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There’s a specific time of year to get discounts on almost anything on your shopping lists, says Lisa Lee Freeman, savings expert at the coupon app Flipp. “National holidays, seasonal changes and new inventory models typically drive deals on products from clothing to mattresses to appliances.” (Luckily, you could save money on insurance year-round!) Our guide to specific bargains can help you spend less every month. January

Each year, “White Sales”—a concept started in January 1878—feature discounts on sheets, towels, bedding sets and pillows.

The post The Best Time To Buy: A Month-By-Month Guide To Scoring Big Bargains appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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I’d stop hearing Fiddler…
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The post If I were a rich man… appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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When you’re looking for side hustle ideas to make extra money, one constant recommendation is online surveys. After all, they only take a few minutes to complete and you earn real cash. While online surveys are a legit way to make money, they might not be the best option for you.

We’ll show you when online surveys are worth your time and when you should pursue other side hustles.

How Much Do Online Surveys Pay?

There are dozens of online survey sites. I’ll be honest, I’ve taken more than my fair share of surveys in the last 20 years, primarily as a college student. What I can tell you is that you won’t get rich taking online surveys. If you’re doing good you might make minimum wage on a per hour basis. The only problem is that you will probably run out of daily surveys before you go to bed. So if you need a second job to feed the family or pay the bills, online surveys shouldn’t be your primary side hustle.

Now, I still do an occasional survey today, but not as often as before. The main reason is that I pursue other side hustles that are more productive. Secondly, my interests have changed and I don’t care to answer surveys as much as before. Call it “survey fatigue” if you will.

Average Online Survey Pay

Below is a screenshot from one of my favorite survey sites of how much you can earn from surveys.

An example of the surveys you can take on Swagbucks.

For most online surveys, you’re going to make the cash equivalent of a few cents per survey. Most surveys only take 15 minutes or less to complete and you only have to click buttons to complete the survey. So, making money is quick and effortless. The only problem is that you don’t make a lot of money.

Most survey sites pay you points you can redeem for cash or gift cards. Each point is worth 1 cent each. So, you need 100 points to get paid $1.

Let’s look at how much money you make from a couple examples above:

  • 3-minute survey pays 2 points (2 cents or 40 cents per hour)
  • 15-minute survey pays 75 points (75 cents or $3 per hour)
  • 26-minute survey pays 88 points (88 cents or $2.03 per hour)
  • 35-minute survey pays 120 points ($1.20 or $2.05 per hour)

While the survey selection changes daily, the income potential is roughly the same. You might find better opportunities on weekdays instead of weekends, but don’t expect the earning potentially to be much higher.

What About Focus Groups?

You can make good money being selected for a focus group. It’s possible to make between $50 and $150 depending on the time commitment. The only catch is that these surveys are only open to a select audience and are hard to qualify for. I qualified for one in 2008 and earn $75. They mailed me a separate check.

These surveys are usually if you have a unique medical condition, use a certain product, or have another unique situation like a mountain of student loan debt. You have to answer more questions than a regular survey, but you can also make a real wage.

Who Should Take Online Surveys?

Online surveys serve a purpose. If you’re old enough to remember phone surveys, you used to give your opinion for free. Now, you at least get paid something to take online surveys to answer the same questions.

In these cases, you should take up online surveys as a side hustle:

  • Only have 15 minutes or less at one time to work
  • Want a side hustle that requires minimal effort
  • You like offering your opinion (even for free!)
  • Currently don’t earn money in your free time

Online surveys can be more productive than watching tv or surfing Facebook. When you’re watching tv, you can actually take surveys at the same time, so it’s a way to make money while relaxing.

If you decide to take online surveys, join one of these online survey sites:

Who Shouldn’t Take Online Surveys?

First off, run away from any online survey site that promises you can get rich from online surveys.

You should also avoid online surveys for these reasons:

  • Don’t like taking surveys
  • Can earn more with physical side hustles
  • Don’t feel comfortable sharing your personal information or opinions about certain topics

The main reason not to take online surveys is you make money from other side hustle ideas. Another reason is that some surveys ask your opinion on topics you don’t feel comfortable with. You can get paid more to share your health history or political beliefs, but maybe you like to keep this information private.

