bonus Category Merchants

Before the start of a new quarter, review Discover it’s bonus categories and initiate autopay with any bonus-eligible merchants you already make recurring subscription or bill payments to.

Make your Discover it Cash Back card the default payment method for nonsubscription merchants you regularly patronize too.

Examples of both include:

  • Streaming content providers like Hulu or Netflix
  • Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft
  • Grocery delivery services like Instacart
  • Telecommunications companies
  • Third-party payment apps, such as PayPal (but only when the app itself is eligible for bonus cash back)
  • Digital media providers

Be sure to discontinue autopay or remove your Discover it card as a payment method when the quarter ends.

3. Make Larger Purchases With Bonus Category Merchants When It’s Cost-Effective

As long as it doesn’t result in higher net spending, make as many big-ticket purchases as possible with bonus category merchants rather than other merchants selling equivalent products.

For instance, when warehouse store spending earns 5% cash back, find time for an extra Costco run or two. A well-planned journey to the warehouse store supplants multiple trips to the supermarket and probably costs less per calorie — as long as you know what not to buy in bulk.

The same advice applies when home improvement stores are in Discover it’s bonus rotation. An advance purchase of supplies you know you’ll need for a pending home improvement project could be well worth the slight headache of storing them until you’re ready to begin.

4. Move Up or Delay Bonus Category Purchases

Discover reveals bonus quarterly categories many months in advance, giving you plenty of time to create a strategic spending plan.

For instance, if you know gas station purchases are eligible for 5% cash back in a few months, that’s probably when you should schedule the epic road trip you’ve been saving up for.

This strategy is also helpful for ordinary purchases, like grocery store spending. When these sorts of everyday spending categories roll into bonus territory, force yourself to get into a regular groove — say, penciling in a standing date with your shopping card each Saturday morning.

Better to sacrifice an hour each week than to overspend on takeout and miss out on that sweet bonus cash back.

5. Understand Bonus Category Exceptions

Discover’s cash back calendar includes a hefty dose of fine print. Painful as it sounds, it pays to read it all. Each bonus category’s extended description covers exceptions and exclusions — situations in which spending that seems bonus-eligible isn’t.

For instance, when gas station purchases rotate into bonus territory, gas purchases at filling stations associated with warehouse stores and superstores might not. If you’re usually inclined to fill up at Costco or Meijer, try patronizing the Circle K across the road this quarter.

6. Always Have Your Discover it Card on Hand

This one is easy. Give your Discover it Cash Back card a place of honor in your wallet, even if you don’t use it every day. When the opportunity to earn 5% cash back arises, you can be ready to seize it.


Final Word

As a Discover it Cash Back cardholder, you’re eligible to earn up to $75 in bonus cash back each quarter. That’s a $300 cash-back bonus per year — not bad for a no-annual-fee credit card. And you always earn 1% cash back on regular spending, with no spending caps or earning restrictions.

It’s no cakewalk to earn $300 in bonus cash back each year with the Discover it Cash Back card. The first hurdle is remembering to activate your bonus categories. Not all cardholders do.

Beyond that, Discover doesn’t always serve up categories that align with your spending habits. Even if you’d like to max out your bonus cash back in a particular quarter, you can have a tough time scrounging up the requisite spending.

On the other hand, Discover’s bonus categories encourage smarter, less wasteful spending. Each time you substitute a frivolous nonbonus transaction for a bonus category purchase you need to make, that counts as a victory for your budget.

Read our Discover it Card Review for more details on this card.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: moneycrashers.com

5 Ways to Save on Extracurriculars for Your Kids

Extracurricular activities are great for children. They help kids learn new things and perfect their skills. They provide opportunities to bond with peers and a constructive use of time. They look great on college and scholarship applications.

But all that enrichment comes at a cost. And these nonessential additions to the household budget can be expensive to keep up with — especially when you have multiple children with multiple interests.

