The Cost of Passenger Tickets to Space

The Cost of Passenger Tickets to Space

Ever since we put the first man on the moon, humans have been dreaming about the future of space travel. However, the difficulty of coordinating these missions in addition to the high costs meant it was only viable when funded as a government program. But, it seems as if all that is about to change. Many of the leading companies in space technology are focusing on reusable rockets and equipment to reduce costs to launch, and ultimately the cost of passenger tickets to space. And, it could be even cheaper for those staying within the Earth’s atmosphere. Just this summer, several private citizens paid to reach the “edge of space” then return to Earth. With even more suborbital flights on the horizon, space travel may soon become more accessible to private citizens.

The Cost of the First Passenger Tickets to Space

Russia pioneered space tourism sending seven passengers to space between 2001 and 2009. For $20-25 million per ticket, they sent passengers to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. Space Adventures brokered the deal for the individuals with Roscosmos and RSC Energia. However, Russia halted sales on passenger tickets since the ISS crew size grew and they no longer had extra seats to sell.

The first space tourist was Dennis Tito, an American entrepreneur and engineer who had once worked for NASA. After being turned down by NASA, Tito paid $20 million for the honor of being the first Russian passenger in space. The flight carrying Tito and fellow cosmonauts launched on April 28, 2001. The Soyuz spacecraft shuttled him to the ISS where he spent eight days in orbit.

Recent Passengers to Space

The future has finally arrived for the rest of us as well. Several private companies including Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX have successfully launched flights with private passengers. They hope these initial space expeditions will demonstrate the reliability and safety of space travel as they facilitate human expansion into space.

Space Adventures

Space Adventures has been brokering private space flights using Russian spacecraft to the ISS since 1998. And, they have sold several more passenger tickets and spaceflight experiences. They have been an integral part in helping private citizens, including the first passenger to space, achieve orbit.

SpaceX

Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 in fear that one day the Earth will become uninhabitable. SpaceX is the only company that is NASA-certified to send people into orbit. It is already working with NASA, using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to shuttle its astronauts to the ISS. It has also sold passenger tickets on future Crew Dragon flights brokered through other companies. SpaceX is also working with Axiom to send more crewed flights to the space station. However, the ultimate goal is to send passengers to Mars.

Virgin Galactic

British billionaire Richard Branson bought SpaceShipOne which built the first reusable spaceship. He then founded Virgin Galactic with intentions to carry up to six passengers into suborbital space. Although he intended to begin taking passengers in 2009, Virgin Galactic experienced many setbacks including a design flaw that caused a crash and the death of one of its pilots in 2014. However, on July 11, Branson and five other passengers took flight, reaching a final altitude of 85 km above the Earth.

Blue Origin

Founder of both Amazon and Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos launched into space alongside his brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemon on July 20, 2021. Blue Origin achieved a momentous milestone when it made its first passenger flight to space aboard the New Shepard rocket. Bezos held a public auction for the passenger seat which sold for $28 million. The flight lasted a total of 10 minutes and reached 106 km

The Future of Space Tourism

Depending on how much you have in your budget for spaceflight, there will be options for orbital, suborbital, and lunar trips.

SpaceX and Associates

SpaceX has kept its finger in several pies as it advances its mission of human space flight. In association with Space Adventures, they are set to launch another flight to the space station this year with two private passengers on board. They signed a deal with SpaceX to use their capsule to send people into orbit. Passengers will circle the Earth several times at the same altitude as the ISS. Unfortunately, they have not publicized the cost of these trips.

Setting an ambitious schedule, SpaceX has planned several launches over the next few years. In conjunction with Axiom, it is sending four private astronauts to space in January 2022 on the Crew Dragon spacecraft. With a price tag of $55 million, each passenger will then spend 10 days on the International Space Station.

However, the most anticipated trip will be its first manned lunar expedition. Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, is the first confirmed passenger for its lunar flight to launch in 2023. He will be taking eight more people with him, to be chosen from the millions of applications people have submitted to join him.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin has begun selling passenger tickets to “the edge of space.” Completing its maiden voyage in July, the New Shepard has two more trips planned for this year. And, more are expected in 2022. Jeff Bezos said his company has already sold tickets totaling $100 million for future flights as well. Since the first successful flight, he told the press that the demand for space travel has gone up. He hasn’t announced what the cost will be. But, you can expect that it will be significantly less than the auction bids to be the first passenger.

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has already more than 600 passenger tickets to space ranging between $200,000 and $500,000 for its future flights. Unfortunately, future tickets are likely to cost more. Now, you must pay a deposit of $1,000 just to reserve a spot on the waiting list. However, you can try your luck and register here to be a passenger on one of their flights.

Space Perspective

For those of us who will never be on the Forbes list of billionaires, Space Perspective is the most affordable option at $125,000 per ticket. Instead of the turbulent rocket launch, it provides space flight in a pressurized capsule which is propelled by a space balloon. The first launch is scheduled in 2024, followed by a six-hour tour in suborbital space.

Although space travel has become a reality, passenger tickets to space still come with a steep price.

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How to Get Paid for Getting a Tattoo

How to Get Paid for Getting a Tattoo

With the advent of e-commerce and online marketplaces, there are thousands of unconventional ways you can make money. From starting an online business to hosting your own YouTube channel, thousands of people have found creative ways to make a living. For example, one trend that is gaining popularity is skinvertising, the idea that you sell your skin as ad space. That’s right…you can get paid for getting a tattoo. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a permanent one either. For those looking for some easy income and who don’t mind using their body as a canvas for advertisements, there are some unique employment opportunities for you.

The Trend of Skinvertising

Good advertising teams are always looking for new, trendy ways to get their brand name out there. Controversial campaigns and unique marketing techniques attract attention and make headlines. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that people earn money for using their bodies as walking billboards. Although it isn’t a new concept, it has been receiving more lip service recently with the introduction of social media.

Skin advertising, or skinvertising, was first introduced into mainstream media in the early 2000s. However, the practice of selling ad space on visible parts of your body has gained more traction in recent years. Goodyear was among the first companies to offer compensation in the form of free tires to anyone who got a tattoo of their logo. But, many more have jumped on the skinvertising bandwagon.

In fact, several people have made international headlines to get paid for getting a tattoo. Back in 2005, GoldenPalace.com paid Kari Smith $10,000 to get a permanent tattoo on her forehead. Others have made significantly more since then. For example, adult film star Anna Morgan received $500,000 for tattooing MyMMOShop.com across her breasts. While tattoo models can earn good money, your online presence and appeal as a skin model will have a huge impact on how much you can earn.

Get Paid to Get a Temporary Tattoo

If you are uncomfortable with the permanency of traditional ink, there are other ways to get paid for getting a tattoo. A quick search will lead you to companies that are also willing to pay you for temporary tattoos as well. Although you won’t earn as much as permanently tattooed advertisements, you people are still advertising their services for as much as $5,000. So, if you are interested to see what jobs are out there, here are some of the most lucrative places to offer your services.