If you still like doing online surveys and need to be more productive with your time, you should pursue those activities first. In your free time, you can take an occasional site. This is why Swagbucks is one of my favorite ways to get Amazon gift cards. I (and you) earn points by taking surveys and shopping online.

Summary: Are Online Surveys Worth It?

You shouldn’t take online surveys for the money. But, it’s a good way to make money if you only have 10 or 15 minutes at a time. It’s more productive than looking at Facebook memes or watching tv. Something is better than nothing, but just take online surveys knowing you won’t get rich.

The post Are Online Surveys Worth Your Time? Can Surveys Actually Pay Well? appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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Have you ever felt the urgent need to get some money for yourself, or for some important cause? Maybe you have no cash with you at the moment but you have to urgently arrange for some to fund your repairs, to pay medical bills, to pay the fees or rent of the services, and so on. What is the solution then? Using fast cash loans with no credit check is a way in which you can easily get financial support from the bank, without the use of the credit card check.

Using fast cash loans with no credit check is a great way to take loans from. Most banks do not even consider the credit score of the customers. They just give loans without affecting your credit history. It basically means that soft check will be perform by money lenders and the y will no hard check will be performed by them and they will only see your credit ratings. However bad the points might be, the customer is forever given a personalised service with the necessary requirements. No credit check loan will solve your emergency problems like your sudden job loss and medical bills.

So, why exactly will the banks lend you?

Every organisation, however small or big they might be, is interested in making profits from the services they offer. The same goes for the banks and the moneylenders who offer payday/ no credit check loans. Even they are into the business to earn profits, right? So, even though they do not penalise you for your poor status in the credit card scores, they do check the following 3 things:

  1. Your Nationality: Not everyone will be entitled to the benefit of using fast cash loans with no credit check. The banks are bound to keep a check on the legality of the borrower’s nationality.
  2. The Status of your Job: The money lending organization will also require a proof where your source of income and the surety of it will be mentioned. Do keep it ready as it might come in handy.
  3. An Account to Deposit and Withdraw: Using fast cash loans with no credit check is easy. The system is also a fast one, and one can receive the amount of loan in no time. However, he must possess an active account. The money can be deposited there, and the money lender can even start deducting its share of interest after the given period of time.


What must the Borrower Consider while Using Fast Cash Loans with no Credit Check?
Emergencies never come with prior notice. However, when the borrower is going to apply for the no credit check loan, then he must keep the following in mind:

  • The Procedure: He must have full faith on the person/ organisation he is about to borrow from. Thus, he must make sure that they have their legal documents, and have been operating for a considerable period of time now. A good repute is always a must.
  • The Interest Rate: People often tend to overlook this when they are in urgency. Using fast cash loans with no credit check is a good idea when one has low credit scores. But, taking advantage of this situation, may people engage the borrowers with extremely high interest rates. A good organisation will always offer lower interest rates to pay, making the repayment easier.
  • Personal Information: Using fast cash loans with no credit check is also known to be a very hassle free method of getting loans when in financial crisis. But these companies never ask for many details about a borrowers account. One must abstain from dealing with such companies which ask for a lot of unnecessary personal information.

The post Guidelines on Fast Cash Loans with no Credit Check appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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Need to declutter your house and don’t know where to start? You can sell shoes for cash to make a little extra income. And, maybe you can even start a part-time side hustle to earn recurring income if you enjoy flipping shoes!

Selling shoes can actually be a very lucrative income idea. Especially if you have a trunk full of designer shoes or other collectible brands like Air Jordans or Yeezys.

Are you interested yet? Keep reading to learn more about this exciting income idea.

Where to Sell Shoes for Cash

Depending on what type of shoes you own, determines which marketplace to sell your shoes on. To get an idea of how much you can make per sale, visit StockX. This website is set up like a CNBC investing website, but it exclusively deals with different shoe brands.

Poshmark

Best For Designer Shoes and Athletic Shoes (Mens, Womens, and Children)

For designer shoes and athletic shoes, you might consider selling on Poshmark. You can sell women’s, men, and children’s shoes on Poshmark. When one of your shoes sells, Poshmark gives you a prepaid shipping label that makes it easy to prepare your sale for shipping. You will need to sell name brand items on Poshmark.

