Showing posts with label budget. Show all posts
Showing posts with label budget. Show all posts

Monday, August 28, 2017

Four Resources for Investing on a Budget


I once had a friend make the following overgeneralized statement. As a paraphrase he stated that the poor don't have money, the middle class buys "toys" (meaning things like boats and quads) and the wealthy invest. for some reason this stuck with me.

While I do not necessarily aspire to be wealthy, I would like to provide a means for my family to be comfortable; especially in my old age. Throughout American history investing has been a means of growing that money. The stock market is somewhat volatile, but bonds are generally minuscule and you might as well ditch that savings account (in respect to interest). The higher the risk, the higher reward. The lower the risk, the lower the reward. How do you get started when you feel as though you don't have a lot of dough to spare?

1. Vanguard

Vanguard is a huge financial company that specializes in mutual funds and ETFs. Their real strength for me is in management of retirement and index funds specifically. Their expense ratios are low and their returns are at least on par with any other financial institutions. The low expense ratios allow more money to stay in the account and be invested which has huge implications when speaking to the exponential growth that happens with long term investments. One down side is that you need to put in the time and research to decide which funds you would like to invest in. There are target retirement funds that start more risky and become more safe over time for those that like to set it and forget it. They don't have individuals micro manage most funds, but the expense ratio is so low and diversity so high that it mitigates risk. Another potential barrier is that most funds require a minimum initial investment of $3,000. While this is pretty small in terms of long term investing, it may be a lot for someone to do at once. If you can put in an initial value of $10,000 you can invest in Admiral funds which are the same thing, but with an even lower expense ratio (a fraction). I personally use this to manage the bulk on my investments that I self manage. Also, since it is so big, there is a lot of information about their various offerings so the research is relatively easy. Check out www.vanguard.com for more information.

2. Prosper

Prosper is a peer to peer lending site that allows individuals to request personal loans at rates that are generally  lower than traditional brick and mortar establishments. This allows individuals to invest in other individuals loans and benefit from the interest incurred. Prosper is just the middle man. What is really interesting is that the loans are crowdfunded. This means if someone is requesting $3,000 for dental work, for example, that you don't have to give them all $3,000. Instead, you invest in a $25 portion for that loan and you make your interest based on your investment. This means that you can buy many different loans instead of just one and really diversify. The minimum initial investment that Prosper will accept is $25 so it is very easy in terms of barrier to entry. You may need to check your state because it is not available everywhere. On the down side, personal loans are a little on the risky side. When someone defaults on their loan you are just out. They state that they have credit services that go after the money, but I've had quite a few default rather quickly. I started with 100 notes ($2,500) because their website stated that nobody has lost money with that much diversification.  To date, after about 3 years, I am at about 8.15% annualized return, which means this is a solid piece of the investment pie for me.

3. Robinhood

Robinhood is one of my newest and most exciting adventures. It is a phone app only, resource and it allows individuals to trade stock during normal trading hours completely free. Seriously, no commission, transaction fees, nothing. It is legitimately completely free. They do offer a Gold program that allows after hours trading and other benefits which is not free. The app is clean, easy and has enough information that I have been comfortable buying and trading quite a few stocks. There is no minimum initial investment (other than buying a specific stock) and the response time to buying and selling has been immediate. For me it feels a bit like fantasy football, but with money. I started by just buying and selling a couple little stocks and then have steadily been tinkering and building a portfolio. The research withing app is pretty much limited to a line graph with performance back as far as 5 years. It is pretty useful if you want to look at general trends. This would require you to do a lot of your own research if you are looking to get an edge of what to buy and sell and when. It links to your bank account and funds are immediately available once you place them in Robinhood. Potential downsides would be that you have to really put in the work to know what to buy and sell, and when you don't have a lot of diversification there is more risk. Luckily, there is a lot of information out there about stock trading (thank you Internet!).  If you're interested in trying it out (you could seriously buy one $2 stock) please click here. It will give both you and I a free stock as a promotion.

4. Betterment

Betterment is also pretty new to me. I've had it for a few months and it is very intriguing. In general, Betterment has some goal based bot traded funds. That's right; bots! Their computer algorithms work diligently to buy and sell stock at the right times to maximize investment returns. While my sample time hasn't been long enough to make a conclusion about returns, their past returns have been a little better than similar funds that are managed by humans; so that's pretty cool. There is no minimum investment and it links up real nice with existing bank accounts. There is a small maintenance fee at 0.25% a year. This is probably because that bot isn't going to be asking for a raise. I just plunked $600 in a retirement growth fund and I'm just going to keep an eye on it and see how it does for now. I'll be able to compare it to similar accounts I have with my employer and through Vanguard to make a decision if I'd like to add more in the future. Either way, I just kind of nerd out over the idea of the bot and I pray it doesn't turn into a Terminator situation. The only negative I can currently see with Betterment is that it is still linked to the volatility of the stock market. But, all investments with potential of quality return are somewhat risky.

