How Can You Secure Your Job in Uncertain Times?

How Can You Secure Your Job in Uncertain Times?

If you’ve checked your portfolio or the stock markets lately, you know just how volatile the market is right now. Especially if you have heard the debates that many financial advisors and analysts are engaged in about an impending recession. However, as we see more businesses restrict their hours or close, you may start to worry that an economic downturn could affect your job security. And you’re not alone. If you are worried about your employment status, here are a few ways you can secure your job in uncertain times.

5 Ways to Secure Your Job in Uncertain Times

For those who are questioning their job security, there are actions they can take to help secure their station within the company. Rather than waiting around for the leadership teams to make decisions, you can take control of your performance. Here are 5 ways you can help secure your job in uncertain times and prove that you are a valuable asset to the company.

1.  Make things happen.

People can talk a good game and come up with grand ideas which is often why there are hired for their positions. Unfortunately, the conversation often stops there. Ideas need action to make things happen. Sadly, many people never follow through. Therefore, one way to set yourself apart from the other employees is to be the person who is willing to take on more challenges and show the higher-ups that you can get things done.

Even if you feel your job may be in jeopardy, don’t let your insecurities cause you to fall behind on your workload. Instead, look for ways to make yourself indispensable and position yourself as your boss’ go-to person. If your employer sees your value, you can worry less about job security and sleep more soundly at night.

2. Find ways to generate revenue.

Companies are very unlikely to get rid of their employees who are bringing in revenue. But depending on your position and what industry you’re in, this can take many forms.

Perhaps you have creative solutions to cut costs and improve the profit margins. Or, maybe you take the initiative to go after new leads and accounts. Another way to do this is to help identify employees with skill sets that the company is underutilizing. Those who demonstrate that they can maximize resources or bring in new business won’t have to worry about their future with the company.

3. Cultivate New Skills.

More candidates mean there will be more competition for the most coveted jobs. So, you should look at your resume and add new skills to your credentials. The most successful people constantly seek ways to improve and advance.

Despite what they say, old dogs can still learn new tricks. Adding new skills to your repertoire provides more options and makes you more valuable to your employer. Plus, prioritizing personal growth will pay off later. Remember that the more you bring to the table, the more secure your job will be in uncertain times.

4. Get actively involved.

Perhaps it’s time to go above and beyond your job description and take a more active role in the company. You can show that you want to be part of things by attending informal meetings, volunteering to help at events, or offering support to other departments.

This also gives you the chance to emphasize your skills, expertise, and commitment. And, going to social events and extracurriculars is a good way to demonstrate that you want to be involved with the company and your coworkers. The best part is that it will make you feel more secure and show your boss that you are invested in the company’s success.

5. Look for solutions, not problems.

For the last few years, many teams have been suffering from low morale under the current working conditions. However, dwelling on the negative things will get you nowhere. Moreover, it prevents you from finding solutions if you only see the problems.

Instead of looking at what you can’t do, change your perspective and start asking what you can do to make improvements. When you have an idea, offer suggestions to tackle complex problems. Having a positive attitude inspires others to contribute as well. And, managers will see you as a problem-solver which is a valuable skill in the professional world.

Keep Your Options Open

The harsh truth is that we are experiencing a downturn and no one can predict the future. There’s no crystal ball that can guarantee your employment status. While some things are within your sphere of influence, there may be circumstances beyond your control that affect your job security.

If you start seeing clear signs that you could be out of the job soon, then you need to take steps to protect your future. Having a plan in place if you are facing possible unemployment will provide a path forward. Having a financial safety net can also ease your anxieties about your situation and offer support through lean times.

For those who are concerned about their job or their future with the company, here are a few steps you should be taking right now:

    • Take an honest assessment of your job performance and areas of improvement.
    • Ask for feedback and suggestions from your leadership team on what they would like to see from you.
    • Address any issues you are having.
    • Work on personal growth and development.
    • Talk to your coworkers to see if they share your concerns.
    • Maintain an emergency fund with enough money to cover six months’ worth of expenses.
    • Keep your resume up to date.
    • Search out potential opportunities.
    • Take an interview to keep those skills sharp.
    • Always have a backup plan in place.

When facing uncertain times, you need to do what’s best for your future. Taking steps to secure your job can offer more peace of mind. But it never hurts to assess your value as an employee and keep your options open.

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Can You Buy and Sell Air Rights?

Can You Buy and Sell Air Rights?

When people purchase real estate, most buyers are only interested in the land and buildings. However, many never consider the value of empty space. In large cities where space is limited, the air space above the property may be just as valuable as the lot itself. If you are looking to pull money from thin air, there are potential opportunities for huge profits to buy and sell air rights.

What Are Air Rights?

Since air rights may add value to your property, it’s beneficial to know what they are and how they work. The term “air rights” refers to the legal right to use or develop the space over or near a property. These rights apply to both vacant lots and those with existing structures. The definition is a vague guideline that varies by location, but it can incorporate upper stories of tall buildings, power lines, or coveted views.

Most cities severely restricted air rights, especially in residential zoning areas. However, in places where ground space is limited, the ability to build up becomes more important. Companies and real estate developers pay big bucks for the unused and transferrable development rights for air space.

Unfortunately, calculating air space can be complicated and often requires professional input to “true-up” the numbers. But to give you a basic idea, you have to find the floor area ratio (FAR). To get this number, you take the maximum floor area permitted for the zoning lot and subtract the floor space of the existing structure (if there is one). The remainder is your total amount of air space for a given lot. Once you have a quantifiable amount of space, you can put a value on it to buy and sell.

What Laws Regulate Air Rights?

Like all valuable assets, there are laws that establish and regulate air rights. Generally speaking, you can utilize the air space on your property however you see fit. That is, as long as new development complies with height restrictions, zoning laws, and the city’s building codes. For those who are just learning about them, here are a few of the most important regulations you should be aware of when you buy and sell air rights.