In addition to selling shoes, you can also sell your clothing and fashion accessories on Poshmark too.

buyMYheels

Best For Designer Shoes and Heels

For designer shoes and heels, you can also try buyMYheels. This marketplace does have a strict authentication process to make sure you don’t list a counterfeit item. While this is a hassle, it adds credibility to buyMYheels which translates into potentially more buyers.  Also, you won’t pay a commission on any shoes you list, but you will pay a $7 listing fee. While this means you pay a fee whether or not you make a sale, you can still pay less than with other online marketplaces.

Grailed

Best for Men’s Footwear and Sneakers

Grailed is exclusively for men’s footwear and sneakers. This is an excellent option for high-end names. You can get paid via PayPal when you make a sale. Also, when making a listing, Grailed offers free shipping to the buyer but you (the seller) needs to pay the shipping costs. Make sure you add this cushion into your listing price to cover shipping fees and the 6% sales commission.

Heroine

Best for Women’s Designer Shoes and Sneakers

Like Grailed for men’s footwear, Heroine is a high-end alternative for women’s shoes and clothing. You must also factor shipping costs into your listing price to maximize your profit.

TheRealReal

Best for Consigning Designer and Name Brand Shoes

TheRealReal is an online consignment shop. You won’t make as much as selling on some of the websites listed above, but your shoes will be sold at one of their stores. Many shoe shoppers still like to try on shoes before they buy. If you live near one of the partner stores, you can drop your items off in-person. Otherwise, you can also ship them with a free prepaid shipping label if.

If you like convenience, TheRealReal can be a good balance between DIY selling sites and other lower-paying “instant buy” merchants.

Buffalo Exchange

Best for Vintage Shoes

When you have vintage shoes to sell, Buffalo Exchange is another fun option. You can bring your items into one of their stores to receive an offer, or trade for other items you want. Buffalo Exchange accepts men and women’s clothing and shoes. To get an idea of what they buy, visit their website.

eBay

Best for new and used shoes

When you have a pair of shoes that don’t fit the selling criteria of the other marketplaces, or you like auction-style listings, consider eBay. If nothing else, you can always use eBay to find the current market value for your shoes. And, it’s free to list even if you don’t make a sale. Simply put, you can’t ignore eBay.

eBay can potentially be one of your best resale options because it’s a universally-recognized platform for buying used and collectible items.

Etsy

Best for Selling Your Own Shoe Designs

Channel your inner creativity by selling shoes on Etsy. You can sell customized shoes for all ages. Some hot sellers are shoes with sports team logos, putting designs on factory-made shoes, or even selling handmade ballet shoes. There are many different selling opportunities, you just have to find your creative niche.

Things to Consider When Selling Shoes

Selling shoes can be profitable, but there are a few things to keep in mind. After all, it only makes sense to sell your shoes if you can actually make a profit.

Factor Shipping Costs

Because shoes are a bulky item, your shipping costs can cost more than other items you sell online. If you need to pay shipping costs, measure the box dimensions and weigh your box to get an accurate estimate. Many first-time sellers underestimate shipping costs and lose money on their first sale or two. We don’t want to see you fail.

Find the Best Marketplace for Your Shoe Type

Not every shoe marketplace is the best option for your shoes. If you’re just getting started, it will take a few listings to figure which marketplaces are best for you. But, you can make some quick observations by visiting the website and seeing the current inventory. Also look at the marketplace’s selling page to see what it takes and how much it costs to sell a pair of shoes.

StockX and eBay are the two best platforms to gauge your profit potential so take a minute to compare the marketplace prices to these two sites too.

Do Shoes Sell Better New or Worn?

Most shoes sell better when they’re brand new or like new. However, some shoes can also be more valuable if they’re slightly worn. Instead of blindly listing the price of used shoes for less, research the price for items in similar condition. You might be surprised at what you find.

Summary

Selling shoes online for cash is an easy way to make money while cleaning out your closet. It’s more lucrative than having a garage sale which means more money you have to spend on your other monthly bills. Whether you’re a DIY seller or you want somebody else to do the hard work for you, don’t think you can only get a few dollars at best for your shoes.

The post 8 Best Places to Sell Shoes for Cash appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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You probably already know what identity theft is, but what about getting a credit freeze? This two-letter word is becoming more commonplace in many circles as a way to stop identity thieves in their tracks. So, should you consider freezing your credit?

