Robert Farrington is on a mission to help Millennials start building real wealth for their future. With Millennials often times strapped down with student loan debt, The College Investor provides tips on managing debt, investing as a millennial and achieving financial freedom.
If you're looking to get a better interest rate on your savings, you need to consider opening a money market account. Money market accounts operate extremely similar to savings accounts, and they are available at most banks. However, you're typically going to find the best money market accounts at online banks.
A money market account can be a great place to park your savings, your emergency fund, your downpayment for your house, or any other large sum of cash.
We break down our favorite money market accounts, as well as provide a list of the best money market accounts everyday in our table that updates daily. Given that interest rates change daily, make sure you check the table to get the best rates.
If you just want our pick for the best money market account, we recommend CIT Bank. They currently offer one of the best interest rates available in a money market account. Check out CIT Bank here.
We evaluate money market accounts based on their annual percentage rate (the interest you receive), the minimum balance requirements, and the terms and conditions of having the account. Based on that, here are our recommendations of the best money market accounts.
1. CIT Bank
The CIT Bank Money Market Account is one of our top money market picks because they consistently have one of the highest interest rates offered to consumers. Also, their platform in incredibly easy to use, with the ability to sign up and get started in minutes.
There are no gimmicks with CIT Bank - you earn interest on your entire balance, and you have a low minimum to get started. Read our full CIT Bank review here.
The BBVA Compass Bank Money Market Account is another of our favorites because they also consistently have a top rate, low minimum to get started, and a great mobile banking platform. BBVA also allows you to earn the full annual percentage rate (APY) on your entire balance, no matter how much is in your account.
Right now, they are offering a flat APY structure, but sometimes they do offer a tiered structure that rewards higher account balances.
UFB Direct is a relative unknown on this list, but they offer a great money market account. This account is a very traditional money market - it has a higher minimum balance requirement, and monthly fees if that minimum balance isn't met.
However, it does typically pay a great APY, and you earn the APY on the entire account balance. UFP Direct also gives a Visa debit card with your account, although you are limited to just 6 transactions per month.
Ally Bank is a well known online bank that is known for great customer service and easy access (even though it's online). Their money market account doesn't offer the highest yields, but if you want to keep all your banking under one roof, it can be a great alternative to a regular savings account.
Ally also doesn't nickel and dime it's customers - there are no minimum deposit requirements and no monthly fees associated with the account.
Synchrony is one of the most advertised banks online, but one of the most unknown in general. Formerly GE Capital, Synchrony is the world leader in private label credit cards (think Walmart, etc.). Synchrony Bank offers a money market account that's highly competitive.
It doesn't typically have the highest interest rates, but it does have a $0 minimum account, which can be great for low balances.
Barclays Bank has a fairly standard online savings account that's highly comparable to other money market accounts on this list.
Unlike others on this list, there is no minimum balance required to open an account with Barclays. They are about as traditional a bank as you get. Plus, they also don't charge any monthly fees as well.
Discover Bank has been around for a long time online, but not many people realize they have a bank beyond their credit cards. While discover does have many of the same products as the others, they do have one of the highest minimums of the others.
They do often pay a higher interest rate on balances over $100,000 as well - so they operate much like a traditional money market account.
Capital One 360 Money Market Account is another online bank that has been around for a long time. This one is more recognizable for being a bank, but they are still very well known for their credit cards.
They have a good yield on their account, and they also are offering bonuses for opening a new account. With no monthly fees, this is a solid choice.
Just like it sounds, Bank of Internet is an online bank that offers decent rates on money market accounts. For being an online bank, we're slightly disappointed by the lower rates this bank offers compared to others on this list.
However, there are no minimums and no monthly fees, so it's essentially free. Check them out here.
Everbank is another online bank that has been around for a long time. They originally made a name for themselves because they allow you to keep your deposits in different currencies if you wanted to. One of their pledges is that they will keep your yield (interest rate) in the top 5% of all online accounts - which is a cool pledge.
They do have a minimum to open, but no monthly fees.
The Difference Between A Savings Account And A Money Market Account
It's important to note that there is very little difference between a savings account and a money market account. Both accounts are FDIC insured, both have limits on how many checks and transfers you can do, and both are offered by banks, credit unions, and investment firms.
The big difference is that a money market account typically pays a little bit higher interest, but it also typically requires a slightly higher minimum balance. That's not always the case, thought.
For example, our favorite pick of CIT Bank does only have a $100 minimum, which isn't much.
A Money Market Account vs. A CD
Money markets also have the advantage over certificates of deposit because they are liquid - you can get a higher interest rate on your money but you don't have to worry about tying your money up for a long period of time.
While there are some CDs that earn higher rates than you'll find in a money market account, those CDs typically have 5-10 year time frames. And if you sell before your expiration date, you typically face large penalties.
You can get a glimpse of the best CD rates here, but if you need liquid savings, you're better off going with a savings account or money market account.
A money market account can be a great way to save your money. You typically earn higher interest rates, but there are some restrictions above and beyond what you usually find for savings accounts.
Just like any account, make sure you're opening the best money market account for your needs so you can reap the rewards.
Ron Popeil, founder of Ronco and the inventor of the Showtime Rotisserie famously taught his customers to, “Set it and forget it” and at least 8 million people loved him for it. Popeil harnessed the power of automation way before it was the cool thing to do.
Recently, behavioral economists have jumped onto the “set it and forget it” train. The result? Recommendations to automate bill paying, automate saving, automated investing and more. By and large, automation will help you improve your finances, “but wait there’s more.”
Automation has a dark underbelly. Service companies, financial companies (and increasingly product based companies) rely on automation to charge their customers for unneeded services, and to sneak in ridiculous charges.
If you were to scan all your credit card and debit card statements, you would probably find at least one subscription you aren’t using. You might also find a couple of late fees or financial fees that you’ve long since forgotten. When you’ve automated bad habits, it’s tough to break them. To break my own bad habits, I started using a software called Trim.
