Month: September 2019

How to Invest in Yourself without Significant Financial Risk

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Let’s start off by clarifying exactly what I mean by “investing in yourself,” because it is a term that has somewhat nebulous meaning that can vary a little from place to place.

For the purposes of this article, investing in yourself means applying resources you have to improving personal traits and skills and improving your resume. You are taking things you have – money, time, energy, and so on – and using them to make yourself better, with “make yourself better” usually meaning some measurable or discernible improvement in a particular trait that’s important to you and/or your career.

Here’s the catch: improving yourself is great, but it is not a direct recipe for career success and greater income. Almost always, investing in yourself merely increases the likelihood of career success or of the success you want in other areas, but it does not guarantee it.

In truth, the ideal goal of investing in yourself should be to improve your own traits and nothing more. Those better traits will improve your chances of the kinds of outcomes you desire. However, most people won’t go through that effort without either a very strong personal desire to improve themselves or else what they perceive as a near-guarantee of better pay.

Because of that, avenues of investing in yourself that require a significant up-front payment are inherently risky. Usually, such investments are done with the expectation that they’ll return much more over the long run, but, as I note above, that’s not a guarantee. There are many risky ways to invest in yourself. Such investments might end up with an improvement in a particular trait or skill, but the large financial investment is far from being recouped. This includes things like going back to school for a new degree when you already have one, buying expensive equipment without a very clear and immediate purpose for that particular piece of equipment, and buying luxury items to impress people and inflate your own confidence.

In short, investing in yourself with a large financial expenditure is very risky. Sometimes those things pay off. Often, they don’t and you’re left with debt (and sometimes other non-financial costs, too).

A much better approach is to find ways to invest in yourself that don’t have significant up-front financial investment and instead involve regular investment of other resources you have in your life, such as time, energy, focus, relationships, and so on.

Committing time and energy on a very regular basis to invest in yourself can feel like a challenge, but what it actually means is simply trimming out the least important time use in your life to make space for it. Thus, the first step in investing in yourself is to figure out the least worthwhile use of your time in a given day or week and cutting that time out of your life. Any time you spend aimlessly visiting websites or browsing television channels can be significantly cut, for example. Time spent on hobbies and leisure that aren’t bringing you refreshment and renewal can also be significantly cut. Commuting time can often be used for self-improvement, too – take the bus and use that time to improve yourself in some fashion.

Here are nine ways to invest in yourself that don’t require a huge financial investment, yet offer the strong possibility of professional and personal success.

Developing a Lifetime Independent Learning Habit

One of the most effective ways to invest in yourself is to get into the habit of spending time each and every day learning something new. Learning things directly applicable to your career path is obviously going to increase the likelihood of being able to translate that knowledge into improved income, but simply widening your knowledge base and understanding of the world often pays dividends in unexpected ways.

The key is to make this into a regular, sustained practice; learning is most effective when it is part of your everyday life. Not only does this maximize the amount of things you’re learning, but it also means that you’re practicing the art of learning. The ability to self-learn is in itself a skill, one that is actually quite useful in many of today’s jobs, and so simply developing that skill regardless of what you’re actually learning has value.

This is something that’s been a part of my life since … forever, really. I am constantly attempting to learn new things, read challenging books, take on complex intellectual tasks, and so on. This is part of a normal day for me, serving to keep my mind sharp, add to my knowledge base and understanding of the world, and maintain my ability to quickly learn things when I need to.

Here are some strategies for pulling this off.

Set aside time each day for self-directed learning. I set aside an hour each day (at least) for challenging reading, with the intent of adding to my knowledge base and encouraging deep thinking. As of late, it’s typically during the first hour after my children get home from school, when they’re often doing homework or studying themselves. I “study” alongside them.

Learn about things that engage you. If you’re forcing yourself to learn about topics that you have no interest in, this will be an awful practice. Instead, focus on areas where you have motivation to learn, whether it’s internal motivation because you’re curious, a motivation to directly help your career or some other aspect of your life, or, ideally, both. Don’t just learn about something you don’t care about for the sake of self-learning. Choose things that matter to you.

Choose methods of learning that click for you. Some people learn best from reading (like me). Others learn from listening or watching or, when applicable, doing. Figure out what works for you. Try reading challenging things. Try listening to challenging audiobooks. Try watching Youtube videos. Try really challenging projects related to whatever you’re learning about. Figure out which styles work best for you.

Take some form of handwritten notes. Along the way, try to write down some of the things you’re learning in your own words and in your own handwriting. This might feel awkward, particularly if you’re not used to it, but there are tons of studies that demonstrate that doing this vastly increases both understanding of ideas and retention of those ideas. The goal of lifetime learning is to understand and retain ideas and information, so find a practice that works for you.

Strongly challenge yourself – but don’t overwhelm yourself. You’re not learning if the material is just repeating what you already know. You’re also not learning if you’re completely lost. The magic point is in the middle – it’s new ideas and new material that build on what you know, but aren’t so far out there that you have no idea what’s going on. You should be able to follow the general thread, mixed with occasionally stopping to look up words or concepts elsewhere. My general rule is that if I’ve read a page and felt confused more than twice such that I had to stop and look up something in another work, I need to find a simpler text.

Keep track of your progress. I find it really useful to track my own learning progress by keeping a list of all of the books I’ve read, along with the notes for them. I maintain a “master list” of notes, along with digital copies of the notes for each book, on my computer, and I love looking through that list of challenging books and sometimes reading through the notes of individual books, particularly when I’ve read something new on a similar topic. It reminds me of how much I’ve learned and grown on my own.

A highly recommended book on adult self-learning is The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, which deftly mixes a great primer on lifetime learning with some fascinating autobiographical elements. (Have you ever seen the film Searching for Bobby Fischer? Waitzkin is the main character in that movie.)

Developing an Independent Exercise Habit

Much like a lifetime learning program is helpful for expanding your knowledge base, your ability to learn quickly, and your mental sharpness, a routine of daily exercise keeps your body in shape to be able to handle challenging situations, ward off aging, and keep yourself healthy for as long as possible. It can also help you look better and definitely feel better and more energetic.

To be clear, when I say “exercise,” I’m referring to any activity that involves physical exertion to the point of significantly elevating your breathing and causing you to sweat for at least some sustained period. Over time, regular exertion like this leads to more energy and better capacity for such activity, and that is strongly tied to better health outcomes.

Again, the key is to make this into a regular, sustained practice; exercise is most effective when it is part of your everyday life. Exercise shouldn’t be a rare thing – it should be a healthy, normal thing that you do pretty much every day.

How do you do that? Here are some tips that work well.

Set aside time each day for some form of exercise. It doesn’t even have to be that much time – ten minutes can be enough. Just set aside some time each day for the purpose of breathing hard and sweating, for exerting yourself, and make that time non-negotiable. This is what you’re doing during that time, no questions asked.

Do something you enjoy doing that makes you sweat and gets you breathing harder. The exact activity that makes you sweat and breathe hard depends a lot on your fitness level, and the activity you enjoy depends a lot on your own tastes. Thankfully, there’s an almost infinite list of things you can do that will make you sweat and breathe hard. I recommend trying a variety of things to find out what clicks for you, things that you actually enjoy doing. For example, after a lot of trial and error, I discovered that things I like include brisk walks (preferably in wooded areas), hiking, and taekwondo, along with specific exercises intended to make me better at taekwondo, like basic calisthenics and yoga.

When you figure out things you like, take the time to learn best practices for doing them safely with minimal chance for injury. You can dabble in things to figure out what’s enjoyable to you, but once you figure that out and start committing your exercise time to a particular activity, figure out how to do it well and with minimal risk for injury. This often involves things like stretching and warmups, better postures, and smarter techniques.

Keep track of your progress. As with the learning described above, I find it incredibly powering to find a way of measuring what I’ve achieved with my exercise and recording it in some fashion so I can look back and see how far I’ve come. I keep a list of significant trails I’ve hiked and I also keep track of personal bests in terms of various exercises as well as daily routines.

If you want some resources for getting started, I highly recommend Fitness 101: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Exercise by Dulce Zamora, which is available for free.

