‘Avoid the 2-Income Trap’ and More Money Advice from Experts

Grow recently talked to money experts about the best financial advice they have ever received.

Here’s what they said:

Talaat McNeely, His & Her Money

McNeely, who runs His & Her Money with his wife, Tai, says the best financial advice he ever received helped set the couple up for a successful life together: “Avoid the two-income trap.”

That, he explains, is when you get married and base all your spending and borrowing decisions on having two incomes. That gives you less room in your budget to handle unexpected expenses or allow for one person to leave a job to start a business or stay home with the kids.

“From the inception of our marriage, we never built a lifestyle based on two incomes,” McNeely says. “When we went and got our first place, it was based on one income. We didn’t have any car [debts]. When life changes happen, [a one-income lifestyle] gives your more flexibility and it doesn’t put you inside of a box.”

Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You to Be Rich

“Start early,” says Sethi, who is known for his site I Will Teach You to Be Rich and the book of the same name. “My dad helped me open up a custodial IRA and that helped me understand the power of compound interest, starting early, and how much that can grow over time.”

Chris Browning, Popcorn Finance

“It’s OK to spend money on the things you really enjoy if you’re willing to sacrifice in other areas,” says Browning. Each episode of his podcast covers money topics “in about the time it takes to make a bag of popcorn.”

His reasoning: “If you deprive yourself completely in all areas, you’re destined to fail.”

“It’s too hard and too long of a journey to say, ‘I’m never going to spend money on anything I like for the rest of my life,’” Browning says. “Give yourself grace to enjoy money in responsible ways. I think it makes it that much easier to be diligent in areas you need to focus on.”

Stephanie J. Davis, Finances On Point

“Start early, and make sure you put aside at least 10% in your 401(k),” says Davis of Finances On Point. The Army veteran got that advice when signing up for the government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

You won’t miss the money from your check, she says.

And if you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, like a 401(k), consider opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

Don’t have an IRA yet?

Check out Later


Investing involves risk including loss of principal. This article contains the current opinions of the author, but not necessarily those of Acorns. Such opinions are subject to change without notice. This article has been distributed for educational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.

By Ivana Pino

Ivana Pino is a writer at Acorns + CNBC. Previously, she interned at NBCUniversal’s in-house advertising agency 

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How’s Investing Different Than Saving?

We often use the terms “saving” and “investing” interchangeably. But they’re not really the same.

Saving is setting money aside for (usually short-term) future use, like when you save up for a vacation or a new couch. This is separate from your monthly expenses.

While investing also involves setting aside money for future use, instead of placing it in a savings account, you put it toward things you hope will increase in value over time, like stocks or real estate. Because investing is more long-term oriented, it’s better for expenses that are further off, like buying a home or retirement.

How do you decide what money to save and what to invest?

First, you have to sort out your financial goals and determine your timelines for achieving them. Typically, you’d want to save enough money to cover unplanned expenses like car repairs and to cover the bills in case you lose your job. (Advisors recommend aiming to save enough to cover three to six months of expenses.) You also want to save toward goals you’d like to accomplish in the short term—like in the next couple of years. For goals that are further away, investing can be a better option for growing your money more over time.


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Pick the Right Side Gig

Getting the right side hustle isn’t as easy as signing up to drive a ride share. Before picking up work on the side, ask yourself a few questions to figure out which kind is right for you.

Are you doing this for the money?

Not every side job needs to be lucrative. If you’re simply looking to build or maintain a set of skills—say you’re an accountant who also plays the violin—it may be less important to you how much you make from each gig.

But if money is your primary motivation, you’ll probably want to select a job that pays you more. That could mean doing data entry instead of painting, but if dollars are your focus, that may be okay by you.

Do you have any special skills?

The ability to translate documents into Mandarin or serve as a notary public may provide you specialized opportunities to earn more in your off hours. List out your skills to get a sense of what you might be able to offer as a side hustle. If you can’t think of anything “special” off hand, don’t worry. There are plenty of gigs that pay you just for being yourself, like UX testing or serving on an e-Jury.

Do you have a room, home or vehicle you could rent out?

Your home or car could become a passive stream of income for you, if you’re okay with others using them. While you’re probably familiar with Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, there are more unconventional ways you can make money with your house and car.

Carvertise, a service that pays people to advertise on their cars, says their users make around $100 per month, and if you have access to a private lawn, you can list it on Sniffspot, a space rental service matching dogs and dog owners with open grass.

