If You Were Your Kid…

If you were your kid and you were an American, come of age in a time when America the Great was rapidly turning into a Third-World Country, what would you do differently from what your parents did? From what your kid him- or herself is doing right now?

Do strange little thoughts like that ever cross your mind? They sure as Hell cross mine.

My father planned carefully for his retirement and his old age. Thanks to his planning — and to his lifetime of amazingly hard work —  I haven’t had to put in that much single-minded effort: he left me enough to live on comfortably through my dotage. But that’s not so true of my son.

Although my son’s dad is affluent, like me he also no doubt will live (expensively) into advanced old age. My son’s grandmother just died at the age of 106 (no, that is not a typo), having spent the past 20 years wasting away ruinously in a nursing home. The new wife is a good 20 years younger than me, and though she has a highly competent son, she also has a feckless, dependent daughter who never will be able to care for herself and her offspring. Thus most of whatever my son’s father has now will be dedicated to supporting the less gifted occupants of that side of the family.

My son, the recipient of a spectacularly expensive private education, has a decent job but not one that will make him rich. It can, however, allow him to work remotely from just about anyplace that he chooses.

My mother smoked herself into the grave in late middle age. We have no clue how long she might have lived had she never picked up a cigarette. Her father died of Hodgkin’s disease, an acquired cancer not uncommon in his part of the country: we have no idea how long he might have lived had he dwelt someplace else, never smoked, and never drank. Her mother chippied herself into the grave: we have no idea how long she might have lived had she never been exposed to the kinds of reproductive viruses one acquires during a wildly misspent youth. But the other women on her mother’s side of the family were Christian Scientists who lived into advanced old age: we do know that in the absence of alcohol and tobacco, they lived into their mid-90s even without ever going anywhere near a medical doctor or a patent medicine.

So what we have here, in the planning department, are two people — me and my son — each of whom have a shot at living into advanced old age. Or not.

What can be done for my son — by me or by him — to ensure that he will be financially secure into his dotage?

We know that I absolutely positively do NOT want to spend my last years in a “life-care community,” a rabbit warren in which to lock up old folks. My father consigned himself to one of those places after my mother died, and I have several friends who are now living (expensively) in similar prisons. I will take a swan-dive off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before I allow that to happen to me…and that also is neither a joke nor a typo. My house is paid for: if I die tomorrow my son will inherit a piece of property worth about $400,000, free & clear. My son’s house will be paid for in another 10 or 15 years; it will be worth around $325,000 to $350,000, if all things remain equal. He lives frugally and invests in IRAs, and so he presumably will have some retirement savings in hand, if he lives into his dotage.

BUT…

The Covid-19 fiasco has shown his employer, clear as handsomely chlorinated swimming pool water, that there is no reason to maintain expensive office space to support a profitable insurance business. He believes the company will never re-open its pricey new digs in Tempe, a dreary suburb of Phoenix. Shortly before the Covid fiasco began, he was promoted to a managerial position. He remains a manager: remotely.

What this means is that there’s really no reason for him to continue living in a dump like Phoenix, a vast, ugly, crass bedroom tract that we might kindly call L.A. East. If the company settles permanently into a mode in which most or all of its mid-level employees can work online, he could in theory live anyplace he pleases.

And there are many, many better places to live.

In Arizona alone, for example, towns such as Prescott, Bisbee, Patagonia, the outskirts of Tucson, and even Payson have far more temperate climates and are nowhere near as grubby and  crime-ridden as Phoenix. Nor is there any reason to stay in a culturally backward hole like Arizona. If you want to live in the Southwest, there are many better places to live in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and parts of New Mexico. If you don’t mind jumping on a plane to visit your employer for monthly staff meetings, Oregon, Washington State, parts of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and waypoints are highly desirable venues. With a fistful of cash from the sale of two houses, you could easily install yourself in the Low Countries, Ireland, the south of France, Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, or parts of Australia.

Why stay in a declining economy with a corrupt leadership and a moribund health-care system?