Elevation Restrictions

In most cases, when you buy real estate, you are also purchasing the air rights, unless otherwise specified. However, your air rights aren’t endless. For example, they don’t extend into navigable space. Your air rights include a maximum of 1,000 ft above the highest obstacle. Beyond that, you enter into FAA federally regulated space.

Municipal Zoning Laws

Additionally, air rights depend on the local zoning laws. Cities strictly regulate land use and development. Therefore, all buildings must comply with municipal codes and regulations which determine the reasonable amount of vertical space suitable for development on a given lot. Zoning laws vary by location and district within a municipality as well. 

Furthermore, different zoning laws exist for commercial, industrial, and residential spaces within the same city. Ignorance of the laws could lead to expensive complications. Therefore, it’s best to do your research and seek legal counsel before making any purchases.

Encroachment

Lastly, the boundaries of all structures and new development must remain within the specified property lines. While lots can be strung together to increase the amount of usable air space, it cannot encroach upon the space of properties you do not own.

If any new construction extends into the air space of a neighboring property, you may have to remove it at your own expense.

Can You Buy and Sell Air Rights?

The Cost

While the legalities are important, the most pressing question is “How much will it cost?” Unfortunately, there are no standardized answers. The pricing for air space depends on where you are looking.

Like real estate pricing, air space is more expensive in densely populated urban areas. And people will pay even more for desirable locations with great views or highly sought-after zip codes. So, it’s going to be much more expensive to buy air space in larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Furthermore, you may face additional challenges and fees if you are looking at historical buildings or cities with high taxes. However, you can expect anywhere from $200-$400 per sq. ft. for available air space.

The Gains

Once you understand what they are, you may be asking yourself why people buy and sell air rights. The simple answer is that it can be lucrative for both parties. Property owners who need an influx of cash for repairs, maintenance, or other development get the capital they need. And if they had no plans for the air space, it is pure profit.

On the other hand, the buyer gains more options when they buy air rights. Obviously, they get more space which they can use to build larger structures. However, many developers purchase air rights of surrounding lots to protect views from their building or increase the property value.

The Fine Print

Air rights can get complicated, especially when there are several interested parties. Obtaining them often involves negotiations, legal fees, and an official contract.

In most cases, air rights transfer with a sale agreement. However, you can also gain more air rights through a zoning lot merger as well. Either way, you must purchase the space and secure the Transferable Development Rights from the current owner.

Although it is possible to buy and sell air rights, there are strict limitations. Local zoning laws dictate many of them. However, you should also be aware of any light and air easement provisions that prevent future development as well.

Before you make a financial commitment, you can hire a consultant to review the development rights and city zoning codes. Having an expert on hand can help you identify good investment opportunities and avoid paying more than you should. Not only can you avoid costly mistakes, but you can also ensure you are getting the best value for your money.

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Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2022

The Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2021

When it comes to investment strategies, there is no single prescribed way to maximize your returns. While most investors choose to put their money into stocks, bonds, or real estate, they are not the only options out there. Some people seek out more unconventional assets such as collectibles. Although many of us are still holding on to childhood memorabilia in the hopes that someday it may be worth a fortune, chances are slim that you will see five-figure returns. However, some of these may net you better returns than traditional portfolio assets. Here are some of the oddest collectibles to invest in 2022.

The Best Collectibles to Invest in 2022

1. Stamps

As the king of all hobbies, most people know that rare stamps are worth a small fortune. With a quick Google search, you will find dozens of news stories of stamps that sold for millions of dollars. Although experts estimate that only 1% of stamps worldwide will appreciate over time, it is one of the safer options on the list of oddest collectibles to invest in 2021.

If you are lucky enough to have one of these in your collection, it could earn a yield between 5% and 20%. However, they also advise that you will need to hold these assets for up to 15 years before you see significant returns.

2. Coins

Collecting coins is a popular pastime that has huge rewards to the most persistent collectors. In fact, rare coins can bring in thousands or even millions of dollars at auction. While your wheat pennies will only sell for a few bucks, coins made from precious metals or featuring mistakes are the most valuable ones. Unfortunately, investing in coins doesn’t earn you any dividends. Therefore, the value depends entirely upon how much someone is willing to pay.

However, gold coins provide a more tangible return for investors. Even after nearly 600% growth in the last two decades, gold prices continue to rise. So, even if these coins hold no value among coin collectors, they will always be worth their weight in gold.

3. Comic Books

In recent years, Hollywood has brought our favorite childhood superheroes back to life. But, it has also made many super-fans rich. With the recent surge in popularity, original comics in mint condition now fetch top dollar at auctions. For example, a 1938 comic featuring Superman’s first appearance sold for over $2.1 million.

If your comic books have been well-loved and show their age, they won’t be worth nearly this much. However, it is possible to find rare issues at conventions that you can sell or trade for a profit. Comic-Con events are a great place to build your comic book collection as well as find some of the oddest collectibles to invest in 2021.

PFadvice.com has a very good series of which comic books are the most valuable, by decade.  The site also provides a useful discussion about what makes comics valuable. Hint: when the comic’s characters get adopted by popular culture, the value of the comic book increases.  Here are the lists of the most valuable comic books of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 199os.

4. Trading Cards

While this is a broad category, trading cards are a solid choice if you want to invest in collectibles. The most attractive thing about trading cards is that you can personalize them to your own passions or interests. Whether you are into baseball, Pokémon, Yugioh, or Magic the Gathering, rare cards are worth millions.

If you had any trading cards as a child, dust off your collection and check their value. Even if you don’t have a Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card, your trading cards could still be worth money.

5. Toys

Vintage toys are another good option for collectors. As with comics, vintage toys from the 80s and 90s have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. If you held onto your favorite toys after the various toy crazes subsided, they could fetch a good price, given they are in good condition. Action figures, Beanie Babies, Legos, Barbie dolls, and Hot Wheels are all hot-ticket items right now.

When you are ransacking your home for valuable collectibles, look for items still in the original packaging. However, if you don’t have any toys from your own childhood, you can always begin a new collection.

The Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2022

Now that we’ve covered the most common and valuable ones, here are some of the oddest trends and collectibles that people are investing in.