Trim bills itself as a virtual assistant that saves you money.
Its core competency is cancelling subscriptions that you aren’t using. Trim uses an algorithm to identify recurring charges, and it communicates with users via Text or Facebook Messenger.
To identify recurring charges, Trim has to look at your bank accounts. That means that you have to connect your accounts to the app. Trim uses an encryption service called Plaid to keep your data safe.
Plaid makes sure that Trim does not have access to your login information, and they have read only access to your accounts. Trim uses encryption for their website and database, and it requires 2 factor authentication for users. Your information is as safe as it would be at any banking institution.
After Trim identifies recurring charges, Trim will text (or Facebook Message) you to ask you if you want to cancel them.
If you reply, “Cancel ________.” Trim will do the cancellation for you. Trim doesn’t charge a fee for this service.
Unfortunately, the service isn’t perfect. I asked Trim to cancel an identity theft protection service I no longer wanted. It wasn’t able to, so I made the call myself. At least Trim brought the subscription to my attention.
On the whole, Trim seems to have great success cancelling gym memberships, box subscriptions, media subscriptions, and notoriously difficult cable TV contracts
How Trim Works To Save You Money
Trim's founders noticed that many online chats used the same texts and scripts to get results. So, they created a bot that allows Trim to communicate with customer service reps over chat - and it's probably a forceful customer to be reckoned with because there is no emotion involved.
Trim reports a 70% success rate in lowering customer's bills.
Trim Success Story
Tana Williams from Debt Free Forties was able to save $240 on her Spectrum Internet bill in about 5 minutes using Trim.
While tightening down on her budget, she thought she had cut her Internet cost as much as possible by asking for any discounts that Spectrum had available. Since she works at home, she needed to keep a decent Internet speed. Spectrum was kind enough to provide a discount for the following year, but it only worked out to about $6 a month.
After researching additional ways to cut her budget, she figured she'd give Trim a try. It's free, and they only get paid if they're able to save you something. Since she was already on StraightTalk for her phones and had a discount through Spectrum on her Internet, she figured it was a long shot.
She was surprised when she received a text and email confirming an additional savings for $20 a month on her Internet. No changing plans or speeds - just a discount thanks to Trim negotiating on her behalf with Spectrum. She spent 5 minutes adding her account information to the Trim website, and Trim did the heavy lifting by saving her $240 a year!
Trim has worked out a fascinating relationship with Visa. Every month, they offer 3-4 ways to earn a dollar or two in cash back. This month, spending more than $5 at the grocery store and $5 at a restaurant yielded a dollar cash back each. I was skeptical about this, but it’s legit.
You can find out about the monthly offers by looking at the messages that Trim sends you through Facebook Messenger. You can opt out of these at any time.
This is a little less secure than the subscription cancellation service. To qualify for “Trim Savings” you have to enter your Visa card into Trim’s database. They won’t use your Visa information for any reason outside of Trim Savings.
However, Trim shares offers via Facebook Messenger. That means Facebook knows that you’re using Trim. Is that a big deal? It wasn’t for me, but you need to be the judge of that.
Set Up Alerts
You can also use Trim to set up text message alerts. You can prompt a low balance alert (for example when your checking account falls below $1000), a late fee alert, and others.
These are great for getting you to pay attention to your finances when you’re falling behind. I set up a number of alerts that will help me keep my finances on track.
Lower Your Bills
Trim also offers a few ways to save money on common bills. For example, Trim has a partnership with an Auto Insurance Broker that can help you save money. I’m the queen of deal shopping insurance, so I was shocked to see that the rate Trim quoted matched my current auto insurance rate. I’ll check back in six months to see if they beat it.
Another cool way that Trim saves money is by watching prices on Amazon. Amazon used to have a 7-day price guarantee. If the price of an item you purchased dropped within 7 days of your purchase, you could ask Amazon for a price adjustment.
Amazon no longer guarantees that you’ll get a price adjustment, but that doesn’t stop Trim from asking. If Trim manages to secure Amazon savings for you, they’ll send you a check for 75% of the savings. You get to keep the remaining 25%.
I signed up for the service because it never hurts to try, but I don’t want to waste my own energy on negotiating price adjustments with Amazon.
Finally, Trim has a pilot program where they are trying to lower bills by negotiating with Comcast. On average, they’ve saved their customers $10 per month on cable and internet services. I’m not a Comcast customer, so I didn’t enroll in this program.
Before you opt into it, you should note that Trim will take 25% of their projected annual savings. That means if they lower your bill by $20 per month, they will charge your credit card $60. It’s a fair rate to charge, but you get hit with the charge before you reap the savings.
I’m Trimming. Will you?
Trim is an amazing tool if you’re looking to keep bad habits out of your financial automation. It was easy to setup, and it is easy to save money and earn a little cash back. I think that most people will benefit from Trim, even if they opt out of the cash back savings and bill lowering options. Check it out, save some cash, and enjoy a fuller bank account.
All month long, your social media feed will be filled with high school graduations. And middle school graduations. Even kindergarten graduations are now a thing.
College graduation, however, is very different from graduating from middle school or high school. By the time you're done with college, everyone expects you to be an adult who has their wits about them.
But what if you don’t know what in the world you want to do after college?
If you find yourself saying, “I don’t know what to do after college,” you are not alone.
Even if continuing on to grad school or some form of post-baccalaureate education is not in your immediate future, and a job is not exactly what you are looking for, there are ways to live life after college that will still make you a productive member of society.
In this post, I will share eight of them with you.
The United States Peace Corps started in 1961 as a way for Americans to experience other cultures while helping in different parts of the world.
If you don’t have your own money to travel and you derive a lot of joy from helping other people, the Peace Corps will allow you to travel to places you didn't even know existed and fulfill that inner need to be of service to the world.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you can serve in one of several areas: education, health, agriculture, economic development, youth development, or environmental preservation.
