Mama Fish Saves helps families demystify their finances and gain total financial empowerment! Mission is Closing the financial knowledge gap across tax brackets for all parents and helping families achieve total financial empowerment!
Have you ever seen those adorable kids on Shark Tank and thought, “What unique and talented people! I wish I had that ingenuity when I was 10!”
But what differentiates those kids isn’t just natural talent. It’s supportive parents, grit, an incentive that moves them forward, lessons about money and business that start young.
All things your kids could have too.
Maybe your child won’t end up on Shark Tank. Maybe they won’t grow up to become full-time entrepreneurs. It’s not a life built for everyone. But the skills they will develop from trying?
Those are lessons every child should have the chance to learn.
Giving your daughter or son the opportunity to start a business – no matter how large or small – will let them develop independence, grit, and money and business skills. And, most of all, they will learn to see themselves as capable and driven individuals who can set goals and achieve them.
It was these beliefs about the benefits of entrepreneurship that led my friend, Leah Remillet, to encourage her children to start their own businesses. Leah’s oldest daughter runs a babysitting agency, her son has an incredible drone photography business, and her youngest daughter runs an Etsy shop. And seeing the impact it had on their young lives, Leah knew she had to share her lessons and skills with as many kids as possible.
That’s why she created her incredible online course, The CEO Kid.
What is The CEO Kid?
The CEO Kid is an online course that helps kids aged 10 to 15 (though there are some younger students!) go from a big idea to a living business.
The course is broken into powerful, bite-sized videos with simple worksheets to help kids think through their idea like a seasoned entrepreneur. They will learn how to define their customer, determine their marketing and branding strategy, create an amazing customer experience, and set prices profitably.
The CEO Kid is a course designed for any child who has ever asked to have a lemonade stand, sell handmade bracelets door-to-door, or who seems curious about business. It’s also the perfect way to build business education into their learning experience.
Leah Remillét is a business success strategist who has helped businesses all around the world thrive. She’s an international speaker and trainer specializing in growth without compromise and has built four successful businesses, both online and offline.
Leah is fun, passionate, and on a mission to boldly inspire thriving, happy families. One of my favorite parts of The CEO Kid is that Leah is so passionate about helping kids find their confidence, in business and in life. She makes entrepreneurship approachable and fun!
City girl turned mountain-dweller, Leah lives in a little Bavarian town in the mountains of Washington state with her husband, and their three incredible kiddos. (Who all have little businesses of their own!)
What Will My Kids Learn in The CEO Kid?
In The CEO Kid, your child will learn how to take their idea from random thought to full-fledged business.
Students in The CEO Kid will learn how to identify and clarify their idea, build a positive customer experience, create a well-thought-out marketing plan (starting with ways they can market for free!), how to set prices, effective goal setting and so much more.
The CEO Kid breaks down complicated concepts – like profit margin and price-setting – into bite-sized, powerful lessons that even a 10-year-old can easily understand. These are concepts that are crucial to success in business, yet plenty of adults wading into entrepreneurship haven’t been taught this lesson in such a clear and approachable way.
Your kids will walk away from The CEO Kid not only empowered about their own business, but looking at every business they walk into differently. They’ll think more carefully about what makes businesses profitable, what it means to offer a positive customer experience, and with a better understanding of the value of every dollar they earn or spend.
Why Do You Recommend The CEO Kid For All Kids?
Because the basics of business is a lesson everyone should learn, and not many can teach it in a way that is as fun and as effective as Leah does in The CEO Kid.
Not every child will grow up to be an entrepreneur. But they will work for businesses, strive for promotions and increased leadership, interact with businesses as a consumer. It’s part of everyday life as an adult and understanding how it all works – what drives success for the company your child works for or the company they run – will give them the elements of personal success. When they walk in to ask for a raise, they’ll know exactly how their work benefits the business and what they’re worth.
And Leah’s videos on branding and social media? Pure gold. Every kid reaching the age of getting their first social media accounts should have to watch that video. Leah teaches The CEO Kid students how to identify their personal values and consider how any post, photo, or comment would align with those values. It’s not just about branding or business reputation, it’s about positive behavior and reputation management as a budding adult. All without sounding like she’s lecturing or talking down to the kids going through the course. In terms of life lessons, I think that video alone would be worth the price of admission to many parents.
Sign Your Kids Up to Become CEO Kids Today!
If someday your child does choose to become an entrepreneur? Let them make mistakes, develop ideas, learn and fail while the stakes are low. When they’re risking a $40 investment and not a $20,000 one when they’re older and have adult responsibilities. The CEO Kid will give them the tools they need to succeed.
Plus, letting kids explore their creativity, take something from the idea stage to experiencing the joy of their first sale? That’s just fun.
This post is sponsored by Tomorrow.me. As always, opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Let’s be honest. None of us like to think about estate planning. Our own mortality is a scary thing. So, we convince ourselves that there is plenty of time to wait.
“I’m young and healthy, I don’t need a will.”
“I don’t have any money, wills are for rich people.”
“I just don’t have time for it right now, I’ll do it when the time is better.”
You get the picture.
It’s all these stories we’re telling ourselves that result in six out of ten Americans not having a will. But, deep down, we know having a will is a good idea. We just need to silence the fear-driven, “it can wait” voices in our head.
For me, the importance has always been best expressed in this quote:
You don’t write a will because you’re going to die, you write a will because those you love are going to live. – Unknown
Creating a will, purchasing a life insurance policy, and getting your affairs in order isn’t a scary or depressing thing. It’s an act of love. It’s making sure your family has what they need.
And, luckily, those scary stories we’ve been telling ourselves about wills? Most of them are myths. Here’s what you really need to know.
Myth #1 - Creating a Will is Expensive
Reality: You can create a will on any budget.
The cost of a writing a will depends on what service or attorney you use, how complex your estate is, and how specific you want to be about how your money is used after your passing.
Depending on your situation, the cost of writing up a quality, legally binding will can range from free – with a service like Tomorrow.me – or $1,000 or more for something more much complex.
Most families only need a fairly simple will. Tomorrow is a mobile-first platform that walks you through the process of creating a will, giving you guidance around what each step means, so that you can get a legally binding will quickly. Tomorrow worked with 52 attorneys to create a legal will specific to each state.
While there are other free options that don’t require a trip to the lawyers office, be wary of free online templates that you print off and complete yourself. Without the guidance provided by a lawyer or service like Tomorrow , you may overlook the rules in your state and end up with a non-binding (or needlessly confusing) will.
Tomorrow’s mission is to help families make decisions about the future together. You can connect with your family members through the app as it walks you through the process of creating a will that works for your type of family and is tailored to the laws of the state you live in.
Myth #2 - Only Rich People Need a Will
Reality: If you have assets or dependents and want a say in where they go after you pass, you need a will.
Listen, without a will your assets and children aren’t going to be handed over to the government never to be seen again. That’s a myth as well. But, without a will, you’re subject to the estate laws of the state you live in.
If your next of kin is a minor child, that could mean that any monetary assets – retirement funds, life insurance policies – are placed with a state conservator to manage and distribute those funds in their name until they turn 18.
And when they’re 18? All that money goes to them. Immediately.
You’ll need to create a trust to direct the timing of distribution and appropriate uses of your money, but don’t worry, it isn’t a complicated process. You just have to be thoughtful about when you want your kids – or their guardians – to have access to your money.
Writing a will is your opportunity to override the standard choices of the state.
Maybe you want a certain amount to be distributed to your child’s guardians every year, without them having to show every receipt to a state conservator. Maybe you want some money to go to a local charity that matters to you. Or maybe, you really want that special family heirloom to go to your sister.
Your net worth doesn’t determine whether or not your need a will. The most important question is, do you want a say in the use and care of your assets, possessions, and children?
I’m guessing you do.
Myth #3 - Creating a Will is Time Consuming
Reality: Creating a will can take less than 10 minutes or several hours with an attorney. But, either way, it won’t take weeks or months.
Finding a lawyer, setting up an appointment, and going into a law office could take a significant amount of time. And if that’s what you need – if you have multiple business, children from prior marriages, or an otherwise complex estate – you should make the time for it. The several hours you’ll spend creating your will may dictate your family’s or children’s future.
But for the average family, it doesn’t have to take long at all. Online and mobile options like Tomorrow allow you to create a will in less than 10 minutes in the comfort of your own home.
It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Are You Protecting What Matters Most?
Grab our free Financial Emergency & Estate Planning Checklist to make sure you’re prepared for anything life may throw at you!
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Myth #4 - I Already Told My [Mother/Sister/Best Friend] That I'd Like Them to Take My Kids if Something Happens to Me, I Don't Need a Will
Reality: If your preferences about your kids’ guardians aren’t written down in a will, the final decision is made by your local Family Court.
If you die without a will, it’s up to the state to determine what happens to your children. Each state has different laws, rules, and formulas that govern what this looks like. In most states, however, the final decision is made in a Family Court custody hearing.