1. Sneakers

Any vintage item in good condition will generally bring a good price. However, sneakers are quickly becoming one of the most valuable vintage items on the market. There is a huge demand for first and limited-edition sneakers. In particular, Nike and Adidas sneakers in mint condition regularly sell for thousands of dollars on eBay.

A recent article from the Huffington Post uncovered that vintage sneakers provided better returns than gold. However, be warned that prices and demand are unpredictable. So, it’s a bit of a gamble knowing which shoes to invest in.

2. Electronics

It’s not surprising to learn that vintage electronics fetch high prices at auction. Original Apple products and first-generation devices not only make great conversation pieces, but also sell for millions online.

While you probably don’t have an original Macintosh computer lying around, early generation iPods, Alexas, and Nintendo DS gaming systems are likely to appreciate in value over time. Since most of this technology is still relevant, early editions are relatively easy to find. So, if you have any vintage electronics still in the box, it would be worth your while to hold on to them to see if they increase in value over the next few years.

3. Anthropomorphic Taxidermy

This is by far the oddest collectible to make the list. For those who don’t know what it is, anthropomorphic taxidermy is the art of preserving dead animals and displaying them in human situations. For example, specimens are usually dressed in human clothing or posed into human roles and settings. Although it may seem odd to many people, this type of art is extremely valuable to the right collector.

Investing in Collectibles

If you are looking to invest in less traditional assets, collectibles are a fun and interesting way to diversify your portfolio. However, it always includes greater risk than more traditional options like stocks and bonds. While there are no guarantees that your collectibles will bring high returns, patience is a virtue. Although most collectibles won’t earn a fortune in your lifetime, you never know…your favorite collectibles could bring you more than enjoyment in the years to come.

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What to Do When You’re Feeling the Pain at the Pump

Find Ways to Relieve the Pain at the Pump

Since the start of the year, gas prices have skyrocketed. This week, the national average for a gallon of gas is $4.97 for regular and $5.74 for diesel. However, during a recent trip to California, I was paying way more than the national average to fill my tank. At this point, nearly everyone is starting to feel the pain at the pump. And, it doesn’t look like things are going to change anytime soon. If soaring gas prices aren’t in your budget, here are a few ways to help you maximize your savings and offer relief as prices continue to rise.

7 Ways to Relieve the Pain at the Pump

1. Join fuel rewards programs.

One of the easiest and most popular ways to save on fuel is to join a rewards program. Many companies have created their own rewards programs and offer great savings to loyal customers. They all work with the same basic concept of earning points at the pump for every dollar you spend. However, some offer additional perks through partnerships with other retailers to offer greater incentives and savings.

Circle K Easy Rewards

What’s great about this program is that it’s free to join and easy to understand. You get 10 points for every gallon of gas and 20 points per dollar for items from their store. Once you reach 2,000 points, you earn $2 off your purchase at the pump.

Exxon Mobil Rewards+

Exxon Mobil offers even more ways to earn. Not only does it give members 3 points per gallon of fuel and 2 points for every dollar spent in the convenience store and car wash, but you also get $1 off for every $100 you spend. And if you’re an AARP member, you can earn even more points with each purchase.

BPme Rewards 

Some rewards programs, like BPme Rewards, also have incentives for new members. BP is currently offering $0.05 off per gallon during your first month. However, all members can earn an additional $0.05 when you spend $100 on gas from BP and Amoco stations. They also regularly offer special bonuses and opportunities for additional savings.

Shell Fuel Rewards

While many competitors are offering fuel rewards, Shell is taking it a step further. In addition to earning points for gas and convenience store purchases, they offer additional points from qualifying purchases with non-fuel retailers. So, you can earn $0.10 for every $50 you spend with participating vendors. This means that you can build points even faster.

Speedway Speedy Rewards

Speedway Speedy Rewards is very similar to other fuel rewards programs. You earn 10 points for every gallon you buy with them and 20 points per dollar on store merchandise. But, it offers more flexibility in how you redeem your rewards. You can use your points to claim coupons, gift cards, free merchandise, and entrance into sweepstakes. Also, be sure to check for special offers and ways to earn additional points as well.

2. Comparison Shop for the lowest gas prices.

The golden rule for budget shoppers is to compare prices before you buy. The same holds true when it comes to buying gas. Use the “gas” feature on Google maps to find the cheapest gas near you. Or, you can also download the GasBuddy app to compare prices. It works with over 150,000 gas stations nationwide to help you find the lowest rates no matter where you are.

3. Carpool or share a ride whenever possible.

Although people have been doing this for years, carpooling is gaining even more support now that gas prices are skyrocketing. So, if you live near one of your coworkers or in the same neighborhood as other families who attend the same school or activities as your children, consider starting a carpool. In addition to saving you money on gas, it will also give you more free time in your busy schedule.

4. Ensure that you are properly maintaining your vehicle.

Learning how your car consumes gas and ensuring the proper maintenance are important things for every car owner to know. However, maintaining your vehicle can save you gas money as well. When your car is at its peak performance, you get more miles to the gallon. Here are a few basic things you can do to ensure that your car is getting optimal gas mileage:

  • check the tires for proper air pressure
  • check fluid levels and choose the correct oil
  • perform regular tune-ups
  • replace your air filters
  • limit your use of the AC
  • drive the recommended speed limits
  • maintain speeds and accelerate gently while driving
  • turn off your engine when you park

Depending on what kind of car you drive, there may be additional things you can do to improve the gas mileage as well.

5. Lighten your load.

This tip for easing pain at the pump comes down to physics. By reducing the total weight of the vehicle, you gain better gas mileage. So, it’s a good idea to unload everything that isn’t necessary. Some models even have removable seats which can drastically lighten your load. You can also remove racks to decrease wind resistance and boost your savings.

6. Buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

I’m not saying you should run out and buy an electric vehicle tomorrow. But, if it’s time for a new car, perhaps you should consider a more fuel-efficient model. Large SUVs and trucks have their purposes. However, it may take a small fortune to drive them in the current conditions. If gas prices are a major concern, look at other models that consistently get more than 30 miles to the gallon. You can also compare hybrid options for even greater fuel savings.