The answer depends on your reason why you want a freeze. As you will see, a credit freeze might not always be the best answer for your situation.

What is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze is just what it sounds like. Access to your credit report is prohibited unless you temporarily lift the freeze. Some places also call this tool a “security freeze” as well. Same thing, just a different name.

When the freeze is active, banks and lenders won’t be able to access your credit report to review a credit card or loan application. If an identity thief is trying to open fake accounts in your name, this essentially stops them in their tracks. But, your potential landlord or future employer won’t be able to access your credit report during the application process unless you call and temporarily lift the freeze.

If you’re a recent identity theft victim or your personal information was stolen in a data breach, you should strongly consider requesting a credit freeze. You will receive a PIN number that can be used to life or reactivate the freeze as necessary. It’s also an extra security layer so somebody can’t impersonate your identity to easily lift the freeze too.

Advantages of Getting a Credit Freeze

A credit freeze is one of the easiest and most thorough ways to proactively protect your credit. You can basically think of a credit freeze as a bank vault. It’s virtually impossible to break into unless you have the door combination. In your case, somebody needs your pin number.

Here are several other advantages of having a freeze too:

  • New credit and loan accounts can’t be opened unless you lift the freeze
  • Credit freezes are completely free for every U.S. state (after September 21, 2018)
  • One of the few measures to proactively prevent identity theft
  • Can quickly unfreeze with a PIN number
  • Provides peace of mind

If you don’t want to worry about fake credit or loan accounts being opened in your name, get a credit freeze.

Disadvantages of Getting a Credit Freeze

Because a credit freeze essentially makes your credit report inaccessible, there are a few “costs” to having a credit freeze. These are some of the reasons why you might not want to freeze your credit report.

  • Doesn’t protect current credit accounts or your Social Security number
  • Have to temporarily pause the freeze or request access for a specific person
  • Must keep track of PIN number to access freeze
  • Need to request a freeze from each credit bureau

Your current credit and personal information can still be compromised and used for illicit purposes. On the bright side, any activity that requires a credit check will automatically be declined. But, identity thieves can still go on a spending spree until your credit card is frozen. And, getting a credit freeze doesn’t prevent thieves from putting your information on the “dark web.”

How to Get a Free Credit Freeze

After September 21, 2018, any credit freeze request is free. It doesn’t matter what state you live in.

So if you’ve paid for a freeze in the past, you no longer have to!

To request a freeze, you must contact each credit bureau separately:

You can request a free online, by phone, or even snail mail. Each bureau has one business to enact the freeze when requested online or by phone. They have three business days to enact a freeze when you mail a written request.

Additional Steps to Monitor Your Credit

If you’re concerned about thieves opening new credit and loan accounts, getting a credit freeze can prevent a larger headache later if you exclusively rely on a credit monitoring service. If you use a credit monitoring service like Credit Sesame that provides a free credit score. You will receive an alert when a new account is opened, but it can already be too late to stop identity thieves because the account’s already been opened.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t monitor your existing credit accounts. Remember that credit freezes don’t prevent your existing financial accounts from getting hacked. Monitoring your credit can help you spot unusual spending activity and ensuring your personal information isn’t used by others.

In addition to using a free credit score site, you might also try signing up for a paid credit monitoring service like Identity Guard or Lifelock which can provide these deluxe monitoring benefits:

  • Social Security number monitoring
  • “Dark Web” monitoring
  • Public Records and Crimes in your name
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts

These services can also provide identity theft insurance and even assist you with filing the paperwork and recovering your stolen cash too.

Summary

A credit freeze prevents new credit card and loan accounts from being opened. Now that you can get free credit freezes, this option is more than attractive than ever. You still need to monitor your existing credit accounts to spot potential fraud. But, you should consider a credit freeze if your identity has been stolen in the past or you’re information has been exposed in a recent data breach.

The post Can Getting a Credit Freeze Stop Identity Theft? appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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According to a new WalletHub poll, financial hardship is still a very large topic for many Americans.  It’s been nearly a decade after great downturn ended.  Lots of people are simply too scared to see what’s on their credit report, even if their inaction will lead to bad outcomes.

On mortgage foreclosures, “People would not answer the phone or open their mail because they were afraid of bad news. It’s like a student not picking up an exam they know they did poorly on,” said Michael J. Collins, faculty director of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin. “The problem is credit reports are dynamic, and may contain errors, so you need to stay on top of it.”