Applications and openings to 60 countries where Peace Corps Volunteers are posted, are open year-round.
AmeriCorps is like the Peace Corps when it comes to volunteering. Unlike the Peace Corps however, you will be serving local American communities.
Joining the military as a college graduate usually will put you at a higher ranking (better pay and benefits) than if you join right out of high school.
The great thing about the military is that it has several arms you can enlist in: Air Force, Navy/Marine Corps, Army, and Coast Guard.
Each of these arms of the military will have physical and age requirements that most college grads meet and so you are more likely to be able to join.
There are some educational benefits that also come with joining the military. So, if later on you decided to go to medical school for instance, you could receive help for that.
Volunteer with Your City
You don’t need to travel outside your city to volunteer and make a difference. Right within your city, there are several opportunities to volunteer.
Organizations you can volunteer with within your city include:
Meals on Wheels
American Red Cross
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Local city government
Habitat for Humanity
You can also use websites like LinkedIn, Taproot+, and Idealist to find more volunteer opportunities around you.
Now of course, these are volunteer opportunities which pay little or nothing at all. So you would still need to have some financial support while serving in these volunteer roles.
Start Your Own Business
Having a source of income does not always have to involve a job. On this blog, there are several posts on starting your own side hustle or full-on business.
Most of the time, people think of starting a business as a Herculean task that will involve them coming up with some groundbreaking idea and getting rounds of funding from angel investors.
That is one way of starting a business.
There is the another way of starting a business where you provide a service people need and get paid for it. Freelancing as a writer, web designer, or graphic designer are legitimate ways people make a living.
Would knowing that you have more debt than your peers motivate you to pay off the debt faster? Would seeing your income as a top 10% income motivate you to save more or to work even harder to reach the top 5%?
That’s the premise behind Status. It’s an app that tracks your income, spending, net worth and debt, and the app shows you how you compare to the national average (and your peer group).
Will knowing how you compare to other people help you improve? For a limited number of people, I think it might work.
Here’s what you need to know about Status before you download it.
Free Personal Finance App
See How You Compare To Your Peer Group Financially
Status is a financial app that really aims to give you a snapshot of your entire financial life in one app. It’s got features like spending trackers (which automatically categorize your transactions), interest rate analyzers that show you whether you’ve got competitive interest rates on your debts, checking and savings accounts. The app helps you track your net worth, and it even has a predictive component that tells you when you’re likely to overspend.
Of course, with each feature, you’ll actually get information on how you compare to the national average and to your peer group. As shallow as it sounds, Status gives you a fair idea of what your financial status is compared to your peer group.
How Do You React To New Information?
As far as I know, Status is the only app that allows you to compare your personal financial status with the statuses of others (while maintaining anonymity).
At first, I thought this was pretty cool to see how I ranked, but in time I got really annoyed. For example, the debt section showed that 100% of my debt is credit card debt, compared to a lower percentage of my peers. It also claimed that I had an uncompetitive interest rate. Thankfully, I’m fine with both of those, because I pay my credit cards in full each month. I focus on using a rewards credit card for everything to maximize points!
The spending tracker, which at first seemed interesting and even motivating, started to annoy me when I saw spending categories where I “overspent” my peers.
The more time I spent with the app, the more I realized that I’m initially fairly defensive when it comes to new information. Knowing where I stand relative to my peers is unlikely to motivate me in a positive way.
However, not everyone needs to react to Status the same way I did. I could certainly see someone using the information to get motivated to pay off debt, to cut restaurant spending, or to increase their income.
At the end of the day, I think Status will be helpful for some people, but it will put others in a bad headspace. It’s all about how you personally react to information that compares you to other people.
How Does Status Make Money?
Since Status is a free app to download, it’s important to understand how the company makes money.
As with many personal finance apps, Status serves up personalized ads from their partners. For example, if you’ve got a weak interest rate at a bank account, you’ll probably get an offer for an online savings account. If you have a high interest rate on your credit card, count on a 0% APR credit card.
In a lot of cases, these ads will have ideal products for your situation, but be sure to think before applying. I like to read reviews before I open up a new financial product, and I recommend that you do the same.
Also, you may find better deals on financial products by using financial comparison engines like LendingTree (for most debt products), Credible (for student loans) or CardRatings for credit card comparisons.
Status is a cool app. It’s fun to see how your finances compare to the finances of others. I don’t think the app is particularly actionable (although it does let you set a budget), but it could be motivating for the right person.
Since Status is free, I recommend giving it a download if you’re curious about other people’s money. If you hate it, delete it. If you love it, use it for your own good.
Increasingly, tuition continues to rise, saddling millions of students with large amounts of student loan debt. In fact, the average student is carrying $37,172 in student loan debt, according to CNBC. That’s slightly more than a Tesla Model 3 or even a wedding. Without students loans, many people would not even be able to attend college.
For most anyone heading to college, student loans will become a fact of life. But where do student loans come from, how much can you borrow, and what is the true cost? In this article, you’ll learn all about how student loans work.
Student loans are available for undergraduate and graduate students alike. They are based on need, of which income is only one component. Students loans are issued by the government. Although, private loans are also available. The amount issued to a student will depend on the student’s financial situation. The final decision is up to the school.
Financial aid packages are the first step in receiving a student loan. The financial aid package is made up of gift aid (such as grants and scholarships), loans, and work-study programs.
How to Apply for a Student Loan
The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, must be filled out each year to receive financial aid. FAFSA deadlines change each year. You can check their status here. Be sure your FAFSA is submitted on time. Otherwise, a late FAFSA will certainly complicate your financial situation and leave you scrambling to pay for school.
To get an idea of how much financial aid you might be awarded, check the FAFSA4caster website.
Upon being awarded financial aid, you’ll receive amounts for gift aid and loans. There should also be a breakdown of your school’s cost. Schools display cost information in different ways and the true cost can be off by a wide margin. Depending on what is shown, you may need to ask the school for cost on:
Fees (labs, etc.)