You might assume your kids would go to the person you see as the most obvious fit. Maybe the adult in their life that sees them most often or your sibling who you know has similar parenting values.
Unfortunately, the state might not agree. In many cases, the children are placed with whomever the judge feels is the closest blood family member (or the loudest family member in the room.)
This is a big decision I doubt you really want a court – and a judge who doesn’t know your children and family – to make. It’s a decision that will impact how your children are raised and what kind of life and future they have.
Bottom line: If you want to have a say in who gets legal guardianship of your children, a will is a must.
Myth #5 - It's Not The Right Time In My Life to Create a Will
Reality: You can always update your will. (And the most recent will is always the binding one.)
The right time is now.
Seriously, I can see you sitting there thinking, “But we’re going to have another kid next year, we’ll just have to change it.” Or, “It will make more sense after we buy a house.”
Maybe even, “Our estate is pretty complicated, I better wait until we can afford an attorney.”
I get it. That was me, too.
The prospect of having to revisit a lawyer and pay hundreds of dollars to update your will each time you experience a new life event (marriage, birth of a child, etc.), doesn’t sound appealing.
But apps like Tomorrow allow you to update your will completely free of charge. And the cost of updating a will with an attorney is much, much lower than writing the will the first time.
We put off creating a will for months after our oldest was born. I wanted to find the right attorney. Finally, we just created a will quickly online. It was sufficient and binding until we found the right person. And as soon as the new will was signed? The old one just fell away.
Remember, whenever you create a new version of your will, it’s the most recent version that is binding. As soon as you’ve made an update to your will, the previous version becomes invalid.
You’ll always be able to find a reason to postpone the creation of your will. There’s never a perfect time, and it’s likely that your situation will continue to evolve and change, keeping you busier than you’d like.
The hard truth is that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. You’re likely not going to know when you’ll need a will, so there isn’t really a right time to get it done.
It’s best to protect your family today.
So, What's Stopping You From Writing Your Will?
If creating a will has been on your to-do list for months, or even years, and you’ve been stalling, I hope debunking some of these common myths may have helped put things in perspective.
The truth is, most people need a will, and creating one can be easy and affordable. With apps like Tomorrow, you can create a legal will in under 10 minutes – for free. So, there’s really no reason to keep procrastinating.
Most of us are uncomfortable confronting our own mortality, especially when we’re young and healthy. But I promise, you will sleep better knowing that you have a plan in place to ensure that your estate, and more importantly, your children are taken care of when you’re no longer here.
We want to hear from you. Have you created a will? If not, what is holding you back?
Today, we have a special treat. My good friend Julie, of Millennial Boss, the Fire Drill Podcast, and Gold City Ventures (where she teaches others how to make money from profitable side hustles), is visiting to share her story about finding financial security through side hustles. Julie is expecting her first baby and is so glad that she’s given herself options by building up her side hustles the last several years. She wants to empower other moms and moms-to-be to find their own financial security. Take it away, Julie!
Don’t miss the special bonus, just for Smart Money Mamas readers, at the end of this post!
I’m 7 and a half months pregnant and the mom guilt has already set in.
I’ve taken on a new role in my day job and I’m finishing up a massive side project that is taking up most of my time outside work. I’m worried I may be working too hard. Or maybe the time I spend working at night I should be spending doing things for the baby?
I’ve put off a few key tasks for baby prepping that make me feel super guilty, like completing the nursery or finalizing my registry. Do I really need this Uppa Baby stroller everyone is talking about?
I also keep reading about moms who go above and beyond to give their babies the right exposure in the womb such as reading them books every night or putting music up to their bellies so they can become Mozart at 5.
Did you all do this when you were pregnant? Am I a bad mom already?
Plus, I’m struggling a bit with the anxiety. One of my coworkers accidentally collided into me in the hallway on Friday when he was running around a corner and hit my stomach. It took 15 minutes of Googling and WebMD in a bathroom stall for me to shake it off and emerge from the bathroom a stronger person. Everything feels fine now. I just freaked out a bit.
I’m guessing all of this is normal but it’s hard to tell because I keep hearing about the glowing, the good hair, and the strong nails. Not the freaking out and intense mom guilt.
I’m Grateful to Know I Have Options
Me and my baby bump! I’m due with my first baby in August!
I love my career and I’m super excited about my latest promotion to Manager, but I also make $40,000 per year online on top of my day job.
That is a significant chunk of side hustle income that gives me some cushion and flexibility with this baby…and I can feel it.
I know I’ll want to go back to work after leave but I love the feeling that I don’t have to. I have enough of a financial runway through years of saving plus income coming in every month to comfortably survive if the situation changes.
And by changes, I’m talking about something unexpected like a health issue (blocking out the anxiety as I type this) or just a change in my own mental state after I have the baby. I’m 100% into the idea of being a working Mom right now but I hear from other Moms that you don’t really know what it feels like until you’ve been through it.
I’m grateful that I have some flexibility and it gives me confidence as I get closer to the due date.
How Did I Get to This Point of Financial Security? Side Hustling & Saving
My husband and I started out over $100,000 in debt combined. We both had student loans and car loans. Then we got excited about 0% interest credit cards and went wild. I watched HGTV every Saturday and thought I was Joanna Gaines so I had put $10,000 in furniture on a credit card.
Luckily, we were able to pay off the debt in 2 years by increasing our income. I networked like crazy and went to every Women in Tech event I could get into. I also got my Masters degree online at night, reimbursed by my work. This made me more marketable because I didn’t have an undergraduate degree in the field.
We cut back on all the usual things (coffee, eating out, travel) but we really made progress when I was able to land a job in Silicon Valley with a big pay increase. We had already paid off more than half of the debt by that time but it helped us speed up on paying off the rest of it. My husband had to take a step back in his career to accommodate the growth in mine. I became the breadwinner by a significant margin.
By the time we got married in December 2016, we were debt free. We had a Game of Thrones themed wedding and paid for the entire thing ourselves. We did DIY flowers instead of using a florist and cut corners where we could to save money. My engagement ring is actually not a diamond but is moissanite. It cost $300 for the stone versus $3,000. That was another key area where we saved.
Our Game of Thrones style seating chart!
Besides just saving money we also learned online through this community where to save it. We opened up investment accounts outside of our retirement accounts and started contributing. We also opened Health Savings Accounts and we’re excited to see that we have years of saving in them to fall back on in the future.
Last, we have a cash cushion that will provide months of runway should we need it. We’re so grateful to the financial independence community for giving us the knowledge and the tools to put ourselves in a better financial position.
Blogging is definitely the most profitable of the side hustles. For example, I made over $7,000 in December 2018 blogging and I regularly bring in a few thousand dollars per month.
Podcasting is the most rewarding since I’ve made close connections with listeners. It’s not the most profitable but it’s fun.
My Etsy shop is the least work out of all the side hustles. I’m in the top 6% of sellers on Etsy and have made $5,000 selling bachelorette party printables. I last worked on the shop over a year ago and it still brings in hundreds per month in passive sales. While it’s not as profitable as blogging, the return on my time is amazing.
Now, three important things to note:
I wasn’t always a super side hustler. This is something I got the guts to try in my mid-twenties and I’m so glad I put myself out there that first time and let these side hustles grow.
I’m not a creative, artsy person and didn’t have any special skills going into this. I learned how to do this all online by fumbling around and giving it a shot.
I don’t have tons of confidence and I hid behind an anonymous persona for years. Until last week, I actually didn’t use pictures of my face or do live video. I much prefer to hide in the background than be the star of the show.
Despite these blockers, I was able to become someone who makes $40,000 online and now can be a stay-at-home Mom if I want. And this is despite being the breadwinner and having the majority of the household financial responsibility on my shoulders.
I’ll start with Etsy first. I started my Etsy shop back in 2017 and decided to focus on the bachelorette party niche because I was going to so many bachelorettes parties at the time.
Friends were spending hundreds on accessories for these events so I knew there was a solid market opportunity. I ended up getting gold tattoos made on temporarytattoos.com. Now, I sell those on Etsy to packs of women who wear them all over their faces and arms on bar crawls.
The margin is crazy on these tattoos (I make a profit of at least $15 per sale) but it is so annoying to ship a physical product on top of a day job. And I say annoying knowing that I’m lucky to have this extra income coming in but I’ll be honest I have a lot going on right now and the fact that I have to remember to ship the tattoos every day bothers me.
That’s when I learned about printables and it changed my Etsy game forever. Printables are digital things that you make one time and list on Etsy. Customers buy them and print them out at their homes.
You do nothing after the sale and don’t have to ship anything. You have no inventory to worry about because they can be downloaded thousands of times.
I sell printable party games for bachelorettes such as scavenger hunt checklists. Girls print out the paper before the party and then carry it around to bars checking off the list. The scavenger hunt checklist says things like “buy the bride a shot” or “find someone with the groom’s name and take a picture with him.” People love these printables and each one sells for $5-$7. I can’t believe people pay $7 for a digital file but they do. I’ve made over 800 sales.
