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The Daily Digm (News)

Creating Your Year-End Financial Checklist



It is that time of the year where you make and list and check it twice! But no we are not talking about Santa Claus or your Christmas shopping list, we are speaking about your financial checklist. Everyone’s situation is different, and complexities are inevitable. So created a few tasks you might want to consider squeezing in before 2018 comes to an end, per the experts (you might see a familiar name):

1. Make sure your holiday spending estimates are brutally honest

Soon enough, if not already, you might declare this and that financial resolution. But in December, there is the added risk of digging yourself into a deeper financial hole from all of that holiday spending. So, try to get ahead of that particular red flag by doing the math of what will cost you what — and be brutally honest.

For example, it’s all too easy to think ‘I’ll spend $400 on gifts’ and assume that’s all the extra spending you’ll do. Reality check? It’s probably not.

“They haven’t accounted for, you know, the new towels they are going to buy for the house because guests are coming or the extra food that they are going to spend [money on] to have a big family dinner or the travel costs they are going to incur to go visit somebody and on and on and on,” Khalfani-Cox says.

So, factor in all of the costs. And if you want to save more in 2019, or hit some other milestone, you may want to find ways to reign in those expenses before it’s too late.

2. Take stock of your finances

Take stock of your finances, including debt and savings. We know: it can feel painful and emotional to do so. But, it will give you a baseline to help you decide what to do next.

“Just make sure you look at these numbers,” says Ethan Bloch, founder and chief executive of Digit, an automated savings app.

Ash Exantus,  director of financial education at BankMobile and author known as “Ash Cash,” also recommends taking stock of whether you achieved your 2018 financial goals — if you set them.

If you didn’t hit them, don’t dwell on defeat. Instead, learn from what happened or didn’t happen. And regardless of where you are at, it’s better to check in than not over the long haul.

“Your money telling you what to do instead of you telling it what to do is really not going to allow you to live the life that you want to live,” Exantus says.

3. Start dreaming about your next financial goal

Now for the fun part: Get dreaming and set your financial goal or goals for next year.

Need a starting place? Deb Kriebel, partner and a wealth manager at Pinnacle Advisory Group, encourages you to try save more than the year before.

“At the end of the year, maybe you look and maybe say ‘oh, I wasn’t able to max out my 401(k) this year. I’m going to max out next year,’” Kriebel says. “Or ‘I wasn’t able to get to a Roth. I’m going to try to do that next year.’ Or, you set up an investment account and you are saving and then say maybe ‘I’m going to increase that by 10 percent.’ And you kind of set a target for yourself for the next year to save more, invest more.”

Whatever your goal is — to increase savings or not —write it down somewhere and choose a starting point to try to attain it. Spoiler alert: even this part is hard. So, don’t go wild here with goals. Digit’s Bloch recommends focusing on one goal and figuring out how much you need by when.

Get specific with the costs, too. ‘I want to get a car this year’ isn’t enough, Exantus says.  You’ll want to consider what kind of car, how much it will cost, including insurance and gas expenses.

4. Consider your employment situation

Carve out the time to think about where you’re going career wise or life wise and where you want to go as it will inevitably tie to one side of your balance sheet: your income and earning potential.

“I think it’s one of the biggest things most people could do that is really underrated right now in our society,” Bloch says.

Part of this soul searching should include assessing how much your employer pays you — and deciding whether you need to do something differently.

“Really focus on what are those goals you want to accomplish, how do you want to accomplish them and what are the tools you need in order to accomplish them — whether it’s a new job or a side hustle,” Exantus says.

5.  Use fintech or digital banking apps to help you automate and understand your cash flow

Evaluating your cash flow doesn’t have to be a laborious experience. Apps like Mint can comb through your financial data to help you get a handle on your spending and savings across all of your accounts. Your bank may also offer similar functionality. Large banks, like Citi, and small banks, like Mercantile Bank of Michigan, offer digital budgeting tools, for example. Depending on how many accounts you have, it might just mean you logging in to a couple of mobile apps to see where you stand.

Then, consider what financial areas you might want to automate, so that the task gets done without requiring regular work from you. This won’t be everything.

“The reality is most people can’t fully automate their financial life because they don’t have enough cash for buffers,” Digit’s Bloch says. “To really automate everything, you need a pool of cash in your checking account. In reality, most people just don’t have that.”

So, consider settling on the areas of your finances that you can safely automate. This approach could help you avoid the inertia that comes with taking on a manual banking task that could feel daunting, like paying down college debt.

“Most people do not want to manage their money every day or every week and they shouldn’t. It’s ridiculous,” Bloch says.  “I don’t know how to grow my food. I eat food every day. It works great. I don’t know how to repair my car. I drove it to work today. It works great. … I think [finance] is going to become like this.”

6. Max out your 401(k) and find other ways to save

Now is the time to contribute the maximum amount to your 401(k), if you have one and have the funds to do so.

If you are under 50, you can contribute up to $18,500 in 2019. If you are 50 or older, you can contribute another $6,000. The perks of pre-tax contributions coming from your paycheck are reducing your taxable income, and at the same time, forcing you to save, Pinnacle Advisory Group’s Kriebel says.