Add in any other known cost. It’s better to overestimate rather than underestimate. Many students find that they are short on money, even after receiving their financial aid. This is due to many costs that are not accounted for.
How Much Should You Borrow?
Once you have an annual cost for school, subtract out gift aid and any money your parents may have saved up for college. If you have saved up money for college, subtract it out as well. The number you’re left with is not only direct school cost (tuition & housing) but cost needed to live while you’re in school. If you have a job, factor in how much of the above cost it will cover. You should have a final number on cost at this point.
That final number is the amount needed for school loans. The less money in school loans you have to take, the better. As you can see, the amount of loans isn’t just about tuition and books. It should factor in all costs that are associated with being a student.
One caveat about student loans: students will often take the full awarded amount, even if it isn’t needed. If you don’t need the full amount, you can take only what is needed. Taking more loan money than what is needed will cost more in interest and increase your monthly loan payments.
Paying Back Your Student Loans
The government offers a number of loan features that are not available with non-government loans. These include:
Forbearance: You don’t have to start paying on student loans until after you graduate.
Hardship: While in repayment, you can push back payments until your finances improve.
Low interest: Most loans will have interest rates in the single digits.
Low origination fees: Fees for disbursed loans are ~1% of the loan value.
If you are enrolled at least half-time, you don’t have to begin making payments on government loans until six months after graduating. Additionally, interest will not accrue until after graduation.
If you fall below half-time, interest will begin accruing. At this point, it would be best to make payments above the minimum payment, which will decrease the amount of interest that accumulates.
According to the Federal Reserve, the average monthly payment is $393, with a median monthly payment of $222. How much you pay will depend on the repayment plan and interest rate. Note that graduate loans will usually have higher interest rates than undergraduate loans.
A Necessity for Most Students
With tuition continuing to skyrocket, student loans have become a necessity for virtually any student wanting to attend college. While student loans can be a large source of financing for college, planning for cost and taking only the amount needed will help to avoid being overly saddled with unneeded debt.
You’ve thought about it before: creating several streams of passive income to live off. But it just sounds too good to be true. And I'm not just talking about the passive income that requires work - I'm talking about residual income streams that work all the time, even when you're sleeping.
I mean, how can a regular person like you create residual income?
Obviously you know it can be done or people wouldn’t be buzzing about it all over the internet. Or are those people lying?
Luckily for you they’re not. There are countless ways to earn residual income, but they all do require work or investment up front
In fact, here are 7 super smart ways to build residual income.
Real estate has always been high up on my investment list and for good reason: real estate is one of the longest standing, proven investments.
In fact my grandmother had several rental units. Her husband plans on the rentals funding his retirement. Since they’re now paid for all the money that comes in on a monthly basis provides a great income.
But the biggest thing holding most people back is money - it used to take a lot of money to buy a rental property. That's all changed with recent legislation and multiple online companies that have entered the space to make real estate investing affordable.
If you're looking to get started in real estate, look at a crowd funding solution like RealtyShares. It works similar to LendingClub - you commit as little as $5,000 towards a property. When the property is fully funded, you become an owner, and will receive your share of the earnings and appreciation in the property. Check out RealtyShares to learn more. Earn a $100 bonus when you make your first investment using promo code Partner100.
Another option, with a lower minimum, is FundRise. FundRise is a little different, in that you invest via a REIT, but the concept is the same. And it allows you to invest for as little as $500. Check out FundRise here.
Finally, if you're looking for single family rentals, check out Roofstock. With Roofstock, you can buy cash flow positive single family homes online easily! Check out Roofstock here.
Rent Out Your Spare Room
Don’t have money for a rental? That’s okay, you can rent out a room in your house.
Look for a quality tenant who you’d be okay living with (a friend or family member would be ideal) and rent out your spare bedroom.
You can sign up on AirBNB and start renting out your rooms and house today. Heck, you can even list your backyard for people to camp in!
Invest In The Stock Market
Investing in the stock market opens up a wide area of opportunity.
For easy investing you could choose to invest in a couple of index funds or if you like to pick investments yourself you can hand pick a group of stocks. Whether you invest in a personal investment account or a retirement account you’ll still be making your money work for you.
The good thing about investing in the stock market is that it’s fairly easy to do. The con, however, is that you’ll have to put up a lot of your own money before you see any substantial benefits.
I choose to invest in an index fund for retirement and dividend stocks within my personal investing account.
Don't know where to invest? Start by checking out these companies that offer amazing deals just to get started:
Lately I’ve been captured by the many authors who are making it big on the Kindle Market. The potential is enormous.
With this method you have to put in a lot of work upfront but the benefits can be outstanding. Take Steve Scott for instance, who made more than $100,000 last quarter from a handful of Kindle eBooks.
Even though Scott puts out eBooks on a consistent basis once they’re published they’ll continue bringing in money for months or even years.
Create An App
I was watching the news last week when I saw a story featuring a mother who had just developed a successful app. Sick of her children not answering her phone calls she decided to come up with a solution to the problem.
She had an app built that would prevent her children from using their phones until they called her back or answered her phone calls. She had the app built and is now available for purchase.
While I’m not sure about the numbers yet I can only guess that this app will be wildly popular among parents. (I know I’d use it!)
You don’t have to possess technical skills to make money from apps. Simply come up with a great idea, hire somebody to build your app, and then market it like crazy.
Make A Video Course
We all have something we can teach. It can be anything – career related, weight loss, sleep habits, or even education on technical subjects.
If you’re comfortable sharing your knowledge on video you can make and sell a course on Udemy. The beauty of this system is that you create your course once and you’re done.
You can then go on and make a second and third course or you can move to a completely different passive income model.
Since you now have the ability to lend people money you get to bank on the interest rates. Plus, most of the P2P companies allow you to spread your investment through several borrowers therefore mitigating your risk.