1. Join an online marketplace.

Some sites cater specifically to companies seeking skinvertising and models who are offering their services. Although it has been inactive recently, LeaseYourBody.com was the first online marketplace to bring companies and skin models together in a common forum. To join, you simply need to create a profile and upload photos to open yourself up to offers. You could also try your luck with ads on Craigslist. Although, local marketplaces are unlikely to bring big-name advertisers and larger offers.

Once you create a profile, you should include detailed descriptions of what space on your body you are willing to advertise on and also indicate how much you hope to earn. Typically, people start at $100 an hour, but some models have earned up to $69,000 a year. If a company is interested in hiring you, they will contact you directly with a contract. Should they make a counteroffer, it will be up to you to decide whether you accept or decline their terms.

After you accept an offer and fulfill the contract, the company will then send you a check for the agreed-upon amount. How much you earn depends on several factors such as the size, location, and company you represent. Your appeal and social media following will also play a deciding factor in your final offers. The more exposure you have, the better it will be.

2. List yourself on an auction site.

Back in 2005, Andrew Fischer started a bidding frenzy when he auctioned advertising space on his forehead on eBay. In the end, Green Pharmaceuticals had the winning bid with $37,375 to advertise their product, SnoreStop. For 30 days, Fischer donned a temporary tattoo in exchange for the large cash payment. While most bids never reach these heights, you can find several current adverts seeking payment ranging from a few hundred dollars up to $5,000.

3. Approach the company to offer your services.

Another option is to find a company you want to approach with your services. This could net you some good offers with the right sales pitch. And, it also gives you more control over your bodily autonomy and who you work with. Other avenues leave you at the mercy of the highest bidder. However, if you approach a company with an offer, you have a better chance to advertise for one that you feel comfortable supporting.

To Ink or Not To Ink…

Over the years, many people have been willing to earn cash and use their bodies for advertising. While it may seem controversial and extreme to some, it has become a way to earn an income for others. Skinvertising isn’t a new idea, but it has gained popularity as body art becomes more mainstream.

Some opposition feels that these companies are exploiting people who need money. But, models are willing to advertise a brand or company because they are well compensated for it. In fact, many volunteer and consent to do it because of the exposure it brings them.

If there is any hesitation about tattoos, you probably shouldn’t get any permanent ink. Temporary tattoos can still bring in a healthy income, and you are less likely to regret it since you won’t have a permanent reminder. Although it doesn’t appeal to everyone, people get paid good money for getting a tattoo. It just goes to show that if you use a little creative thinking and ingenuity, you can create new opportunities capitalizing on your unique skills and talents.

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The Richest Children in the World in 2021

The Richest Children in the World

People are fascinated by the lives of the world’s elite. Many of us have wondered what it would be like to be as rich as any of the uber-wealthy who make Forbes magazine’s annual list of billionaires. If we were to widen the age standards of this list, there are also several children who should be included in the count. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more difficult to calculate the exact net worth since minors can’t own their own assets. However, based on expert analysis here are the 10 richest children in the world in 2021.

The 10 Richest Children in the World

10. Dannielynn Hope Marshall Birkhead – $10 million

The daughter of the late Anna Nicole Smith came into her fortune following her untimely death. However, the tragic loss of her mother wasn’t the only newsworthy event in her young life. After her birth on September 7, 2006, there was also controversy over her parentage. But, a DNA test proved she is the daughter of Larry Birkhead.

Because of the national interest in her life, Dannielynn has already made several TV appearances and became the face of Guess Girl in 2013. There is no doubt that this young heiress’ fortune will only continue to grow as she stays in the limelight.

9. Valentina Paloma Pinault – $12 million

Born on September 21, 2007, Valentina Pinault is the only daughter of actress Salma Hayek and French billionaire François-Henri Pinault. And, she is the sole heir to a massive fortune as well. While her net worth currently stands at $12 million, she will also inherit the total wealth from her mother’s successful career and her father’s company Kering which is one of the highest-grossing luxury brands.

8. Ryan Kaji – $30 million

Ryan Kaji sets himself apart from the other ultra-rich kids on this list since he is the only self-made millionaire here. Born October 6, 2011, this 9-year-old wasted little time getting to work. He was named the highest-grossing YouTube star in 2020, earning $30 million from his channel, Ryan ToysReview. He now has a huge following with over 29 million subscribers. While he has a net worth of $30 million, financial experts speculate he holds over $100 million in total assets.

7. The West Family – $62 million

No list of Hollywood’s celebrity elite would be complete without mention of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. In this case, their children North (7), Saint (5), Chicago (3), and Psalm (2) are the ones grabbing headlines as some of the richest children in the world. Although the Kimye relationship may be ending, their kids will still receive a substantial amount of wealth. Upon their deaths, the $62 million fortune will be divided amongst them. But, given the family business, the children will likely earn more due to their fame and the family tradition of launching their own brands.

6. Taimur Ali Khan – $100 million

While many of the children on this list come from Hollywood, we can’t forget to include the Bollywood royalty as well. Kareena Ali Khan and Saif Ali Khan are one of the most affluent couples, if not the most affluent celebrity couple, in India. They are on par in fame and fortune with any Hollywood power couple. And, their son, Taimur Ali Khan, is also among one of the wealthiest young millionaires in the world. Born on December 20, 2016, this youngster has already stirred up a media frenzy. He is set to inherit their combined wealth of $100 million. Although, he will have to share it with his newborn brother.

5. Max and Emme Maribel Muniz – $200 million

Although the marriage didn’t last, Jenifer Lopez and Marc Antony have two children together. Both performers have a healthy net worth meaning their 13-year-old twins, Max and Emme Muniz, are among the richest children in the world. Currently, their estimated net worth is about $200 million. However, the public eye has been upon them since their birth on February 22, 2008. And, it continues to follow their development and achievements. Depending on what careers they pursue, this could help them grow their net worth even more in the future.

4. The Jolie-Pitt Clan – $390 million

With the star power of two A-list celebrities for parents, the children of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have plenty of wealth and acting talent to go around. The former couple has six kids together; Maddox (19), Pax (17), Zahara (16), Shiloh (15), Vivienne, and Knox (12); who will inherit approximately $390 million from their parents.

However, the youngest siblings, Vivienne and Knox, seem to have a slightly higher net worth. Although they were born July 12, 2008, it was nearly a year before the public got their first glimpse of them. The first publicized baby photo of the twins sold for $14 million making it the most expensive photo ever.

3. The Carter Kids – $1 billion

The Carter kids have become famous in their own right. However, Blue Ivy, Sir, and Rumi are the richest kids in America in large part to their parents’ success. The offspring of hip-hop royalty, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, would inherit an impressive amount since they have a combined net worth totaling nearly $1 billion.