Why not use the capacity of electronic telecommuting to ensconce yourself — now, while you still have some years to enjoy life — in a better place?

If I were my son, I would be so gone. Right now: I wouldn’t wait for retirement, certainly not given the wacksh!t direction into which our country’s politics have dragged us. I probably would leave the US, given half a chance to pull it off. But even if I chose to stay in the this country, you can be sure it wouldn’t be in Phoenix.

Speaking of the which: as we scribble a cop helicopter is buzzing its way toward us, the dog has flown into a batsh!t frenzy, and I suppose I’m going to have to get up, dig out a pistol, and lock the security doors. So much for the scheme of taking a moonlight dip in the pool.

Where would you want your kids to spend the best years of their life?

These Tips will Help you to Get Your Finances Back on Track

IMAGE SOURCE: Pexels.com

If you feel as though your finances are in ruin, then you need to know that you are not alone. It’s not easy for you to know how you are going to find the money to pay for everything, but at the end of the day you have to make sure that you don’t panic. If you are collected in the way that you approach your debt and if you do everything you can to stay on top, then you shouldn’t have many problems to contend with.

Pay Less Interest on your Credit Card

Credit card debt is bad. It doesn’t matter whether you have debt that is left over from Christmas or whether you have booked a holiday on your card because it can easily take a long time for you to pay it down. This is especially the case if you are paying interest. If you can, you need to move it to a 0% interest card. If you want to get the biggest benefit from this, then you need to pay it down as much as you can earlier-on. If you don’t do this, then you may find that you end up struggling and that you end up in the same situation again when your payments go up again. If you want to really benefit but you are not able to take out a credit card then why not look into: www.bestpersonalloans.com? When you do, you may find that you can pay off your debt and then just pay interest on your loan.

Pay More than the Bare Minimum

Another way for you to pay less interest on your credit card would be for you to try and pay off more than the basic amount every month. Minimum payments are normally set at very low levels so if you pay this off every month then you shouldn’t have a problem. That being said, if you can afford it, you have to pay more than this if you can. When you do, you will soon find that you can clear your balance with ease and that you can also come out on top with ease.

Shift your Store Card Balance

When you look at your store card, you may find that they charge a very high-interest rate. You may find that sometimes they are as high as 29%. This can really hurt your finances, so if you want to get around this then you need to try and swap your debt to a 0% card. When you do, you will be able to transfer your balance and you can also really take advantage of the savings. Again, it’s super important that you try and pay down your debt as much as possible during this time.

Pay Less for your Overdraft

Paying interest on your overdraft? If you can, you should try and switch to a current account. This won’t charge you and you may even find that you can save a considerable amount of money too. An alternative would be for you to try and use a 0% money card. This will give you the chance to move money from your credit card to your current account. If you need some help here, then it is more than possible for you to hire a financial advisor. When you do, you can trust in them to help you with anything you need, and they can also give you the advice you need with your overdraft in general. Some can even find you better deals with your credit card too, so keep that in mind if you can.

 

Tips for Working Out Your Budget When Buying a New Car

Do you want to buy a new car? Maybe you just want to make sure that you are getting the best deal but don’t want to spend too much time pondering over the finer details. Either way, you can find out everything you need to know right here.

Work out the Running Costs

The first thing that you’ll need to do is work out the running costs. If you need some help then you should know that there are some running cost calculators out there that you can use. When you have found out how much you can afford to pay towards your car, you then need to make sure that you can actually afford to run it. A used car will always cost more in fuel, servicing, maintenance and tax, not to mention that you will also have to worry about the value depreciating as well.

If you buy a new car then you won’t pay as much across the board, but you will pay more for the car itself. That being said, although a used car costs more to run, you have to know that the new car will lose most of its value during the first year, so unless you plan on keeping the car longer than this time period, you’ll certainly lose out more when you sell. If you need some help covering the costs then remember that some of the best installment loans for buying new and used vehicles will give you very good interest rates from the get-go.