This credit report phobia does not seem to afflict everyone equally, either. It is especially pronounced among millennials, women and people with low income.

  • Millennials are 5.5X more likely than baby boomers to not check their credit reports because they’re afraid to see what’s on them.
  • People with low income are 6X more likely than those with high income to not check their credit reports because they’re afraid to see what’s on them.
  • Women are 2X more likely than men to not check their credit reports because they’re afraid to see what’s on them.

The Finance Genie recommends Personal Capital for managing all of your accounts in one place


The post Millennials Are 5.5X More Likely Than Baby Boomers to Not Check Their Credit Reports appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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The old stock market adage is to “Sell in May and Go Away.” Neither Fidelity or Vanguard took that advice as they slice fees to attract individual investors. If you’re wanting to keep your money at a traditional brokerage, should you choose one of these options?

Both brokerages let you trade individual stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds. But, you’ll pay different fees with either company. So, you’ll need to decide if Fidelity or Vanguard is the better option for you.

Vanguard

Vanguard needs little introduction. If you ask almost any Facebook investing group or another neutral forum, Vanguard will almost always be the most common answer. In fact, there’s an entire online forum and following called Bogleheads that captures the excitement behind the original low-cost leader for DIY investors a few decades ago.

About the only group of investors that won’t recommend Vanguard are day traders and momentum traders. This is mostly because of Vanguard’s relatively expensive trade commissions and lack of advanced research options.

Trade Commissions

For starters, you will need to enroll in electronic document delivery to avoid the $20 annual account fee. There isn’t an account minimum to open an account.

Otherwise, your trade fees for individual stocks is largely based on how much money you have invested in Vanguard Funds and ETFs. Regardless of your account balance, you won’t pay trade fees for any Vanguard ETF or Mutual Fund. But, most Vanguard mutual funds have a minimum initial investment of at least $3,000. If you don’t have $3,000 to invest at once, you can trade the ETF version of the mutual fund instead.

Buying Individual Stocks and ETFs
  • Less than $50,000 in Vanguard ETFs and Funds: $7 for the first 25 trades each year, then $20 per trade
  • $50,000 to $500,000: Unlimited $7 trades
  • $500,000 to $1 million: Unlimited $2 trades
  • $1 million or more: First $25 trades free per year, then $2 for all subsequent trades

If you’re just beginning to invest, you will want to start with ETFs and mutual funds first to instantly diversify your portfolio. So, it’s entirely possible that you won’t regularly buy individual stocks until you cross the $50,000 threshold. Until then, it might be better to only own a few individual stocks that add more earning potential to your portfolio but won’t tip you over the 25 annual trades.

Over 1,800 ETFs Will Trade Commission-Free

Vanguard made big news in July of 2018 by announcing you can buy non-Vanguard ETFs for free. You’ve always been able to but Vanguard ETFs for free and there are plenty of them, but you can now get access to iShares funds and other leading names that can be better products than their Vanguard counterparts.

Once you can trade most non-Vanguard ETFs for free, the $7 trades only apply to company stocks and options.

Mutual Funds

Vanguard has two different classes of mutual funds:

  • Investor Class (Minimum Initital Investment of $3,000 for most Vanguard funds)
  • Admiral Shares: (Minimum Initial Investment of $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the fund)

Admiral shares have lower expense ratios than Investor Shares. You hold the same assets, but your fund expense ratio might only be 0.04% instead of 0.14%. On a $10,000 investment, this discount saves you $10 in investment fees every year. Even if you can only afford the investor shares now, you can automatically convert to Admiral shares when your balance is large enough.

Vanguard also lets you trade over 2,500 mutual funds transaction fee-free. Other funds may require a $20 transaction fee.

Navigating the Vanguard Platform

One complaint for Vanguard is that their interface is out-of-date and not as easy to navigate as other online brokerages. Like any online brokerage, there’s a learning curve to learn the ins and outs.

Since Vanguard’s core investments are index funds, target date retirement funds, and other Vanguard ETFs and Mutual Funds, the relative lack of navigability isn’t a big deal. Now that you can trade almost 1,800 non-Vanguard ETFs for free, it will be interesting to see if they make it easier to compare similar ETFs.