Additionally, Blue Ivy seems to have a promising music career ahead of her as well. Born January 7, 2012, her rise to fame has already begun. In fact, she won a BET Award when she was only 8-years-old. Given the talent pool she comes from, Blue Ivy could move up the ranks as her career takes off.

2. Prince George – $3.6 billion

It shouldn’t come as much of a shock to see the British royal family’s progeny on the list of the richest children in the world. As the oldest son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George is speculated to inherit over $40 million from his father. Immediately following his birth on July 22, 2013, he was also confirmed as third in line to the royal throne after his grandfather, Prince Charles, and his father, Prince William. However, there is one more royal whose net worth outranks the eldest heir to the Windsor fortune.

1. Princess Charlotte – $5 billion

Although she is the second child of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Princess Charlotte tops the list of the richest children in the world for 2021. Born May 2, 2015, this young royal is set to inherit a fortune many of us could never fathom. While her brother stands ahead of her in succession to the throne, she has a greater net worth due to her affluence in the fashion industry.

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What Should You Do with Your Unused Financial Aid Money?

What Should You Do with Your Unused Financial Aid Money?

When Do You Get Financial Aid?

There is no denying it. The cost of higher education can become astronomical. Therefore, many students receive financial aid to assist. Many schools award financial aid packages for students who qualify based on their financial needs once they apply for financial aid. The money applies towards tuition, room and board, and other associated fees. However, you may receive a check if you have any unused financial aid money.

Sometimes, the package overestimates your total costs leaving you with a credit in your account.  The school has a legal obligation to disburse whatever federal student aid is left over. So, they often send a check or direct deposit for the remaining amount. You will typically receive it after the add/drop period, which is usually about a month into the first semester.

Be wary though, because it isn’t free money. It is simply the amount available for you to borrow and will need to be repaid in the future, plus interest.

What Should You Do with Your Unused Financial Aid Money?

After the school has applied for all your approved funding, you may still have leftover money. So, what do you do with it? If you find yourself with a large amount of unused financial aid money, you have a few options.

1. Put it toward other educational expenses.

Not all your expenses will be included with your tuition and dorm fees. Many times you will find yourself buying additional equipment and supplies that you need for your classes. That’s why you receive financial aid. This money is intended to be used for student necessities such as textbooks, school supplies, computers, transportation, and child care. Although the school doesn’t automatically deduct these fees, most financial aid packages qualify them as educational expenses.

2. Use it for your living expenses.

Life as a struggling college student is hard. And, maintaining a full class schedule limits your job options, leaving little time for anything else. Therefore, you could use the leftover financial aid to cover your living expenses. Having the cash to cover rent, utilities, groceries, and medical bills can give you some breathing room and allow you to focus on your education.

3. Pay off other student loans.

If you had to accept subsidized student loans, then you are already accruing interest on the money you have borrowed. However, if you received additional unsubsidized funding, you could use the money to pay off loans with less favorable terms. Clearing these kinds of debts will save you hundreds, perhaps even thousands, in interest fees.

4. Transfer the funds into a dedicated personal account.

Another option is to transfer the unused funds into a personal bank account to use at a later date. That way, you have an emergency fund for any educational expenses or associated fees not covered by tuition.

Rather than sitting idle, putting the money into a high-yield saving account to earn interest while you decide whether to use it or pay it back. Or, whatever funds are left can be rolled over to the next semester. Not only does it keep your debt balance low, but also attempts to offset the high-interest rates on student loans.

5. Invest it.

With the same idea of putting your money to work for you, you may consider investing your unused financial aid money. Parking your funds in a 529 college savings account could earn you quite a bit of cash. Parents also like this option since the money can only be used for specified educational expenses.

6. Leave it in the school account.

If you don’t have an immediate need for it, you can view the money as an emergency fund. Even if you don’t withdraw it upfront, you can keep it as a safety net for any unforeseen expenses you may have later in the semester.

7. Turn down the money.

After reviewing your financial situation, you may decide that you really don’t need the money. If this is the case, you should probably consider turning it down. Similarly, you could claim a portion and decline the remaining amount.

Remember, this isn’t free money. There are still strings attached and loans to repay. This option will keep your student loan debt to a minimum and help you avoid accruing debt before you graduate. However, there is no need to make an immediate decision either. You have 120 days to decide if you want to cancel the loan to avoid interest rates on the unused money.

What Are the Tax Implications for Unused Financial Aid Money?

When you claim the overage check for your financial aid package, there are some tax implications you will need to consider. Since the IRS qualifies this money as income, you must claim it on your tax return. Furthermore, it could affect your FAFSA information and financial aid for the following year.

Therefore, keep records and track all your incidentals such as transportation, off-campus housing, and other optional equipment which is not required for your courses. And, you will also want to track how much you have earned for your services if you work on campus. Although your school will issue a tax receipt which you will need to include in your tax return, it’s always a good idea to have your own financial records.

So What’s the Best Option for Unused Financial Aid Money?

If you find yourself with a large amount of unused financial aid money, you have a few options. You may be tempted to spend it, but it is still borrowed money. So, act responsibly and think of the long-term consequences of your choices. You shouldn’t feel guilty about spending the additional money on things you need, but don’t put yourself further in debt than necessary.

Before you go on a spending spree, carefully consider your financial situation. And, be certain that you understand the limits of any scholarships and grants you receive. Some have specific terms that do not allow you to put the money towards your living expenses. It could also affect your future eligibility. So, be sure to check the fine print of your scholarship or financial aid to see how you can disburse your money. Make sure you understand what happens and talk with a financial advisor to help make wise financial decisions.

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Can Robo-Advisors Save You in a Volatile Market?

Robo-advisors to Help You in a Volatile Market

Although it has had a major impact, algorithmic trading is only one of the reasons why markets have increased in volatility. However, could you better weather the storm if you had access to the same technology as individual investors? Many say yes and are turning to robo-advisors in a volatile market to manage their assets.

What is a Robo-Advisor?

In simplest terms, the robo-advisors combine computerized trading with advice. They are becoming more popular since they are often free or available for a fraction of what you would pay for a financial advisor. Not only are they allowing greater access to individual traders, but also changing the way people manage and invest their money.

Algorithmic Trading

Computerized trading follows a model drafted by a financial advisor or economist. However, most models consist of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) reflecting the investor’s risk appetite, objectives, and time horizon.

Once you complete the questionnaires to determine these factors, computerized trading relies on algorithms to execute transactions. Thanks to current technology, we can now calculate these variables at a level of sophistication and speed that was previously only available to professional investors. Then, the automation periodically maintains the original strategy of the portfolios by rebalancing, performing dollar-cost averaging, or harvesting capital losses or gains on taxable accounts.

Using automated services enables lower fees than what human financial advisors charge. However, the overall method to determine fees is often similar. They typically charge a (fraction of a) percentage of the total portfolio value annually. Reducing your annual fees is one way robo-advisors work to your advantage in a volatile market. Unfortunately, there will always be some level of risk to contend with.