So, what are investment resources that you are having success with on a budget? What kind of success have you found with the ones I am sharing?

Have a great day and thanks for reading. Please make sure if you've been enjoying the blog to put your email in the right column and check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

If you like what you are reading then considering reading about:







Thursday, April 30, 2015

Quick Tip Thursday: Your Next Reward Card...Citi Double Cash



One of our blog's original posts was entitled: "The Plastic Debate". This article is a little controversial because I advocate for the use of a reward credit card. We historically have used, and have been happy with the Chase Freedom Card. This card is great because it offers 1% cash back on all purchases, and 5% cash back (on up to $1,500) on purchases in promotional categories quarterly such as gas, groceries, Amazon, etc. It's pretty good! (A trend you may see in the financial posts is that I am big on playing the "Percentage Game". That is also why we decided to ditch our savings account for high interest checking accounts.)

However, it is just that...pretty good. You are potentially limited by the rewards you can incur with the $1,500 limit and the 1% is pretty standard. We still have the card and use it for the quarterly promotions but have stopped using it to pay our bills and everyday purchases that we usually use a credit card for, and here's why.

The Citi Double Cash is our new GO TO credit card. This card gives 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back when you pay your bill, resulting in 2% cash back. In effect, doubling your cash back that you would get for non-promotional purchases with Chase. DOUBLE! (I guess that is why it is called Double Cash

The application process was easy to do online and the card came quickly. (Disclaimer: please be advised that canceling and opening credit cards does affect your credit score.We have great credit scores and don't plan on buying anything that needs a credit score in the near future so we were fine with potentially lower our scores)

It took some time but we changed all of our automatic online bills to pay with the Citi Double Cash card. Although it initially takes some time and energy it pays off because we effortlessly make double the money by paying the same bills we would have paid with the Chase card, aka FREE MONEY!

So now we use the Citi Double Cash credit card for everyday purchases and for paying bills and only use our Chase card when the promotional quarter works for us. For example, last quarter it was groceries so we still used our Chase card for all of our grocery shopping. 

Of course, all of this goes with your ability to spend with a credit card as if it is cash. A lot of  time research shows that a lot of people over spend when using credit cards, which would defeat the whole purpose of getting cash back.



On an slightly different note, I encourage you not to use credit cards when supporting small local businesses because they get charged service fees, thus reducing their profit.

HUGE SIDE NOTE: I finally found an alternative to my bulky wallet for carrying my money and credit  cards. It is the EZGO wallet. It floats, holds up to 15 bills, 8 cards, 2 micro sd cards, and an sd card. It is light, thin and durable. My Chiropractor also approves!


My final recommendation for those who use credit cards appropriately would be to ONLY use Chase Freedom for promotional category purchases and use your Citi Double Cash for everything else.

Feel free to comment with what reward cards you are using and what you like/dislike. 

Have a great day and thanks for reading. Please make sure if you've been enjoying the blog to put your email in the right column and check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

If you like what you are reading then considering reading about:

Ditch Your Savings Account



Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Grocery Savings



One of the largest portions of our budget as a family is groceries. The price of groceries can add up very quickly especially due to the fact that we are fairly conscientious about trying to purchase organic products whenever possible. This in itself is a financial investment because paying a little more for our fruits and veggies should cost less than potential health problems later due to health hazards related to pesticides and potentially harmful GMOs.



My wife does a majority of the shopping during the school year and I hit the store some more during the summer due to my profession as a teacher. One thing that she has done is she has made a spreadsheet with prices of common items we purchase and where they are cheapest. The main businesses that we shop at which are included on the list are Costco, Meijer, Aldi, and a co-op of Country Life Natural foods. Please note that these shopping options are in the Grand Rapids, MI area. A great idea for a family trying to save money is to make their own spreadsheet with the stores they commonly shop. Then you can easily update prices at each place as you shop using a smart phone.

Here is the spreadsheet that she uses! Feel free to print it off and use it too!
http://goo.gl/1JN2pR

Here is a screen shot example of the spreadsheet but the link is the only way to get a great view.






Of course nothing beats a sale price so double check the sale price against your spreadsheet! You may notice that there is not a lot of animal product options on this list. This is due to the fact that we try to have a whole food/plant based diet for personal health reasons. We also will spend more if an organic option is available. This spreadsheet may be a great starting point for a family to save some money on common everyday items.

Before going shopping she also checks for coupons on  Meijer's M Perks and looks for deals on Saving Addiction http://goo.gl/TFg8Aa.


For more information about Country Life Natural foods check out this link: http://goo.gl/nhh0VI




Another resource that I have heard folks have success with but have not tried myself is the Retail me Not app: http://goo.gl/fL7Fs0



Look forward to reading more about how to save even more money when grocery shopping!

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the blog please subscribe by entering your email into the email update box on the right column.

FFF
广东快乐十分手机版