Fidelity

Fidelity is another fan favorite. This is partially because they are a long-time Vanguard competitor and they host many employer retirement accounts. If your employer 401k isn’t managed by Vanguard, there’s a good chance that it’s at Fidelity instead.

You might prefer Fidelity more for the following reasons:

  • Lower trade fees for individual stocks
  • More extensive research options
  • Zero expense ratio mutual funds
  • Zero minimum investment for Fidelity mutual funds

If you like trading Fidelity mutual funds and trading stocks and options, you will like Fidelity more.

Trade Commissions

Fidelity offers flat-rate trade fees for all customers. If you transfer an account from your existing brokerage, you might qualify for free trades for up to two years.

Individual Stocks and ETFs

You will pay $4.95 per trade for stocks and most ETFs. There are more than 265 commission-free ETFs from Fidelity and select iShares funds.

If you’re happy with the commission-free ETFs and can benefit from the $4.95 trades (versus $7 for Fidelity), Fidelity can be cheaper than Vanguard for trading stocks.

Mutual Funds

Fidelity specializes in mutual funds. If you prefer mutual funds to ETFs, you should also consider Fidelity instead of Vanguard. To sweeten the pot, Fidelity has also eliminated the minimum initial investments for their Fidelity mutual funds. While you’ll have to fork over $3,000 to open a position with most Vanguard funds, you can gain exposure to Fidelity for only $1.

And, Fidelity is also pledging to reduce expense ratios by 35% which means you can keep more of your investment returns each year too.

Also, Fidelity is launching an industry-first two expense ratio free index funds (fund symbols: FZROX and FZILX). This means you won’t give any of your gains away to cover fund management fees. Over the course of your investing career, this savings puts a few extra dollars into your nest egg.

Website Navigation

Fidelity is an easier platform to navigate than Vanguard. This is important when you need to research potential stock picks or compare competing ETFs and mutual funds.

Active traders will also prefer Fidelity for these additional tools:

  • Advanced research options
  • Dedicated trading platform for advanced trades (Active Trader Pro)
  • Third-party research ratings

You can open a free trial account to test out the Fidelity web platform without a financial commitment for 30 days.

When Vanguard is Better

You will probably like Vanguard better for these reasons:

  • Want to trade commission-free ETFs or unique Vanguard family products (i.e. Wellington)
  • Qualify for Admiral Shares (lower expense ratios than most competing mutual funds)
  • Like their Vanguard Personal Advisor services for human support at a reasonable price
When Fidelity is Better

Fidelity is the better option for these reasons:

  • $4.95 trades for individual stocks
  • Zero minimum initial investment for Fidelity mutual funds
  • Two expense ratio free mutual funds
  • Dedicated Active Trader Pro platform for complex trades and research
  • Fidelity Go robo-advisor if you prefer automated investing
Summary

Both Vanguard and Fidelity are good options and each brokerage has their own loyal following. Either one provides world-class service and competitive pricing. If you like ETFs, Vanguard might be the better option. For stocks and mutual funds, Fidelity is better because of the lower fees and no initial minimum investments.

The post Fidelity or Vanguard? Which is the Better Option for Investors? appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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Best Rewards Cards For A Family Vacation

Travel can be stressful, thanks to all of the security checkpoints to maneuver, flights to catch (or miss), transportation to arrange, and hotels to book. For a family of four or more, the thought of going on vacation may seem like a nightmare, not just because of the travel, but also the financial toll it takes.

The best way to mitigate this stress is to plan ahead, budget and spend wisely, using a cash back or travel rewards card for all of your family’s purchases between now and your next vacation. If you don’t already have a rewards card, or you’re not sure the one you own is up to snuff, take a look at the following family focused card recommendations.

Cash Back Cards

If you’re a “one vacation” a year family, then a cash back card is a great choice. Signing up for a travel rewards card that offers point incentives on airline ticket and hotel purchases won’t maximize your savings. Sure, you can still earn points on regular purchases that you can use against the cost of a plane ticket or hotel stay, but you will be able to accrue more savings on travel with a cash back card.

Best For Domestic Travel – Citi Double Cash Back Card

The Citi Double Cash Back Card has the most flexibility in terms of earning cash back. This card gives 2% on all purchases with no limits, no restrictions, and no annual fee. The drawback with the Citi Double Cash Back card is its 3% fee on all foreign transactions (here’s a list of better cards for international travel). It also does not give cash back on balance transfers.

