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Earning Easy Money on Your Extra Funds

Earning Easy Money on Your Extra Funds

Everyone knows that one of the most important principles of personal finance is to build up your savings in order to have extra money on hand. However, they don’t always tell you what to do with those funds once you have them. For that reason, all too many of us let our checking accounts get fat when our funds could be better used elsewhere.

Don’t let your money just sit there—put it to good use! Here are a few ways you can make some extra money from your savings:

Online bank accounts, CDs, and money markets

If you’re like many people, odds are you simply keep your extra money in a traditional savings account. That’s a good start, but unfortunately the interest rates that most big banks offer are minuscule at best. In fact, several major intuitions pay as little as .01%. Luckily there are other options, and one of the best places to start looking is the Internet.

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Since online banks don’t have to deal with many of the costs associated with brick and mortar branches, they typically offer much higher interest rates to their customers. For example, online institutions such as Discover Bank, Ally, Synchrony and others offer savings accounts with interest rates as high as 1%. Additionally, many online banks provide other options like certificates of deposit (CDs) and money markets that can also earn you a return on your money. Both products are somewhat similar to savings accounts but have their own pros and cons.

Starting with CDs, the biggest difference between this option and a regular savings account is how accessible your money is. CDs allow you to deposit money for a set period of time—ranging from one month to 10 years—in order to earn what is typically a higher interest rate. In most cases, the longer the terms, the better the rate. Of course, if you absolutely need the money you’ve deposited, there is a way to get it out. However, you will typically be assessed a penalty for doing so, amounting to a few months worth of the interest you’d collected.

As for money market accounts, they could almost be compared to a savings/checking hybrid. That’s because some banks will allow you to write checks against your money market balance, or perhaps even use a debit card for the account. The downside is that these types of accounts typically require a much higher initial deposit, as well as daily balance requirements you’ll need to maintain in order to avoid penalty. With that in mind, this is really only an option for those with a large chunk of extra cash to stash.

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While it might seem odd to put your money into a bank you can’t actually visit, technology is making it easier to live without physical banks. Many of the aforementioned online banks offer mobile apps and other conveniences—such as partnerships with ATM providers—to make accessing your money easier. However, it’s important to note that there are usually limitations on online accounts, including the number of transactions you can make per month. Lastly, be sure to check that the online bank you go with is FDIC-insured just in case.

Dabbling in investing with FinTech

In terms of passively earning on your money, the 1%+ you can get from online savings accounts, CDs, and money markets is pretty great. On the other hand, if you want a potentially bigger reward and are willing to take a few risks, there are a number of ways to get started in the world of investing. Although that might sound intimidating to many, today there are several tools and platforms from financial technology (mashed together to form the incredibly cool sounding term “FinTech”) companies that not only make investing easier, but also offer new ways to make money.

One prime example of this trend is the mobile app Acorns. Basically, this application links to your debit and credit cards to “round up” your purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the change. What’s also cool is that you can adjust your settings to choose whether you want to be more conservative or aggressive with your investments.

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Another growing FinTech invention is peer to peer (P2P) lending. P2P is actually strikingly similar to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that you’re likely already familiar with, except that sites like Prosper and Lending Club help borrowers in need of loans. Simply put, approved borrowers can have their loans funded by investors, who then earn interest on the loan.

As investing in peer to peer lending has evolved new tools that help to manage the process, such as Lending Robot, which help to automate your loan investments. The peer to peer platforms themselves are also rolling out tools to manage investments. As these tools gain adoption, investing in peer to peer loans will likely become a more mainstream practice to help diversify investment portfolios. That said, you can still get started today with investing as little as $25 in individual loans.

Interestingly, companies, such as Able Lending, are now combining P2P and crowdfunding so that friends and family can lend money more formally for startup businesses. For that reason and others, it’s worth keeping an eye on the FinTech sector for possible investment opportunities in the future.

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When it comes to building your savings, there are many places to put your money. Whether your prefer passively earning from online savings accounts or taking on some risk by trying your hand at investing, it’s often worth exploring your options and ensuring that your money is put to work earning you even more.

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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