We're big fans of Lending Club. You can get started as an investor at Lending Club for just $100, and if you open an account of at least $5,000, you can get a $150 bonus. Check out Lending Club here.
A Word Of Warning
Before you get all hyped up on a passive income buzz I’ve got to be honest with you: Building a passive income is not easy by any means.
In order to make a significant amount of money you need to either put a large amount of money into interest producing investments or put a ton of time and hard work into the other residual income ideas.
While it’s completely possible to build up multiple streams of income it’s going to require some initial blood, sweat, and tears.
For most people in the world, starting to build wealth is extraordinarily difficult. In particular, volatile incomes can rapidly deplete the savings balances of even frugal people.
Unfortunately, people facing tight financial situations face an almost impossible situation. Savings are more important than ever when money is tight, but it’s harder to find the money to save.
This article is designed to give a few ideas for people with small or volatile incomes to use “micro-savings” to grow a nest egg. These ideas aren’t any substitute for growing your income, but they can provide a stopgap.
Whether you’re a student who isn’t earning a full-time income, a new graduate facing a lower-than-expected income, or someone who has spent years earning an insufficient income, you may be able to apply some of the ideas to start growing wealth in your situation.
If you want to jump right into saving, check out Chime. They are a bank, but have a great app, and allow you to enroll in automatic savings to automatically save 10% of every paycheck. Check out Chime here.
Should You Still Prioritize Savings When Money is Tight?
One of the craziest statistics that I’ve ever seen on the importance of savings came from the Urban Institute’s 2010 Paper entitled Can Savings Help Overcome Income Instability? In this paper, liquid savings (think cash or money in a savings account) of just $2,000 to $10,000, reduced the frequency of financial hardships by 10.3%. By comparison, increasing income by $1,000 per month reduced those hardships by 5.3%.
If your goal is to improve your quality of life, grow wealth, and find better opportunities, building up savings is the key. Nobody is saying this is easy, but it is necessary. Once you’re covering basic necessities (such as food, basic shelter, and medicine), saving needs to be the next priority.
How to Get Started Saving
If you’re convinced of the value of savings, the best place to start is by opening a bank account. A bank account with no monthly fees will allow you to start saving, and reduce the hassle associated with cashing or depositing checks.
Two banks that offer fee-free accounts are Simple Bank and Chime. Both banks also offer great savings features that can help you get started with savings. To qualify for these accounts, you must be at least 18 years old and a citizen of the United States.
Once you have a digital place to put money, it’s time to start putting money there. The first bit of savings is likely the most difficult to get into place. Once you have a savings habit in place, growing the account becomes easier. Here are a few ideas to get your first $100 in a savings account:
Sell a few items that you no longer need. Deposit the savings right away.
Skip meals and coffees out for a whole month. Put the savings into the account.
Find a way to cut back on a regular bill (for example, lower your cell phone bill or negotiate for a lower car insurance rate). Put the savings into your account.
Try to work overtime or take on a side job just to put the money into savings.
Add an extra (paying) roommate to your house to cut back on housing expenses. Put the savings into your account.
Accountability and Automation
Once you’ve got some money in a savings account, the key to growing wealth is to keep the money in the account, and to add more money to the account. The two most important factors for this are accountability and automation.
Accountability is the idea that an individual can use social pressure to prioritize saving over spending. I have to say, I’ve heard of some pretty crazy methods for this.
One man I know gave $500 to his mom and told her it was his emergency fund. Now if he wants to tap this cash, he needs to ask his mom.
One friend was a member of a savings club (called a sou-sou) that required her to contribute $50 per week to the club. Once every 12 weeks, she would get paid $600. If she ever missed her payment, she would have been kicked out of the club (talk about pressure).
I’ve heard of people taping a picture of their kids to their debit cards, so they remember to save, so their kids can have a better life.
As important as accountability is automation. With volatile incomes, automating savings can be a huge challenge. However, automating a small amount of savings can go a long way. For example, saving $25 per week yields $1,300 in savings over the course of a year. A savings account with $1,300 puts you ahead of more than half of Americans when it comes to savings.
The easiest way to automate savings is to set up a separate draft straight from your paycheck. If you work a regular job. Set up a $25, $50, or even $100 deposit directly into your savings account. The remainder can go to your checking account. You could also set up an automatic 401(k) contribution if your employer has that option (though 401(k) funds are less accessible than other funds).
The hardest part of using micro-savings to build a nest egg is that you’ll probably experience a lot of temptation to raid it. Should you let your phone service go off, or take $50 from your savings account? Rent is due tomorrow, and you’re $60 short. Do you raid the nest egg?
In the early days of savings, you can expect to withdraw from your nest egg fairly frequently. Even though that’s not ideal for building wealth, it is helpful for your short- and long-term savings rates. Having some cash at the ready can ultimately save you money in the long run.
By paying your bills on time, you’ll eliminate late fees and start saving more. Plus, having the money on hand will reduce decision fatigue, and give you more mental space to focus on either cutting expenses or growing your income.
In time, your savings fund should transform from an emergency fund only to an actual nest egg. Eventually, you’ll even want two separate accounts, an emergency fund and a nest-egg fund.
Once you’ve achieved this level of stability, the key to growing a nest egg is continuing to add funds, and only withdrawing when you have a plan. For example, you might plan to use your funds to pay for a new car, buy inventory for a business, or contribute to a retirement account. Ideally, you’ll use the funds to buy assets (invest) or to purchase items that will reduce your expenses in the long-term (or both such as buying a house to house hack).
What Will You Do to Start Saving Today?
Getting money in the bank is the key to building wealth. That means you’ll need to start saving as soon as possible, even if money is tight. What will you do to start saving and building wealth?
Have you ever wanted to invest with a partner, or with an investing club? Or maybe you have a bunch of family members that want to pool their money together to invest. One of the best ways to do this is by setting up an LLC for investing.