Just yesterday I was texting with my sister and I got a notification that I made a $5 sale in the middle of our conversation. It was from a product that I made and uploaded over a year ago and haven’t touched since. This truly is the perfect passive income business. (I’ve also convinced her to start her own Etsy shop).
I started blogging in 2015 about my student loan payoff journey. Then when I paid off the debt and started getting serious about financial independence, I pivoted to focus on investing. Now lately, I like to talk about travel and lifestyle topics.
The best part of blogging is that I’ve made some real friendships through my blog. I meet other bloggers at events but in the past year, I branched out to meet other bloggers and readers in my city (Seattle, Washington). Some of my best friends here in Seattle are other bloggers. It’s crazy to me that someone who was an anonymous blogger online could have made real connections and genuine friendships. I’m so grateful for that.
Blogging has also given me the majority of my side hustle income.
At the beginning of blogging, I made $0. Blogging isn’t a side hustle that is going to bring anywhere close to instant income. You need to build a platform. But now, I’ve grown the blog to make thousands of dollars a month. And I do that without selling my soul.
Earning Affiliate Income as a Blogger
I think many people misunderstand what it would be like to make money blogging. Or, they think it has to be a net loss for someone. I promote products and services on my blog that I use and I get paid a small commission when people sign up.
That is not necessarily a bad thing for the reader.
For example, one of my most profitable posts is a DIY Wedding Flowers post where I take readers step-by-step through how I put together our wedding bouquets and centerpieces for the wedding using a service called FiftyFlowers.
You can see my husband and me in the pictures doing everything a few days before our wedding. You can also see my Mom in the background looking down disapprovingly since she wanted us to use a florist and didn’t think it would work out. (I actually had to take this picture down because I didn’t want her to get mad at me!) My point is though that the post is real and I really did use this service to save thousands for our wedding.
Readers can see all of the products I purchased and researched up front. They can see the pictures of the process and the pictures from the wedding of how it turned out.
Weddings are a big deal and brides are torn between using a florist that is crazy expensive and saving money. It helps them to see my experience going the DIY approach and it helps them make a more confident decision. If they purchase the flowers I recommend, I get a small commission from the flower company. It doesn’t cost the reader a penny more.
I don’t feel guilty that the post makes money. I’m not trying to convince all of my readers to use the service. Instead, I’m attracting brides who are nervous about DIY and my experience helps them save money. It’s a win-win for me, them and the company.
Using this philosophy, I make thousands per month on my blog while benefiting my readers.
Can a “Normal” Person Start These Side Hustles Too?
Yes! I am not a super side hustler naturally but I got up the guts take action and it has snowballed from there.
I hope to see you in whichever course most speaks to you so we can get started making money together!
Special Bonus for Smart Money Mamas Readers
Chelsea here! As many of you know, I love making printables. It’s how this site makes the majority of its income. And I completely agree with Julie that it’s one of the most passive sources of income available. The Family Emergency Binder, our best selling product, has done over $80,000 in gross sales since it was launched early last August. (You’ll actually see me in Julie’s Etsy Printables course describing how we made that product so successful!)
But, what most people find surprising, is that we create all of our printables in PowerPoint. No fancy software, no spending hours learning how to manipulate Adobe or getting free tools like Canva to do what we want.
The key to successful printable and Etsy shops is having beautiful products. So, while the doors are open to Julie’s Etsy Printable Course, anyone who purchases through the Smart Money Mamas link will also receive my course, Perfect Printables With PowerPoint for FREE, a $49 value.
About the Author: Julie is a 30-year-old Mom to be from Seattle, Washington, she hosts a podcast, blogs, and sells to bachelorette parties on Etsy. She also teaches others how to start profitable side hustles at GoldCityVentures.com.
What would an extra $500, $1,000, or more a month in income mean for your family? What’s holding you back from getting started? Share in the comments!
Imagine this: You’re 18 years old, and all your life you’ve been told what to do by your parents, teachers, and coaches. Now, all of a sudden, it’s entirely up to you. You, and you alone, have to make all the choices about your life and options after high school.
Sounds extremely stressful and daunting, right?
It is. And unless your child has a superstar guidance counselor or the lived experience of older siblings, it’s difficult for them to know all the options available to them. That’s where we, as parents, have to step in.
As a parent, you don’t have to have all of the answers. In fact, it’s impossible to have all the answers. But it does help if you can provide some direction.
If you want to equip your teen with the information they need to make an informed decision for post-high school options, here are some choices to consider.
Options After High School
Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
If your child struggled in high school, if they didn’t excel academically in that particular environment, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a bright future ahead of them. It simply means that they need to find an environment and an opportunity that provides a better fit.
It means that your little fish needs to stop trying to climb trees and instead stretch their fins in the wide open ocean!
Luckily, there are many options available outside of university or college. Don’t get me wrong, these are great choices. But they’re not for everyone, and this post will focus on some of the other paths a high school graduate can take.
Trade school a great option for someone who is looking for a program that teaches specific skills you can apply in the real world. For example, if you go to trade school to become a plumber, you’ll leave knowing how to fix a broken pipe.
In comparison, most university programs are theoretical, meaning you spend your time thinking about complex topics and trying to make sense of them. Basically, you’re learning how to learn. This is obviously a useful skill but not in the same practical way as the knowledge you acquire in trade school. The applied skills you acquire in trade school are easily implemented in a tangible way, rather than an abstract, theoretical one.
If your child works well with these types of skills, trade school is a solid choice for their post-high school education.
Pros of Trade School:
Usually cheaper than a traditional four-year college or university program.
In many apprenticeship programs, you earn money while going to school. This can help to control the amount of student debt.
Can be shorter term than traditional four-year programs (many programs are two years instead of four).
Cons of Trade School:
Because you learn very specific skills, if decide you want to do something different, you’ll likely have to go back to school.
Many parents might not like the sound of this. But I promise you, this is the right choice for some of your kids. If your high school senior has no idea what they want to do after they graduate, they might need some time to think and explore different options.
This doesn’t mean they take a year off to party and sleep in. You’ll want to help them formulate a plan and set goals to make the most of their time.
For instance, if your child has never been out of the country or has always dreamed of experiencing new places, then help them figure out how to afford to do so. A few months or a year of travel can be a life-changing opportunity. It might provide them the direction they’ve been lacking, or present unexpected career options.
You never know!
Pros of a Gap Year to Travel:
See new places, experience new cultures, eat new foods. Travel allows you to gain new perspectives and understand how different people live. It’s truly an education in itself.
Travel provides some serious adulting skills. It teaches you things like planning, time management, organization, budgeting, laundry, and how to get around on your own.
Cons of a Gap Year to Travel:
Travel can be expensive, even on a shoestring budget. It will likely require months of saving and planning to execute.
There is risk involved. Especially as it pertains to safety. You’ll want to teach your kids how to keep themselves, their money, and their belongings safe in a foreign country.
If you don’t have enough money to finance your child’s education, you might want to encourage your student to take a gap year to work. This will provide them money for college and reduce the amount of debt they might incur.
Encourage them to work in a sector that they are interested in pursuing. Not only will this provide a paycheck, but it will give them valuable, hands-on experience in the field, making them an even more attractive job candidate later on.
Working during a gap year isn’t as exciting as traveling, but if they earn enough money, you can encourage them to do both.
Pros of Taking a Gap Year to Work:
Save up money for school to reduce student debt.
Real world work experience.
Opportunity to work and network in a field they think they are interested in before committing to a post-secondary program.
Cons of Taking a Gap Year to Work:
Wasting time and money. If there’s no goal or direction for the gap year, it can be easy to get caught up in the party scene. This can be a huge waste of money. Make sure your teen has a plan for what they want to accomplish.
Fear that time off might mean the child will never want to go back to school. I get it. Remember, a college or university education isn’t right for everyone. If your teenager is motivated to pursue post-secondary education, it will happen regardless of a gap year.
Has your child been developing apps since grade school or have they started a small business selling handmade jewelry on Etsy?
Sounds like you may have an entrepreneur on your hands.
If your child is finding success with their current business endeavors, perhaps a full-time foray into entrepreneurship is the right option after high school.
A degree in business or entrepreneurship wouldn’t hurt since it’ll teach them some of the management aspects of owning a business. But, if your child is obsessed with their business and spends every waking moment work on it, encourage them to take the leap to entrepreneurship.
They can figure out the rest with some mentorship and guidance.
Pros of Entrepreneurship:
Unlimited earning potential. If their business takes off, the sky’s the limit!
Unlimited creative freedom.
Cons of Entrepreneurship:
It’s risky. A lot of small businesses fail. But, you’ll never know unless you try. Also, it’s really important to fail when you’re young and you still have time on your side.
The challenge of finding work-life balance. When you work a 9 to 5 cubicle job, it can be easy to leave work at work. When you are building your own business, the workday doesn’t end at 5; it ends when you decide it’s time to stop. And sometimes, that is a difficult line to draw.