Robo-Advisors Performance in a Volatile Market

Some of the companies in this space demonstrate strong performances. Or, at least they did until the markets increased in volatility.

You should look at robos as a way to handle market turbulence. Rather, they offer a way to keep fees from interfering with your overall account appreciation. Furthermore, they regularly attend to your accounts that you may forget to do. Using robo-advisors automated services allows greater flexibility and adaptability in a volatile market.

Although this category of financial service continues to attract more assets and hype, it has limitations worth keeping in mind.

Which Company Has the Best Robo-Advisor in a Volatile Market?

Here’s a look at the different companies in this space, along with their fees and strategies.

Acorns

If you struggle to discipline yourself to save or invest, this robo is for you. It effectively helps you invest and save. It simply collects your spare change from electronic transactions. You only need to enable Acorns to round up the charge to the next-highest whole dollar amount on every purchase you make. Then, it automatically invests it for you.

Best of all, you can adjust it to your goals. You set the maximum amount per month. And, you can get money added to your account as a reward for deals with participating merchants. Using robo-advisors to help you save bolsters against losses in a volatile market.

Fees: For assets below $1 million, you pay $1 to $3 per month for one of three tiers of services.

Strategies: Acorns suggests strategies based on your income, time horizon, goals, and risk appetite.

Sign-up to Acorns here.

Ally Invest Managed Portfolios

This online bank’s offering in the robo-advisory space has gotten less attention. Not only does it have low fees, but is also easy to use.

Fees: You pay 0.3% of the portfolio balance annually and maintain a minimum account of $2,500.

Strategies: Their suggested portfolios reflect nine different levels of risk tolerance, three different types of goals, and five different general time horizons.

AssetBuilder

In one important sense, this company has more transparency with its robo strategies than the others listed here. In fact, it is the only one that publishes historical performance data on three-, five- and 20-year horizons for the portfolios.

Fees: The company’s fees are based on the number of assets you add to an account. However, the minimum amount is $50,000. When you enter that as the starting amount, you pay the maximum fee of 0.45% annually. But, that eventually scales down to 0.2% annually if you reach $20 million or more. Additionally, the company also sells retirement-related services for 0.5% annually. Furthermore, the site charges commissions on individual trades of $11.95 per transaction.

Strategies: The site has eight strategies on a spectrum of risk tolerance. The two most conservative strategies are referred to as capital preservation. Then comes a balanced strategy. After that, there are two strategies for growth. Finally, the company also has two different aggressive growth strategies.

Betterment

Although better known for its robo-advisory offerings, this company can also match you up with a human financial advisor. However, the fees and strategies below only apply to the robo-advisor.

Fees: The company charges 0.25% annually for the digital service and 0.40% for a premium level.

Strategies: Betterment works with five general categories of investing goals: saving for retirement, retirees withdrawing income, emergency funds, general investing, and preparing for a major purchase. Although, you’re allowed to choose more than one. The suggested portfolio is further customized based on your stated time horizon and your risk tolerance.

Sign-up to Betterment here.

Blooom

This option focuses on retirement plans. It assesses strategies that might not get any third-party attention otherwise.

Fees: There’s a flat rate of $10 per month.

Strategies: The company takes over the management and monitoring of your retirement plans provided by employers. So, any 401(k), 401(a), 403(b), or 457 plans are included. It optimizes your fund selection in a way that maximizes performance and minimizes hidden fees.

Ellevest

This company markets a full range of financial services to women. As part of that, it offers a robo-advisor product.

Fees: For accounts under $1 million, the annual fees are 0.25% of the balance of the portfolio. However, for premium accounts, it’s 0.5% of the balance.

Strategies: Ellevest creates portfolios based on the investor’s risk tolerance, time horizon, and goals. The latter can include saving up an emergency fund, down payment on a home, new business, children, retirement, and building wealth. But, you can also choose more than one of the aforementioned goals.

E*Trade Dedicated Portfolios

This leader in the world of online brokerage offers more than just the individual trading that the rest of the business is based on. They also have a line of robo-advisory services as well.

Fees: Depending on the amount of money you invest, the strategy you choose, and the amount of attention from a human financial advisor that you want, annual fees can range from 0.3% to 1.25%.

Strategies: A dedicated financial consultant helps you build a fully customized portfolio. It is then monitored and actively managed for you. There are three general groupings of services. The first tier is known as core portfolios and has a minimum balance requirement of $5,000. The next level up is blend portfolios, which have a minimum balance requirement of $25,000. The top tier is fixed income portfolios with a $250,000 minimum balance requirement.

Fidelity Go

This mutual fund giant has teamed up with Strategic Advisers, National Financial Services, and Geode Capital Management to offer a robo-advisory service.

Fees: They range from 0.35% to 0.4% annually.

Strategies: This service suggests strategies based on your goals, time horizon, and your risk appetite (on a scale of one to 10).

Financial Engines

This company sells robo-advisory services to other companies. Usually, it serves as a front-end provider for employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Fees: They have ranged from 0.2% to 0.6% annually.

Strategies: The company offers a robo-advisor type of interface for retirement plans.

IncomeClub

This robo focuses on a fixed income. It clarifies that its offerings are intended for inclusion in an overall portfolio strategy.

Fees: The company recommends a bond strategy without charging you anything. However, then it directs you to Interactive Brokers to transact. Unfortunately, they do charge fees for their services.

Strategies: Everything suggested by IncomeClub involves fixed income in one form or another. Depending on your time horizon, risk appetite, and objectives, this site suggests different assets. It may recommend money market funds, certificates of deposit, federal government bonds, municipal bonds, corporate bonds, international bonds, or combinations thereof.

FutureAdvisor

Open an account with this particular robo-advisor, and you too can have the same killer investment performance that the Yale University endowment is famous for. In fact, the brains behind said wonder-fund, Dave Powell, created FutureAdvisor’s portfolio models.

Fees: The annual management fee is 0.5% of the value of your portfolio. Over 90% of the funds used by FutureAdvisor trade commission-free. However, there are commissions of $7.95 per trade for the others. Add in the expense ratio of the funds, and you have a total fee of about 0.65% a year.

Strategies: Designate whether your risk appetite is conservative, moderate, or aggressive. Then, convey your time horizon for FutureAdvisor to suggest a strategy.

MarketRiders

This web-based investing platform promises that its rebalancing algorithms can add up to 2% to the value of your portfolios.

Fees: You pay $14.95 a month or $195 annually.

Strategies: The company has three types of strategies. One of them is intended to help you save for emergencies, another for retirement, and the third for more speculative goals.

M1 Finance

Purists say that M1 Finance’s business model only partly resembles a robo-advisor at the portfolio management stage. However, it is still among one of the top robo-advisors to help you manage your assets in a volatile market.

Fees: The company states that it charges no fees to consumers.

Strategies: Instead of suggesting a portfolio, M1 Finance offers a visual interface for people to set up portfolios. Then, it maintains the portfolio allocation using algorithmic trading.