Huntington Bank and Communities in Schools’ 2019 Backpack Index estimates extracurricular fees average about $150 for elementary students, $250 for middle school students and $350 for high school students. Of course, there are parents who spend much more.

If the cost of after-school activities concerns you, consider these ways to make them more affordable.

5 Ways to Save on Extracurriculars This School Year

These money-saving tips will help you keep the kids happy without upsetting your finances.

1. Turn to Government or Nonprofit Programs

Before signing your kids up for private music lessons or a traveling sports league, check to see if there are similar offerings located at or sponsored by your local:

  • School
  • Church
  • Library system
  • YMCA
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Police Athletic League
  • Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts
  • United Way
  • Salvation Army
  • City or county parks and recreation department
  • Community college

2. Ask About Discounts

Be thrifty and save where you can by asking the activity provider about discounts. Is there a trial period where your kid can take a class or two for free before signing up for the season? Can you get a discounted rate for being a returning participant, enrolling more than one child or recommending another family to sign up?

Some programs offer a reduced rate if you register before a certain date, if you sign up for a package of sessions or if you volunteer to coach. Others offer scholarships or set their prices on a sliding scale based on income. You might want to ask if the organization will allow you to set up a payment plan rather than requiring all the money upfront.

Pro Tip

Check discount sites like Groupon or Living Social for current deals on activities.

3. Reduce the Other Costs of After-School Activities

The cost to enroll your child in an activity is rarely the only expense you’ll encounter. Equipment, supplies, uniforms, fundraisers, travel and performance tickets can greatly increase your investment.

Find ways to lower these additional costs whenever possible. Arrange a carpool with team members. Buy secondhand equipment and attire. Limit the family members who attend smaller performances throughout the year, and save up so everyone can attend the major show at the end of the season.

4. DIY Your Extracurriculars

Your kid can get the benefits of participating in an activity without it being a formal program that you pay for. Consider your children’s interests and figure out how to pursue them on an individual scale.

If your kid is into music, hit up YouTube for free tutorials. There are tons of cooking blogs with detailed recipes for those who want to master baking. Your library may provide free access to software to learn a foreign language.

Tap into your network of family, friends and neighbors to expose your child to different pursuits. Commit to teaching their kids about a skill you’ve mastered in exchange. For example, your friend could teach your kids how to play the guitar while you give their kids cooking lessons.

It might be a bigger investment in time, but you can save a lot of money by creating your own means of developing your child’s interests.

5. Talk to Your Kids About Making Sacrifices

There may be times where you simply have to say no to your kid’s request to enroll in another extracurricular activity. If you don’t have the funds and you’d have to charge expenses on a credit card, you should reevaluate things.

Parents never want to put financial stress on their kids, but it’s okay to be up-front about the limitations of your budget. This might mean having your kids choose one sport to commit to rather than two, or asking if they prefer dance lessons over vacationing at the beach next summer.

If you have teenagers, get them to contribute to their extracurricular expenses with money from babysitting, mowing lawns or a part-time job. Depending on the activity, you can challenge your child to turn their hobby into an entrepreneurial pursuit — like selling handmade bracelets at local festivals or giving piano lessons to younger kids.

Not only will this help your teens afford the extracurriculars they want, you’ll also be teaching them a valuable lesson about personal finance that’ll hopefully carry on into adulthood.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s a parent who’s always looking for ways to save money.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Brush Up on Your Money Smarts

D. Another term for simple interest.
If you’re a parent (or have nieces, nephews, grandchildren or other children in your life), take the time to teach your kiddos how to use money wisely. Here is our guide for teaching kids about money management.
C. 200 to 600 A budget is your blueprint for how you want to use your hard-earned cash. Here’s a step-by-step guide to budgeting your money.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

6 Stories to Improve Your Financial Literacy

C. Comparing the prices of items in the toy aisle.

Uncovering America’s Financial Literacy Problem

A. Roth IRA
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
So how do you build up to a great credit score? These five factors are what matters when it comes to your credit.
Just enough to pay the bills? Are you puzzled at where all your money goes each month, or are you confident about the financial decisions you make?