How to Find the Right Car

IMAGE SOURCE: Pexels.com

You have to make sure that you don’t let your heart rule your head. If you know that you cannot afford your dream vehicle then you may want to think about getting a nearly new or used car. You can look in car magazines or you can look at cars on the road if you want. When you do, you will soon find that it is easier than ever for you to make the best purchase without having to worry about a thing.

Questions you Need to Ask Yourself

Think about it; what length of warranty do you need? Is the car that you are buying one of the safest on the road? Do you want a car that is going to hold its value well? When you ask yourself questions like this, you can then begin to make the best decision in regards to your car and your purchase in general. If you just don’t know what car you need, then you need to try and talk to your local garage to see if they can advise you. When you do, they should be able to tell you about the cars that they get in for repairs the most so you can choose a car that is as low maintenance as possible.

Take into account your Fuel

Another thing that you need to do is work out the fuel costs. If you don’t then you may find that you end up paying more in the long-run and this is the last thing that you need. If you are concerned about running your car on fuel that is expensive then you should know that electric cars are the most fuel-efficient cars on the market, but they are very expensive to buy. The diesel variant of a car will give you better mileage for long journeys, but it is not as ideal for short journeys. If you want to get a good result out of your car then you need to make sure that you account for this as much as possible.

Gasoline in the Age of Covid

Wow! Just ran down to the Costco to fill up on gas, the word from On High being that the state will “re-open” in two days. That is much, much too soon. It’s as if our honored governor is saying, “Please, God, give us a resurgence! Maybe it’ll kill off my political rivals.” But whatever: it is what it is. Or will be…

So I figured I’d better get gas now, before a) the endless waits in line are back and b) the prices go soaring back up.

Cruised right up to a pump — no wait, zero-point-zero zero! Hot dang…a first in the history of Costco shopping.

The car needed less than half a tankful. It was 2/3 full when the covid quarantine came crashing down on us. Over the past two months, I’ve burned less than 1/8 of a tank driving down to my son’s house and making a verboten run on AJ’s. That’s it. No drivey, no buyee gasolinee.

Price? A dollar a gallon less than I paid the last time I filled up. From $2.85 down to $1.85.

You can be sure they’ll raise the price at least back to what it was before the shut-down. Probably higher.

Have you looked at food prices in your favorite grocery stores? I’m not usually very sensitive to prices — I tend to buy what I need and not worry about what it costs. But… $22 a pound for beefsteak did get my attention.

One of the weirdnesses of being locked up for two months is that you forget routine stuff that previously was so internalized it was like breathing.

For example, I failed to recall that Costco does not take American Express anymore, no way no how. Because Costco is a membership deal, to buy gas there you have to insert your membership card in the pump before you insert your credit card. First time I went by there, a few days ago, I forgot the membership card annoyance and so, in disgust, left without pumping gas. Today I dutifully ran the card through the reader (twice…). Then stuck in a charge card.

“Get lost! We don’t take American Express,” quoth the gas pump.

This negated the transaction, so now I had to drag out the membership card and jump through that hoop…again. Then stick in a debit card.

The fill-up cost $17.

Refilling that vehicle normally costs just upwards of $30. That is, yes, about $60 a month for the privilege of driving around the crazy-making streets of Phoenix.

It occurs to me that some important penny-pinching lessons are to be learnt from the covid adventure. One is pretty  obvious:

The less you drive around, the less you’ll spend on gasoline.

Okay. But there’s a corollary.

The less you drive around, the less you’ll spend on anything.

The less you spend on groceries, for example. Why? Because if you can spare only a limited number of trips, then you will plan your meals and your grocery lists more carefully. You’ll diddle away a whole lot less on impulse buys and afterthoughts at the grocery store. And you’ll spend lots less on restaurants if you have some reason not to go driving around to get a meal that can easily be prepared in your kitchen.

You’ll ask yourself things like Do I really need a haircut right this minute? Can I go for a week or two without it? Or can I wait a few days or a week before running to the [grocery store] [drugstore] [Target] [Costco] [whatEVER]? Or Why am I schlepping to a restaurant when I can get a delivery service to pick it up for me? Or Do I really need to drive to a movie theater when I have a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription?