Merrill Edge Guided Investing

This old-school retail brokerage has expanded into robo-advisory services.

Fees: You pay 0.45% annually. Plus, trades can have commissions of one to three cents per $1,000 traded. 

Strategies: The company recommends different strategies based on your investment horizon, goals, and risk tolerance. They base recommendations on answers to a questionnaire.

Morgan Stanley Access Investing

This full-service investment house has thrown its hat into the ring with a robo service.

Fees: You pay just 0.35% of the value of your portfolio annually.

Strategies: Morgan Stanley has portfolios modeled for specific goals like retirement, education, building wealth, starting a business, saving for a wedding, buying a car or house, or other large purchases. You also specify target dates, your risk appetite, and whether there are any specific areas of investing that you’re interested in.

Personal Capital

This company offers free software to help you analyze your finances. It suggests ways to minimize your fees. But, it leads you toward its robo-advisory offerings.

Fees: If your account value is below six digits, you pay an annual fee of about 0.89% of your portfolio value. Commit more than that, and you lower the fee.

Strategies: There are three tiers of services based on the number of assets you choose to commit. If you have $200,000 or less, you’re in the tier that most closely resembles the robo model. At this level, a financial advisor recommends a portfolio of tax-efficient ETFs. From there, you’re entirely automated.

The next level up gets you more customization and advice. Those with more than $1 million to invest get the private wealth management treatment. This includes full access to a financial advisor.

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios

For a discount brokerage with a history of no-frills, low-commission trading, Schwab’s robo-advisory service is surprisingly sophisticated.

Fees: Interestingly, Schwab doesn’t charge advisory fees for its robo service. The company says there aren’t any hidden fees or commissions. It clearly states that it earns revenue from the underlying assets in the portfolios.

Strategies: Each portfolio contains up to 20 different asset classes. They are determined in proportions that are based on an investor’s risk appetite, current life circumstances, and goals.

SigFig

This company offers robo-advisory services directly to consumers and in partnership with other financial institutions such as Wells Fargo Bank.

Fees: You pay nothing for your first $10,000.  However, the minimum balance is $2,000. After that, they charge 0.25% annually for every dollar above that amount.

Strategies: There are portfolios with conservative, moderate, and aggressive growth strategies. They are tailored for different types of goals and time horizons.

Stash

Stash is ideal for people who are new to investing. This mobile app suggests not just ETFs but also looks at other types of investments based on your preferences.

Fees: For accounts under $5,000, the first month is free. After that, you pay $1 per month. But, this fee increases to $2 per month for a retirement account. Above the minimum amount, the fees switch to 0.25% of your annual portfolio balance.

Strategies: Stash suggests individual investments based on your investment budget, risk tolerances, goal, and time horizon.

TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios

This discount brokerage has come out with a robo-advisory that leverages the company’s low-to-no commissions on core ETFs.

Fees: The lowest-tier service, Essential Portfolios, costs 0.3% annually. The next level up, Selective Portfolios, costs 0.75%. The top tier, Personalized Portfolios, has service costs up to 0.9%.

Strategies: Essential Portfolios has five different portfolios. Selective Portfolios consist of a broader range of goal-oriented portfolios. Personalized Portfolios offer more tailored portfolio construction and advice.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

This mutual fund giant issues some of the most cost-efficient ETFs in the industry. Therefore, Vanguard is certainly well-positioned to compete in the robo-advisory market.

Fees: You pay just 0.3% of the portfolio value annually.

Strategies: Vanguard arranges a meeting with a human investment advisor to set up a strategy reflecting your goals and current financial situation. Then, the robo-advisor executes and manages the portfolio. Their services allow you to be as involved as you want, giving you one of the best robo-advisors to navigate in a volatile market.

Wealthfront

This robo aims to reduce taxes, fees, and risk all in one offering.

Fees: You pay 0.25% of your portfolio value per year.

Strategies: The company has three categories of portfolio allocations. One is for retirement and the rest for taxable accounts. Within each of these categories, there are 20 different portfolios. Each of them has different amounts of risk and volatility.

Wealthsimple

The company’s approach aims to minimize volatility and maximize reward through diversification.

Fees: You pay 0.4% annually with a balance of five digits. If you have less than that, you pay 0.5%.

Strategies: The company currently offers you a choice of three strategies: conservative, balanced, and growth.

Wells Fargo Intuitive Investor

The money-center bank unveiled a robo-advisor in partnership with SigFig.

Fees: If you invest $10,000 to $25,000, you pay an annual fee of 0.5%. That fee drops to 0.4% if you have a minimum of $25,000 in a Wells Fargo deposit account, or $50,000 in combined banking, brokerage, and credit accounts.

Strategies: The service has nine different portfolios based on your goals, time horizon, and risk appetite. The choices include conservative income, moderate-income, aggressive income, conservative growth and income, moderate growth and income, aggressive growth and income, conservative growth, moderate growth, and aggressive growth.

How Can You Choose the Right Robo-Advisor to Withstand a Volatile Market?

As you can see, many robo-advisors can help you manage your assets in a volatile market. However, with so many choices, you could suffer decision fatigue from comparing them.

So, one way to streamline the process is to choose the one with the lowest fees. In that case, the free robo-advisors are the most attractive. But, before you rush into anything, make sure you read and understand their business model. It may not provide the services you need.

Reputable online brokers are technically free of charge as well. And, they bring an added level of trust to personal financial management. They can offer services for free they will earn income from third parties using a business model called payment for order flow.

However, you may feel more comfortable working with robo-advisors offered through an institution that you know. If you already have a relationship with them, using their robo-advisors makes money management simpler in a volatile market.

There are plenty of tantalizing choices in the robo-advisory world. Most of them offer great opportunities to maximize your investment performance by saving money on fees. However, you should choose the one that best aligns with your financial goals.

When to Work with a Human Financial Advisor

If you need more personalized advice, then you won’t get it from any of the robos. But, you could get the best of both worlds by also working with a human financial advisor.

A human financial advisor can give advice based on an investor’s current life situation and preferences. Unfortunately, the robo questionnaires usually don’t ask about investors’ beliefs or ideals. Nor can they sense whether someone is confused about their goals or risk appetites.

Robos can’t handle certain kinds of complex financial planning. So, if you’re setting up estates, looking for insurance recommendations, or need coaching on budgets, it is more beneficial to work with a human financial advisor.

Best of Both Worlds

If you require more in-depth attention, then you should hedge your proverbial bets. You don’t have to choose one over the other. Instead, you can utilize a combination of both. Then, you can tap a human financial advisor for some situations and a robo for others. Although robos use the same technology as algorithmic traders, none can explain current market conditions to you the way a human financial advisor can.

Readers, are there any companies that weren’t included in this article that you think should be added? Have you looked into any robo-advisors? If so, which ones? Or, if you haven’t checked any of this out yet, why not? Have you ever worked with a financial advisor? What kind of investing experience do you have?