If your child is interested in entrepreneurship, now is the perfect time. They will never have more energy or less responsibility, so encourage them to go for it!
I’d have mixed feelings if my son or daughter decided to join the military. The risk of deployment and active duty would result in a lot of sleepless nights for me. However, it’s really up to our kids to decide, and there are a lot of perks involved with joining the military.
For some, it’s an option that is definitely worth looking into. It might provide them with opportunities they may not otherwise have access to, or it might provide them with some direction and discipline.
But this is one choice that definitely takes some careful consideration given the risks associated with it.
Pros of the military:
An opportunity to see the world, for free.
Cons of the military:
Deployment and active duty.
Being away from home for extended periods of time.
Once you sign your contract, you can’t quit.
For a more thorough list of pros and cons of exploring the military option written by someone with firsthand experience, check out this post.
Helping Teens Understand Their Options After High School
A four-year degree is not the only path for students to take after high school, and it’s not the best fit for those students who don’t excel in an academic environment.
If this sounds like your child, show them that there are other options out there. And remind them that once they make a decision, they aren’t locked in. They can change their mind, or even do a couple of these at the same time. It’s a lot of trial and error.
Most of us don’t know what we want to do with the rest of our lives at 17 or 18 years old. But with the right information and guidance, we can help our kids make the best choice for them right now.
I want to hear from you. What other options or information did you share with your high school seniors when they were getting ready to graduate and enter the real world?
No matter what stage you’re in financially, I doubt you’d turn away the chance for free money. The promise of earning a dollar by clicking on a website or downloading an app seems almost too good to be true.
However, it’s true! There are hundreds of cash-back apps or websites promising big returns for little effort. But since I can barely keep up with funding my kid’s lunch account, squeezing in another obligation to earn only a few dollars doesn’t seem realistic. There’s no possible way I have time to earn a little extra money without having to put forth quite a bit of effort.
Yet now it seems like this is an actual, legit option. Intrigued? So was I, which is why I wanted to share this review of the Dosh App.
What is the Dosh App?
Simply put, Dosh is a smartphone app that allows you to earn cash back from restaurants, retail stores, or certain online purchases. If you link your card to the app, it’ll automatically notify you of the cash you’ve earned on qualifying purchases.
The cash back amounts range anywhere from 2% of your purchases to upwards of 10%, or there might be a flat amount designated. There aren’t any points or receipts to keep track of because the information is linked to your card. You shop with your linked card and you earn the cash back. That’s it.
You have the choice to link either a debit card or a credit card, and you can also link multiple cards. At the time of this review, Dosh only allows you to link cards from Visa, MasterCard, or American Express.
With Dosh, you grant access your location information, and you can automatically see which establishments qualify for cash back. The app will tell you which local or national places of business nearby are eligible and how much of a bonus you’re entitled to.
Not only will you see popular restaurants such as Pizza Hut or Dunkin Donuts, but you’ll also find several of your local eating establishments as well.
By now you’re probably wondering how you could make enough money to warrant downloading another app. Fortunately, Dosh has created several ways for you to beef up your earnings.
First, your account will automatically be credited with $5 for each card you link. Bam, $5, done! But it doesn’t stop there. This is only the beginning of how you can earn cash.
Then, any time you spend money on your linked cards at a partner establishment, you’ll earn cash back. Dosh’s partners include Dunkin Donuts, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples, gas stations, and many local establishments. If you shop online, you can also earn cash back, you just need to first click through from the Dosh app.
Finally, in addition to shopping or eating (which pretty much sums up my two favorite activities), you can earn additional money for referrals. Every time one of your friends or family members signs up and links a card, you can earn $5 for each verified card.
If you want referrals, don’t be shy about sending out your personal referral code provided by Dosh! You can share it on all the social networks so your friends and family can easily see your code.
Since Dosh is constantly adding new partners, you’ll want to allow the app to send you notifications on offers available nearby.
At this point, you might ask what hoops you need to jump through in order to receive your funds from Dosh. Each time you shop at a qualifying retailer or restaurant, and you use the debit or credit card which is linked to your account, then your account will automatically be credited.
Once you hit the $25 mark in earnings, you can start transferring the money over to your PayPal, Venmo, or bank account. You’ll have to provide the information for these accounts in order for you to receive your money.
Another neat feature you can choose for the Dosh payouts is to donate your earnings to charity.
One of the points that I think is most appealing about the Dosh app is that you don’t have to keep up with any receipts for your purchases in order to be reimbursed. This is perfect for moms like me who can’t even keep a dollar in their wallet, much less keep track of receipts.
Does the Dosh App Keep My Information Safe?
I don’t know about you, but in this day in age, I feel like online security is an absolute must. I’m concerned about the threat of someone copying my credit card number and using it to do their own shopping. I’m also worried about my personal data being sold or distributed and being used for who knows what.
Dosh appears to understand the concerns about safety and chooses to address it from the very beginning. From the moment you open the app to the time you link your card, you’re given information on the security features of the app.
Dosh promises to provide “bank-level” security with several safeguards in place for your data. All data is encrypted with their very sophisticated software. They even take it a step further and don’t store any of your banking or credit card information. All the information is housed with a third-party company called Braintree, which is a PayPal company.
Dosh also uses a multi-factor authentication process to make sure you’re the only one accessing your account, and they will not sell any of your personally identifiable information to a third-party.
Yes, the benefits of earning cash for purchases you’ll make anyway seems like a no-brainer. But are there any downsides to having something so easy to use right at your fingertips?
Keep in mind you do have to link a credit card. Right now you can only link certain Visa, MasterCard, and American Express cards, and the app currently excludes linking store or corporate cards.
Another point to consider is the $25 payout level. While $25 doesn’t seem like a large amount of money at first, it may take quite a bit of time to get to the level for payout.
When you’re finally able to cash out, there have been reports of it taking multiple days or weeks for your earnings to be credited to your account in some cases. Maybe this isn’t a big deal, but this could be a drawback if you’re looking for ways to quickly access money the money you’ve earned.
Aren’t There Other Apps Which Promise Cash Back?
Dosh isn’t the first app to come along to promise you a payout for shopping at a specific retailer. A quick Google search for cash-back apps and you’ll realize how many are out there making big promises.
But how does Dosh compare to other popular cash-back apps in the market?
Ibotta is a very popular option for earning cash back on both your in-store and online purchases. The basic premise is you look up the current offers on the Ibotta app and match it to your receipt and the store where you’re shopping to receive a designated amount back. It could be as little as 25 cents or as much as a percentage of your purchase.
Ibotta requires you to upload your receipts in order to verify the purchases. Again, if you’re unorganized or forgetful and let too much time go by (many of the offers are time-sensitive), you might have a harder time using this app.
However, what Ibotta does offer is a huge amount of items where you can earn cash back.
If you’re going to the grocery store, chances are high you’re going to find an offer you can redeem with Ibotta. If you combine this with an item you already have a coupon for or one that’s on sale, then you can save even more. And like Dosh, you earn additional money through referrals and extra monthly bonuses.
There is a $20 payout level for Ibotta and you can choose to send it to your PayPal account or have it applied to a gift card.
Ebates is another popular cash-back option, but the focus for this app is mainly with online purchases. This company partners with retailers to earn cash back and splits the commission with you. The retailers are constantly changing, as are the amounts you can earn. You can also add money to your account by referring friends and family.
This app is similar to Dosh in that you don’t have to upload receipts; you simply open an account.
Where Ebates differs than other sites is it takes about 90 days to receive your payout. (You can only get paid out once a quarter.) But you can have cash credited to your PayPal account.
Swagbucks is slightly different because the focus is you being able to earn money by taking surveys and watching videos online. Each survey or video will allow you to earn a certain number of Swagbucks and, once you reach a designated level of Swagbucks, you can convert your points to cash.
You can also set Swagbucks as your default search engine so you can earn even more “bucks”. You can also play games, purchase gift cards – there are several ways to beef up your bucks.
Where Swagbucks gets tricky is you have to spend quite a bit of time online in order to earn a significant amount. If you’re online quite a bit anyway, then this could be another option.
Give It To Me Straight – Should I Download the Dosh App?
The Dosh app is undeniably easy to use. The fact that it’s safe and partnered with many different types of retailers is a great bonus. So, I would definitely recommend downloading the Dosh app to save on your normal purchases. As long as you understand the money will trickle in.
The Dosh app isn’t set up to be a full-scale side hustle. But it never hurts to have a few extra bucks in your pocket with no extra work, right?
Is getting life insurance on your to-do list? If someone relies on your income, or you’re a stay-at-home mom, it certainly should be! Luckily, you can buy life insurance online and all you need to do to get started is fill out a 10-minute application.
You read that right. An hour-long conversation with an agent isn’t required to get life insurance. (Though unless you’re in excellent health, you will probably need a quick health exam.)
Before you start, you’ll want to determine how much life insurance you’ll need. There are many rules of thumb, but they won’t do a great job predicting your family’s needs. Instead, take a few minutes to consider a few quick questions and work through our life insurance worksheet.
