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Pay Down Your Debt Fast: The Snowball Effect

Pay Down Your Debt Fast: The Snowball Effect

    Paying for school sucks.

    You end up getting a decent education (maybe), but come to quickly find out that most of what you learned is not exactly everything you need in the real world. In fact, you may find that you learn more in the first six months at your new job than you did during your entire time at school!

    What hurts worse is that most people, at least in the US, are paying more every year for school. This means larger and larger amounts of education debt as well as consumer debt. Think of all that pizza!

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    But, the size of your debt doesn’t have to scare you. Trust me; it scared the hell out of me for a while. This is how I dealt and continue to deal with it.

    Budget

    A debt snowball doesn’t work without a good budget in place. I know that this may be the last thing that you want to hear about getting rid of your debt, but seriously, it won’t work without a budget. I didn’t realize the strength of budgeting until I got on the You Need a Budget bandwagon and followed that “system.” This helped me see my life in the form of item buckets and a “Buffer” so I could get close to being a month ahead on all my bills.

    Having this leeway in your money is the first step to trying to find the little extra each month to pay down your debt fast. When you have the month buffer sitting in front of you, you can more realistically and with less fear, approach paying down your debts.

    Make the list

    Next, you need to know the exact amount of each of your debts as well as their interest rates and minimum payments. After you get this information you can make the list in either two forms:

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    1. In order from lowest to highest amount.
    2. In order from highest to lowest interest rate.

    To be honest, most people will tell you to pay the highest interest rate debts first. That makes sense for the most part, especially if you want to save money with some debts with ridiculously high interest rates. But, I chose to pick my lowest amount first.

    Why?

    Because I could get satisfaction of paying off one of my debts and see the effects of the debt snowball faster. That’s all.

    You should take it by a case to case basis though. Try to weigh how much you owe against the interest rate to see which method is better. You may even need to approach it a different way, like if you have a very low debt amount with a super high interest rate and a huge debt amount with a mediocre interest rate. You have to see which way you are paying more money in the long run, then avoid that way.

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    The law of three

    After you know your minimums and add them and everything else you need in your life to your budget, you should have some shillings left. If you don’t, this isn’t the post to tell you how to make more money. Instead, try to stick to the absolute essentials in your budget. If you have entertainment money; cut it. We will create some of that shortly.

    Now that you have some extra money un-budgeted for the month, you have to split it into three equal pieces for:

    1. Savings
    2. Debt
    3. Fun money

    Some debt gurus will say that you shouldn’t have any fun money, you should strictly concentrate on paying down debt and saving. I say, “screw that,” that is unless you are in dire straights and need out of debt in a hurry.

    This extra money you have for debt, that is the money that you will put on top of your minimum payment to your first debt in the list you made above. Once that first debt is payed off then you will move the minimum plus the extra money for debt to the next debt payment and so one.

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    See it? A snowball!

    Here is what is awesome. None of this accounts for you making more money during the month. As soon as you start pulling in any more money, you can throw it towards you debt, or use it as more play money, or buy some pizza. It doesn’t necessarily matter.

    Now calculate

    You can do this on paper, if you are like a crazy mathematics ninja, but I prefer the digital way because it is easier to keep track of and idiot proof. One of the best ways that I have found that works on Mac and PC is with the trusty ol’ Vertex42 Debt Reduction Calculator Spreadsheet. I first saw this thing mentioned on Get Rich Slowly in 2006, but it still holds true today. Since then I have migrated to an iPhone app called DebtPayoff Pro that is great. There are many more out there, but these are the ones that have worked well for me in the past and present.

    Now that you have a tool you can enter all your debt information, how much money you are going to throw extra toward your debt, and the starting balance date. Then you can get an idea of when certain debts will be paid off as well as when the total debt will be paid off. If you are putting away a decent amount of money extra toward debt, you are going to be very surprised at just how fast your debt diminishes.

    Now party

    Paying down your debt fast can feel like the biggest burden in your life, especially if you have a lot of it. The truth of the matter is, if you can cover your minimum payments right now and have a little money extra every month, you can put a serious hurtin’ on your debt.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

    Design Is Important: How To Fail At Blogging 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 6 Unexpected Ways Journaling Every Day Will Make Your Life Better Why Getting Things Done is the Best Productivity System For You How to Beat Procrastination: 29 Ways to Beat It Once and for All To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

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    Published on May 7, 2019

    How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

    How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

    When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

    Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

    Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

    You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

    Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

    1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

    Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

    But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

    • Will you spend more time with your family?
    • What does retirement mean to you?
    • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

    Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

    Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

    2. Figure out When to Invest

    “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

    It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

    The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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    A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

    Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

    3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

    Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

    Why?

    Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

    Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

    Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

    Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

    4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

    Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

    If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

    You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

    1. Vanguard
    2. TD Ameritrade
    3. Charles Schwab

    5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

    Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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    Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

    That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

    Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

    A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

    6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

    The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

    Robo Advisors

    Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

    Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

    Bonds

    Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

    Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

    Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

    1. Treasury bonds
    2. Government bonds
    3. Corporate bonds
    4. Foreign bonds
    5. Mortgage-backed bonds
    6. Municipal bonds

    Mutual Funds

    Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

    One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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    Real Estate

    Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

    Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

    This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

    But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

    Savings Accounts

    Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

    7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

    Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

    So how can you master delayed gratification?

    By building your discipline.

    Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

    Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

    8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

    I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

    It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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    More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

    But, how can you invest yourself?

    Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

    Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

    But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

    Retire Happy with Excess Money

    The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

    It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

    I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

    Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

    One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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    Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

    Reference

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