Most Flexible For Families – American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card will earn you 6% cashback at grocery stores up to $6,000 yearly. You’ll still earn 1% on any grocery spending after that $6,000 mark, 3% on gas stations and designated department stores, and 1% anywhere else. American Express also provides a $200 statement credit after spending $1,000 within the first three months.

The downside to this card is the $95 annual fee. And, you’ll need to do your homework to see if your favorite stores accept American Express.

Travel Rewards Cards

Travel rewards cards are the best option for families who travel frequently, more than just a couple times a year. The more you travel, even without your family, the more reward points you earn on future flights, transportation, and hotel stays. The best cards have no travel restrictions, and can be used for multiple airlines or hotels.

Best Travel Rewards – Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

If you’re a family in a travel frenzy, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred card will help you get you wherever you want to go. Spend $4,000 within the first three months, and you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points. A family of four should be able to get to this number pretty quickly. But if you’re worried you’ll fall short, wait to apply for this card until just before your next big purchase.

Other benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card include 2x points on travel and dining all over the world, and 1 point on all other purchases (no categories). This card carries no foreign fees, so it’s great for families traveling overseas.

You can travel any time you like, anywhere you like, using points earned. The Chase Sapphire does not impose blackout dates or travel restrictions. And, it features a 1:1 point transfer value to leading airlines and hotel loyalty programs. Book your travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and you’ll enjoy 25% more point value.

The drawback to this card is that its value is in travel. If your family doesn’t travel frequently, then a cash back card may be a better bet. Although there is a $95 annual fee, the benefits are worth it and the fee is waived for the first year.

No matter if your family flies the globe all year around, or waits for that one big vacation done right, using cash back or travel rewards cards is a simple and easy way to help mitigate the seemingly endless costs of travel. Shop around before picking the best card for you, then combine the savings you enjoy with other smart vacation strategies. Bon voyage!

The post How to Fly A Family Of Four Using Only Points and Cash Back Credit Cards appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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Is it possible to trade stocks and ETFs completely free? That answer is a resounding “Yes” with M1 Finance. This 100% free investing app lets you trade stocks and ETFs completely free. In this M1 Finance review, you’ll learn all the ways you can invest for free as a DIY investor or their automated robo-advisor investing options.

What is M1 Finance?

M1 Finance is a free investing app. Although they used to charge a small fee, they dropped all management fees in late 2017. Today, you will never pay to buy or sell an investment. And, they don’t charge annual account management fees.

DIY investors of all experience levels can greatly benefit by investing with M1 Finance. If you currently $4.95 per trade with your regular brokerage, you’ll now pay $0! These trade fees add up, especially when you’re only investing small amounts of money at one time. Some financial experts that a trade fee doesn’t exceed 2% of your investment amount. If you follow that rule, each investment needs to be at least $250 with a $4.95 commission.

M1 also lets you buy partial shares of stocks and ETFs, so you can invest in multiple companies and build an instantly diversified portfolio.

Is M1 Finance a Good Fit for Every Investor?

If you’re completely new to investing and don’t want to make any investment decisions, fully-automated options like WiseBanyan or Betterment might be a better option for your circumstances.

Also, professional traders won’t want to use M1 Finance because all trades are executed at the beginning of the trading day. All shares are purchased or sold at the current market price.

Investment Options

Because you must assign at least 1% for each investment, you can technically have up to 100 holdings in your personal pie. Keep in mind that you can buy shares in $0.01 increments and must sell in $0.02 increments.

Almost any Stock and ETF

You can invest in either stocks or ETFs that trade on the NYSE or Nasdaq exchanges with M1 Finance. All trades are executed starting at 9 am Central Standard Time (10 am Eastern) every day the market is open. Like other free investing apps, you can’t trade on-demand. For most investors, this isn’t an issue as a few cents difference in share prices doesn’t necessarily matter when you dollar cost average or you keep your investments for several years.

At this time, you can’t trade OTC stocks, penny stocks, mutual funds, options, individual bonds (you can trade bond ETFs), or short sell stocks.