I suspect the shape of America’s economy will indeed be changed permanently, as some pundits speculate. And that will happen because we will have figured out or remembered truths that we have forgotten.

Four Quick and Easy Ways to Generate Income In Your Everyday Life

by John Garber

If you want to improve your financial situation, you have two options. The first and easiest is to cut expenses. There are plenty of articles on our site and elsewhere with great advice on how to do that.

What’s rare is good advice about the other option: how to make more money. Adding more cash to your bottom line will improve your financial position. Below are our four favorite ways to do that.

Note: These Are Not Second Jobs

Some ways to earn extra income amount to getting a part-time job or starting a business that becomes a part-time job. These are great ideas for people with extra time and energy, but they’re not the only option.

This list has four solid models for you to bring in extra money without devoting significant time to it. You have a life to live, people you love to spend time with, and a career. These ideas will help ease financial stress without spreading yourself too thin.

Four Personal Income Generators You Can Start Using Today

1. Purge and Profit

This income generator combines the benefits of making your home tidier with bringing in extra cash, usually for a one-time or short-term money infusion. There are many variations, but they all follow the same basic framework:

  1. Clean your house, using a box or bin to accumulate things you can live without. Move stuff too big to fit into the box to a special place in your house.
  2. Identify which of these items has a monetary value.
  3. Sell those items on Craigslist, eBay, or similar websites or have a garage sale to sell lots of items at once.
  4. Bundle up items that didn’t sell the first time and re-list them together. Often, people will see the value and buy them during this second round.
  5. Donate what’s left to Goodwill, and get a receipt for tax season (you can deduct charitable contributions if you itemize).

Whether you do this with a single collection you once loved but now don’t interact with, or by pulling stuff out of every room in your house, it’s not hard to make several hundred dollars from this method. It’s even easier if you follow a few of these best practices:

  • Clean the items first, so they look as attractive as possible
  • Take high-quality photos to include in your listings
  • Write detailed, compelling descriptions for each entry
  • Answer potential buyers’ questions quickly and professionally
  • Set prices according to what similar items sell for
  • Don’t hesitate to haggle and bargain to sell as much as you can in as little time as possible
  • Publicize your sale on social media and other venues

2. Monetize Your Hobby

You likely have a hobby or interest, something you enjoy and you do well. There are ways to make money off the skills and expertise you’ve accumulated from it. Examples include:

  • Creating an Etsy account to sell the product of your crafting hobby
  • Writing articles for magazines associated with your hobbies and interests
  • Pet-sitting or dog walking if you’re an animal lover
  • Offering personal services, such as cleaning if you’re an organization junkie
  • Coaching or teaching people who want to learn more about your hobby or interest
  • Creating online content, like an e-book or video course
  • Putting your photographs on image clearinghouses like Getty Images or Flickr
  • Selling your artwork in local galleries and cafes

These are just some of the ways people turn their passions and interests into cold, hard cash. For some, it’s a way of helping the hobby fund itself. For others, it’s a route to a better financial situation.

Start by considering your hobbies. What do you love doing so much you’ve become an expert at it? How might you turn that skill and expertise into something other people want or need? From there, put together a plan.

3. Find Part-Time Work Online

You don’t want the demands of a traditional part-time job, but you can make money in small sessions of flexible work using a number of different online sources. As with monetizing your hobby, there are dozens of ways to do this. Here are nine you can get started on right away:

  • Log in to Mechanical Turk to do small jobs that add up to big money.
  • Get paid to fill out market research questionnaires on sites like Focus Pointe Global and Delve.
  • Participate in paid surveys from Survey Junkie, Pinecone, or Prolific.
  • Set up an account at Fiverr or Upwork to do simple design, editing, and writing tasks.
  • Review websites for UserTesting.
  • Google “Get paid to _______”, filling the blank with tasks you might find fun to perform, like “write,” “watch TV,” or “play games.” Log in to the sites that best match your needs. Read the fine print carefully.
  • Deliver with services like DoorDash and Deliveroo.
  • Review music at Slicethepie.
  • Become a mystery shopper through any number of sources. (Just Google “mystery shopper” plus your location.)