Research alternative uses from homes and cars for more possible side gigs.

How much time do you have?

Be realistic about how many hours you have to pour into a side hustle. If it’s only a few hours a week, you might be better served by work that doesn’t require a lot of ramp up time, like survey taking, instead of building a name for yourself on gig sites like Fiverr, which might help you earn more over time.

After you’ve assessed your side gig suitability, continue onto the next lesson for seven simple part-time jobs anyone can do.




Are IPOs Good Investments?

Whenever a pretty young thing comes on the scene, it’s bound to turn heads. On Wall Street, those PYTs are called IPOs.

What’s an IPO again?

An initial public offering is when a private company sells shares to the public on the stock market for the first time. It’s one way companies can raise money to expand the business.

Before launching an IPO, a company works with investment banks (the underwriters) to determine its value based on historic and projected revenue, profits, costs and other factors. Then they determine how many shares to sell—and how many the company’s board members should keep.

Underwriters also estimate a fair value for those initial shares, but public demand plays a big role. High demand drives high prices; low demand means low prices—and possibly a delay in going public.

How do regular investors get in on a hot IPO?

Brazenly. Popular IPOs are riskier than standard stocks—and, of course, don’t provide broad diversification like investing in funds—because they’re often issued by young companies with green management. Potential investors must be able to handle the risks.

If that’s cool, then you can invest once the company goes public through your broker, like with any other stock. But don’t expect to nab an IPO at its opening price, which is generally reserved for the company’s management, employees, friends and families, as well as for bulk buyers such as investment banks and hedge funds.

Should I invest in a company that IPOs?

Your call. Like with any other investment, you have to decide whether it is worth the price and fits your investing strategy. The trouble with IPOs is that you’re not going to find much historical data and research. Plus, those early trading days are bound to endure some big price swings.

And while there are IPO success stories, a recent UBS analysis found that most investments in recently IPO’ed companies lose investors money after five years.

What’s the bottom line?

It’s probably best to give a hot IPO time to cool off. While you won’t get in on the ground floor, you’ll likely miss the early peak prices driven mainly by excited chatter rather than performance. Once the frenzy subsides, you can see where the price settles and make an informed decision about whether it makes sense to add to your portfolio.

It’s worth noting that chasing any hot stock or trying to time a particular stock’s rise or fall is a risky proposition (and a potentially costly one). Advisors generally agree that the better approach is to invest for the long term with a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, and to resist getting caught up in the hype over specific stocks.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal. This information is presented for educational purposes only and is not a recommendation to buy or sell a specific security or engage in a particular strategy.

By Stacy Rapacon

Stacy is a former reporter for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine whose work has also appeared on CNBC.com, Bloomberg, Yahoo and other publications.


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Smart Tips to Help You Stop Impulse Shopping

If you want more control over your impulse purchases, you don’t need to get a shock bracelet or freeze your credit card in a block of ice. You can curb your spending by learning to be more mindful about what you buy.

Here are a few savvy tricks that experts say can help you stay strong when you feel the pull to spend.

1. Fill up your cart, then walk away.

“I tend to shop online through apps, and I’ll put it in the cart and make myself wait a couple days, and if I really want it, it’s in the cart! Most apps will save your cart,” says Jina Etienne, a certified public accountant as well as a member of the AICPA Financial Literacy Commission.

This sleep-on-it approach works for Marian Rosin, a writer and comedy performer: “I used to tell myself if I still wanted it, I’d come back another day to buy it, and 99.999999999999999999 percent of the time I didn’t go back. Maybe even 100 percent. Laziness pays off.” Rosin estimates she’s saved herself hundreds per year by not going through with purchases.

2. Don’t let websites save your info.

Shopping websites will try to save passwords and other info for you to make your experience as frictionless as possible. Don’t let them.

“Not saving your credit card online can also help,” says Michal Strahilevitz, a marketing professor at Saint Mary’s College of California. “It will add a time lag as well as a bit of hassle to every purchase.”

If the purchase isn’t worth the hassle of reentering your credit card number, it probably isn’t worth the money, either.

3. Ask yourself if you can get it for free, for cheap or rent it.

Remember that what you want may already be available for far less than retail, or even for nothing. “I got a domed serving-room platter for cakes on FreeCycle, and I didn’t pay a dime for it,” says Etienne.

You can find more giveaways on neighborhood-based sharing communities like Buy Nothing and Nextdoor. And, these days, you can borrow books, e-books, audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, music, movies and even museum passes from your local library.