While many discount brokerages place a restriction on which stocks and ETFs you can trade for free, M1 lets you trade almost any individual stock or ETF. For example, you can trade Baidu (BIDU) because it trades on the Nasdaq, but you can’t trade Tencent (TCEHY) because it’s an over-the-counter stock that trades on the Hong Kong exchange. For these “specialty stocks” you will still need a regular brokerage like Fidelity. But 99% of casual investors will find everything they need on M1 Finance.

Expert Pies

M1 also has a cool customized investment option called “Expert Pies.” These are custom-made portfolios that let you invest in a basket of stocks or ETFs for the following investing strategies:

  • General Investing (Ultra Conservative to Ultra Aggressive risk tolerance options like a robo-advisor)
  • Retirement (Target date funds)
  • Responsible Investing
  • Income Earners (Fixed Income investments)
  • Hedge Fund Followers (Mimic hedge funds without paying hedge fund fees)
  • Industries and Sectors
  • Just Stocks and Bonds
  • Other Investing Strategies

You can invest in one expert pie, multiple pies, or no pie. It’s your choice.

Custom Pies

Although your main investing portfolio is called “My Pie” which can hold up to 100 different holdings. You can also create your own “custom pies” if you want to hold more than 100 different stocks and ETFs. If you subscribe to several investment newsletters, you can create a different pie for each one to easily track your investment performance. You can include these pies in your primary portfolio and decide how many cents of each dollar you invest goes toward that pie.

Portfolio Allocation

With M1, you need to decide which funds you’re going to invest in. After picking your initial investment(s), you can either do manual investing or automated investing.

With either option, M1 calls your investment portfolio a pie. With other brokerages, you measure your portfolio investments in dollars instead of percentages. Instead of saying, “I’m investing $25 in Stock X each month,” with M1 you say, “I’m investing x% each month in this stock.” This can be a little tricky to adjust your mindset at first, but it helps to ensure you don’t over-invest in one stock and don’t properly allocate your portfolio.

Automated Option (Option #1)

This is probably the easier option, especially if you only choose one fund. What’s awesome about M1 is you can access basically any ETF for free. It doesn’t matter if it’s from iShares, Vanguard, Fidelity, Schwab, etc. If you have your eye on a particular ETF, you can invest in that.

Once you decide which pie, ETF, or stock to invest in, you set your target percentages. Although you may have to manually rebalance from time to time, you can schedule auto-deposits and M1 automatically rebalances your portfolio by putting more money in the holdings where the actual allocation is below the target allocation.

Manual Option (Option #2)

You can pick your own stocks, ETFs, and expert pies. As money comes available, you can schedule a deposit that can be automatically invested in the next trading window. When you want to rebalance your portfolio, you click the “Rebalance” button and M1 automatically restores your holdings to their target allocation.

Account Types

M1 Finance supports the following account types:

  • Taxable brokerage
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • SEP IRA

Although you can open an account for free, your initial minimum investment for a taxable brokerage account is $100. For retirement accounts, you must invest at $500 before M1 will execute your first trade request.

After your account is funded, subsequent trades can be as small as $1 for any account type.

M1 Finance Contact Information

You can contact M1 Finance via phone or email. Live support is available from 9:00 am CST to 5:00 pm CST Monday through Friday.

The toll-free M1 phone support number is: 1-888-714-6674

Pros
  • 100% free investing
  • Trade fractional shares
  • More than 2,000 ETFs and most NYSE and Nasdaq-listed stocks and ETFs
  • Traditional and Roth IRA accounts supported
  • % based investing instead of dollar-based investing (if you prefer percentage based investing more)
  • Can invest in “Expert Pies”
  • Automated Investing is possible
Cons
  • Only one trade window (Opens 9am CST)
  • Minimum initial investment of $100 (non-retirement accounts) or $500 (retirement accounts)
  • Some investors don’t like allocating their portfolio by percentage points
  • Constant portfolio reallocating can increase tax burden
Summary

Many investors like M1 Finance for this three reasons:

  • It’s free
  • Can trade fractional shares of any stock or ETF
  • Fully-customizable portfolio

If you’re tired of only being able to invest in your own brokerage’s ETF list for free, or you want to trade fractional shares of stocks for free, M1 Finance is worth a try.

The post M1 Finance Review – Trade Stocks and ETFs for FREE. appeared first on The Finance Genie.

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