For most families, term life insurance is the best option. It’s affordable and offers coverage when your family needs it most. And it’s also easy to get online thanks to new underwriting algorithms.
The site or company that’s best for you will depend on your situation and the coverage you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at the best places to get life insurance online.
Coverage: Up to $3 million for adults under 60, up to $1 million for those ages 60-64
Age Availability: 18-64
Medical Exam Required: Yes, though those in excellent health may be exempt
Policies Issued By: MassMutual
Haven Life offers coverage up to $3 million for those under 60 years old and has a variety of term options.
They also have a couple of options when it comes to riders. They offer an accelerated death benefit rider and a waiver of premium rider, which allows for a 6-month premium free period if you get injured or temporarily can’t work). A policy with Haven Life comes with an online will writing tool and an online safe deposit box service.
The application process takes about 25 minutes.
If you’re under 59 years old, you can get up to $1 million in coverage that starts immediately. Haven Life also has a 10-day trial period, giving you some extra time to review their service and cancel your policy if you find a better fit.
Coverage: Up to $500,000 for 2-year term, up to $1 million for 10- and 20-year term
Age Availability: 45 or younger for a 20-year term, 55 or younger for 2- or 10-year term
Medical Exam Required: No
Policies Issued By: North American Company for Life and Health Insurance
Bestow offers up to $1 million of coverage for 10- or 20-year terms. A 2-year term policy is also available for up to $500,000 of coverage.
Two-year terms are rare and could be a good route if you’re unsure about your needs but want to put something in place now. Bestow also offers a 30-day money back guarantee so you have extra time to make sure the policy you get is the best one for you.
Medical Exam Required: Yes, though those in excellent health may be exempt
Policies Issued by: Fidelity Security Life Insurance Co.
Ladder offers life insurance coverage up to $8 million and has the most options for term length. They also have adjustable coverage, allowing you to increase or decrease your policy online as your needs change.
This is great for people who may need more flexibility in their coverage, to accommodate for changing family size or other circumstances.
The application process is fast (15-20 minutes) and you won’t find extra fees. However, if you’re looking for a rider, you’ll have to look elsewhere because they don’t offer any.
The four companies above are great sources of affordable term life insurance, especially if you want instant coverage or a quick application process. But one downside is that each of those sites only provide quotes from their own company. And when it comes to life insurance, especially if you have health issues, you may want to shop around.
This is where comparison sites are helpful. And of comparison sites, Policygenius is the best of the best. It allows you to quickly look at different companies, policies, and quotes side-by-side to make the best decision for your family.
Policygenius is easy to use, has excellent support, and can get you estimated quotes quickly with limited personal information. Just remember, if you decide to move forward the application process is a bit more in-depth. (It still shouldn’t take you longer than 10 to 15 minutes to complete.)
Once you finish your application, you will see real quotes and policy options from different life insurance companies. You can select the one that looks best to you. Then, Policygenius will direct you to that company’s website to finish purchasing your policy.
Has “get life insurance” sat untouched on your to-do list? If so, that’s okay. But, as you can see, there are many simple websites you can use to find the right life insurance policy for you.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to spend 15-20 minutes on this. Not only will it reduce your stress knowing you’ve taken care of this important task, but it is also crucial for the financial security of your family.
If you still feel overwhelmed, start with the worksheet here, figure out your needs, and then get a policy in place!
You know how they say when you travel with kids, you’re taking a TRIP, not a VACATION?
I’ve been playing this mom game for 4.5 years, and here’s what I’ve learned – they’re right. Kids can complicate travel. It’s more expensive; more flights to book, more people in a hotel room, more activities to pay for, and more food to buy. It can be less relaxing (think hypervigilance at a pool all day as opposed to lounging with a book). Not to mention the packing. Ugh, the packing!
But that doesn’t mean that taking a trip with your kids can’t be enjoyable. It just might be different than vacations from your pre-kid life, and that is OK (I say to myself repeatedly as I pack suitcases and curse).
That’s why I want to share some of my hacks for my personal favorite getaway with young kids; the good old family camping trip. Camping with young children? Really?
Yes, really. There are so many reasons why camping is the trip of choice for my family of 4. We started going consistently when we had a 2.5-year-old and 6-month-old, so yes, camping with young children can be done! It’s cheap. It’s relaxing(ish). You’ll still have to pack (sorry). And even if you aren’t a seasoned camper, (I’m not either!) there is a type of camping out there for every comfort level and tons of opportunities to create shared family fun.
First – Choose Your Camping “Level”
Repeat after me. Bigger is not necessarily better.
If you have grand ideas about tenting in Yellowstone with toddlers, these tips won’t help you. That’s because either 1) you are already an expert OR 2) you’re setting your expectations too high.
My family’s camping level is less than impressive. We always go to the same campground. Unadventurous? We know what we like, and we know what works! We also don’t tent. Why? Well, we don’t really like to tent. We saved up for a small camper and it’s like a home away from home for the kids.
1 – Pick a Location
Something close to home is usually best. You will have less travel time, and you can always bail out if it isn’t working. Look for a place that has things young children might enjoy like a playground, open spaces to play, easy paths for walking, and swimming.
2 – Where Will You Stay?
Will you tent, use an RV, or stay in a cabin? What works best for you and your family? (Check out the “How to Keep Costs Down” section for more information on this.)
Do a Trial Run
1 – Nighttime
I already know what you’re thinking – will my kids actually sleep when we go camping?
Well, why don’t you try it at home first and find out?!
While it’s certainly not a guarantee, a trial run can do a lot to boost your confidence and help you work out some kinks before you go on an actual camping trip. A night in the tent in the backyard or a night in a friend’s camper can help you figure out sleeping arrangements, what supplies you will need, and whether or not this can really work!
2 – Daytime
The daytime trial run is just as important as the nighttime trial run, but we tend to get so caught up in the sleep aspect (hello, we are parents of young children) that we forget to consider it. Trust me, consider it!
If the place where you plan to camp is close to your home, plan a day trip to that location. If it isn’t so close by, try to find a local park where you can spend the day. Write down what went well and the supplies you might need for the big trip.
Keep Your Kids Safe
1 – Water
A camping trip often means time spent near or in water. Always practice water safety. Be vigilant.
2 – Campfires
Check out these campfire rules for kids. Also, consider whether your child is old enough and responsible enough to be around fire. My youngest child tests boundaries, is clumsy, doesn’t always listen the first time, and doesn’t have a high regard for his own safety. So when the kids are awake, we don’t have a campfire.
Well, how do you cook? We eat peanut butter and jelly or we cook when the kids go to bed.
“Don’t your kids feel like they’re missing out?”
Nope, they actually have no clue that this is a quintessential part of camping, so they’re good. It isn’t worth it to me to chance serious burns. For now, there’s no fire when my kids are present. Period.
3 – First Aid
If you don’t already have a first aid kit in your car, this is a good opportunity to put one together. Here are some suggestions for items that you can include in your kit.
4 – Know the Location of the Nearest Doctor or Hospital
It’s not what you want to think about, but what if there’s an emergency? What if your kid gets sick? Before you go, establish the location of the nearest doctor and/or hospital, just in case.
5 – Food
You will need to secure your food when you are camping. Here is why.
My parents took my brother and me camping when we were kids. That night we sat by the fire and roasted some marshmallows. It was getting late, and we all went to the bathhouse to brush our teeth before bed. The plan was to put the food in the car when we returned. We were gone maybe 5 minutes. When we got back, there was a skunk.
A marshmallow loving skunk.
My quick-thinking mother ushered us all into the truck, and we sat in that car for what seemed like hours until the satiated skunk finally left.
Yes, you will have a great time exploring nature, but it’s nice for your kids to have some items from home with them to make them feel comfortable too. While there are so many fun things to do when you camp, your kids might just want to chill and play, and that’s great!
2 – Have Your Kids Help Pack
This is a good exercise in responsibility. While you are the primary packer, ask your child what he or she thinks you should pack and have them help you gather supplies.
And then, when they go to bed, double check it all, because everyone knows that you can’t fully concentrate when your kid is awake.
3 – Plan to Get Dirty
You should see what my kids can do to a pair of white socks at a campground. It’s terrifying.
Pack clothes that are already stained, holey, or clothes that can afford to get damaged and dirty.
If you plan to swim in a lake, you may want to take older bathing suits or ones that are darker in color. Depending on the lake, lighter colored bathing suits may retain some of the color of the water and stain. I grew up swimming in a lake called Black Moshannon, where the water is actually black from the plants that grow there. My mom’s rule every summer was “no white bathing suits” because they would end up looking tan after the first swim of the season.
4 – Layers
Check the weather and plan for highs and lows. Remember that your child is likely to get dirty or wet, so you might want to pack more than one jacket or sweatshirt. Have options available for different temperatures.
5 – Flashlights
Take one for every person. Yes, you will need them, but the flashlight will likely be your kid’s favorite part of the whole experience.