7. Find a job that lets you work from home.

Although there are many more postings for remote positions, you don’t necessarily have to find a new job to work from home. Many offices are transitioning to a virtual or hybrid environment to save money. Therefore, choosing to work from home could also solve some of your financial problems. It would eliminate the daily commute and decrease your transportation budget. This could help relieve some of the pain you may be feeling at the pump.

The Hard Facts

Unfortunately, gas prices are spiking worldwide. While prices are high here in the U.S., Europe is paying nearly double. And, there is no telling how long we will be paying elevated prices. There is a real possibility that the price of gas could go up even further.

The only long-term solutions are to find new sources or decrease our reliance on gasoline. However, in the meantime, you can find ways to ease the pain at the pump and use these tips to lower your monthly expenses.

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7 Passive Income Streams from a $1000 Investment

Passive Income Streams From a $1000 Investment

One of the best ways to generate income and supplement your salary is through passive income streams. Sure, you could make more money by working longer hours, getting a second job, or trying to advance your career. But, there are only so many hours in a day which severely limits your earning potential. Investing your money in passive income streams allows you to put your money to work for you. And, you don’t need a ton of money to get started. Here are 7 ways you can create passive income streams with a $1000 investment.

7 Passive Income Streams from a $1000 Investment

1. Buy Stocks

Many investors will tell you that buying dividend stocks is the simplest and most profitable passive income stream. You can purchase stocks from well-established companies with a history of good returns. Or, you could try your hand at picking your own stocks. While this comes with greater risk, it could also have greater financial rewards.

Those who are more risk-averse can invest in mutual or index funds. These offer you more market exposure and a percentage of the dividends from multiple companies. Another benefit is that the built-in diversification helps protect your assets during market fluctuations.

However, if the idea of choosing your own stocks has you panicking, you can always hire a robo-advisor. Having an automated investment manager that uses your preferences and input to customize your portfolio takes the guesswork out of the equation. It also takes a hands-off approach and avoids the predatory sales tactics of human financial advisors. And, the low fees and lack of account minimums are great for beginning investors.

2. Invest in REITs

Investing in REITs is another great option for those with a specific interest in real estate. These trusts pool money to buy and manage residential, commercial, and industrial properties, then pass a percentage of the earnings to their shareholders.

You have over 200 publicly-traded REITs to choose from. But, a handful stand out from the competition. The ones that are making the most recent headlines include AvalonBay Communities, Realty Income, W.P. Carey, and SL Green Realty.

There are also new crowdsourcing platforms such as Fundrise, CrowdStreet, and DiversyFund where you can buy a percentage of properties. These are great options for people with little cash since you only need $10 to buy-in. And, most earn an average of 8-12% returns on their investments. If you were to reinvest your dividends, it could turn into one of the most lucrative passive income streams from only a $1000 investment.

3. Purchase Bonds

Now that the stock market isn’t performing as well, there is more focus on purchasing bonds. There are various types to choose from including bonds issued by a company, the state, or the federal government.

When you purchase bonds, you are essentially loaning money with the expectation that they repay the loan plus interest. And, you can choose terms and timelines that best suit your goals. In general, bonds are a low-risk investment that helps offset the equity in your portfolio. Furthermore, since their value is indirectly correlated to the stock market, they perform better when stock prices are down. So if you want to hedge against inflation and market fluctuations, bonds are a safe bet.

4. Open a High-Yield Savings Account

If you aren’t looking for ways to expand your portfolio, there are smaller changes you can make to generate passive income streams. For example, choosing accounts that offer better interest rates will earn you money. Rather than letting your money accrue minimal interest in your checking or savings account, you can transfer it to a high-yield savings account.

It’s easy to set up and transfer funds, especially if you already hold other accounts with the bank. However, you can earn even better rates if you choose an online bank. By opening a high-yield savings account with interest rates of around 0.6%, you earn more money with minimal effort.

5. Rent Out Your Spare Room

Another trend that has gained popularity is renting out personal property for travel accommodations. If you have an extra room in your house or a vacation rental that you don’t use, why not make some extra cash?

With all the different sites out there, there are endless ways to attract potential guests. And when you cross-list the rental space on the most popular sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, Flipkey, and Homestay, you’re more likely to get bookings. By using your money to spruce up the place to make it more appealing, you could create passive income streams with only a $1000 investment.

6. Sell Your Spare Bandwidth

If you don’t want to use your home to generate more income, you could consider selling your bandwidth instead. Many people pay for unlimited data. However, you could sell what you aren’t using to earn money.

Although they function in different ways, you can start generating passive income by installing an app on your phone or PC that runs in the background. People pay to utilize your bandwidth, bringing you more monthly income. Packetstream pays you $0.10 for every GB shared while others such as EarnApp can give you about 30$ a month selling 1GB of bandwidth a day.

Your location, network speed, and the number of IP addresses affect how much you can earn. The more traffic, devices, and IP address you use, the more you earn. However, safety is always a consideration since there are no guarantees of who will be using your bandwidth.

7. Own Royalties

Another alternative asset that is gaining traction among alternative investors is owning royalties. With partial shares and online marketplaces, it’s becoming easier to invest in creative assets. Although you wouldn’t own the copyrights, you could earn a portion of future revenue. When you buy royalties, you earn money every time your intellectual property gets used.

To attract new types of investors, sites such as Royalty Exchange package them into familiar investment vehicles with term-based yields. They perform independently from the stock and bond markets, have a history of strong returns, and have the potential to outperform traditional assets. And now you don’t need to be an industry insider to get in on the ground floor.

Using Time to Your Advantage

Even if you feel you don’t have enough money to start investing, it doesn’t require a fortune to get started. Additionally, the sooner you start investing, the greater advantage you gain. Time and compounding interest are your greatest assets if you’re low on capital. So, you can start making small, steady contributions now that will exponentially increase your initial investment.