Eating a Healthy Diet

The purpose of eating a well-balanced and healthy diet is to improve energy and improve long-term health outcomes, both of which are very highly linked with an appropriate diet. To be clear, I’m not talking about “going on a diet” with the goal of losing weight, but simply about recognizing that the food you consume is fuel for how you feel, the energy you have, and your long term health.

I’m not going to get into the science of healthy eating, because for starters there is no perfect diet for everyone, but I largely subscribe to these ten principles that almost all food and dietary studies tend to agree on. The key principles:
+ avoid added sugar
+ make sure you have omega-3s in your diet (you can get these by eating nuts, fattier fruits and vegetables like avocados and coconut, fish, and omega-3 eggs)
+ avoid artificial trans fats and, by extension, anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
+ eat plenty of vegetables and some fruits; you don’t have to be vegetarian, but make them a major part of your diet
+ avoid refined carbohydrates like white flour and white bread and white pasta; eat the whole grain versions instead
+ choose unprocessed foods; stick to the produce and meat section and not convenience foods or fast food

If you stick to those guidelines most of the time, you’re doing a pretty good job of eating a healthy diet, much better than the average American, and you probably feel it with better health and more energy.

Here are some specific things you can do to move in this direction.

Think of almost all food and drink you consume as being fuel for living above all else. There’s nothing wrong with eating for pleasure on occasion, but make it a splurge that you anticipate rather than a routine. Instead, start thinking of the food you eat and the beverages you drink as healthy fuel for the things you want to do in life.

Learn how to prepare foods yourself so you’re not relying on processed foods from restaurants. The more you cook at home, the more control you have over what exactly goes into your mouth, plus the better you’ll get at it. The best starting guide I know of is How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman; here are the eleven cookbooks I actually keep and reference frequently in my own home.

Replace white bread and white pasta with whole grain bread and pasta. This is an easy substitution that will really help with your health. If you make your own dough for bread items at home, switch to using whole wheat flour. For some, this will be a significant switch in terms of flavor, but it’s a really good step in terms of health.

Eat a wide variety of things. The more variety in your diet, the more likely it is that you’re going to cover all of the micronutrients and macronutrients you need. If you find yourself getting into a rut and eating the same things over and over, intentionally switch things up.

Stop eating or drinking things that have “sugar” or “high fructose corn syrup” as ingredients. If you see that on the label (or know it would be on the label), just eliminate it from your diet. This might cause some cravings for a while, but it will really help.

If you just do those things and then continue eating as you normally would otherwise, you’ll see positive changes after a while in terms of how you feel and your energy level, and they will definitely help your long term health outcomes.

The next four sections will seem similar, but there are enough distinctions between them that I felt they needed to be addressed separately.

Developing New Practical Skills (and Honing Old Ones)

By “practical skills,” I mean things what you would use in everyday life outside the bounds of your career. Think of things like basic carpentry, cooking at home, basic plumbing, and so on. These are skills that keep you from calling a repairperson. These are skills that can often be utilized to help out a friend. Occasionally, they might have application within your career path, but mostly they just make you a more well rounded and self-sufficient person.

I could provide a long list of such skills, but it’s better to just identify some basic strategies for honing them.

Do things for yourself rather than paying others to do them for you. The more you do things for yourself, the easier the task becomes for you and the more likely you’ll try gradually more challenging tasks in that area and begin to share those skills with friends and neighbors. Rather than paying others to prepare food for you, prepare it for yourself. Rather than calling the plumber when you have toilet problems, try to fix it yourself. Rather than calling a handyman to fix a doorbell, try fixing it yourself. You might not succeed, but I guarantee you’ll learn some things and you’ll also recognize that it’s approachable.

Use Youtube. This, in my opinion, is the “killer application” of Youtube: videos that teach skills. You can sit your phone down to free up your hands, start up a video on a particular task, and use that video to show you step by step how to do that task. Along the way, you’ll build a number of little skills that add up to the ability to handle a particular task on your own, and many of those little skills will transfer to other similar tasks (like how to make dough or how to properly use a screwdriver).

Stick to basic but well made tools. You don’t need twelve knives and eleven pots and pans to cook in the kitchen – almost everything you’ll make can be done with three knives (a paring knife, a chef’s knife, and a bread knife – and even the bread knife is debatable) a small pot, a larger pot, and a skillet. You don’t need infinite tools – one good claw hammer, a large and small Phillips screwdriver, a medium regular screwdriver, and an adjustable wrench will do an awful lot of little tasks. If you do find you need specific things for specific tasks, see if you can borrow one first; only buy it if you actually see yourself needing it frequently.

Developing New Transferable Skills (and Honing Old Ones)

By “transferable skills,” I mean skills you will use within your career path but would also apply if you changed to a different career path. Examples of this include time management, information management, presentation skills, public speaking skills, communication skills, and networking skills. Many careers use some or all of these skills, and if you have such skills sharpened, you’re already ahead of the pack in a lot of different career paths. Not only that, they can help you in your personal life as well.

Again, I could provide a long list of such skills, but it’s better to just identify some basic strategies for honing them.

Get in the habit of keeping a calendar and an ongoing to-do list and refer to them frequently throughout the day. There are a lot of people that will read this and go “Duh, obviously,” but the number of people who don’t do this is almost shocking. They rely on their short term memory to remember dates and tasks and only refer to calendars or lists infrequently, if at all. Find a calendar and a to-do list system that works well for you and start using it. If you have a smartphone, I recommend Google Calendar and Todoist for starters; if you use paper, just get a simple planner with a calendar and a lot of blank pages you can use for a to-do list. Start recording every single date and appointment you can think of, as well as reminders in advance for things like buying gifts. If you have a task to do, write it down, and frequently go through your list of tasks to do. The goal is to get all of that stuff out of your head and into a permanent place where it can’t be forgotten or misplaced.

Take time when communicating in written form to others. Rather than just dashing off a message or response, ask yourself what you’re really trying to convey to the recipient. What will make the message you’re about to send actually useful or valuable? When you make your messages more useful and genuinely valuable, you become more useful and valuable.

Don’t shy away from any and all opportunities to present and to communicate with people in your field. If such opportunities ever come up, take them. Give presentations. Go to meetings and participate. Don’t hide during social hours or networking events. You don’t have to become best pals with everyone, but if you spend that time avoiding people, not only will you have zero chance of connecting with people, you won’t build the skills needed to make it go well.

Developing New Technical Skills (and Honing Old Ones)

By “technical skills,” I mean skills that are ones that define your career path and are the unique things you do that people are willing to pay for. What are the core elements of your job that relatively few people can do? Those are your technical skills.

The list of technical skills is essentially infinite, but here are some good practices for keeping yours sharp and developing new ones.

Stay up to date in your field. This means doing things like reading trade publications, reading websites focused on your field, and attending meetings and presentations related to your field as a constant habit and practice. If topics come up that you’re unfamiliar with, make a point to learn about them on your own. Your current field of expertise should never “pass you by.”

Take on projects that are a little beyond your skill level. The best projects are the ones where you feel like it’s possible to get from where you’re at now to the finish line, but you’re not 100% sure of each step for getting there. Those projects force you to hone and expand your core technical skill set, and the more things you do that fall into this category of stretching yourself, the better.

Use continuing education resources. If your workplace offers resources or funds for continuing education and certification, gulp up every bit that you can. If your workplace supports it, you should be aiming to earn all kinds of certifications and higher degrees. Getting such things for free or at a steep discount is a direct boon to your skill set and to your career.

Applying Deliberate Practice to Your Moneymaking Skills

One aspect of investing in yourself that often isn’t considered is the value in honing and sharpening some of the key skills you use to make money. Here’s another way of thinking about it: what basic things are you asked to do at work frequently? What kinds of tasks do you do over and over again?

Whatever those things are, there’s great value in applying deliberate practice to them. You take those specific tasks and really dig into them, trying to hone your ability to do those tasks with excellence and efficiency.

Here are some ways to apply that idea.