An LLC is a limited liability company, and it can be a vehicle for a lot of purposes. One of the more interesting uses of an LLC is to allow groups of people to pool their money together to invest. It can also be used to invest in other things, such as real estate.
With the recent passage of the Trump Tax Plan, many people have been excited about the idea of setting up an LLC to potentially save money on taxes. But can you? We'll discuss the tax implications below.
Here's why and how you might want to consider setting up an LLC for investing.
The strength of using an LLC for investing comes from the LLC operating agreement. The LLC operating agreement describes what can and cannot be done in the LLC. As such, it works very well for setting up an investing vehicle for multiple people or parties.
For example, a common provision in the LLC operating agreement is how individuals can sell their shares in the company. Typically, when you setup an LLC for investing, you forbid other members from selling their shares in the LLC without other member's permission. This will prevent changes in the ownership structure without all members agreeing. Since many LLCs are setup for families, this keeps the ownership of the LLC in the family.
Another common provision is defining how the money in the LLC will be invested. Similar to a mutual fund prospectus or ETF prospectus, you can define how the LLC will invest in the operating agreement - maybe requiring at least 60% of the funds invested in stocks. Having a solidified plan and structure makes it easier to have consensus across all parties.
Finally, some operating agreements may require members to make regular contributions to the LLC. If you are setting up an LLC for an investment club, you may require that each member contribute $50 per month to the LLC. This keeps all club members vested in the club and the LLC.
Famous Family LLCs for Investing
You may not realize this, but many wealthy individuals use LLCs to invest. For example, Wal-Mart's largest shareholder is Walton Enterprises LLC. This is the LLC formed by the Walton family to control ownership of Wal-Mart. The Walton Enterprises LLC has 6 known members, the heirs to Sam Walton's empire. Combined, the Walton family is worth almost $150 billion. However, most of this wealth is tied up in the LLC. In turn, the LLC owns assets like Wal-Mart, and several other smaller companies.
Bill Gates is another famous individual that holds most of his wealth in an LLC. He owns Cascade Investment LLC, which controls his remaining stakes in Microsoft and other investments that he makes.
Where To Setup and Invest With An LLC
Anyone can setup an LLC for investing pretty easily. They key is to make sure that all members of the LLC agree on the operating agreement, which are the terms by which the LLC will operate.
If you want to setup an LLC for investing, I recommend Nolo. It's the company that I used to setup my LLC and I've been very happy with them. Their prices are reasonable, and their support is great. It will take you about an hour to setup your LLC for investing with Nolo. Then, Nolo will file your paperwork with your state, and you should be official in a few weeks (or months depending on your state).
Note: Some states have fees associated with the LLC. For example, in California, you have to pay at least $800 per year to maintain your LLC. Be sure you're aware of your state requirements when getting started.
Once you have your LLC paperwork, you need to open a brokerage account in the name of the LLC. I recommend using M1 Finance for this. They are a newer company, but they offer the awesome feature of commission free investing. What's great about this for LLC investing is you can setup your "pie" of investments per your agreement, and M1 handles the rest commission free!
To get started at M1 Finance, you simply select "Other Account Type" and the "Limited Liability Company". They will then ask you for the information from your LLC operating agreement, and they will also want a copy of it when you're done applying.
This is also an account that you typically can't just open online, but you can get the investing account open very quickly once you send in your LLC operating agreement. I would estimate you would be good to go in about a week. When I opened our account at ETrade, it took about 2 hours to get the paperwork done, and the account was opened by the end of the week. We were also able to get a signup bonus for our initial deposit when we opened the account.
Want other options for companies to open an LLC for investing at? Check out this list of the best deals for opening up an brokerage account:
One of the most common reasons to use an LLC for investing is to invest in real estate. An LLC will protect you from potential liabilities that arise, as well as provide a framework for dividing up the investment ownership of the property.
This can work really well if you plan on owning multiple properties, or if you have multiple investors in one property.
One of my favorite ways to get started with rental properties is through crowd funding. Similar to LendingClub, you can start investing in real estate for as little as $5,000 at platforms like RealtyShares (We offer our readers a $100 bonus when you make your first investment using promo code Partner100).
Another similar platform is FundRise. They only have a $500 minimum to get started and offer a variety of options we love as well! FundRise has really been a great performing passive income investment over the last year!
Both of these platforms allow you to use an LLC to invest, but you'll have to talk to their customer service teams to get started.
The Tax Implications Of Using An LLC For Investments
With all the talk surrounding the Trump Tax Cuts that went into effect in 2018, a lot of people have started wondering if using an LLC would potentially help them with taxes? I mean, who doesn't want to save money in taxes?!?
Important note: I'm not an accountant or tax professional, and I'm definitely not your accountant or tax professional. You should seek the guidance for a tax professional if you have any questions surrounding the tax implications of your investments, business structure, etc.
Okay, with that being said, what are the tax implications of using an LLC for investments?
The IRS doesn't recognize the LLC as an entity - it's pass-through. What this means is, each member reports their share of "whatever" on their taxes as if the LLC doesn't exist. So, if you have 2 people and your operating agreement specifies a 50/50 split, then each person reports their income, losses, dividends, whatever, 50/50.
So, most LLCs used for investing would have capital gains, losses, and dividends. Each would then be allocated to the members per the operating agreement. The members would, in turn, each report the amount on their taxes as if they had received them themselves. As such, each members tax implications would be different.
What about the 20% tax cuts for LLCs? This is a common misconception. The 20% pass-through income deduction is for business owners who own their business in a pass-through entity. So, if you don't own a business, you don't get any deduction. Simply holding investments in an LLC is not owning a business.
So, if you're just investing within an LLC, you don't get any type of special tax treatment. The IRS basically views everything as if the LLC doesn't exist.
Alternatives To Using An LLC
So, if you don't get any special tax treatment for using an LLC, why would you use one to invest?
Well, it all comes down to investing with other people. If you're going to pool your money with other people, you want some organization and agreement to how things get done.