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4 Examples of Check Kiting

Examples of Check Kiting

What is Check Kiting?

Perhaps you have heard of check kiting in the movies or your favorite crime shows. If you weren’t quite sure what it meant, don’t worry – you’re not alone. The definition can be a bit tricky because there are many examples of check kiting. However, in the simplest terms, it is bank fraud to get money by writing bad checks before the funds are collected from the account.

Think of it as the shell game. But, instead of passing the ball under the shells, you are transferring money between accounts. When someone participates in check kiting, the fraudster writes checks from a bank account with insufficient funds to cover the amount on the check. Then, they deposit the bad checks into another account to obtain cash. By taking advantage of the time it takes banks to process the transaction, they remain undetected. However, the game ends when the money stops moving or the financial institution discovers the insufficient balance.

Check kiting is highly illegal and severely prosecuted by state and federal authorities. Banking regulations clearly state that the funds in the account must be available in the specified time. So, while it is possible to accidentally write a bad check, check kiting involves behaviors intended to deceive the financial institution(s) for personal gain.

4 Examples of Check Kiting

Scammers and fraudsters have adapted this practice to get money in several different ways. Sometimes it is the result of people trying to take advantage of gray areas in the law to get quick cash to pay the bills. Yet, other times it is intentional fraud for personal financial gain. Here are four examples of check kiting which are most frequently performed and prosecuted.

1. Getting a short-term loan.

The most common reason people practice check kiting is to get a short-term loan when they need money fast. By writing a check from an insufficient account then cashing it the next day, you can get cash right away. Then, you have 2-3 days for the transaction to be processed to transfer funds into the account. Although the money is technically in the account at the time of the withdrawal, it is still illegal to write checks from an underfunded account.

2. Floating checks until payday.

Another way you could unknowingly be partaking in check kiting is if you post-date or ‘float’ your checks to get you to payday. In this instance, you are writing checks that can’t be cashed until the future date written on the check. Despite the fact that you have a direct deposit scheduled into the account, floating checks is illegal since you are making a transaction before the money is actually in your account.

3. Getting Funds to Cover Payroll.

This is one of the examples of check kiting performed by a business or corporation. When a company doesn’t have the funds to cover payroll, its employees may do some creative accounting to come up with the cash.

If the business holds accounts at two different banks, they may try to write checks between the accounts to buy time to obtain the funds. First, they deposit the amount from one account into the other. Then they get instant money by cashing the check the next day. The loophole exists because the federal law indicates they can legally access their funds the following business day. Even if the transaction hasn’t been processed, the bank has to cash the check. If the scammer performs it over a holiday or weekend, it could take even longer to discover the fraud.

4. Intentionally Committing Bank Fraud.

Finally, there are some people out there who are intentionally looking to deceive the financial institution by committing bank fraud. They utilize a variety of schemes that transfer funds between accounts to get cash and take advantage of the window of time it takes to process the checks. Sometimes it is a simple scheme with checks from a single bank. Other operations are more elaborate, including several different branches or banks.

What are the Consequences of Check Kiting?

The federal government considers check kiting a serious crime. In fact, they enforce the penalties for check kiting more strictly than other white-collar crimes. If you partake in this crime, you could find yourself facing fines totaling more than $500,000 or over 20 years in jail.

Offenders also face both state and federal charges since the federal government regulates and enforced check kiting laws. If convicted, you would likely receive a misdemeanor for smaller amounts. However, if you are guilty of stealing larger amounts or writing multiple checks, the judge may decide it warrants a felony and jail time. Additionally, criminals could have civil charges brought against them if the victims decide to sue for damages alongside criminal charges filed by the federal authorities.

The American justice system shows little leniency for first-time offenders who often face severe penalties and fines. Although many people often assume that only individuals commit these types of crimes, many corporations and businesses have also attempted the scheme. When this is the case, the guilty parties will receive even harsher penalties.

What Do You Do When Accused of Check Kiting?

If you have inadvertently committed check kiting, it is very unlikely that the authorities will pick you up for questioning. The federal government is more focused on identifying patterns of behavior that indicate that someone has been intentionally committing fraud. They don’t typically get involved unless there are serious damages and injuries or repeated patterns of fraud.

Most isolated incidents rarely draw attention since they are usually accidental or isolated incidents. However, if you have knowingly taken part in check kiting, you should seek expert advice and legal counsel. It is also a good idea to become familiar with both local and federal laws governing the enforcement of check kiting laws. Check kiting is a serious crime, not the answer for getting quick cash when you’re in a bind.

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Online Surveys for Cash in 2021

Where to Take Online Surveys for Cash in 2021

Did you know that you can actually get paid to give your opinion? No…seriously! There are companies and websites out there actively recruiting people to take surveys and do other online activities. So, if you are looking for an easy way to earn some extra money, here’s how you can take online surveys for cash in 2021.

The Best Online Surveys for Cash in 2021

There are dozens of sites that will pay you in cash and other rewards for completing their online surveys. However, it can be difficult to know where to start and which ones pay the most money. While you won’t make millions, these sites can help you earn extra cash in your spare time.

Branded Surveys

Many professional surveyors chose Branded Surveys as their favorite site for online surveys. As one of the top global market research companies, they work with many Fortune 500 companies to gather consumer opinions of various products and services. Branded Surveys has an excellent reputation among its members and has already paid out more than $18 million in cash and rewards.

Since it’s free to join, all you need to do is create a profile. Then, you can begin earning points for completing surveys. And, new members get 100 points just for signing up. As your point balance grows, you can redeem them for either cash or gift cards to popular restaurants and retailers. If you prefer cash, payments are made through PayPal and completed within 48 hours. They make it simple for you to start earning cash and don’t make you wait around to reap the benefits.

Survey Junkie

Survey Junkie is another good choice for those wanting to get paid for their opinions. Already boasting more than 3 million members and an “A” rating from the Better Business Bureau, the site offers free membership to anyone wanting to join. The registration process is fast and simple. Then, you can begin earning money as soon as you complete your profile.

Similar to other sites, you accrue points that you can later convert to cash or gift cards. However, Survey Junkie remains one of the most popular and highest paying sites, paying an average of $1-$3 per survey. And, they offer cash payments through both PayPal and bank transfer. So, as long as you have an internet connection, you can use their app from any device and start taking online surveys for cash in 2021.

InboxDollars

While other websites may be more established, InboxDollars has set itself apart in several ways. First, you automatically earn $5 just for signing up. Second, you earn cash for a variety of online activities. Not only do they pay you for taking surveys, but also for playing games, watching videos, shopping online, and more. However, its most distinguishing feature is that there isn’t a point system. With InboxDollars, you only deal in cash.

Payouts are on par with other sites. They range from $0.50 to $5 for each activity, depending on how long they are. And, InboxDollars offers several options to redeem your cash. They can send you a check, prepaid card, or gift card based on your preferences. Furthermore, they also allow you to donate your balance to charities if you want to give back to your community. Since it is accessible from any device, you can get started today.