Take a task that you do all the time at work and do it very slowly and deliberately, looking at each little piece. For example, if you send dozens of emails a day, slow down on a few of them and move through them step by step, asking yourself what you’re doing, what you’re trying to communicate, how the recipient will use it, and how the recipient will feel about it. What can you do in that process to make the result you want be as good as possible? Then, how can you do that better version as efficiently as possible? Do that for every task you do repetitively: who will be the person benefiting from the result of this task? What will they get out of the work you produce? What can you do to improve what they get out of it (meaning how can you make the end result more useful for them)? Then, how can you change what you’re doing to get that best result more efficiently?

Do some of your regular tasks very slowly and with intense focus to try to produce maximum results. If part of your job is to stock shelves, do that very slowly and methodically some of the time so that the ending shelf display is as neat and attractive to customers as possible. What little things can you do to make that happen? That’s what you should have learned from the previous step, when you broke down this repeated task. Do those things carefully and deliberately.

Gradually improve your efficiency at the task. Over time, aim to do that “better” version of your task at a faster pace. How can you do this task really well – which you figured out already – but do it really efficiently? Intentionally try to do the high quality version of a task (once you’ve figured it out) as fast as you can, over and over again, moving through those steps as efficiently as possible.

Then, start the cycle over again, re-evaluating that same task or moving on to another one.

Reducing Stress

A reasonable level of stress is actually beneficial, as it causes you to focus better on the task at hand. Where stress becomes a problem is when it becomes a distraction, adversely affecting your health and causing you to be unable to focus well because of the stress in your life. Furthermore, continuous heavy stress has serious long term health consequences.

Simply reducing the level of stress in your daily life is a powerful form of investing in yourself, improving your ability to focus and handle unexpected events, making daily life more pleasant, and improving long term health outcomes. Here are a few steps for doing this.

Set aside time for adequate sleep. Inadequate sleep can make the impact of stress in your life that much stronger while also leaving you feeling tired and unfocused throughout the day. Simply get in the habit of going to sleep early enough such that you can get a full night of sleep before you absolutely need to wake up in the morning. For example, if you need to be up by 7 AM, start going to bed by 10:30 PM so you can be asleep by 11 PM, ensuring a good seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Set aside time for true leisure. There should be periods in your life where you are able to engage in things you do solely for personal enjoyment. Such periods of leisure are deeply refreshing and renewing, yet many people simply don’t put aside time for them, viewing themselves as “too busy” even as they spend multiple hours a day aimlessly browsing their phone or flipping through channels or what’s new on Netflix. Put aside a big block of time each week for uninterrupted leisure, doing whatever it is you deeply enjoy, and during that time, turn off your phone and kill other distractions that would take you out of the moment. If you’re struggling to find the time, spend a little less time doing things like watching television and instead fill that time with tasks that would keep you away from your leisure block.

Adopt a daily reflective practice. Just spend a moment or two each day directly focusing on the positive things in your life. Think of five things you’re grateful for in your life and hold each one individually in your mind for twenty or thirty seconds, thinking about how great that element really is. Think of family members or good friends or moments where you felt really good or the taste of a really good cup of coffee or whatever it is that makes you feel glad to be alive. You’ll find that appreciating what you have in life makes stress melt away.

Developing and Maintaining Quality Relationships

Relationships with other people provide social opportunities, companionship, opportunities for help when you need it, and often unexpected additional opportunities as well. Professional relationships can open career doors, while personal relationships can open up life opportunities you never saw coming.

The thing is, cultivating new relationships as an adult, especially outside of work, can be difficult, and maintaining older relationships is something that can easily fall through the cracks. Here are a few good strategies for making it easier to cultivate new relationships and maintain old ones.

Touch base with an old friend or family member or professional acquaintance each day. This doesn’t mean broadcasting your latest life events to them, but sending them a text asking them what’s up in their life. Make this a daily habit to reach out to someone in your life, personally or professionally, and then have a conversation with them. You can do this via text, via a private social media message, or even by sending them a handwritten card. I actually try to do this with two or three people each day.

Intentionally put yourself in social situations with like-minded people with the goal of meeting people and building relationships. I regularly go to social events that revolve around people with which I have at least something in common with – meaning that we have a shared interest or are in the same field – and I make it my goal to have five meaningful conversations while there with three of them leading to worthwhile follow-up, meaning I have an actual reason to text them or send them an email or a message on a social media platform later that could turn into actual dialogue. This sometimes means forcing myself to be social at those events, and it also means seeking out events like this, which is a challenge for an introverted person like me, but it’s the only efficient way I know of to actually meet and begin to build friendships and professional relationships with people as an adult outside of simple “drinking buddies.”

Give of yourself freely, especially when it’s multiplicative (but don’t be used). You can invest in relationships by giving of your resources freely to others – time, energy, information, focus – particularly when the value is multiplicative, meaning that what you give has far more value to them than to me. This is particularly true for information, but is often true for things like lending a hand when they’re moving or doing a home improvement project. However, this should be part of an emerging or long lasting relationship that reciprocates with at least some frequency; if you help someone a bunch, then ask them for something a few times and they don’t offer help, then it’s okay to dial down that relationship in favor of others. It is great to give and it is powerful for building relationships and for earning help when you’ll need it later, but giving should never be wholly one-directional over a sufficient period of time. You might view this as “investing in others,” but what you’re earning for yourself is relationships in which others hold you in esteem, which is incredibly valuable to have both professionally and personally.

Final Thoughts

Investing in yourself doesn’t have to involve a big outlay of money. Rather, some of the most effective ways to invest in yourself involve using time and focus and energy, and those investments often produce far more than what you invest in them, often producing valuable things like professional advancements or meaningful relationships or a better state of mind and body.

Put aside time and energy each day for investing in yourself, using any or all of the strategies described above. They’ll all provide elements of a better life for you, and they will usually produce dividends far beyond what you put into them.

Good luck!

The post How to Invest in Yourself without Significant Financial Risk appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

How to make money fast: Quick ways to earn money in 2019

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Let’s face it. Most of us, at one point or another, have been faced with a financial emergency, or a plain, old-fashioned cash crunch. It’s definitely not a fun spot to be in. While there are steps we can take to avoid such situations (more on that later), that’s often the last thing on our minds when we need to come up with money — quick.

To assist, I’ve compiled the following list of money-making ideas. While some of the items included are more lucrative than others (you’ll never get rich taking surveys, for example), they all share a common theme: making money fast. Ready? Let’s dive in.

And before anyone mentions it, yes we’re aware of the irony of publishing an article about making money fast at a website called Get Rich Slowly.

How to make money fast

Sell Your Old Stuff

I’ll kick off the list with an obvious one: selling your old stuff. After all, is there a faster way to make money? If you walked a few steps to your basement right now, or stepped outside to the garage, I’m willing to bet that you’d find some junk lying around that someone else could use:

  • Old computers and video games.
  • Sports equipment your kids have grown out of.
  • That extra bike that’s never ridden.
  • Your old collectibles. (J.D. sold his comic books. You could sell your baseball cards.)

Once you’ve come to grips with parting with your junk, selling it is as easy as taking a few pictures, and posting an ad on Craigslist, or your local Facebook Buy and Sell. If you need some inspiration, here’s a list of 12 surprisingly valuable things that are lying around your house.

Survey Junkie

Taking online surveys isn’t going to make you rich, but that’s not your goal here. You need to make money fast, and survey sites like Survey Junkie will help you do just that. In fact, you can start earning within a few minutes of signing up, and get paid as soon as you accumulate $10 in rewards.

Survey Junkie will pay you for each survey you complete, in the form of Paypal credits or gift cards to your favorite retail stores. The more surveys you take, the more you’ll make. The best part is that you can take surveys while doing other things, like watching TV, or listening to music, making it an easy way to earn some quick cash.


Swagbucks is similar to Survey Junkie, but they take things a step further, by giving you more ways to earn cash and rewards. In addition to completing surveys, Swagbucks will pay you to browse the internet, play games, and shop online. They’ll even send you a daily survey, and a daily poll, as a way to earn rewards faster.

With Swagbucks, you won’t have to wait before redeeming your rewards. While you’ll need $25 worth of Swagbucks to move cash to your Paypal account, you can redeem points for gift cards worth as little as $1. In fact, when I checked out the Swagbucks rewards page, I noticed $3 Amazon gift cards advertised.