So, the common scenarios for using an LLC are:
An Investment Club
Let's talk about each one and some alternatives for each:
Investment clubs where you actually pool your money are dying. The reason? Investing is so cheap these days! There's no reason to pool your money.
It used to be a huge cost savings to work together when investing. Let's say you had 20 members in an investing club and you all agree to buy a specific stock. If you didn't pool your money, each member would have to pay a commission - $9.99 per trade. So, as a group, the investing club would lose almost $200 in fees. If you pooled your money, there would be just one trade - costing $9.99. That would save the collective group $190.
Now, with services like M1 Finance, which allows you to invest for free, there's no reason to pool your money. The club can create a portfolio, and each member of the club can execute the changes at NO COST!
Real estate is still a great scenario for using an LLC, especially if you're going to be allocating income and expenses differently than ownership.
However, there are alternatives to how you own real estate (though, not as good). Specifically, you can hold title on the property directly as joint tenants. This takes care of ownership, but doesn't help with income and expenses.
If you are just a partnership, you can divide it. But, if you get more than 2 people, you probably want an LLC. Plus, an LLC is great for liability purposes.
Just the like Walton's, if there is a significant amount of assets, including a business, and many family members that "own" it, it can make a lot of sense to put this into an LLC with a clearly definite operating agreement and manager.
This is expensive - so this is typically reserved for large estates. If you just have a little money to invest, it really doesn't make sense to go through the hassle of an LLC.
Do you use an LLC for investing? Have you considered opening an account with friends or family?
Of that number, 11% have between $1,000-$4,999 saved, 4 % have between $5,000 and $9,999 saved while only 15% have $10,000 or more saved. These numbers are truly abysmal but it does not need to be that way.
If you’re a part of the 70% who have less than $1,000 saved for a rainy day, the goal of today’s post is to get you to join the 30% so you too can start building a secure financial future.
We reached out to a group of financially savvy millennials to send in their favorite personal tools and these 5 came up on top.
The words “net worth” are not reserved for millionaires and billionaires only. And you don't have to guess your own net worth.
Personal Capital allows you to calculate your net worth based on your checkings, savings, investment accounts, mortgage and loans so that at any given time, you know exactly where you stand financially.
One of the other unique things about Personal Capitalis their investment analyzer. The investment analyzer will inspect your investments portfolio to make sure you are not paying ridiculous broker fees for your investments and it will help you find improvements you could make to your investment accounts to reach your money goals quicker.
Lat Tzoubari from Seven Smith had this to say about Personal Capital :
It has completely changed my life and the way I budget and manage my finances. The app syncs your credit cards and bank accounts and, if relevant, investments and loans including your mortgage. It is empowering and sobering to be able to see all of your money, income, debts and investments in one place on your phone so that you don't have to remember all of your passwords and think back to the last time you reviewed all of your financials.”
Lat TzoubarSeven Smith
2. Birch Finance
If you use a credit card and have simply never bothered to look into the bonuses that come with your card, now is the time to start delving into the “reward/bonus” world and taking advantage of what’s available to you.
The Birch App allows you to maximize your credit card rewards and bonuses. It's important to note that the Birch App is NOT a debt payment app neither does it help you budget.
Instead, the app will analyze your credit and debit cards against a database of rewards (when you sign up for the app, you will be prompted to connect as many cards as you have) and let you know if you have maximized the rewards available for that card or not.
Furthermore, Birch will recommend the top credit cards with the best rewards that are available for your specific financial situation. You can check out my full review of Birch here.
One of the biggest financial mistakes people make is to “assume” they know what they are spending money on. The first step to taking control of your finances is to know where every penny of your money is going.
Mint is really one of those personal finance tools that are an oldie but goodie when it comes to tracking your spending.
If you’re someone who likes to categorize your spending and keep tabs on which categories you’re spending your money on, Mint is a tool you will love. Each month or as often as you would like, you get a report that shows you exactly where your money is going.
You can also set up financial goals within Mint. If you want to become debt-free for instance, you can set a goal within Mint to set aside $50 each month which will then go towards your debt.
Keeping track of your finances this way will help you cut down on areas you might be overspending and direct that extra money towards your financial goals. Rikki Ayers, from the site Own Up Grown-Up, has been successfully using Mint for a while now.
As a millennial, who got herself in money-trouble in her 20s and is quickly getting out of that trouble now... I started to get really interested in the way that I could use personal finance to build wealth. I started using Mint.com to learn how meet financial goals. For me, it was getting out of debt. Now, I know exactly what I need to put away every month to meet my goal and I’m on track!”
Rikki Ayers, Podcaster Own Up Grown-Up
4. You Need a Budget
You Need A Budget (YNAB) is a smart tool that is built around a zero-based budget. By design, a zero-based budget is meant make sure you know where every penny you earn is going. If you earn $4000 each month, YNAB will help you set the kind of budget that makes it certain that your income is equal to your expenses.
Tracking your spending this way (if you do it honestly) will give you a good idea of where you might be overspending so you can trim those expenses and possibly put that money towards debt payment , save the money or invest it.
If you’re a student and you write to email@example.com with proof that you are indeed a student - your student ID card, transcripts or some other proof of current enrollment in school - you will be able to use YNAB for free for 12 months.
If you’re not a student, you can still use YNAB for free for 34 days and then have to pay the annual $50 to use the tool.
A tool that is similar to YNAB, which is free, is EveryDollar.
Qapital is an app that allows you to choose your goals and set up rules or event triggers that will allow money to be deposited into your Qapital account. The app is FDIC-insured so you can rest easy.
I use this app every day. Best feature : the round up rule. Qapital will monitor all your credit card transactions and round up each transaction to the nearest dollar, and save the difference for you. This has helped me save a ton over the past years.
Kevin Financial Panther
Have you ever tried any of these personal finance tools before? Which one is your favorite?