Things You Should Know When Taking Online Surveys for Cash

There are plenty of companies recruiting people to complete online surveys for cash and other rewards. As you get started, here are a few things you should know.

1. Be wary of scams and fake surveys.

While many survey sites are legitimate, there are also many fake ones that try to scam you or never pay. If they are making promises or offering incentives that sound too good to be true, then it probably is. All the sites mentioned here are free to join. So, if they require you to pay for a subscription to sign up, then it is most likely a scam.

2. Sign up for multiple online survey sites to maximize your earnings.

Online surveys typically pay $0.50 to $3 for each one you complete. Needless to say, you aren’t going to make a livable income by doing them. However, you can earn a good chunk of pocket change by diversifying your source of income. If you want to make significant money, then you will need to sign up for as many survey sites as possible. You will have more opportunities sent directly to you, meaning that you spend less time looking for the best prospects. And, if the emails become too much, you can unsubscribe anytime.

3. Create a separate email specifically for surveys.

By creating a dedicated email account, you can keep your online surveys separate from your work and personal emails. It also makes it faster to sort through offers and locate online surveys that will pay you cash.

4. Payment takes time.

Although some sites will payout in less than a week, others usually take more time to process payment. And, if you are working on the points system, it may take longer to accrue the necessary amount than you might expect. Earning extra cash can be fun. But, if completing surveys is taking up too much time with too little payout, it may be time to explore other ways to generate extra income.

5. Cash in your rewards.

You might be tempted to hoard your points and hold out for the top rewards or big payouts. However, most surveyors will tell you that it is better to cash out early. If you let it sit too long, you may forget what you have accumulated and never get your rewards. So, it’s better to cash in early and often for smaller amounts to ensure you get your money.

If taking online surveys for cash sounds like something you would benefit from, check out these free sites and start getting paid for your opinions!

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Are Vinyl Records Still Worth Investing In

Are Vinyl Records Still Worth Investing in?

For those looking at alternative investment options, vinyl records have seen a recent resurgence in popularity. In fact, prices reached their 25-year-high back in 2016. There is still a great demand both among baby boomers and millennials who have discovered the superior sound of vinyl records. But, as with all investments, collectibles always come with risks. Yet many are asking, are vinyl records still worth investing in?

Why People Invest in Vinyl Records

Listening to your favorite songs on vinyl is a much different experience than when you hear a digital recording. Vinyl has a much fuller sound and better quality since it captures small subtle sounds which digital recordings remove. It also provides music lovers a tactile, physical connection to the music.

You might think this type of nostalgic memorabilia only retains its value if you can find rare albums in good condition, but you would be wrong. While the rarest vinyls are worth staggering amounts of money, there is still value to investing in vinyl records. Classic artists are still releasing new albums, and current artists continue the tradition of recording through this medium. Special editions, early releases, and album art could become extremely valuable over time. With a little luck, the right vinyl record could bring huge returns.

The popularity and demand for vinyl records show no signs of slowing down either. But, there is only a limited supply of original vinyl records. So, if you held onto any records, inherited them from a relative, or scour sales for new ones, you may have a good foundation to build a valuable collection. If you get lucky and find a rare piece of music history, you could sell your vinyl records for tens of thousands of dollars.

Types of Vinyl Records that Are Worth Investing In

The key to making a good investment is knowing the value of things. With vinyl records, it’s knowing which albums and artists to look for. As you build your collection, these are the types of vinyl records that are still worth investing in.

1. Albums with a History or a Story

As with all collections, the most valuable pieces usually have a history or story behind them. When it comes to vinyl records, several legendary albums have sold for a small fortune. For example, Ringo Starr’s first copy of the Beatles White Album got more than three-quarters of a million dollars at auction. Signed copies will also fetch high prices and net you a huge return on your investment.

While most of us will probably never own any of these iconic titles, some albums that have more copies in circulation may still be good investments. Just to give you an idea, copies of the Sex Pistols A&M pressing “God Save the Queen” have seen a huge value increase. Although it was worth $2,000 – $3,000 back in the early 2000s, its value has soared to somewhere between $11,000 and $14,000 today. With an increase of 300-400% for a single album, you can see why some people think that vinyl records are still worth investing in.

2. First Press Collectibles

Another factor to consider is the date your vinyl records were released and whether they are first pressings. The value of records pressed by the first original masters is much higher than later copies which may have used different materials which creates a much different sound. If you aren’t sure if you have a first pressing, just take a look at the spine of the sleeve and look for these indicators to help you.

3. Records from 1993 – 2003

There was a point when record companies tried to kill the record industry, and they very nearly succeeded. With the arrival of CDs, they suppressed the production of vinyl records. However, die-hard audiophiles and dedicated artists ensured that they remained in production.

Unfortunately, that means there were fewer records printed from about 1993 – 2003.  So, records from this era are worth more since there are limited quantities. And since there are already so few available, prices will continue to rise as the supply of these albums shrinks.

4. New records

Finally, you can always take your chances by investing in new records. However, be warned that trying to predict the next big artist or album is a crapshoot. If you do put your money on the right horse though, it could bring you the biggest returns.

For those who like the gamble, there are a few things to consider that might improve your chances of getting lucky. Collectible and special release albums from established artists will likely have a higher value. Some newer pressings of older titles are also increasing in value when better pressings improve the quality of the sound. And, of course, if you keep them in mint condition, it will exponentially increase potential returns.

Most Valuable Vinyl Records

So what are the most expensive vinyl records out there? Here are the three most expensive albums that went for the highest prices at auction to date.

1. Wu-Tang Clan – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin – $2 million

This album is by far the most expensive vinyl record sold. As the only one ever made, it was already quite valuable. The added controversy surrounding the buyer, Martin Shkreli, is sure to raise it even further. However, the verbiage included in the contract at the time of sale states that the owner can’t try to sell or make money off the album for 100 years.

2. The Beatles White Album – $790,000

It was well-known among fans that the Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr, held the first copy of their popular White Album. So, it’s no wonder that he made music history when he sold it at auction in 2015 when it sold for $790,000.

3. Elvis Presley – My Happiness – $300,000

Elvis Presley’s first test pressing became the third most valuable record when Jack White brought it for $300,000 at auction back in 2015. Since then, he released it through his record label with all its pops and scratches to create a more authentic listening experience.

If you have a passion for music and the patience to dedicate to building a collection, vinyl records could prove a profitable investment for you.

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Why Rich People Stay Rich and Poor People Stay Poor

Why Rich People Stay Rich and Poor People Stay Poor

The American dream has been exported across the globe and passed down from one generation to the next. It is the belief that anyone who works hard enough, stays dedicated to achieving their goals, and has the right mindset can have it all. However, many people continue to work themselves to the bone with little to show for it. Year after year, it seems that rich people stay rich and poor people stay poor. So, what are the keys to success and economic mobility? Is it simply changing the way you think, or is it more complicated than that?