Remember your goal – to make money fast. When you sign up for Acorns using my exclusive link, you’ll receive a $5 credit to kick off your account. Now, I wouldn’t suggest that you go to all that trouble for $5, but with Acorns, you’re getting so much more. Acorns is an investment app that makes saving money easy. You can open an account on your mobile phone in a couple of minutes, collect your $5, and be on your way to building that emergency fund, or saving for your next special purchase.

Open Your Acorns Account and Earn $5

To help you get there, Acorns uses an innovative feature, called round up savings. Acorns syncs to your debit or credit card and then rounds up the “spare change” whenever you spend. For example, let’s say you buy a pack of gum for $1.25. Acorns will round to the nearest dollar, and set aside .75 into your Acorns investment account. Because the amounts are so small, you’ll hardly notice the money leaving your account, but you’ll be surprised how quickly the savings adds up.

Acorns works so well, in fact, that it’s my top choice for investment app for 2019.

Drive with Uber

If you have a clean driving record, a reliable vehicle, and enjoy being around people, driving for a rideshare service like Uber is a great way to make some extra money, and fast. One perk to this job is the flexibility it offers. You decide when, and how much you want to work.

Once you’ve signed up with Uber, most drivers report that it only takes about 3-5 days to be approved.

Here’s more about the pros and cons of becoming a rideshare driver.

Deliver Food with UberEats

If driving for Uber sounds enticing, but you’d rather not spend your time making small talk with strangers, you could decide to deliver food with UberEats. You use the app to select deliveries that are in your area. The best part is that you decide when you want to work, and how much. Keep in mind, you will make more money during peak periods.

Rent Out Your Ride on Turo

Take advantage of your car’s downtime by renting it out to someone who needs a ride. Turo is a peer-to-peer car-sharing app that makes it easy to rent out your car. Once you’re set up through Turo, list your car on the app, wait for a request, and be ready to accept or decline. Keep in mind, your car will need to meet Turo’s vehicle requirements, and the nicer it is, the more money you can charge.

Rent Out a Room With Airbnb

If you have a spare bedroom in your home, you can rent it out to a short term guest, on Airbnb. Some people will even rent out their entire home, if they have another place where they can stay.

Not only is this a great way to make money quick, but if it’s something you enjoy, you could turn it into a regular income stream. A great perk with Airbnb is having the flexibility to decide when your space will be available, and how much you’ll charge.

Employee Referral Programs

Any recruiter will tell you, it’s tough for companies to find good people these days. As a result, many organizations will pay their own employees a bonus for successfully referring new talent.

Depending on the role, and the demand for the position, you could be eligible to receive hundreds, even thousands of dollars by bringing in a new employee. Not only is this a quick way to make money, but it requires almost no effort on your part. You’re simply connecting to parties.

Babysitting or At-Home Daycare

In today’s society, most families are dual income, with both parents working outside the home. Because of this, there is a constant demand for reliable childcare. If you’re a natural caregiver, and enjoy being around kids, you can make good money by offering to provide childcare within your local community. Whether it’s babysitting or an at-home daycare, it won’t take long to find your first client. Use your friends and family to get the word out, or notify your Facebook community, and you’ll be making money in no time.

Teach English with VIP Kid

If you enjoy teaching, consider putting your English skills to good use by becoming an online tutor. Websites like VIP Kid source clients for you, and the pay is pretty good too. It’s not uncommon to make $20-30/hour teaching online.

Tutoring is something that can be done in person as well. In fact, during the school year, there’s no shortage of students in your community in need of help with their studies. Check with your local high school, or get the word out on your community Facebook page.

J.D.’s note: For eighteen months, I met with a Spanish tutor three times each week. Aly had moved to the U.S. from Peru, and she found that tutoring was a fantastic way for her to make money.

Rent Out Your RV With Outdoorsy

If you own an RV, Outdoorsy will match you with people who are looking to rent a trailer or motorhome, for their next summer adventure. At rates as high as $150/day, or more, this is a great way to make money fast. Head to Outdoorsy, and find out how you can get your RV making money for you.

Collect Rewards With Drop App

Money doesn’t always have to arrive in the form of cash. Drop allows you to earn points when you shop at your favorite retailers, then redeem your rewards for gift cards at places like Starbucks, or Amazon. Drop works by syncing to your debit and/or credit card, and keeping track of your purchases. You don’t need to worry about clipping coupons, or scan receipts to receive discounts, Drop does all the work for you.

Download the free app to start earning with Drop!

Earn $50 per Year With the Nielsen Ratings App

For decades, Nielsen has been tracking TV ratings. But did you know that they will pay you to download their app to your computer or smartphone? Doing so allows them to compile data by tracking your internet usage. No need to worry however, your anonymity is guaranteed, and according to Neilson, the app won’t slow your device’s performance in the least.

Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? There is a BIG caveat, however. You must be selected by Nielsen. That’s because Nielsen families are chosen using a scientific process. That said, it’s good to know about this easy money-making opportunity, in case you are ever approached by Nielsen.

Take Advantage of Bank Signup Bonuses

This is a great way to make some quick money. Banks everywhere are in a constant battle for new customers. The financial services industry is highly competitive, and companies know that if they can secure your day to day banking business, they’ll have a shot at your mortgage and your investments as well.

While these promotions come and go, it’s not uncommon to be offered a few hundred dollars when you open a new checking account with a bank, providing that you meet the qualifying criteria. This usually includes hooking up your automatic payroll deposit and completing a couple of online bill payments, that kind of thing.

Earn Credit Card Rewards

I’m a big fan of credit card rewards, but I’ll be the first to admit that using credit cards as a way of making money can be dangerous, and definitely isn’t for everyone. If you’re not paying off your credit card balance in full each month, or if using a credit card creates a temptation to overspend, then having a rewards credit card will cost you more money than you will ever make.

That said, a cashback, or travel rewards credit card can be a great way to make extra money. Many premium cards come with a welcome bonus, such as a couple hundred dollars cashback upfront, or enough travel points to get you a free flight somewhere. Have an upcoming trip planned? This could be a great way to subsidize the cost. Head here for more information on the best credit card rewards.

Make Money as a Freelance Writer

If you have interest, or experience in a specific area and love to write, there’s a good chance you can make money online as a freelance writer. What I love about this side hustle, is that it’s something you can do on your own schedule from the comfort of your living room. Not only that, but you can make good money. The website Problogger has an active job board, where you can browse, and apply for, freelance writing gigs across a wide range of niches.

Note: Many former Get Rich Slowly staff writers have gone on to become professional freelance writers with lucrative careers.

Advertise Your Freelance Services on Fiverr

In addition to writing, there are no shortage of services you can offer as a freelancer. Graphic design, bookkeeping, social media management – these are all services that small businesses will pay you to provide. One of the best ways to find clients and start making money is by joining a freelance marketplace like Upwork, or Fiverr.

Teach Music Lessons

Who said that a musician needs to live like a starving artist? If you are skilled on any number of musical instruments, you can make good money teaching private lessons. Ask your local music store if you can post an ad on their bulletin board, or advertise through Craigslist or Facebook. Early September is a great time of year to get started, as students are back to school and looking to start up music lessons after the summer break.

Earn Cash Back With Rakuten (Formerly Ebates)

Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, makes it easy to earn cashback when you shop online at top retailers, such as Amazon, Kohl’s, and Microsoft. Sign up with Rakuten, and gain access to hundreds of partner retail stores via links directly on their site. Rakuten will keep track of your cash rebates, which can be as high as 40%, when you factor in limited time offers. The best part? Receive an automatic $10 bonus when you sign up for Rakuten, and earn an additional $25 when you refer friends or family.

Deliver Food With DoorDash

DoorDash is one of a number of app-powered food delivery services that have popped up in recent years. If you need to make money quick, becoming a delivery driver for Doordash may be the perfect solution. In fact, the signup box on their website reads, “Get Your First Check This Week”.

Ask for a Raise

Perhaps the fastest way to make extra money is by leveraging the job you already have. Unfortunately, many people don’t think about this, and instead feel like they need to take on something extra. I’ll finish with a few ways to increase your 9-5 income.