There is no “right time” to start investing, so don’t use a low bank balance as an excuse to get started today. Rather than letting your money sit idle, you can use it to help build your retirement savings, protect your family against income loss, and reach your financial goals faster.

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7 Myths About Improving Your Credit Score

Myths About Improving Your Credit Score

Since the day I turned 18, I have always been conscientious of my credit score. Over the years it has remained relatively high. However, it hasn’t budged in the last few years. I feel like I’ve reached a credit plateau and wasn’t sure how to boost my score. Then, I realized that I had been buying into these 7 myths about improving your credit score.

7 Myths About Improving Your Credit Score

1. Checking your credit reports hurts your credit score.

This is one of the most persistent myths about improving your credit score that many people still believe. If you’re like me, it probably stems from misunderstanding what kind of inquiries affect it.

There is a distinct difference between “soft pulls” and “hard pulls” of your credit history. Requesting your free credit report from one of the credit bureaus or getting your FICO score from your bank won’t hurt you. On the contrary, regularly monitoring your credit score can help you track your progress as you work towards improving your credit. These inquiries are considered “soft pulls” that don’t impact your score.

However, when you submit a formal application, a “hard pull” could make your score slightly drop. Furthermore, each “hard pull” will cost you a few more points. And, it could signal a red flag for potential lenders if you have recently submitted several credit applications.

2. Maintaining a balance on your credit card will improve your credit score.

This is one of the worst myths about improving your credit score that I fell victim to. When I got my first credit card, I misunderstood how paying off revolving credit worked. I thought that carrying a balance on my card would boost my score. But after receiving my first few statements, I quickly saw how much more I was paying in interest.

If you aren’t paying the balance in full each month, this can actually work against you. Not only do you pay more in the long run, but it could also ding you if you miss a payment. And, it also affects your credit utilization rate which is directly linked to your credit score.

3. Immediately paying off your debt boosts your score.

The problem with this myth is that there is some truth in it. Consistently paying off your credit card charges each month will boost your score. However, paying off installment debt such as loans and mortgages could be to your detriment. If you pay them off too quickly, there could be penalties. And, it will reduce the number of credit accounts and available credit you have. This also affects your credit utilization rate.

Maintaining a history of repayment on several accounts will raise your credit score faster. Make sure you are meeting your minimum monthly payments. But, perhaps you could put extra funds towards your high-interest debts first. Not only will it help boost your credit score, but also save you money in interest fees.

4. Closing credit card accounts increase your credit score.

I used to carry several credit cards in my wallet. But, I found myself only using one or two of them regularly. Rather than running the risk of the others getting stolen, I decided to close the accounts.

Unfortunately, I didn’t understand how this would impact my credit score. Since I had fewer credit accounts and less available credit, my credit utilization rate drastically changed. In turn, it caused my score to drop. The good news is that I have rebuilt it with consistent payment history since then. But, if I could go back, I would have kept the ones without an annual fee to help boost my score.

5. A higher salary will improve your credit.

Although earning a higher salary can improve your ability to repay a loan, it won’t affect your credit score. This figure isn’t reported to the credit bureaus, so it isn’t factored into your score. Your credit report will only contain information about your payment history and the amount of credit you have. However, it may be an important factor for lenders who are deciding to approve your credit application.

6. Regularly using your debit cards will raise your credit score.

While they may look the same, credit and debit cards are two completely different animals. While credit card usage directly impacts your score, debit cards don’t because they don’t use credit. This is true even if you choose the “credit” option on the card reader. Your debit cards are tied to your checking account, so the activity is never reported to the credit bureaus.

7. Credit report companies can remove black marks on your credit report.

Many scammers out there claim they can fix your credit by removing things from your credit history. This is a bald-faced lie. The only way to remove something from your credit report is if the information is inaccurate. While there are legitimate companies that can assist you with creating a plan to raise your credit score, they won’t do anything that you can’t do for yourself.

If there is inaccurate information on your credit report, you can dispute it yourself. There are several ways you can do this such as submitting evidence to contest the negative information, asking the bureaus for validation on questionable items, requesting a goodwill request for deletion from the creditor, sending a pay for delete letter, or waiting it out.

Although hiring one of these companies to act on your behalf can save you time and convenience, there is no magic wand that will remove the black marks on your credit report.

The Hard Truth

As hard as it may seem, the only way to repair bad credit is with time and self-discipline. You must take the steps to regain control of your finances, advocate for yourself with creditors, and develop better credit management.

If you feel like you are in over your head, it never hurts to take speak with your financial advisor or set up a free consultation with a reputable credit management company. An hour of your time may be the difference between remaining on the credit plateau and improving your credit score.

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How to Get Help with Spending Addiction

How to Get Help with Spending Addiction

We live in a society that encourages spending and thrives on consumerism. Every year, advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to convince us that buying things will make us happy or that we need to have the newest products. Unfortunately, the strategy has been very effective. So much so that people with addictive tendencies can cross the line into addiction. And, with the rise of online shopping, it has become even easier to fall into poor spending habits. If you think you have a problem, here’s how you can get help with a spending addiction.

What Is Spending Addiction?

Spending addiction is a broad term that encompasses patterns of both overspending and shopping addiction. However, according to Promises Behavioral Health treatment centers, a spending addiction is a compulsive and mood-altering behavior that involves making unnecessary, emotionally driven, and negatively impactful purchases.

Although it isn’t an officially recognized psychiatric condition, it shares many of the same symptoms and behaviors like other types of addiction. Spending addicts feel the need to shop compulsively as a means to relieve anxiety or make themselves feel better. Many people with a spending addiction also suffer from other mental health conditions.

What Are the Financial Impacts of a Spending Addiction?

In addition to the mental and emotional toll a spending addiction takes, it also has negative financial repercussions. When poor spending habits are left unchecked, it could lead to financial ruin.

The compulsion to spend has led many people to max out their credit cards which ruins their credit and bury them deep in debt. Others resort to taking out loans, lines of credit, or asking loved ones for money to support their habit. 98Those who are desperate enough may resort to illegal ways of supporting their addiction. Some of the long-term consequences of a spending addiction include bad credit, bankruptcy, unemployment, homelessness, criminal activity, and incarceration.