Camping with young kids seems like an inexpensive trip until you start to buy all of the gear you need, and then look out! If you don’t have the supplies that you need, try to borrow from family and friends first. And guess what? In my experience, people who love camping are some of the nicest, most generous people around. Many of them would love the opportunity to share their favorite pastime with others. Chances are a friend of a friend would be glad to lend you a tent and a lantern. The same thing goes for an RV or even a cabin that someone isn’t using for the weekend. Ask!
2 – Rent Supplies
Did you know you can rent camping supplies? If you are just trying this whole thing out for the first time and you aren’t ready to commit to the purchase of your own supplies, this might be a great option for you. Check out local sporting goods stores that offer this option.
3 – Take Your Own Food
You may be thinking, “well how else would we get food in the middle of the woods?” The thing is, a lot of campgrounds or lakesides have snack bars that are quite tempting, and the cost of those after swim ice cream cones can add up! Take your own supplies for inexpensive but tasty meals and treats.
And give your food supplies a double check before you leave home. Prices are definitely higher at the camp store, and you don’t want to have to fill in forgotten items.
While it is good to have a few activities in mind, camping is the perfect opportunity to go with the flow and see where the day takes you. Having low expectations and following your kid’s lead can result in an enjoyable experience for everyone.
2 – Go for a Walk
Find a flat trail and go explore nature. Not only will it be good for your bodies, but it might also just wear out your kiddo enough that she will sleep tonight. Take a bucket and let them gather acorns, leaves, and sticks.
3 – Ranger Talks
Most parks and campgrounds feature educational talks and programs geared toward kids. They’re typically free and give your child the opportunity to learn about the environment in a hands-on way.
4 – Read
Is there anything better than reading outside in the sunshine? Take a midday book break and share this delicious treat with your children.
5 – Go for a Swim
Most campgrounds are usually near some type of water. A combination of sand and water can entertain my kids for hours.
Don’t forget to take sand toys!
6 – Geocaching
This activity probably works best as your children get a little bit older, but it still might be a fun option to check out. Geocaching is the modern version of a treasure hunt. You use a GPS receiver, a set of coordinates, and clues to find a cache of goodies. You can find more information on how to get started geocaching here.
7 – Board Games and Cards
Perfect for when you need something less active, board games and cards are a camping classic. Games for young kids can even be fun for adults. My family likes Candy Land, Don’t Break the Ice, and Cootie Bugs. Plus, playing games promotes problem-solving skills. Win, win!
Head Out to the Woods & Give it a Try!
Try some (or all!) of these hacks to keep your trip simple, safe, and fun for the whole family. With a little planning and preparation, you can reduce complications and focus on making new memories with your family.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to give it a try? Welcome to the great outdoors!
Throughout my career as a licensed real estate agent, I have coached many buyers through the home buying process. And while the usual steps tend to be cut and dry in most states, emotion and well-intentioned advice tend to get in the way of a smooth home purchase.
Choosing to buy a home is one of the most exciting and difficult decisions many people will make in their adult lives. The process can be emotionally and mentally draining—after all, the pressure to find the perfect home can take all the fun out of a home search. (In fact, the idea of a “perfect home” is just one of many misconceptions I ask homebuyers to set aside.)
Buying a home is the most expensive transaction many people will ever conduct. But that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful or intimidating. So below, I share the top mistakes I see new homebuyers make, along with the same advice I share with my clients to avoid them. Whether you want to buy a home in the next couple of months or several years in the future, this is information you need to know.
We’ll cover the home buying process in detail while also breaking down six of the biggest mistakes to avoid along the way. Let’s dive in.
1 – Not Hiring Real Estate Agent to Guide the Homebuying Process
I may be biased, but I firmly believe it is a colossal mistake to buy a home without the support and expertise of a real estate agent. I have heard virtually every imaginable objection to hiring an agent. And I feel it is my ethical responsibility to set the record straight and explain why it is a huge mistake to buy a home without an agent.
Hiring a buyer’s agent is the simplest way to avoid wasting time throughout the homebuying process. Your agent has access to the local MLS (multiple listing service) and knows your local market better than you do. She can help you by providing an initial list of homes that is sure to meet the search criteria you have chosen.
An agent will walk you through every step your search and provide answers to your questions. You miss out on this peace of mind when you try to go it alone.
Choosing to work with a buyer’s agent strengthens your ability to make a competitive offer and negotiate intelligently when you find a home you love. An agent has access to a host of tools which allow him to produce a comparative market analysis (CMA), which is the smartest way to determine the current market value of any home. Simply put, a buyer agent will make sure you negotiate the best possible terms of purchase.
2 – Not Getting Pre-Approved For a Mortgage Loan Before You Start Shopping
It’s not absolutely necessary to obtain a mortgage pre-approval and choose a loan product before you start the homebuying process, but it’s a wise move for several reasons.
First, the mortgage pre-approval process will verify that you are, in fact, financially-qualified to buy a home. If you’re not yet qualified to buy, it’s definitely better to find out before you fall in love with a home and have your heart broken.
Second, understanding the specific loan amount and interest rate for which you qualify will prevent you from falling in with love homes you can’t afford. It will also help you understand the relationship between loan amounts, interest rates, annual property tax totals, and your monthly mortgage payment.
Third, your lender will be able to create several forecast models outlining what you may expect to pay on a monthly mortgage payment at a variety of sale prices, annual property tax amounts, and downpayment totals. You can use this information to easily see the impact a home purchase will have on your monthly budget.
Here are a few more insights I share with buyers who are evaluating their mortgage loan options:
Don’t choose a lender solely based on their loan products—you should also feel comfortable with the lender representative, as this person will be your primary contact throughout the formal loan application process. If your primary contact is not responsive and available—especially during nights and weekends—this is often a red flag.
It’s wise to shop around and evaluate your loan options. Multiple credit inquiries from several lenders won’t damage your credit if they are all contained within a short time period. If you can reduce your mortgage APR by even a fraction of a percent, your savings will be huge over time.
Most importantly, don’t allow yourself to become enamored with the loan pre-approval figures you receive from your lender. Maxing out your budget is one of the quickest paths to buyer’s remorse, in my experience.
This advice will draw the ire of many well-intentioned family and friends who encourage home buyers to look for a “diamond in the rough” home that can be rehabilitated with a bit of elbow grease, but my years of experience have shown that short sales and foreclosures lead to hassle and heartbreak far more often than happiness.
In most markets, short sales and foreclosures are typically sold to cash buyers who can close quickly. Banks want to unload these homes as fast as possible, in most cases, which means they’re not willing to wait around for a buyer who is planning to take out a mortgage.
Even if you do win a bidding war and land a contract to purchase a short sale or foreclosed home, you’re not out of the woods. Many homes are in need of costly maintenance and repairs that will far outweigh the cost savings of buying a distressed property.
Even if you do everything “by the book” as a buyer, it is possible that the bank may decide to cancel the transaction seemingly at random. This recently happened to one of my clients who is an investor/home flipper. Unless you’re willing to face this level of possible disappointment, the risk of a short sale or foreclosure is not worth the reward.
4 – Not Conducting a Professional Home Inspection
I recently closed a transaction in which I represented the seller, and to my astonishment, the buyer waived his right to conduct a home inspection. I completely understand the desire to save a few hundred dollars when you’re preparing to spend what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, in my professional opinion, this is one of the biggest mistakes a home buyer can ever make!
A home inspection functions as an easy escape route for home buyers—but only if you get one. Real estate purchase contracts vary from state to state, but they all include an inspection contingency which allows buyers to renegotiate the terms of a sale following an inspection or even back out of the deal without penalty if the seller does not agree to make the necessary repairs as requested. However, if you forfeit your right to an inspection, you always waive this contingency.
A professional, licensed home inspector will conduct a thorough examination of all visible elements of a home. They will examine the exterior walls, foundation, roof, grading of landscaping, plumbing, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), windows, water heater, kitchen and laundry appliances, sinks, toilets, and fire protection systems. All defects and necessary repairs will be included in his report, usually with pictures, which will allow your real estate agent and attorney to negotiate repairs and monetary credits with the seller on your behalf.
Please keep in mind that a home inspection may not reveal hidden defects. Home inspectors are generally not able to see behind walls, take apart appliances, or look inside sewer lines. That said, a good inspector who suspects problems that he cannot fully evaluate is likely to recommend further evaluation by a specialist.
Again, a quality home inspection is not cheap. But I have seen enough inspections pay for themselves ten times over to strongly insist that everyone conduct one.
5 – Borrowing Money While Waiting For Your Closing Date
There is nothing quite like the relief a home buyer experiences after finding a home, negotiating an offer, and successfully navigating the home inspection contingency period. Most buyers usually stay very busy during the weeks leading up to the closing date. After all, moving is a lot of work!
One of the biggest mistakes a home buyer can make during this time is borrowing money. In fact, one seemingly insignificant loan could jeopardize a buyer’s ability to qualify for a mortgage loan! The reason is simple: Lenders calculate a potential borrower’s monthly debt-to-income ratio during the pre-approval process, and new debt incurred in the days leading up to closing could change that ratio.