You’ve probably heard it said, “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be, no”. To most companies, a valuable employee is worth their weight in gold. Part of this is due to how much time and money it takes to hire and train someone new. Chances are, your employer is willing to pay you more, but you need to ask. If you’re able to effectively communicate your value to your boss, you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Since the early says of Get Rich Slowly, we’ve advocated learning how to negotiate your salary. It’s one of the best ways to boost your income — now and in the future.

Apply for a Promotion

When was the last time you considered applying for a promotion? Not only is a new job a great way to make more money, challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone will further develop your skills, and help you grow as a person. If you’re having trouble getting promoted at your current company, you may decide to go to take your skills somewhere else. Here’s an article that gives 10 reasons successful people change jobs more often.

Take Advantage of Any Unused Benefits.

If you’re not taking advantage of all of the benefits your employer is offering, you may be leaving cold hard cash on the table. Far too many employees don’t take the time to understand what’s available, and as they say, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Read through your employee benefits package, or speak to an HR representative if you have questions. There’s money to be made, from health spending balances and 401K matches, to affordable insurance coverage and employee discounts.

Ask to Work Overtime

Not every job offers this opportunity, but if yours does, consider volunteering to work overtime, if you’re needing to make more money fast. Overtime work saves you from having to start something extra in your spare time, such as a second job, or a time-consuming side hustle. Remember, the goal is to make money fast. Either way, always strive for a healthy balance between time at work, and time away. The last thing you want is to feel burned out.

Final Thoughts on Making Money Fast

At the outset of this article, I mentioned that there are ways to avoid finding yourself with a shortfall of cash. While we can never be prepared for absolutely every emergency (nor should we try to be), we can make life a little easier with some advanced planning.

My best advice is to build an emergency fund. This can be as little as $500, or enough to cover several months worth of expenses, it’s up to you. Having an emergency fund will not only reduce your stress level, but it will also decrease your odds of having to use a credit card to cover a financial emergency, and that is a good thing.

In the meantime, my hope is that you feel more confident about making money fast, should the need arise.

The post How to make money fast: Quick ways to earn money in 2019 appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

How to be successful in SEO + a SEO tool to make it easy

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To be successful in SEO you need to:

• Understand what your customers are searching for.
• Optimize your website for your target keywords.
• Ensure your website is accessible to search engines.
• Encourage other websites to link to your site by creating content of value.
• Have a tracking tool that measures your SEO results.

After all – If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

In this article, not only do we list the SEO Essentials every business owner should understand, but the best software solutions to help them implement the highest standards of search engine optimization.

We have even managed to secure a free trial of a 14-day SEMrush PRO account plus access to their Traffic Analytics tool.

Lets get started…

SEO Essentials every business owner needs to understand if they want to be successful in SEO

successful in SEO

1. Start With a Technical SEO Audit

Too often bloggers and business owners are focused on discovering secret “hacks” and “special tactics” to boost their SEO.

But the truth is, that neglecting the basics of SEO, is often what is hurting them the most.

This is where a technical audit comes in.

The word “audit” has a lot of really negative connotations, especially for content creators and affiliate marketers who are looking to find new ways to get results fast.

Using the right tools makes a technical SEO audit a fast and easy process, providing you with the information that allows you to make simple changes on your site and can significantly increase the amount of traffic coming to it. And as we know, more traffic means more potential income coming your way.

Today’s Website Visitor Is Impatient

Did you know, for example, that a 100-millisecond delay in site loading times can cause a 7% drop in conversion rates? Or that pages that load in two seconds have an average bounce rate of only 9%, while those that load in five seconds see bounce rates around 38%? One of the factors that an SEO audit will look at is site loading speed and different factors impacting it.

Technical audits will flag specific issues on your site that are impacting your online visibility, and give you detailed instructions on what’s wrong and how to go about fixing it.

How Do I Conduct A Technical SEO Audit?

To conduct an SEO audit, choose an auditing tool like the one included with SEMrush. All you need to do is enter in your site’s URL, and within a few minutes, you’ll have a full, up-to-date audit ready for review.

SEO Audit

You’ll be given overviews of problem areas (so that you can quickly see which issues are holding you back), but you’ll also be shown detail-level content about what’s holding you back, why it matters, and where to go next.

Here, for example, we’ve audited a site that has issues with mixed HTTP with HTTPS content. All HTTPS content should send internal links to HTTPS content, not HTTP. This is a simple, quick fix that can improve your SEO significantly.

improve your SEO


The audit will be specific, too, showing you the exact links causing the problem, making it easy for you to identify, find, and repair them.

seo audit

SEMrush’s SEO technical audit covers the following areas:

a) Crawlability issues, which impact the search engines ability to find web pages on your site.

These issues may include things like having permanent redirects or non-indexable pages. These should all be addressed immediately, because they’ll significantly impact your SEO visibility. The SEMrush technical audit will walk you through how to do this.


Crawlability issues seo audit

b) HTTPS issues:

To be successful in SEO it is important to check the health of your HTTPS content.

This includes checking that your certificates are registered to the correct name, your subdomains support HTTPS, and that your security protocols are up to date. The last thing you want is your audience to see that your site isn’t secure, because they’ll click away before you know it.


HTTPS content, seo audit

c) Site performance issues.

This includes helping you assess potential problems like slow site loading speeds and what’s causing it, or uncompressed pages or files. Remember that if your site is loading slow or that certain files, forms, or media aren’t showing up, your audience will likely leave the site and not come back. Most issues here should be simple fixes.

how to be successful in seo

d) Internal linking issues, which are often linked to crawlability issues.

If Google isn’t able to follow one link to the next because of a broken link, for example, that’s hurting your SEO potential. Again, these take only a few seconds to fix, especially since the audit lays out the exact links and redirects that are a problem.

SEO Tactics For Fast Website Monetization

Technical issues may sound intimidating, especially if you don’t have a coding or site design background, but the vast majority of issues are going to be simple fixes that don’t require any sort of specialized knowledge. Fixing these issues is an incredibly low-effort/high-reward venture, especially since it’s often relatively quick work and it only needs to be done every so often.

2. Essential SEO Tweaks for Increased Traffic

Resolving the technical issues on your site alone will give you a significant boost in Google’s rankings, and it can happen very quickly; in fact you can see some results almost instantaneously, like those that come from faster loading speeds, and most will come within about a month period or less after Google has crawled your site again.

The technical issues, however, aren’t going to be the only one that you want to work on. There are going to be other things that you can do to adjust the content and website structure in order to improve ranking potential and help you get to the top of the SERPs.

There are three different avenues to take here:

=> Competitor research,

=> Adjusting your keyword profile to fit your ranking power.

=> Developing a link building strategy that will carry you moving forward.

Incorporating Competitor Research Into Your SEO Strategy

We’re a big fan of capitalizing on your competitors wins and learning from their failures, using whatever their doing to bolster your own position instead of letting it stand in your way.

Competitor research can be a game changer for SEO, and it can help you ensure that you’re doing what you need to in order to stay competitive.

Look at who is outranking you.

SEMrush’s Position Tracking tool can show you who is getting more traffic, even identifying your top competitors for you. See what percentage of traffic they’re getting, who is ranking for what keywords, and then take a look at why they’re outranking you. Are their FAQ answers consistently longer, or are they using content that’s more relevant to the search intent?

On Page SEO Checker

SEMRush’s On Page SEO Checker is also an important tool here.

It will show you what your top ten competitors for every single keyword you’re currently targeting is doing to get that positioning. This includes how many videos the page features, their readability score, the content length, and the number of backlinks that they have compared to what you’re doing on the same exact keywords.

use a keyword tool like SEMrush

You can take this data and adjust accordingly, embedding a relevant YouTube video onto key pages or posts, or breaking up a few sentences to lower the readability score.

You don’t want to lose the work you’ve put into the content you’ve already created, so go back and make changes based on what current best standards are to quick improvement there.