What Are the Signs of a Spending Addiction?

If you are asking yourself whether you have a spending addiction, it is probably a good sign that you need to re-prioritize your finances. However, it isn’t necessarily a sign of addiction.

The signs of a spending addiction are similar to those dealing with substance disorders or pathological gambling. Although not indicative of a full-blown problem, these are a few of the most common symptoms:

    • mental preoccupation with spending
    • gradually increasing the frequency of the behavior
    • continuing the behavior despite a desire to refrain from it
    • feeling distress or discomfort when you refrain from spending
    • binging in the compulsive spending behavior
    • experiencing a mood alteration or “high” from spending
    • failing to fulfill your responsibilities or obligations
    • continuing the behavior despite the negative impacts

How Do You Know When to Get Help with a Spending Addiction?

According to surveys and statistics from psychological evaluations, approximately 5-6% of all people are dealing with a spending addiction. It occurs across all demographics and affects people of all classes, backgrounds, and genders.

There are a wide variety of root causes. But, it usually stems from issues related to mental health, stress, grief, or loss. Those with a spending addiction may find themselves in a vicious cycle that can’t break. This can create a sense that they have lost control which perpetuates the cycle.

Those who feel they may suffer from a spending addiction can use the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale as a starting point. It is a clinically recognized tool to assess the severity of your problem.

It’s important to remember that not everyone who frequently shops has an addiction. It’s also important to note that while spending addictions are common among people who suffer from severe depression, anxiety, and other mental/mood disorders, the two are not mutually inclusive.

However, if you think that you have a spending addiction, here is a general checklist of questions that made indicate it is time to seek professional help.

    • Is there a compulsion to buy things?
    • Do you hide your spending or lead a “double life”?
    • Are you spending money to numb your pain or avoid negative feelings?
    • Do you rationalize or justify the behavior?
    • Does it give you a sense of excitement?
    • Do you avoid people who confront you about the behavior?
    • Has it had familial, social, occupational, financial, legal, mental, or emotional consequences?
    • Have you become more isolated because of it?
    • Do you experience feelings of denial, guilt, shame, helplessness, hopelessness, or feeling that your life is unmanageable due to your spending?
    • Are you continuing the behavior despite escalating consequences?

Where Can You Get Help?

If you are ready to seek professional help, there are many places you can get help with your spending addiction.

The most effective treatment for addiction is behavioral therapy. This can be either individual or group counseling to establish healthier coping mechanisms for depression, anxiety, or impulse control. It can also incorporate family counseling for those supporting someone seeking treatment.

There are also several self-help and support groups in your community for people who are suffering from addiction. Compulsive Spenders Anonymous, Shopaholics Anonymous, and Debtors Anonymous have been especially helpful for those with a spending addiction. They rely on the same 12-step structure as Alcoholics Anonymous. Membership is usually free and run by fellow members who emphasize group support and sponsorship to cope.

Medication can also be an effective way to help those with underlying mental health issues. Mood-stabilizers and anti-depressants can reduce depression, anxiety, and the compulsion to spend.

While each can be effective on its own, treatment for addiction utilizes several treatment techniques, often used in combination to address the behavior. However, only a licensed professional can help you determine the best treatment for you.

Medical Disclaimer: The information in this article was gathered from medical journals, treatment centers that help those with addiction, and other published materials that have been reviewed by licensed professionals. It is not intended and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. If you are struggling with addiction, talk to your primary physician or other healthcare professionals to get the assistance you need.

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5 Ways to Save on the Costs of PC Repairs

Saving on the Costs of PC Repair

I will be the first to admit that I am technologically challenged. Even though I lived through the birth of the internet, it took me a long time to embrace new tech. Since I never had much interest in it, I never took any IT classes in high school or college. Perhaps my lack of exposure made me averse to it. However, I soon learned that if I didn’t keep up, I’d be overlooked in the job market. Furthermore, my ignorance left me vulnerable to overspending when I needed new devices and repairs. Here’s how my online education is helping me stay relevant and save on the costs of PC repairs.

5 Ways to Save on the Costs of PC Repairs

Whenever I approach a new challenge, I begin by reading. I try to learn as much as I can, especially before making a big purchase. Knowledge really is powerful. And, it can be a useful tool in helping you to save on the cost of PC repairs.

 1. Know What You’re Buying

The most immediate financial benefit is that you become a more informed buyer. It is much harder for someone to take advantage of you if you’ve done your homework. Once you know more about the different components and which specs matter most in your PC, you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll need. Additionally, you’ll know which questions to ask. Furthermore, you also learn which manufacturers and models to avoid.

Your primary purpose for the computer will also determine how much you’ll need to spend. Shopping around and talking to people can help you determine which computer best suits your needs and budget. Sites like Laptop vs Laptop can give you a summary and side-by-side comparison of specs and price points as well.

2. Prevent Overspending

Another reason I do my research is to prevent myself from overspending. When I bought my first laptop, I completely relied on the advice of an acquaintance. Not only did he talk me into buying a higher-end gaming computer I didn’t need, but he also tried selling me expensive warranties. As a college student, I could barely afford to eat, let alone pay for costly add-ons.

Furthermore, when I asked for recommendations, he would send me to his friends or associates where he would earn a commission. Had I done an online search instead for more affordable repair shops, I could have saved tons of money.

3. Tutorials for Troubleshooting

The most significant way that I have saved on the costs of PC repairs was by learning to do my own troubleshooting. Sure, turning your computer off and then back on again will solve many issues. However, there are times when you will need a little more finesse and in-depth knowledge to find the fix.

Although I could spend $50 at a PC repair shop to run a diagnostic for me, I prefer to try it myself first. A Google search of the problem will usually direct you to sites that show you how to troubleshoot it. You can also find step-by-step tech tutorials and YouTube videos that can walk you through common issues. If I had to estimate, I have been able to solve my own issues about 75% of the time.