If you want to dress for less but you crave novelty, consider renting through a company like Rent the Runway.

4. Buy yourself a gift card to a store you frequent.

“A gift card that is at the same budget amount that you want to spend in a given period may help with self-control and budgeting if you stick to that gift card amount being all you spend at that store,” says Strahilevitz, adding that gift cards also help you keep track of spending automatically. “Multiple shopping instances add up, and you may not be aware of how much you spent over a given month.”

The foregoing is presented for informational purposes only and is not an endorsement of any company, product or service.

Lisa Ferber’s writing has appeared in Crain’s New York Business, Barron’s Penta, and Dow Jones Mansion Global.

By Lisa Ferber




How to build credit when you’re just getting started

By Marcia Lerner Posted: 04/29/19 Updated: 07/03/19

After you finish high school or college, when you’re developing your financial independence, you’ll probably have several essentials on your to-do list: find a job, rent an apartment, maybe buy a car. But one often-overlooked item can be a prerequisite to all of the others: Establish good credit. As you get your life together, landlords and potential employers are likely to review your credit report, and lenders will check your credit score.

Get ahead of your finances today

Kevin Laskey, a graduate student in Philadelphia, was pleasantly surprised when the subject came up during his search for an apartment. “I had to do a credit application,” says Laskey, who discovered he’d built a strong credit score by paying his bills on time.

But that’s the point: If you want a good credit score, you have to earn it, says Josh Palmer, the Executive Director and Head of JPMorgan Goals-Based Advisory and Support.

Here are some steps that can help you get there.

Know your financial terms

Three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) track your credit history, which is used to calculate your credit score. VantageScore, a score developed by the three major bureaus, considers the following six factors:

  1. Payment history
  2. Credit age and types of credit
  3. Percent of your credit that you use
  4. Total balances
  5. Recent credit behavior and applications
  6. Available credit

VantageScores run from 300 to 850, and a score of 720 or higher is very good.

Take steps to establish good credit

You may hope to have a perfect score right off the bat, but that seldom happens, says Todd Friedhaber, a certified financial counselor for Cambridge Credit Counseling Corporation, based in Agawam, Massachusetts. “Most young adults start with no credit at all,” he says.

Begin establishing your financial identity by opening a basic checking and savings account at a solid institution, advises Palmer. Although your checking and savings accounts won’t factor into your credit score, they’re the basic building blocks of your financial framework, enabling you to do everything from depositing your paycheck to paying your bills—which will help you build a strong credit score.

Paying utility bills on time can be a great way of building your credit history, says Friedhaber, because some utility companies report customer behavior to credit bureaus. Keep a record, especially if you lack other evidence of your creditworthiness. Or you could buy on layaway, as making timely payments will testify to your reliability. Paying your student loans on time can also help build your credit score.

You might also consider asking your parents to add you as an authorized user on one of their cards, suggests Palmer. You’ll be able to use the card, and in some cases the credit history of the account will appear on your credit report.

Polishing up your score

According to VantageScore, being 60 days late on a payment can drop your score by 100 points or more, so it’s vital to make on time payments for each of your accounts. Setting up automatic payments or alerts can help you remember to pay on time each month.

And don’t be discouraged if your credit score isn’t where you want it to be. Most credit histories go back only seven years, and even within that time frame, Friedhaber says, “what you do today has greater weight than older events.””Checking your credit score yourself does not impact the score, so check it regularly to stay on top of your credit health.”

Pam Codispoti, Head of Consumer Branch Banking at JPMorgan Chase Bank

Avoid credit surprises

Many online tools let you keep tabs on your credit score. Contrary to what you may have heard, there’s no harm in looking it up regularly. “Checking your credit score yourself does not impact the score,” says Pam Codispoti, Head of Consumer Branch Banking at JPMorgan Chase Bank. “So check it regularly to stay on top of your credit health.”

Laskey has followed that advice, signing up with his credit card company to monitor his score. “I don’t check it religiously, but I take a peek if I’m online,” he says. “It’s something I’m careful about.”

Keeping your credit score up is just one part of defining who you are financially during your first years on your own. But good credit can have a snowball effect, helping you move toward long-term financial goals—whether it’s starting your own business, buying a home, or just having a big, exciting vacation. Whatever your objective, says Palmer, having a positive credit history can help you get the best interest rates and cement your reputation as a reliable, creditworthy adult.