3. To be successful in SEO Adjust Your Keyword Portfolio

Keyword research can be a little tricky. It’s easy to use a keyword tool like SEMrush and identify all the keywords with the highest traffic possible that can help generate traffic to your site, but volume isn’t the only factor that you need to look at.

Let’s say you are a relatively new blogger with decent traffic who is trying to write a blog post that funnels affiliate traffic to the clothing company Stitch Fix. You are not going to outrank Stitch Fix themselves for the keyword term: “Stitch Fix”.

However, if you look at the keywords that they can realistically rank for – that match the search intent of users you stand a chance. Search terms like: “stitch fix review” or “is stitch fix worth it”– have a much better chance of ranking well and keeping users on the page longer because it aligns with what the user wants.

SEMrush’s keyword magic tool can help you identify these terms, offering suggestions based on a generic term of search.

SEMrush keyword magic tool

It’s important to consider competition and search intent when creating your hopefully diverse keyword portfolio, allowing you to rank well for more terms. Factor in competition levels and volume, and remember that question-based keywords are often great fits for content generation ideas.

You can go also back and update old content with new keywords to give them a breath of fresh air (and hopefully a burst of traffic, too).


Website Monetization

4. To be successful in SEO Tweak Your Backlink Profile

Another change you can make quickly that can have a big impact is to develop a link building strategy. This one is a little bit more of a long-term payoff, but this is one of the most significant changes you can make to increase your domain authority (and thus your ranking potential) over a long-term basis.

First, complete a back-link audit to see where you currently stand. This will show you your backlink profile, so you can assess its diversity. It will also show you harmful backlinks that could be hurting you so you can get them removed as soon as possible. Eliminating harmful backlinks is one of the fastest ways to improve your link profile quickly, giving it a boost.

Website Monetization, seo back links

Long-term, it will also be important to consider how you can continue to increase your backlink profile.

Creating valuable content that gets links on its own will help, but submitting guest posts to other high-domain sites will also be a good choice. This is a more long-term strategy and pay-off, but it’s worthwhile once you have the energy to invest in it.

5. Implement Proactive SEO Measures With Content Creation

Once your site and all past content has been updated with quick fixes to improve its current ranking potential, it is important to take proactive SEO measures with your content creation moving forward.

Having a strong strategy in place to add SEO-friendly adjustments to each blog post you write will make it easier to get more traffic (and more revenue) moving forward instead of relying on the “publish first, fix SEO later.” You want the content to be strong all the way around so it gets results the first time, saving you a significant amount of time in the process.

It will be essential, therefore, to create content that’s loved by both your readers and Google’s crawl bots. You need to have engaging content if you want people to stick around long enough to click on that advertisement, view that ad video, or convert on the affiliate link, so the content has to be interesting and engaging.

It also has to be perfectly optimized for SEO so you can funnel in larger amounts of new readers, maximizing your revenue potential whether no matter if you’re going the AdSense route or opting for affiliate referrals or sponsored content.

Write people-friendly and Google-friendly content

To be successful in SEO long term you need to create people-friendly and Google-friendly content:

a) Align your content with search intent.

This is one of the reasons that question-based keywords and long-tail keywords are so valuable. Not only will they give you a better chance to rank well, they’re also specific. It’s much easier to write content that matches what a searcher is looking for with the keyword “how to make bouquets last longer” than it is with the keyword “flower care.”

Use that keyword magic tool from SEMrush to identify potential long-tail and question-based keywords.

Website Monetization search intent


b) Use meta descriptions to establish context.

Google crawls your meta descriptions, and your readers scan them in the search results to ensure that the article is what they actually want to read. Explain exactly what the article is about, using your target keyword, and let users know what value they can get by reading.

c) Keep your content easy to read.

In general, breaking down a blog post into multiple clear sections with different subheads and including images is a good call. Scannable, easy-to-read content is a plus for readers. It’s also good for Google, however, especially since you can add keywords to those subheads or alt descriptions for maximum ranking power.

SEMrush’s Writing Assistant can help with this. They’ll flag potential readability issues and show you how to better optimize your content accordingly.

seo tactic - Keep your content easy to read

d) Never keyword cannibalize.

Keyword cannibalization is the act of trying to rank multiple times on your site for the same, single keyword. Not only are you competing against yourself, but you’re missing out on the opportunity to rank for more diverse keywords. Diverse content is good for users and Google.

All of these adjustments are simple to make, even if you don’t have any prior experience with SEO. Each one will take a few minutes more when you’re creating each post, but will pay off significantly in return.

Final Thoughts

There you go – the SEO Essentials every business owner needs to understand if they want to be successful in SEO.

It is our strong recommendation that you take advantage of a free trial to a 14-day SEMrush PRO account – including access to their Traffic Analytics tool.

But of course that is not the end of the story.

To be successful in SEO you need to keep an open mind and understand above everything else, that further education is essential. Search engines and their ability to deliver quality search results is always evolving, what works today may well not work the same way a year from today.

While the SEO Essentials detailed here are likely to continue to be the building blocks of successful SEO it is important to keep abreast of the latest trends in SEO and continue your SEO Education: The recommended links below will help:

=> Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide

=> 25 SEO Tools You Shouldn’t Blog Without

=> 10 SEO Blog Post Publishing Steps that Most Bloggers Forget

=> 18 Ways To Optimize Your Website For More Traffic and Higher Conversions

Author Bio:
“BarryBarry Dunlop is a lifelong Entrepreneur, Angel Investor and Sales Turnaround Expert who launched his first Internet Business in 1998. Follow Barry on LinkedIn and Instagram 

The post How to be successful in SEO + a SEO tool to make it easy appeared first on How To Make Money Online.

The flywheel of wealth (and the importance of patience)

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His name is Dave. A retired Naval officer, he’s written two novels and about to publish his third. His books (thrillers in the style of Dan Brown and John Grisham) have been well received and even won awards, yet he’s still a relative unknown in the competitive world of fiction.

Her name is Michal. She’s a residential and commercial painting contractor in central Ohio. She’s a natural artist, a trait she inherited from her father and passed on to her daughter. She’s truly gifted, yet has struggled to grow her young business.

His name is Rob. He wants to achieve financial freedom at a young age. Yet, fresh out of college, he has mountains of debt. He makes a good salary, but most of it goes to paying school loans and everyday expenses. He manages to save and invest $100 a month, but feels like he’s making little progress.

These are all true stories.

  • Dave is Dave Grogan, a friend of mine. You can find his books here.
  • Michal is Michal Cheney, my sister. She owns and operates No Drip Painting, a company that has enjoyed tremendous growth, but only after years of hard work that seemed to go nowhere.
  • Rob is, as you might have guessed, me — 25 years ago. What started as $100 a month turned into early retirement at the age of 49.

What do these stories have in common? The Flywheel.

A flywheel is a mechanical device designed to efficiently store rotational energy. Well, that’s how an engineer would describe a flywheel. I majored in English. To me, a flywheel is a wheel that’s really hard to get started. Once it gets going, however, it’s really hard to stop.

Anybody who has taken a spin class and tried to stop the pedals with their feet has learned firsthand just how much a moving flywheel wants to keep moving!

Today, I want to tell you about the flywheel of wealth. Like any flywheel, it can be slow to get started. But once it’s moving, it’s almost unstoppable.

The Flywheel and Business

Most young entrepreneurs experience the flywheel. The new realtor struggles to get her first sale. The second sale is just as hard. So is the tenth. As she struggles, she watches long-time realtors get new clients with ease.

An online entrepreneur struggles to get visitors to his new website. He publishes great content, yet watches as long-established websites, even those with lesser quality content, get gobs of visitors.

I can remember publishing my first article on my personal finance site, The Dough Roller. I was terrified. I knew that as soon as I clicked publish, the entire world could see my ideas, my thoughts, my opinions. How would they react? With adrenalin aplenty, I clicked publish and sat back and waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing happened.

In hindsight, my fear was comical. Why? Absolutely nobody, and I mean nobody, read that first article published on 27 May 2007. I was pushing against a flywheel that was at a dead stop. It didn’t budge.

Up at 5:30 am seven days a week to work on my blog, I kept pushing against that flywheel. On the subway going to work I pushed some more. I pushed against the flywheel at lunch. I pushed against the flywheel at night after the family went to bed. It didn’t move.