Give the Next Generation the Gift of Financial Literacy

D. The hexagon method.
A. 0 to 100

Be the Boss of Your Money

You’ve got 4-7 correct answers: You’re growing your money knowledge. Try to hone in on what stumps you the most. Credit and investing can be tricky. If you’ve got a personal money dilemma bothering you, send your questions to Dear Penny — our financial advice columnist — for some wise feedback.
B. Having an allowance.

Become a Super Saver

Check out the following articles to learn more about financial literacy and basic money concepts. Then test your knowledge with our financial literacy quiz.
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Get a Handle on Your Credit Score

B. Is only for minors who want to start investing.
C. Making your debt payments on time.

Test Your Money Knowledge With Our Financial Literacy Quiz

1. True or false:

D. 529 plan

2. Children can learn about money management by:

Learning financial literacy from an early age generally leads to earning more and saving more as an adult.
Answer key:
D. Makes it easy to invest small amounts of money.
What do you know about money?

3. Which of the following is an example of a budgeting method?

Ready to stop worrying about money?
C. Requires you to diversify the money you invest.
Having a solid grasp on money concepts can have a real impact on your household’s financial bottom line.
We, at The Penny Hoarder, love a good challenge, so we created a fun quiz to help you brush up on your financial knowledge. And don’t worry — we’ll start with some helpful resources so you can ace this test.

4. Having a budget can help you with all of the following except:

You’ve got 8-10 correct answers: You know your stuff! Hopefully you’re applying that financial knowhow in real life to build wealth. Join The Penny Hoarder Community to share your best money tips with others.
C. When your interest rate changes throughout the duration of the loan term.
A. Pays dividends 50% less often than whole shares.
Once they know those basics, level up the lessons and teach them how to build wealth. Use these clever tricks to get your kids excited about investing.

5. True or false:

(1) True (2) D (3) A (4) C (5) False (6) B (7) C (8) A (9) B (10) D

6. Credit scores range from:

A. Using money jars for spending, saving and giving.
B. 300 to 850
A. Reducing frivolous spending.
A. Interest on interest.

7. When it comes to your credit score, this is the factor that matters most:

Now’s a perfect time to reflect on your money knowledge — and build your financial literacy.
D. Reaching your financial goals.
C. The even-odd method.
Personal finance is a required course at 87% of high schools nationwide.

8. Compound interest is:

B. What you get when you multiply the principal amount by the interest rate.
B. The snowball effect.
D. A to F
Your credit score is like a grade for how responsible you are when borrowing money. This score comes into play when you apply for a credit card, get car insurance and buy or rent a home — so it’s pretty important.

9. This investment vehicle uses pre-tax dollars to grow your money:

Stop letting money slip through your fingers. Tell it what to do… with a budget.
D. Having a diverse mix of credit accounts.
Money that earns compound interest will result in more savings than just stashing cash under a mattress. But what is compound interest and how does it work? We explain.
You’ve got 0-3 correct answers: You’re in need of a financial literacy boost. Fortunately, The Penny Hoarder has tons of articles covering a variety of personal finance topics. Follow our social media pages (you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for frequently shared articles and money tips.

10. A fractional share:

Get the Penny Hoarder Daily
A. The 50/30/20 method.
C. 407(b)
The Penny Hoarder conducted a survey of more than 1,500 adults in 2019 and found out that those who lacked financial literacy earned lower incomes and saved less money than those who grew up discussing money topics at home or in school.
B. The number of credit cards you have.
A. How much credit you qualify for.
Putting aside some of your income is great, but knowing how to accelerate your savings growth is even better.
If you know enough about money to get by, you may be wondering what’s the big deal about financial literacy.
B. Paying bills on time.
Financial literacy, by definition, is understanding essential financial concepts and having the knowledge and skills to use money in a positive and effective way. <!–

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D. All of the above.