Unfortunately, if a virus corrupts your files or you experience a serious hardware malfunction, there’s no way to fix it yourself. In these cases, it’s best to seek expert advice.

4. Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life

Another way I’ve used this knowledge for my financial benefit was by salvaging computers deemed outdated or beyond repair. Learning how to run my own diagnostic scans and optimize the startup menu has helped me bring some tech dinosaurs out of the graveyard.

While it doesn’t work every time, it has saved us thousands of dollars over the years. For example, my husband invested in a really nice computer during college. However, it was riddled with viruses and malware. He set it aside and forgot about it for several years until we came across it while cleaning out the office. By running a few scans, cleanups, and installing a new antivirus, I was able to revive it and pass it on to my niece. Not only did we get more use out of the initial investment, but it also saved someone else from buying a new laptop.

5. Ask for Recommendations

Although I was ignorant in the beginning, I have learned a lot about basic PC maintenance and repair. While online tech libraries provided a wealth of information, I learned even more by talking to people and asking friends for help. I embraced the fact that I was a novice, and stopped worrying about asking stupid questions.

Most people were happy to answer them and talk shop. They directed me to the best resources, advised me on programs worth investing in, and offered second opinions on complex computer problems. Their recommendations have likely saved me thousands of dollars in unnecessary purchases and PC repair costs.

However, when I needed a professional, they also offered recommendations for PC repair shops in my area with a good reputation. On their suggestions, I have found competent techs who know what their doing, explain the process, and won’t rip you off. And really, you can’t put a price tag on finding a service provider you can trust.

Helpful Sites for Learning about PCs

For those who are starting out from the very beginning like I was, here are a few sites that helped me along the way.

  • YouTube – This was the first place I went for troubleshooting tutorials. If you type in your specific issue, you can usually find a video that will walk you through the process step by step. It’s a free resource, but you could spend hours watching videos to find what you need.
  • Bleeping Computer – I really like this site because it caters to users at any level. The layout is very organized and user-friendly, providing easy access to the glossary of terms, articles, tutorials, and forums. It also offers discounts for online courses through its site.
  • edX – I have used this site to take several college-level courses for free. they have offerings from universities around the world. You can choose general or specialized courses, and learn at your own pace. Best of all, it’s free unless you want to pay for the certification.

While it can be overwhelming to learn something new, it can also be liberating. You don’t have to become an expert, but a little information can go a long way towards saving you on the costs of PC repairs.

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10 Things to Know When Investing in a Gumball Machine

Things to Know Before Investing in a Gumball Machine

Nowadays, everyone is looking for new ways to earn passive income. For those looking for new opportunities, have you ever considered vending or gumball machines? With low overhead costs and maintenance, they can provide easy side income each month. However, before you jump in, here are a few things you should know when investing in a gumball machine.

The Financial Benefits of Investing in a Gumball Machine

While it may seem unconventional to some, there are several financial benefits to consider when investing in a gumball machine.

Passive Income

First and foremost, buying a gumball machine is an easy way to generate passive income to supplement your monthly earnings. Some owners report that they earn up to $350 a month for a single machine. However, Vending Times magazine gives a more reasonable expectation with the national average of about $1 a day.

Steady Demand

Another reason that a gumball machine is a good investment is due to the steady demand. According to this Statista survey, 173.4 Americans responded that they chew gum. And, 23 million indicated they were habitual chewers (more than 16 pieces a week).

You should also consider that people will always need food and snacks. Therefore, gumball machines offer a cheap option when you need something small.

Low Maintenance and Overhead Costs

Lastly, gumball machines have low maintenance and overhead costs. Once you purchase the machine and products, you only need to refill it. Depending on sales, it could be once a week or once a month. Be sure to track your quarters so you can set a consistent schedule.

The Initial Cost of Investing in a Gumball Machine

So, the big question…how much does it cost to get started? As with most things in life, the answer varies.

The initial cost largely depends on the machine you choose. While basic gumball machines start around $100, they can run well over $1,000. However, this should be the largest expense and a one-time fee since these machines are built to last.

Then, you have to factor in the cost to fill the machine. Candy is relatively cheap, especially when you can buy it in bulk. And, it has a long shelf life (about a year) which gives you more breathing room to sell your inventory.

The price for your inventory varies as well by size, brand, and supplier. But to give you an idea of these costs when investing in a gumball machine, let’s look at traditional gumballs.

One of the most common selections is Dubble Bubble one-inch gumballs. You can purchase 850 of them through Amazon for $40-$50. This gives you a profit of $0.17 per gumball, for a total of $212.50 per box sold. With this profit margin, the machine should pay for itself after selling approximately 600 gumballs.

Even if you don’t choose the most profitable location, you should at least cover the investment costs with enough time. And, the more machines you have, the more you can make.

10 Tips to Maximize Your Gumball Game

If you think that investing in a gumball machine is the right move for you, here are 10 tips to help you maximize your profits and success.

1. Don’t skimp on the machine.

When investing in a gumball machine, don’t be cheap. If you buy a cheaper model or second-hand machine, there’s no way to verify its maintenance history. If they are more prone to jam or break, you may have to invest more money to fix them.

2. The amount you can make all comes down to location.

Remember…location, location, location! If you want to make money, you need visibility. High-traffic locations can bring up to $350 a month while others may not even break $3. But, you are bound to have some level of success as long as it is well placed and people pass by it frequently.

3. Pick a location where people are likely to have change.

Besides location, you need to think like your customers. Which places give coins as change? They need coins to operate the machine, so think of locations where people are more likely to have change on them. Scope out local gas stations, arcades, laundromats, and retail stores for potential placement.

4. Choose the placement based on foot traffic.

Once you have a location, look for places people spend the most time. Try to place your machine near doors, lines, and other places people wait. On the other hand, your inventory is less likely to sell if you put it near restrooms or in a remote corner.

5. Keep the machine well-stocked.

You will also want to make sure your machine is well-stocked. A full machine is much more appealing than one that looks half-empty.