Then the inner voice we all have spoke up. “Keep pushing if you want, buy you’ll never get this flywheel to move. You don’t have what it takes. Just give up. Life will be easier and you won’t embarrass yourself.”

I kept pushing.

Adjustable Flywheel Patent

It took six months following this schedule before the flywheel begrudgingly moved ever so slightly. I kept pushing. And pushing. And pushing.

Fast-forward eleven years and what started out as a blog with one post nobody read had become a multi-million dollar business. The flywheel was humming along so fast I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to.

What accounts for the success? I didn’t quit. I kept pushing and, importantly, learning how to push against the flywheel. In my case, it was learning the art and science of online publishing.

Note: I sold the blog in 2018, but continue to record the Dough Roller Money Podcast. Here’s my interview with J.D. about how to manage your money as the CFO of your own life.

The Flywheel and Financial Freedom

All of this brings me to the flywheel of wealth. I’m on a mission to motivate young people to save and invest. It’s not easy.

Many people in their twenties see saving money as:

  1. A huge sacrifice,
  2. Having no short-term benefit, and
  3. A long-term benefit they may never get to enjoy.

I challenge these beliefs in my new book, Retire Before Mom and Dad, which was published last week. [J.D.’s note: I read Rob’s book a few weeks ago. It’s fantastic!]

Here’s the thing. Most young people can’t see past the seemingly immovable flywheel of investing.

Let’s imagine you read my book and I’ve convinced you to start saving and investing today. Excellent! So you give up cable TV to save more money. You take the $100 monthly cable fee and invest it in a low-cost index mutual fund. You feel good about your decision, although you miss some of the shows you use to watch on TV.

Now let’s fast forward one month. You’ve suffered through withdrawals from the lack of cable. You’ve yelled at your kids a bit more than usual. Surly would best describe your “I gave up cable to invest” mood.

To ease your pain, you decide to check your investments. You log into your account, and if we assume the month was an average month for the stock and bond market, you earned about one-twelfth of 8% — or .67%. (Over the long term, the U.S. stock market returns about 8% per year.)

Your $100 investment has turned into the princely sum of $100.67. The flywheel didn’t turn much!

At this point several things happen.

  • First you curse me and the day you bought my stupid book or read this article.
  • Second, you kick yourself for giving up a month of Property Brothers for a lousy 67 cents.
  • And you’re at a loss on how to respond to your significant other who went through his own cable TV withdraws and wants to know how the investment is performing.

Welcome to the world of investing. Yeah, it starts really, really slow. (Maybe that’s why J.D. named this site Get Rich Slowly?)

Greasing the Flywheel

And that brings me to what I call the “Nine Year Rule of Compounding Magic”. Here it is:

It takes about nine years of investing the same amount each month for the monthly returns to equal the amount you’ve been investing.

Let’s use our example of investing $100 a month. If we again assume an 8% return, after nine years we’ll have $15,742.96. If on an average month we earn about 0.67% (which is 8% divided by twelve), our $15,742.96 will be generating an average monthly return of $105.48.


Now our investments are generating more than our monthly contributions. And if we continue to invest our $100 a month plus the income generated by our investments, our wealth continues to compound . The flywheel picks up speed.

Now let’s take it to the next level.

It took about nine years at an 8% return for our wealth to generate monthly income of about $100. How long will it take to increase this income to $200 a month? If you’ve been following along, you know it will be fewer than nine years given the magic of compounding.

Let’s do the math. Using an Excel spreadsheet, we can quickly calculate that after another five years, our balance rises to $30,802.26. That amount of wealth will generate about $200 a month in income at an 8% return ($205.35 to be exact).

Magic again!

It took us nine years saving $100 a month to have enough to generate another $100 in monthly income. But it took us just five years to double the monthly income to $200.

We can keep going:

  • 9 years: $100 a month
  • 5 more years: $200 a month
  • 3.5 more years: $300 a month
  • 2.7 more years: $400 a month
  • 2.3 more years: $500 a month
  • 1.9 more years: $600 a month
  • 1.7 more years: $700 a month (26.1 years total)

Here’s the key point. The first $100 of income is the hardest. It took us nine years.

As the power of compounding grows, it gets easier and easier. In our example above, we jumped from $600 of monthly income to $700 in just 18 months. And in case you were wondering, our $100 monthly investment grew to $105,195.67 after 26.1 years.

Why is this important? It’s important because we need to set realistic expectations. M. Scott Peck in his bestseller, The Road Less Traveled, makes this point in a different context. He says that life is tough. And as soon as we realize that life is tough, life gets a little easier.

Building wealth is slow at first. It can even be discouraging at times. But once we realize this, once we set realistic expectations, it gets a little easier.

Keep pushing on that flywheel!

The post The flywheel of wealth (and the importance of patience) appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

What To Do When You Keep Failing at Making Financial Changes

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It’s a pretty common story.

Someone finds themselves in a bad financial situation, where “bad” varies a lot from person to person. “Bad” could mean being unable to pay one’s bills. “Bad” could be maxing out one’s credit cards. “Bad” could mean consistent overdrafts on one’s checking account. “Bad” could simply mean a realization that you’re behind the curve in saving for retirement.

Whatever it is, it’s upsetting, and it triggers some immediate financial change. You decide that you’re going to make a budget, make some changes to your spending, and so on.

At first, you really commit to this. For some relatively short period of time – a few days, a week, a month, whatever – you make some real changes to your financial habits.

Then… things change. You start to bristle against the changes. Then, you “slip up,” and you feel guilty, and you try really hard again for a day or two, and then you “slip up” again, and then you basically just give up on the whole thing.

The relatively small amount of progress you made helps, but within a handful of months, you’re right back to where you were, and the cycle begins again at the top.

How does a person break out of this cycle? I’ve struggled with cycles like this when trying to achieve many different flavors of self improvement in my life, and I’ve figured out that there are really only a few things that work.

What Is the Goal?

One big reason that progress falls apart at the end of the honeymoon period is that the goal for the change is never really spelled out.

First of all, is your goal really just a short term one? Is the only financial change that you want to make is the one that gets your head above water for the moment? Do you just want to get out of that immediate overdraft cycle? Do you want to just pay off a credit card so that you have some breathing room for the moment?

While that’s far from a long term healthy financial state, there are many people who are really just aiming to keep their head minimally above water, and beyond that, they’re not really concerned about their finances. You have to ask yourself if that’s where you actually are. Is your goal with this really just a short term goal?

If you actually want more lasting financial change, articulate where it is that you want to go with as much detail as you can. I usually try to set long term goals using the SMART system – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-limited.

For example, just saying “I want to fix my finances” isn’t really going to work. Instead, think about what you’re actually aiming for. Is it a credit card payoff? Is it an emergency fund of a certain size? Is it being able to sustain a certain retirement savings level? Fingure out what exactly you want to do (specific), how exactly you’ll know that you’ve achieved it (measurable, often a specific dollar amount, like $0), when you want to do it by (time-limited), and making sure that those aims are actually something you can do (achievable and realistic).

For example, rather than just saying “I want to fix my finances,” you could say, “I want to pay off all of my credit cards by the end of next year.”

Once you have that, you need to break that goal down until it’s something meaningful in your daily life. There are really two ways to do this. One is to try to break it down step by step until you have actions you can take today. The other approach is to ask yourself each and every day, “What would a financially responsible person do today?” and try to live in that way. Ask that question about specific situations that you face, particularly anything that involves money leaving your accounts or going on your credit cards.

Here are some additional tools that will really help with this.

Change Lots of Routines

The closer you stick to the routines you had in your life before you committed to change, the easier it will be to lapse back into the habits and routines you were doing before you made these changes.

So, one big thing you can do is change up a lot of routines. Obviously, it’s impossible to change everything – your job, where you live, and your immediate family are probably all tough to change – but what you can change is how you use your time and energy outside of those commitments.

Just change up a lot of things in your life. Try going to bed earlier. Try not watching television for the next month. Try turning off all smartphone notifications. Try walking to work each day instead of driving, or take the bus instead of driving. When you catch yourself doing the same old thing, stop doing it and find something else to do.