Finals week has come and gone, and as you start registering for classes for the second semester, you realize something terrible: you don’t have enough money to pay for second semester. Or perhaps you have enough money for tuition, but there’s no way you can pay for your dorm room.
If you’re flat out of financial aid, don’t panic. These are seven steps that may help you out of your current jam.
Identify When Aid Will Run Out as Early as Possible
When you’re talking about being out of financial aid in the middle of the school year, it could mean a lot of things. It could mean that you don’t have enough money to pay for tuition, or it could mean that you didn’t take a large enough loan to cover living expenses.
Not having enough money to cover living expenses for the next few months isn’t necessarily a horrible situation. The next several tips will help you figure out how to get by. However, if you can’t cover tuition for the next semester, you risk not being able to finish school. The earlier you can figure out that you don’t have the financial aid you need, the more time you’ll have to deal with the problem.
Depending on your situation, one or all of these tips could help you get through the semester.
Live Lean . . . Really Lean
Once you’re enrolled in school, there’s not a ton that you can do to change the cost of tuition. Sure, you can get scholarships or get need-based aid, but the cost of tuition isn’t really flexible. What may be more flexible is your personal cost of living. If you’re out of aid, it’s time to become really lean with your living.
Instead of eating out, join every club on campus that offers free food, or better yet, start working in the cafeteria or in one of the on-campus restaurants. Not only will you get paid, you’ll usually get a free meal after each shift.
Reduce your entertainment expenses to zero by taking advantage of all the free things your college offers. You may be surprised to find free concerts, comedians, movies, and more.
If you’re living off campus, the best course of action is to get an extra roommate (or become an extra roommate) as fast as possible. Ideally, you’ll want to live somewhere that doesn’t require you to have a car, because you might not be able to afford it.
Feeling exceptionally adventurous (or broke)? Consider living in a van for the remainder of the semester. You can shower in the student health center, study in the library, and park somewhere safe on campus. If there’s ever a time to be flexible with your living, it’s during the college years.
If #VanLife won’t work for your situation, you may be able to find a better and free living situation. For example, you could trade babysitting services for a room in someone’s house, or you could work as a property manager. Most schools offer free or reduced room costs to members of housing staff (such as RAs).
All of these actions will help reduce how much financial aid you need. It may even close the gap completely if you’re only a few hundred or thousand dollars short.
Increase Income Now!
Once again, if you realize that the loans you’ve taken out won’t cover your living expenses, you can close that gap through reduced expenses and increased income. Increasing your income could involve taking an on-campus job.
Some of the highest paying jobs are working in fundraising or working at a school’s banquet center. Sometimes facilities management jobs (either janitorial or maintenance crews) are surprisingly high-paying jobs (that offer opportunities for summer employment too).
Most of the time, off-campus jobs will pay better than on-campus jobs. If you’re in a big city, consider taking on work such as driving for Uber or Lyft, or shopping for Shipt. If the sharing economy isn’t a big part of your college town (or you don’t have a car), you may be able to find other jobs. Whether you work retail, dining, hospitality, or in an office, some work is better than nothing.
Once again, depending on where you live, you may be able to create your own job. Tutoring, nannying, house-cleaning, maintaining lawns, shoveling snow, and reffing local sports leagues are all ways to earn decent money.
Speak to Your Financial Aid Office
If you’re partway through the year, and you don’t have the funds to pay tuition, you need more than just decreased expenses and increased income. You need help to stay in school.
The best person to help you with this is a representative from your school’s financial aid office. Explain your situation to them, and ask them if they have any options.
The following are a few options you may learn about.
If your financial aid leaves you with a small financial gap, you may be able to pay tuition over the semester using a payment plan.
For example, someone facing a $2,000 financial gap may be able to pay the school with four payments of $500 each. Earning $500 (on top of living expenses) might not be easy, but it should be possible for many college students.
Students facing extraordinary financial need may be able to qualify for a low-interest Perkins loan which is administered by the school. This loan may help you cover the gap between your original financial aid package and your current needs.
Grants or Scholarships
While this isn’t common, some schools have grant or scholarship money that goes unclaimed. Your financial aid officer should be able to tell you if money is available and what you need to do to qualify for it.
I had a friend who unexpectedly received a need-based grant that covered her entire semester’s tuition when she spoke to the financial aid officer about her financial need.
In some cases, schools have specific relationships with private lenders who can cover financial aid gaps. If your financial aid officer points you toward private loans, consider comparing private lenders on Credible instead.
Apply for All Scholarships
One surprising way to cover financial aid gaps is through private scholarships. That’s right, you can earn scholarships in the middle of the year. Scholly is a great app to help you find local and national scholarships that you may qualify for.
We also have a few suggestions to help you find scholarships that can help you through school. If you’re not studying, working, or sleeping, applying for scholarships should be your life.
Ask Family for Help
If you’re facing a financial aid gap, you may have to swallow your pride and ask your family for financial help. They could be able to lend money to you, or they may be able to give you a gift.
Your family wants you to succeed, and they may be able to help you out in one way or another. Perhaps they have a connection that could lead to a job or a free living situation. You’ll never know what your family can do until you ask.
Consider PLUS Loans
Some of the time, parents who can’t provide a direct financial gift may be able to help by taking out a PLUS loan (for parents) on your behalf. These are low-interest loans, but your parents are responsible for paying them.
Of course, you could promise to pay them back, but if you don’t want to put the responsibility on your parents, it might be better not to ask. A PLUS loan should be able to cover any financial aid gaps you face.
Last Resort: Apply for Private Loans
If you’re absolutely out of Federal loans and your parents can’t take out a PLUS loan, you may need to take out a private loan. Private loans tend to have high interest rates and will likely require a cosigner. To find the best loans for your situation, compare lenders at Credible.
Private loans should be an absolute last resort, but they may be necessary to help you through school. Just be sure you have a plan to pay those loans back as quickly as possible after graduation.