6. Use plastic capsules.

If you use plastic capsules, you can expand your offerings to sell candy as well as small toys. Did you know that some toys are cheaper per unit than gumballs or candy? Not only will it help you capture more profits, but it also gives customers more options and broader appeal.

7. Choose the right product.

You should also pick products people like. If the employees at the location use the machine, get their opinions too. You want to choose things that people want to buy. Don’t waste money ordering products that don’t sell.

8. Partner with a charity.

Partnering with a charity is a great way to garner greater support from location owners. In addition to attracting more business from people who want to support the cause, it could help cover overhead costs.

9. Put your profits back into the business.

If you have one gumball machine that is successful, why not purchase a second one? If you put your profits back into your business, you increase your earning potential. Buying more machines will increase revenue and allow you to scale your business.

10. Hire a locating service.

If all else fails and you are struggling to find a location, you can use a locating service. However, make sure it is a reputable provider. Go online and check customer reviews or ask other business owners for references.

Do you own a vending or gumball machine? What challenges have you come across? Share in the comments below!

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What Are the Downsides of Investing in Collectibles?

The Downsides of Investing in Collectibles

Fans of TV shows like Antiques Roadshow or American Pickers may talk about getting rich from their collectibles. But if we’re being honest, you’re probably not going to make a million bucks from the junk you have been holding onto in your attic. While there are a few people who have gotten lucky and made a small fortune, it isn’t the typical outcome. Investing in collectibles requires a considerable amount of time, knowledge, and money before you ever see returns. There are several downsides of investing in collectibles that people overlook. And as with all investments, you should be aware of the inherent risks of alternative assets before buying anything.

What Are Collectibles?

If you are thinking about investing in collectibles, it’s best to start with an understanding of what they are and are not. Collectibles are an alternative type of investment that does not include stocks, bonds, cash, or real estate. It refers to any item that is far more valuable than the initial sale price because of its popularity or rarity.

The word “antique” and “collectible” are often used interchangeably. However, there is a distinct difference. While antiques can be collectibles, not all collectibles are old. A collectible could include just about anything from antiques and coins to toys and comic books. Because of the detailed knowledge and wide variation, it makes it much more difficult to assess the value of these types of assets.

Why Are People Investing in Collectibles?

Many investors choose to put their money into collectibles because they already do it as a hobby. Ambitious collectors hope to turn their interests into income by investing in super-rare and valuable items. These items offer greater diversification in your portfolio and generational wealth that can be passed on.

There are also tons of people who hear news reports of yard sale treasures and thrift store finds that turn out to be worth a fortune. These stories cause people to flood the market and drive up prices. While this can be great if you are already collecting, it also makes it difficult to find items worth investing in. Those who are looking at saturated markets aren’t likely to find rare collectibles that will fetch a high price at auction. However, it doesn’t stop opportunists from trying.

What Are the Downsides of Investing in Collectibles?

Although many tout the benefits, there are several downsides of investing in collectibles you should consider before you do anything.

1. The Financial Investment

First, there is the initial cost to buy the collectibles. You will rarely find cheap deals. True collectors know you must spend money for quality items. Then, there are the costs of handling, storage, maintenance, restoration, insurance, shipping…the list goes on. You may actually lose money in the beginning.

And, let’s not forget you also have to pay 28% in capital gains tax for the sale of collectibles you have owned for more than a year. That alone could undercut any returns on your collectibles.

2. The Time Investment

From my experiences, the greatest deterrent is the time factor. Unlike other investments, there are no returns until you sell the item. And, you may have to wait several years for it to appreciate in value.

It also takes time to research and become an expert on your collectibles. You’ll need to learn how to recognize them, assess their rarity and condition, and locate buyers willing to pay top dollar. This adds up to a considerable amount of time. If you aren’t seeing high returns, it may not be worth your time.

3. The Learning Curve

In the same vein, there is also the learning curve to consider. Unfortunately. you’ll have to educate yourself. While there is a wealth of information for investors trading in stocks, bonds, and more common commodities, it’s harder to find similar resources for collectibles.

You can still find tons of information. But, you have to cultivate an intimate and detailed knowledge about your collectibles. And, you must also understand how their condition and rarity affect their value. For extremely scarce items, it is also difficult to find comps and make a fair assessment.

It takes longer for some to learn these things. However, experience is the best teacher. Many people who become successful collectors simply learn through trial and error.

4. Counterfeits

Another of the downsides of investing in collectibles is the risk of buying counterfeits. There will always be people out there trying to scam people out of their money. Unfortunately, collectibles are no exception. There are many convincing counterfeits that could cost you a lot of money.

5. No Guarantees

Although some become more valuable over time, there is no sure-fire guarantee with collectibles. Furthermore, many items are marketed as collectibles, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will appreciate in value. It’s possible that you may spend a lot of money for no return on your investment. Or, if the assets are damaged or destroyed, they become worthless.

The truth is that no one can guess what the next high-dollar collectible will be. And, collectibles are notoriously volatile since it is a highly specialized market. Demands change, causing some markets to crash as quickly as they rose. While some types are more stable than others, you never really know.

Tips for Investing in Collectibles

There are many downsides of investing in collectibles. But if it’s something you love, it can still bring you joy even if it doesn’t bring you profits.

  • Learn as much as you can. It will serve you well to know what’s worth buying and what’s not. And, it will also make it harder for people to take advantage of you.
  • Be cautious. There’s no regulating body for this type of asset and many sales are private. So, there’s no one to complain to or help you seek justice if you get the raw end of a bad deal.
  • Be patient. Collectibles are illiquid assets. It takes time to connect with someone who knows their value and is willing to pay it.
  • Take care of your collectibles. The condition is a huge factor in an item’s value. So, you’ll want to insure them against damage, properly store them, and do what you can to repair/restore them to their original condition.
  • Know your limits. Collecting can quickly turn into hoarding if you are trying to collect anything that might hold value someday. These items will overrun your home, so choose something to narrow your focus.

Do you invest in collectibles? Share your experiences with us!

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