How Quickly You Can Wipe Out Your Car Loan With an Extra $25 Per Week

Paying off your car loan can seem like an expensive, lengthy process, but there are ways to chip away at your debt and decrease the amount of time it will take you to pay it off.

Let’s say you take out the amount most new car owners do and then pay the average minimum on that. You’d be paying $551 per month on a loan of $32,187 at an average interest rate of 6.19 percent. That means you’ll pay off your car loan debt in 70 months, or a little under six years, and pay $6,214 in interest.

If you increase your payment by $25 per week, or $100 per month, and pay $651 instead of $551 at the same interest rate, you could decrease your repayment period by a full year. You’d also save $1,147 in interest.

Even if you devote an extra $25 per month, so you pay $576 instead of $551, you could shave three months off of your repayment period and pay $334 less in interest.

Here are three ways to help you pay off your car loan faster:

1. Make biweekly payments

For 33-year-old David Entenza of North Bergen, New Jersey, paying half of his monthly car loan payment every two weeks made a big difference. Paying on a biweekly schedule allowed him not only to meet his minimum for a given month but also let him work ahead and pay down more of his principal.

Instead of making 12 payments over a year of $377, his minimum, in an average year, he would make 26 biweekly payments of at least $188.50. That’s a total of $4,901 a year instead of $4,524 (or one extra payment), meaning he was able to put more toward his principal.

2. Side hustle your way to extra money toward your principal

Entenza also put extra income from his tax returns and his side hustles toward his car payment. Handy work and shoveling snow during the winter contributed an extra $100-$200 per month.

By making biweekly payments and scraping together extra income, Entenza wiped out roughly $20,000 worth of auto loan debt he’d accrued for his 2012 Toyota Corolla between 2012 and 2015, cutting his repayment time down by approximately two years.

3. Ask for a payoff deal

If you’ve made consistent progress on paying off your loan, your lender may even feel inclined to make you a payoff deal, which is a quote for a one-time installment payment, plus interest, to pay off any remaining debt.

“If you are close to the end of the loan and you feel like you’re able to pay it off in one installment, it’s definitely worth giving [your lender] a phone call to calculate a payoff number for you,” says Ronald Montoya, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds. “They might be able to reduce the interest rate and give you a payoff amount so you can be done with the loan.”

By Ivana Pino

Ivana Pino is a writer at Acorns + CNBC. Previously, she interned at NBCUniversal’s in-house advertising agency as a bilingual writer.




How an Extra $25/Week Can Get You Out of Student Loan Debt Faster

Putting an extra $25 a week toward your student loan balance can help you pay off your debt much faster—and save you money in the long run.

Let’s say you have $37,172 in student loan debt, the average balance for 2016 college grads. Rates vary from loan to loan, and depend on what kind of loans you have and when you borrowed that money. But for this example, we’ll estimate about 5 percent on the combined balance over four years. (That’s close to the 5.05% interest rate on federal student loans for undergraduates for the 2018-2019 year.) If you stick with the standard 10-year repayment plan for federal loans, you’ll pay roughly $395 a month for the next 120 months.

However, with just an extra $25 per week—so, about $495 a month instead of $395—you would cut down your repayment time by 29 months and pay off your full loan in a little more than 7.5 years. You’d also cut the amount of interest you paid by almost $4,000!

“If you can’t afford an extra $20, even an extra $5 can make a difference,” says Betsy Mayotte, president and founder of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors (TISLA).

“Assuming your goal is to pay off your loan as quickly as possible, every extra dollar you spend is going to reduce the…interest accruing and more of your payment will be going toward your principal next month.”

How to Find That Extra $25 a Week

Kiera Carter, who is 30 and lives in Los Angeles, paid off her $111,000 student loan debt in just under nine years, saving a few thousand dollars by eliminating her debts two to three years ahead of schedule. In addition to juggling a full-time job and several side hustles, she became more conscious about how she spent her money and trimmed her budget significantly.

“I still went out and had fun with my friends. I just tried to have more of a say in where we went and looked for places where I didn’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun,” says Carter. She chose BYOB restaurants with affordable specials and brought $3 dollar bottles of wine.

Carter also cut her clothing budget by purchasing affordable staples for her wardrobe that would last instead of designer clothes. To supplement her income, Carter took on freelance writing gigs, plus an extra job as a weekend lifeguard, to help chip away at her loans. “That extra money was really crucial,” she says.