If you’re planning to buy a new car, a new bedroom set, or otherwise make a sizable purchase on credit in the days leading up to closing on your new home, you should always take to your lender first. They may recommend that you wait until after closing to complete your purchase if it will damage your debt-to-income ratio.
6 – Depleting Your Emergency Savings to Fund Your Downpayment
Have you heard of Murphy’s Law? It’s the old adage that states “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
In my experience, Murphy’s Law is never truer than when you’ve just purchased a new home. For example, the air conditioning in my home stopped work on our moving day many years ago when a home security installer blew a fuse on our thermostat—and of course, this was in the middle of a record-setting heat wave.
Fortunately, we had built an emergency fund that was adequately funded to pay for exactly this kind of problem. So we called an air conditioning technician to diagnose and fix the problem, and our new home was cool again in under an hour.
It can be very tempting for home buyers to throw every available dollar into their downpayment, but maintaining an emergency fund is a smarter move for several reasons:
When an important component of your home needs repair or replacement, you’re on the hook to cover the costs. Unless you have a master plan to get free money every time disaster strikes, you’ll likely fall deeper into debt after a few necessary repairs.
On average, increasing your downpayment by a few thousand dollars will not make a big impact on the size of your monthly mortgage payment.
An emergency fund will put you at ease and ensure that you aren’t constantly stressed about money.
Buying a home is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to stressful. If you make a plan, hire a real estate agent and avoid costly mistakes along the way, becoming a homeowner can be a joyful experience. Take each step in the process with caution, and you’ll be well on your way toward joining the ranks of happy homeowners!
When I was younger, a close friend of my parents used to tell me regularly that if I saved 10% of every dollar I made, I would be a millionaire in retirement. As I got older, I saw this 10% target retirement savings rate referenced in personal finance books and by financial planners. While I love the simplicity of the 10%, it always bothered me that the rule was so consistent. What if you saved more while you were younger? What if you were already 35 and hadn’t started saving yet? Would 10% be enough? Or maybe too much?
The basics of consistency and thoughtful spending are universal for long-term financial success. But after that, personal finance is unique to each of us and our goals. So, after years of wondering, I created a simple calculator (with the help of Chris from Keep Thrifty) to help you determine your own personal target retirement savings rate. Just enter a few numbers that reflect your situation and views of the world and find out how what percentage of every dollar you make you need to save to reach your retirement goals!
Target Retirement Savings Rate Calculator
Step 1: Enter your family’s current age and income
This is the basic information we need to know where you are starting ? In your current retirement savings, be sure to include 401(k)s, IRAs, and other money set aside specifically for retirement. I would not include home equity in your retirement savings.
33 your current age
32 your spouse’s current age
Your Current Income (pre-tax) $
Your Spouse’s Current Income (pre-tax) $
2.0% your estimated annual raise
2.0% your spouse’s estimated annual raise
Current Retirement Savings $
Step 2: Enter your family’s retirement goals
This is where you input your goals and beliefs about the future ? You can change assumptions below and see how it impacts your savings needs.
65 your target retirement age
365 your spouse’s target retirement age
Estimate your monthly spending in retirement – in today’s dollars! ? Inflation is already built in so you don’t need to scale your estimates up. You can use your current expenses as a baseline, but remember that some expenses will change in retirement. Maybe by retirement you don’t plan to have a mortgage! Or maybe you want to allocate more money towards travel and leisure expenses. Just try to estimate based on spending, not on your current income. Taxes will likely go down in retirement once you don’t have regular income, so just dividing your current annual salary by 12 would likely overstate your needs.
Social Security benefits are estimated below based on the 2017 benefit formula and only takes into account your current salary ? If you won’t have 35 years of earnings history when you retire, this is likely overstated. Be sure to use the ‘haircut’ function to reduce the estimate to a level that makes the you are comfortable with. If you want to assume no benefit from Social Security, put in a 100% haircut to remove it entirely.
Your Monthly Social Security (estimate):
Your Spouse’s Monthly Social Security (estimate):
30.0% haircut to 2017 social security benefit estimate
40.0% haircut to spouse’s 2017 social security benefit estimate
Estimate what return you expect to get on your retirement investments ? If you keep all cash or bonds, this number is going to be very low (0%-4%) which will increase your savings needs. If you are in almost all stocks, your returns should be higher over the long-term. For reference, the 100 year return of the S&P 500, with dividends re-invested, has been about 10%.
Advanced: Set a withdrawal rate you are comfortable with ? Your withdrawal rate is what percentage of your savings you need to withdraw per year to live in retirement. Backtesting has not shown a period where a 4% withdrawal rate depleted a nest egg in less than 33 years. As such, it has become the baseline for retirees. But a 3% withdrawal rate is even safer, while a 5% rate is more aggressive and could be depleted within your lifetime if the market moves against you.
4.0% withdrawal rate
Step 6: See how much you need to save
To sustain yourself through retirement, you need to reach in savings by age .
Step 7: Discover the percentage of your pre-tax income your family needs to save for retirement!
Based on your assumptions entered above, this is the percentage of your family’s income you need to be saving between now and retirement to reach your goals ? Remember, if you have employer match in your 401(k), that counts towards your goal!
Pre-Tax Savings Rate:
Based on your annual investment return estimate, your family needs to save of your total pre-tax income. For this year, that means $1118 per month. Be sure to reduce this target percentage by any employer retirement savings match!
Bonus: How would your retirement accounts look over time?
Your retirement accounts will grow from investment returns and new contributions over time, then deplete through retirement based on your withdrawal rate ? Enter your estimated investment return during retirement below (usually lower than your pre-retirement rate as you move your nest egg into more conservative investments) to see what your trajectory would look like based on your assumptions.
4.0% expected investment return – post-retirement
Click to Show Detailed Results ↓
Family Retirement Asset Projection
Disclaimer: This tool is meant to help you estimate your family’s needs, not guarantee results or incorporate all variables that will inevitably shift between now and your retirement age. Please use this as a guide, not an exact figure of your needs. Previous market performance does not guarantee future results and your retirement accounts will almost certainly not increase or decrease in a smooth curve, but will vary with the markets.
Notes on Using the Target Retirement Savings Rate Calculator
The Target Retirement Savings Rate calculator above is easy to use and walks you through each and every step. However, here are some tips on getting the most out of the tool.
How's Your Money Health?
Wondering whether you’re doing the right things with money or what you should focus on next? Download our quick financial health checklist and see where you stand!
Add Your Retirement Goals and Investment Outlook
Target Retirement Age: At what age do you want to retire? Do you think you will retire at the traditional age of 65 or aim to retire early and pursue more of your passions? Feel free to play with these ages to see how it impacts your target retirement savings rate. Sometimes a small increase in savings can buy you a few more years of retirement!
Family Expected Monthly Retirement Expenses: How much do you plan to spend each month in retirement? Feel free to use your current spending as a guide, but remember that some expenses change in retirement. You will no longer have to commute (woo!) or purchase a work wardrobe, but you may want to travel more! Don't build inflation into this number as the worksheet does it automatically!
If you don't have a budget today, I highly recommend setting up a regular budget. It is the only way to know how much you'll need in an emergency or in retirement.
Monthly Social Security Estimate: If you are 30 years away from retirement, Social Security may look different when you cut into your farewell cake. But, despite scary headlines, it is unlikely to completely disappear. The Target Retirement Savings Rate spreadsheet uses your current income, along with the 2017 Social Security benefit formula, to roughly estimate how much you could expect to receive from age 65 on.
Advanced - Haircut to Social Security: If you plan to retire before 65, won't have 35 years of work history when you retire, or if you believe Social Security will be significantly diminished in the future, you can reduce the benefit by haircutting it. If you think Social Security won't exist at all for you, put in 100%.
Expected Annual Investment Return: This will depend on how your money is invested (stocks, bonds, CDs, cash) and your overall asset allocation. Over the past 100 years, the S&P 500 has averaged an annual return of 10%. I believe a 7% rate is a fair estimate for people 10 or more years away from retirement with an 80/20 stock-bond split.
Inflation Estimate: Inflation has averaged about 2% a year over the long-term and as such is a fair estimate. But if you think inflation will be higher or lower, or just want to see the impact of that inflation on your savings needs, you can change it here.
Advanced - Withdrawal Rate: Your withdrawal rate is what percentage of your savings you need to withdraw per year to live in retirement. Backtesting has not shown a period where a 4% withdrawal rate depleted a nest egg in less than 33 years. As such, it has become the baseline for retirees. But a 3% withdrawal rate is even safer, while a 5% rate is more aggressive and could be depleted within your lifetime if the market moves against you.
See Your Savings Rate Goals!
Once you input your assumptions, the calculator will automatically let you know how much of each dollar you make needs to be put into retirement accounts to reach your goals! It will also show you the total retirement account value you need to see before you give your notice.