You can choose one of these options and pursue it heavily, or work on several options over the course of a month to generate a substantial income stream. Either way, the opportunities are real, as is the difference they can make for your finances.

4. Flip Products

This is the riskiest item on this list, but if you have the expertise and a little cash available, it can become a reliable and easy way to make extra money.

  1. Find items for sale at well below market rate. Books, furniture, power tools, yard equipment, and watches are good candidates for flipping.
  2. Clean them up and research their potential full value.
  3. List and sell them on eBay or Craigslist.
  4. Use some of the profit to scale up the project by buying more items to list.

The key to success is finding reliable sources of goods at well below the price people will pay for them. Research how much certain items are selling for on eBay and Craigslist, then look for them in locations such as:

  • Estate sales
  • Garage sales
  • The clearance rack at stores you frequent
  • Lots and bundles sold on eBay
  • Thrift shops
  • Craigslist giveaways
  • Flea markets

Also, let friends, family, and acquaintances know you’ll take their items to the dump or Goodwill when they clean out their homes. Make it clear you plan to sell things you think you can flip. Most people won’t mind if you’re upfront about it.

Final Thought: The Real Question

When deciding which income generators are right for you, ask yourself how you want to earn your extra money and what you want to use it for.

Do you want to earn a one-time lump sum to pay off credit cards, afford something you need, or make a single change to improve your life moving forward?

Or do you want to earn a little extra money on a regular basis, so your monthly financial life is a little easier?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but knowing your goals will help you pick the strategies that will make the biggest difference in your financial life.

John Garber lives on the West Coast, where he works in technology and currently has a few side hustles in play.

I Are a English Major…

…I are not a accountant! Gaaaahhhhhh!!!!!

Ugh. And Yuch! At the end of last year (that would be about four weeks ago, no?), after I downloaded and itemized an entire year’s worth of data from three credit-union accounts (each of which had several sub-accounts) and two American Express accounts, then itemized the tax-related entries, a halcyon idea fluttered into my by-then dangerously fevered little brain:

If I were to download this garbage once each month, the task would be a LOT less annoying, less exhausting, and less frustrating. Then  come next January 3 or so, the job would be done! I wouldn’t have to sit here for hour after hour after un-fuckingENDING hour struggling with that brainbanging tedious job.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Even, we might say, sensible.

Yes?

Well.

No.

This morning I sat down to whip out the January transactions.

Three hours later…

Y’know…this stuff shouldn’t be that hard. But it is. It is, because anything that is touched by computer technology is fucked up.

Example: It should be simple — right? — to download a month’s worth of data from the credit union into a boring Excel spreadsheet, the avatar of simplicity.

And it is…if you like your data bass-ackwards. For reasons utterly incomprehensible to the 20th-century mind, the credit union insists on presenting transactions in reverse chronological order. There’s no way to make the things appear in a sane order online. So you have to download all that crap into an Excel spreadsheet and then have Excel flip the order.

Not very hard. Annoying, but not hard. EXCEPT…when you’re dealing with half a dozen accounts. Then you have six times the annoyance factor, and that does present a problem.

American Express, which used to present data in normal chronological order, as I recall, has decided it must do the same.: bass-ackward So…there, too: an extra layer of hassle. Extra layer x 2, for two accounts.

The last time I did the annual tax-prep task, I had no trouble downloading data from the AMEX site. Today…no chance. I could NOT see a simple way to download the current statement to disk. Asked their customer service bot or whatever she/he/it is. Got an endless, brain-banging series of ditzy instructions. Told it that I thought life would be much easier if I simply typed the data from the printed statements into Excel. Which is exactly what I did.

Took about 10 or 15 minutes, less than the amount of time I spent grinding my teeth and wrestling with AMEX’s inscrutable website.

Unstuck in time, is what we are. Sorry, young pups: but this 21st-century world you’ve inherited is some precinct of Hell.