After all, it’s often the small changes that make the biggest difference in the long run.



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By Ivana Pino

Ivana Pino is a writer at CNBC + Acorns. Previously, she interned at NBCUniversal’s in-house advertising agency as a bilingual writer.

3 Fitness Tips You Can Use to Get in Better Financial Shape

Some of the same strategies that can help you improve your health can also help with your finances.

“I remember a client saying to me, ‘I don’t understand money but I’ve trained for a marathon, so I get this,’” says Shannon McLay, founder of New York’s Financial Gym, a financial advice firm that takes a fitness-inspired approach.

These three fitness tips can help you crush your financial goals:

1. Set specific, exciting goals.

Nicole Hulley, a certified fitness trainer at Equinox Greenwich Avenue in New York, says she encourages clients to get specific with their goals and to focus on ones they’re excited to hit. A client focused on having more energy to play with his kids, for example, will be more inspired than one with the vague goal of “getting healthy.”

Similarly, don’t just tell yourself to put away more money. Set an amount you want to save and decide what you’re energized to save for. It could be an emergency fund to help you get by if you lose your job, or it could be a trip to Tahiti. Or both!

2. Replace ‘I can’t have’ with ‘I will have.’

When prioritizing fitness, you often have to make sacrifices: You may adjust your sleep schedule to get to the gym or scale back on sweets. Instead of focusing on that loss of freedom, trainers encourage clients to think about the positive effects they see (do your arms look stronger?) and are working toward (hello, six-pack).

That mind-set works well for staying on track with financial goals, too. Think not about what you’re losing but on what you hope to gain. “It’s not like, ‘I can’t go out because I’m depriving myself.’ It’s ‘I can’t go out because I’m going to Italy this summer,’” McLay says.

3. Start small.

Making progress takes time, and it’s easy to get frustrated when you don’t see dramatic results. Breaking down your grand plans into smaller steps, and then tracking your progress, can help keep your confidence up because you can see what you’re accomplishing. Sometimes people come to the gym for only 15 minutes at a time, and that’s still a win because they’re making fitness a part of their routine.

Address your financial goals, like paying off debt, the same way: by starting with small steps that can become small victories. “My wife and I used a whiteboard to visualize our student loan debt,” says certified public accountant David Almonte, a member of the AICPA Financial Literacy Commission. When they updated it every month, they were able to see and celebrate their progress.

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Should You Pay Off Debt Before You Start Investing?

Paying off debt and starting to invest for the future are two of the most common money goals—and the sooner you can do both, the better. But should you pay off debt before investing or is it ever okay to prioritize investing?

If you suspected the real answer is “it depends,” you’d be right. It all comes down to compounding, the way our money grows when we invest—but can come back to bite us when we take on debt.

What’s compounding again?

Compounding is when your money generates returns, which then generate returns of their own—meaning, over time, you can earn more and more.

For example, if you invested $100 and got a 10-percent return ($10), your new total of $110 would be the base of future returns. If you earned a 10-percent return the next year, you’d get $11, or $1 more than you got the first year.

So I should invest right away to take advantage of compounding?

That depends on your individual financial situation. While compounding can help you when you invest, it can also hurt you when it comes to any debt you may have. Just as investing returns grow over time thanks to compounding, so too does the interest on debt. In the long run, we may end up paying much more than the value we borrowed.

Over time, investments may grow your money more than any debt with lower interest rates may increase.

If I have any debt, should I invest then?

Consider the kinds of debt you have. Credit card debt is generally the most expensive form, making it a huge barrier to building wealth. Interest rates vary significantly based on factors like your credit score and lender, but the average for new cards sat at a record high of 17.67 percent in early April 2019. Privately held student loan debt isn’t far behind, averaging 12 percent or more.

Other forms of debt, like mortgages and federal student loans, however, have substantially lower average interest rates of about 5 percent each.

Over the long term, stocks have returned an average of about 10 percent annually. Over time, investments may grow your money more than any debt with lower interest rates may increase.

What’s that mean for me?

If you have low-interest debt it might make sense for you to make your minimum payment and invest any extra money you have. Your investments may earn you more money than you might end up spending on debt interest.

But with high-interest debt, like privately held student loans and credit card debt, it may make more sense to pay off your balances first before you start investing. You want compounding to work for you, not against you.

There may be one exception to consider, though. If your company matches a portion of your retirement contributions, it’s wise to invest at least enough to get the match they’re offering. That’s basically free money.


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