Along the way, avoid things that would cause you to spend money. Whatever you change to, choose things that don’t involve spending.

Find Enjoyable Things Within Your New Routine

Make a conscious effort to explore as many new free or ultra low cost experiences as possible during your honeymoon period. You’re already changing up your routine, so fill up the newly exposed time with actually doing a wide variety of things that don’t cost money.

Need some ideas? Here are 100 things to do that don’t cost anything. Here are 50 free activities for families and kids. Here are 50 ways to have fun completely solo, if you’re kind of an introvert like I am.

One great strategy is to dive into a few new low cost hobbies or, even better, a hobby that can potentially save you money or even earn you a little. Here’s a guide to getting started with cooking at home, a guide to getting started with hiking and nature walking, and a guide to several other wonderful frugal hobbies and another more detailed guide to a few more frugal hobbies.

The point is this: try new things. Try lots of them. Give lots of different things a try with an open mind. If you’re more socially oriented, go to lots of meetups oriented around various interests in your community. The less pre-judging you do, the better. The more “sure, I’ll give this a real shot!”, the better.

You’ll find that a lot of stuff doesn’t click, and that’s okay. All you really need to do is find a small handful of things that click with you and you’ll have more than enough entertainment and leisure for yourself than you’ll ever have time for, and when that’s true, you’ll have a lot less time for longing for the things you used to do.

Make Bad Choices (Much) Harder

One challenge that many people struggle with when improving their financial state is that bad financial choices are really easy to make. Simply having a credit card and having access to the internet provides an abundance of opportunity for bad choices. Many of the places people visit outside the home are places of commerce, solely designed to extract money from your wallet.

If you want financial change to really last, one thing you must do is make those bad choices a lot harder than they once were. There are a lot of things you can do to make this happen, but they vary a lot from individual life to individual life. Here are some of the most helpful techniques.

Leave your credit cards and debit cards at home, just taking minimal cash with you for what you need to do. Yes, it’s occasionally inconvenient to not have your credit card with you, but most of the time, this little technique puts a roadblock in your way that stops lots of little impulsive purchases.

Delete your credit card numbers and other purchase information from online sites. Just don’t store that information in the account, so that you can’t just click a couple times and make a purchase. Rather, if you decide to make a purchase, you have to dig out your credit card and type it in or enter some other payment information. This forces you to take a brief breather and really think about whether you want to make this purchase or not.

Make your passwords at e-commerce sites long and difficult to remember and to enter. This is another effective strategy for curbing online spending. By making your passwords at online shopping sites difficult to remember and enter, you’re making it harder to actually make purchases, which means you’ll be making a lot fewer unimportant ones. If you’re doing this, you should also not have your browser simply store the password for websites.

Carry minimal pocket money. Don’t respond to these changes by suddenly putting a lot of cash in your pocket every time you leave the house. Instead, just take along a little cash to cover whatever it is you intend to do. You might occasionally miss out on serendipity, but more often than that, you’ll just skip over unnecessary spending.

Dump out, throw away, and give away your vices (alcohol, cigarettes, and so on). If you don’t keep them in your home, you’ll find it much harder to indulge in them, and the harder it is to indulge, the less money you’ll be blowing on them.

Over time, little moves like these will kill a lot of bad financial habits and routines. On the flip side of that…

Make Good Choices (Much) Easier

At the same time you’re making bad financial choices much harder, you can also make good financial choices much easier and more compelling.

Again, there are many ways to do this. Here are a few that have worked well for me.

Make meals in the slow cooker before you leave so you know you have a hot meal ready to eat when you get home. The simple recognition that you have a meal at home that’s ready to go waiting for you makes it much easier to choose to go home and eat rather than getting drive-thru or takeout food. The same is true for things like coffee – if you drink coffee every morning, having a routine that puts a cup of coffee in your hand each morning as you leave eliminates the need to stop at coffee shops.

When you cook, make plenty of food and package leftovers in the most convenient way possible for eating later. Let’s say you came home to a delicious pot of chili in that slow cooker. Great! Ideally, you made enough to feed you and everyone else in your family, plus you have a bunch of leftovers. Take the time to package those leftovers in the most convenient way possible, so that it’s easy for someone to grab a bowl and heat it up with minimal effort, making a quick lunch very convenient and very inexpensive.

Buy household and hygiene supplies in bulk and have a smart replenishment strategy. Buying household and hygiene supplies (like trash bags and toilet paper and soap) in bulk ensures that you almost always have them on hand and don’t have to make a “quick trip” to the store (which usually means a bunch of unplanned purchases). If you notice yourself getting low, plan ahead and replenish them. Add them to a list on your phone and check that list when you actually need to go to the store.

Keep your home clean and welcoming so that it’s easier to invite people over instead of just going out all the time. Many people choose to go out because they don’t want to invite people over at a moment’s notice. Adopt a daily routine of, say, 15 minutes of freshening things up around your house so that it’s always at least presentable to guests. That way, you don’t have to worry about just inviting people over for a movie night instead of going out and spending a bunch of cash.

Automate, Automate, Automate

Another powerful strategy is to put as much of your positive financial moves on autopilot as you can, so that not only do you not have to think about them, but that you actually have to put effort into stopping them, something you probably won’t do even if other habits fall by the wayside. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Set up automatic payroll deductions and automatic transfers and automatic bill pays to handle all of your good financial moves automatically, without you even having to think about them. Set up an automatic weekly transfer from your checking to your savings to build up an emergency fund. Sign up for your 401(k) plan and set up an automatic withdrawal from each check so that your retirement is funded. Set up an automatic bill pay each month to make an extra payment on the debt you’re focusing on. Those things will happen without any further action from you, pushing along your financial progress even if your eye isn’t on the ball.

Take on a lot of one-shot tasks that cut down on energy use. Doing things like putting caulk around the edges of windows where you find air leaks, putting weatherstrips along the edges of doors, changing out all of your light bulbs to energy efficient long lasting LED bulbs, turning your water heater down to 120 F, and setting your ceiling fan to run in the correct direction for the season (if you feel air blowing down on you directly below the fan, you’re in “summer” mode; otherwise, you’re in “winter” mode) are all tasks that you can do once (or once every six months) and you’ll notice a nice subtle change to your energy bill for a very long time afterwards.

Figure out the most efficient ways of doing things you do every day (or at least once a week). There are a lot of little tasks we do all the time that involve spending money or using up things that cost money. Tasks like doing the dishes, washing the laundry, taking a shower, driving to work – we do them all the time, but those things eat up hot water, soap, shampoo, detergent, gas… it really adds up. Spend the time to really figure out what the most efficient way of doing each of those things is, and practice doing them the most efficient way until it becomes second nature. If you can shave a quarter off of each load of laundry and you do laundry every day, you’re saving $80 a year thereafter.

Next Stop? The “Boring Middle”

The thing to remember is that what you’re really handling with these changes is getting through the transition from the “honeymoon” period – the part where change is new and exciting and novel and you see immediate gains – to the “boring middle” period, where the goal seems really far off and it’s mostly a matter of repeating steps.

If you follow the strategies above, you’re really amping up your chances of getting through that transition… but then you’ll face the “boring middle” of your big goal. Getting through the “boring middle” requires a bunch of different strategies, but much like the strategies described above to get through this transition, they’re all doable strategies.

Final Thoughts

The most effective use of a “honeymoon” period, when you’re really excited about a new big initiative in your life, is to set yourself up for lasting success in that particular area. You want to be able to succeed at this thing over the long haul, not just for a few weeks. You don’t want to just get your head above water; you want to change things so that you’re never in this position again.

Don’t spend the first part of your financial turnaround doing a bunch of unsustainable stuff that you’ll eventually resent. Rather, spend it figuring out patterns that will work well for you over the long haul – things like automation, making bad habits harder, making good habits easier, and having a good mindset and approach regarding the goal.

If you do that, you vastly increase your chances of making this a lasting change, one that will set you on the path to great financial success.

Good luck!

The post What To Do When You Keep Failing at Making Financial Changes appeared first on The Simple Dollar.