Try not to be daunted by a potentially large number! You'll save progressively over the years. And growth on the dollars you invest over time will help you reach your goals.
Don't forget to build your existing employer retirement contributions, plus match, into your savings rate!
Bonus: How Will Your Nest Egg Grow Over Time
The goal of this calculator is to give you a frame of reference for your retirement savings rate needs. But, to help you see how your rate will grow your nest egg over time, I wanted to include a quick asset projection. This chart shows you how your retirement accounts could look if you maintained your savings rate.
It also shows you how that value would deplete in retirement! Most people move their investments into safer options once they retire, to preserve their wealth. But depending on how conservatively you invest that money in retirement, the faster you will use up your nest egg. You can change your expected investment return in retirement in this part of the worksheet to see how your family's savings would move over time.
What percentage of your income do you need to save to reach your goals? Are you saving more or less than that today? How can you make changes to reach your goals? Drop a note in the comments and let me know about your unique situation!
I like to think that I was a minimalist before it was cool. With a background in architecture and design, I have always appreciated the elegant lines of mid-century modern furniture, and the clean aesthetic of many Japanese homes.
While studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, a professor once instructed me to “only buy art that you can’t live without.” This idea resonated with me so in 2012, when we relocated from Rhode Island to San Francisco for my now husband’s career, we brought only what could fit in my Toyota Corolla – including a letterpress print from a dear friend and two beloved paintings.
In 2013 we bought our first house – a nearly hundred-year-old 1,600 square foot craftsman. After almost a decade of that strange sense of placelessness that comes with dorm and apartment living in your early twenties, it was the first time since my childhood that I felt at home.
And we began to collect things.
Mid-century wood furniture, some Heath Ceramics I love, some meaningful art. But also just stuff. I noticed the accumulation of clothing I didn’t wear, decorative objects that didn’t evoke any feeling, and closets full of things I never used and didn’t need.
Coming Face-to-Face With Our Stuff
My husband, children, and me on our way to our new home in Denver.
Then, this past December, we left the Bay Area for Denver, Colorado. I was excited by the promise of more space for our family, which had expanded to include a very active three-year-old son, a curious nine-month-old daughter, and two middle-aged dachshunds.
I also saw this as an opportunity to live more intentionally, further paring down our belongings to start fresh in our new home with less stuff.
As we prepared to move, I minimized everything I could. The Corolla that six years earlier had carried all our worldly belongings across the country took nearly a dozen trips to our local thrift store brimming with clothing and household items that didn’t spark joy.
As the stuff left, I found that less visual clutter made my home feel more serene. Less stuff gave me more mental space for myself, my children, and my chores. I also noticed that the more clutter I removed from my life, the more I paused before deciding to bring something in. My one to two Amazon deliveries a week slowed to one a month, or fewer. Trips to Target became few and far between.
My new home in Colorado and our cozy but minimalist living room.
But even though I had minimized the amount of ‘stuff’ in our lives and lessened our consumption, I found myself encountering increasingly bleak research on the health of our planet. When I did shop, I felt overwhelmed by the vast aisles of plastic packaging. Of cheap consumer items that would be used once before spending the next thousand years sitting in our landfills. If they didn’t find their way into our oceans.
So, harkening back to the mantra I learned in elementary school, I remembered that recycling was the last step in waste reduction. We have to focus instead on reduction and reuse. While I have a long way to go to live a zero waste life, here are some easy ways I have found to significantly reduce my plastic waste and carbon footprint.
Single-use or disposable plastics are defined as items that are only used once before being recycled or – as is much more often the case – thrown away. Experts estimate that only 10% of all plastics ever created have been recycled. And, with China, who previously processed much of the world’s recycling, refusing to accept foreign materials more cities are reducing or ending their recycling programs. With nowhere else to go, more waste ends up in landfills.
Reduce your use of single-use plastics and, with it, your carbon footprint with these simple steps.
Plastic Straws and Cup Lids
Americans use an estimated 200-300 million straws each day. Straws are rarely recyclable and are one of the most commonly found types of trash in our oceans and waterways. When dining in a restaurant where you fill your own beverage skip the lid and straw. If there is a server, simply decline a straw in your water or beverage.
Pro tip: Make sure to tell the server you don’t want a straw when you order your drink and don’t let them leave one if you don’t plan on using it. In many restaurants, if they leave the straw on the table, they have to throw it out. Whether you use it or not.
Americans use 100 billion plastic bags each year, most of which are used for about 12 minutes. While it can take some effort to make it a habit, we now bring our own shopping bags to grocery stores, Costco, Target, and more.
After realizing we were still bringing home more plastic than we were comfortable with – in the form of produce bags – we decided to go even further by purchasing a set of reusable mesh bags. If you aren’t ready to go that far, remember that fruits and vegetables that have a peel or that you plan to wash can simply be placed in your cart to save a bag.
Only 1 in 5 water bottles ever makes it to a recycling plant. The rest spend the next 400 years breaking down into microplastics that, in a sad twist, are now found in 93% of bottled water.
Ditching bottled water is easy, and if you eliminate just one bottle a day, you can save $3,400 over the next 10 years. Opt to bring your own reusable bottle, use a drinking fountain, or request a paper cup for water (hold the straw) when you dine out.
If you look around the bathroom of any home, you most likely find tons of single-use plastics. Shampoo and conditioner bottles, toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, and disposable razors to name a few. These products contain a lot of water, and as a result are heavy, expensive to ship, and must be packaged in plastic.
Luckily, there are ways to combat this waste and also save money.
Packaged foods not only generate a massive amount of waste, but also tend to be high in refined sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats. Before grabbing a snack that is packaged in plastic, consider whether there is a waste-free alternative.
For my family this means that we stopped buying pre-bagged salad mixes in favor of a head of lettuce and other fresh produce, bring glass mason jars to fill up with trail mix, granola, and chocolate in the bulk bin section of our local grocery store, and started making things I used to purchase, like brownies, pasta, bread, and yogurt. I have been shocked to find that it takes me the same amount of time to bake from scratch as it did to assemble a boxed mix – and the flavor is far superior.
With a recent study showing that fewer toys are actually better for children’s focus, creativity, and quality of play there is no better time to minimize the incredible volume of plastic toys found in most households in lieu of a few high-quality alternatives. We love open-ended toys (a toy that can be played with in many ways) like blocks, legos, trains, art supplies, play silks, and dress up clothes – paired with lots of outdoor play to allow children to foster their imagination.
When did we decide that we needed to send children home from every party with a bag full of dollar store junk? We all know that our kids lose interest in plastic party favors before the car ride home is even over. So, if you must provide a favor, opt for a book or homemade treat.
Cellophane Wrap and Ziplock Bags
This was one change that I was resistant to at first. We were using a lot of ziplock bags and saran wrap, both of which are not recyclable. I knew there had to be a better way, but they were just so darn convenient. Once I committed to making a change, I felt silly at how long it took me.
The average person throws away 70 pounds of clothing and shoes each year. Synthetic fabrics also shed microplastics with every wash. To minimize my family’s impact, we focus on high quality, timeless pieces, made from natural materials. As with my approach to art, I stopped buying clothes unless I truly loved the way they made me feel, and it filled a practical need within my wardrobe.
Choose plastic-free alternatives whenever possible – Cardboard, paper, fabric, and glass are all more eco-friendly alternative to plastic packaging.
Run your dishwasher – Hand washing your dishes uses up to 27 gallons of water, whereas an Energy Star rated dishwasher uses a mere 3 gallons a load. While you’re at it, skip the pre-washing too. Most modern dishwashers can easily manage a bit of extra food. Loading and unloading the dishwasher is also a great chore for young children. (I bet I won’t have to convince you of this one.)
Compost and recycle – If you have gotten this far and you aren’t already composting and recycling, it should be your first step. If you don’t have access to commercial composting, it’s very easy to start composting at home.
Plant a garden – Put all that great compost to good use and grow your own vegetables. We garden and keep a small flock of backyard chickens and are able to heavily supplement our grocery bill in spring through fall. Homegrown produce tastes better, and it’s incredibly rewarding to prepare a meal with ingredients from your own yard. We love square foot gardening to get the best yield off a modest space.
Commit to Making Baby Steps To Protect the Planet
I think of my journey to live a more minimalist and waste-free lifestyle as an ongoing evolution. As I become comfortable with each incremental change, I look for the next source of waste or clutter that I can tackle. Just like learning to be more financially responsible or eat healthier, you don’t have to make all the changes at once. Incremental changes make it easier for new habits to stick.
As you embark on your own journey, the most critical step is to always consider whether your need for something outweighs the environmental downsides. Think through the frugal consumption decision process, you’ll save more and consume less. (And taking a moment to think about each purchase will lead to fewer impulse purchases.)
While we’ve had to make some lifestyle changes, our family is enjoying the financial savings, reduced environmental impact, and mental clarity that comes with owning and consuming less. I hope your family finds the same joy.
We want to hear from you! How is your family reducing their impact on the environment?