Best-Selling Books Suggest It Is Your Financial Outlook

In an attempt to answer this very question, many best-selling books offer psychological reasons and personal testimony as to why rich people stay rich and poor people stay poor. The common thread through all these publications boils down to your attitude towards money and your outlook on personal prosperity.

Simply stated, rich people think and act differently with their finances. According to several authors, changing the way you view money and realigning your goals according to your new mindset can help you gain wealth. So, what are some of the differences between a rich mindset and a poor one?

1. Rich people control their money instead of letting it control them.

Rather than let things happen to them, rich people identify the behaviors that contribute to their circumstances and take control of them. They take an active role instead of passively watching and accepting things because “that’s the way it is.”

2. Rich people are more willing to risks.

Rich people understand that risk is an inherent part of investing, and sometimes you have to ride out the lows before you see gains. So, rich people are more willing to take risks rather than playing it safe. In other words, when it comes to investing, they play to win rather than playing with the hopes of not losing.

3. Rich people commit to the goal of being rich.

Although most people imagine what it would be like to be rich, those who are wealthy commit to the goal. While some only dream about it, rich people commit and work towards building and maintaining wealth.

4. Rich people think big.

Some people impair themselves by limiting the scope of their thinking. When you move beyond the small mindset and start thinking bigger, new opportunities present themselves.

5. Rich people look at the big picture.

In the same line of thinking, rich people also look at the big picture. They focus on long-term goals instead of the setbacks along the way. Rich people realize they are bigger than any of their problems and have the confidence to overcome them.

Economic Research Shows Increased Income Equality

Although your personal drive and motivation play crucial roles in economic mobility, research suggests the problem is much more complicated than changing the way you think. There are institutional factors that help rich people stay rich and poor people stay poor.

Reduced Employee Benefits

One of the most significant reasons that economic mobility has become more limited is due to the huge reductions in employee benefits. People have a diminished savings capacity since they are now paying for benefits that previous generations enjoyed as a perk of their employment.

Although workers once relied on pensions and retirement benefits in return for company loyalty, expectations are changing. Where workers used to be automatically enrolled in companies’ pension plans, they must now participate and contribute to receive benefits. Unfortunately, the rise of employee-sponsored 401(k) plans has led to unequal participation across income levels. Those who earn less are at a greater disadvantage for several reasons. First, they have less disposable income and may not be able to afford to contribute. Therefore, they receive lower matching contributions, if any, from their employer.

Another drastic change has been in employee-sponsored health insurance plans. While many companies once offered comprehensive plans for medical, dental, and vision, you will be hard-pressed to find comparable benefits packages today. Many employers are now opting for watered-down plans to save money. However, this always means workers are forced to pay more out-of-pocket expenses which undermines their ability to build wealth.

Increased Costs of Living

Speaking of increased expenses, we cannot overlook the government’s failure to keep up with the rate of inflation.  Although the federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009, inflation has increased drastically.

In fact, it has risen by 23.94%. To put this in context, if you had $100 in 2009, you would now need $123.94 to purchase the same items or products. This undermines people’s savings goals and deteriorates their purchasing power. Unless people receive matching wage increases, it will be impossible to keep up with the rising cost of living and cause the wealth gap to widen.

Burdened by Debt

Finally, we cannot overlook how increasing debt is negatively impacting people’s ability to build wealth. In 2021, the U.S. set a new record when we reached $14.6 trillion in household debt. According to CNBC, the average American carries $90,460 of debt. Even if some of this is considered “good debt” that will increase your net worth or generate income over time, it is still a staggering figure.

Whether you are trying to pay down student loans, credit cards, a mortgage, car loans, medical bills, or other personal loans, it is difficult to build wealth or get ahead when you are starting in the negative. If the majority of your income goes towards your debt, that leaves very little for other financial pursuits.

Find Ways to Facilitate Economic Mobility

Despite all the outside factors affecting wealth, the environment you are raised in has the greatest impact. The family and social class you are born into determine how easy it will be for you to become rich. If you are born into a wealthy family, you already have a huge advantage. Not only do you have greater access to education and opportunities, but you also have more security with the passing of generational wealth.

However, if you were not fortunate to have these advantages in life, you must create opportunities for yourself. Even if the system is stacked against you, adopting a rich mindset can help you rise above it and achieve your financial goals.

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Healthy Costco Foods on a Budget

healthy costco food

Many people questioned renewing their Costco membership when they announced that they were raising their membership fees.  Although it was only a 9% hike, Executive members now pay $120 a year, while Gold Star members pay $60 a year.  Despite the minimal increase in the annual fee,  Costco shoppers reap huge savings when they buy items in bulk.  It is great for large families and those looking to stretch their grocery budget.  While the savings are attractive, quality produce and products provide another significant benefit. Healthy Costco foods are good for both your well-being and your wallet.

Buying Costco Foods in Bulk

Getting  healthy Costco foods in bulk can help stretch your grocery budget when things get tight.  For example, I usually set aside $350 per month to spend on food.  This includes eating out in addition to weekly groceries from Costco and other supermarkets.  A family of four will likely have a monthly food budget closer to $1000.  The great part about buying food in bulk is that you get a better price than when you buy the same item individually.

Products with Long Shelf Lives

Many who purchase items in bulk from Costco stock up on paper products and food items with a long shelf life.  For example, paper products, dry goods, and condiments are a few items where you can receive huge savings by buying in bulk.  Even if you don’t use these items right away, they can always be used down the road when you need them.

Healthy Foods that Can Be Stored

Shopping for lean healthy meats at Costco can provide huge savings to a family of four as well.  Purchasing healthy Costco foods such as lean chicken breasts, ground beef, beans, and brown rice in bulk can provide healthy nutrition and savings.

Purchasing many pounds of meat at once can net you huge savings. Although they come in large packages, you can divide the meat into smaller Ziploc bags, and simply freeze them until a later date.  Even when shopping at grocery stores, one of the tricks I do is purchase items when they are on sale.  One week, chicken might be on sale for $1.99/lb while the next week it is $2.99/lb.  Organizing purchases so you take advantage of them during sales is the best way to optimize your monthly grocery budget.

Costco’s Reputation with Its Customers

Costco has a good reputation among shoppers. This is partly because of the quality of their products, but it is also due to their excellent customer service and robust returns policy.  So, if you’re shopping for organic food at Costco, there aren’t many downsides. Even if you come across a bad apple, chances are good they’ll accept returns.

While I’m raving about Costco, they also have good prices on tires and are open on most major holidays, so you can get your car serviced while you’re picking up your groceries.

Buying healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, and buying healthy Costco foods doesn’t have to cost a lot either.  When shopping for groceries, the keys are to buy in bulk when available and stock up during sales.  Finally, by planning your purchases ahead of time with a list, you can avoid unneeded items.  Eating healthy and sticking to your budget doesn’t have to be hard.

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