To save more, consider opening up a Roth IRA, which allows you to put after-tax money aside that grows tax-free at a time of year where you have a good idea of your annual income.

This year, the maximum amount workers can contribute to a Roth IRA is $5,500 — if you’re younger than 50. That goes up to $6,000 in 2019. Pro tip: the amount you can contribute changes based on your income. If you’re single, contributions start to phase out at $120,000.

“I think it’s a fabulous way for anyone to save if you are under the income thresholds,” she says.

Unlike a retirement account, a Roth IRA lets you take the principal out — what you contributed to it —with no tax. “It’s a great way to have a kind of emergency fund,” Kriebel says. “But in the same regard, invest it, let it grow and hopefully you won’t need it [and] it will just keep growing.”

7. Take advantage of tax breaks

Don’t overlook potential tax breaks. Yes, they’re considerably different than last year’s because multiple changes to tax rules have gone into effect.

But there are breaks to consider, such as if you’re a small-business owner. Case in point: In the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provision, a qualified business income (QBI) deduction lets small-business owners deduct as much as 20 percent of their qualified business income.

“It is a nice way to not get taxed on all your income while you’re trying to build,” Kriebel says.

It may also be a good time to check in with your accountant before year’s end, especially if you have a big milestone ahead.

“I know that nobody everybody likes to think about the tax man,” The Money Coach’s Khalfani-Cox says. “But it’s often the case that you can save yourself a lot of money in the following year or better plan how to get ahead by being strategic during the last quarter and certainly the last month of the year. So, anything that you can do before the end of 2018, by December 31, that can lower your tax bite with Uncle Sam is definitely time and effort and money well spent.”

8. Whatever your decisions are, be intentional about them

At this time of year, you’ll be getting a lot of opinions on what you ought to do with your money — including pressure from family members.

But only you know what you want. So, while spending pressure may be overflowing this holiday season, consider what you really want to achieve. Perhaps that means making gifts, instead of buying them, to avoid overspending. But prepare to be courageous — your verdict may very well go against the social norms of your circle at an emotionally charged time of year.

“Everyone has different ideas of what the holidays should be,” Amy Jo Lauber, CFP and president of Lauber Financial Planning. “Love and family and friendship and relationships and money, everything gets all tangled up at this time of this year. So, it’s hard to kind of keep your footing. … Come January, you don’t want to be completely blindsided and you don’t want to be full of regret. Regret is a very expensive emotion. I would want everyone to do things intentionally whatever they decide to do.”

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

The Daily Digm (News)

Amazon has 30,000 Jobs they Need to Fill + How the Gig Economy is Making it Hard for Them to Fill



Amazon has more open jobs than ever before. The company is attempting to hire 30,000 permanent employees in the U.S. alone. The jobs are spread out across departments and at locations throughout the country. Filling them is an especially tall order in such a tight labor market, with unemployment hovering near a 50-year low. To get started, the tech and retail giant will hold job fairs on Sept. 17 in six cities: Arlington, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville and Seattle.

Jobs may be so abundant because of the growth of the gig economy that allows people to work where they want doing what they want. Gig economy jobs continue to grow in popularity in the U.S., accounting for at least 5% of the workforce. So how do you fully take advantage? recently wrote an article titled: The secret to making $115 an hour in the gig economy

In the article they give us 10 best fields for gig workers based on pay and job availability:

Artificial Intelligence – Deep Learning: $115 per hour
Blockchain Architecture: $87 per hour
Robotics: $77 per hour
Ethical Hacking: $66 per hour
Cryptocurrency: $65 per hour
Amazon Web Services Lamda Coding: $51 per
Virtual Reality: $50 per hour
React.JS Developers: $41 per hour
Final Cut Pro Editors: $37 per hour
Instagram Marketing: $31 per hour

The first trend you might notice is that this list is dominated by tech jobs. Gavin Graham, the special projects editor for, says this is because these types of jobs lend themselves well to the gig economy and are growing fields that pay well.

So what exactly do people in the no. 1-rated artificial intelligence-deep learning field do? “They help develop “the technology that drives the ability of artificial intelligence to ‘learn’ and adapt,” says Graham. “Jobs in this field include developers who code the underlying algorithms using tools and programming languages, such as MATLAB, Python, Java, C++, Tensorflow, etc..,” he adds.

One possible surprise on the list: Instagram marketing. It lands on the list because job growth has been very rapid, he explains. While many companies have worked on Facebook and Twitter marketing, their Instagram platforms are less developed — and in need of help.

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The Daily Digm (News)

Ariana Grande sues Forever 21 for $10 million + How to Protect Yourself From Those Trying to Steal Your Identity



In a complaint filed on Monday, megastar Ariana Grande said Forever 21 and Riley Rose misappropriated her name, image, likeness, and music, including employing a “strikingly similar” looking model, in a website and social media campaign early this year.

She said this followed the breakdown of talks for a joint marketing campaign because Forever 21 would not pay enough for “a celebrity of Ms. Grande’s stature,” whose longer-term endorsements generate millions of dollars in fees.

This is a classic case of identity theft and while we can’t sue identity thieves for $10 million dollars, there are some practical ways that we could put ourselves less in risk. Here are four ways to protect yourself:

1. Change your password – I know it can be annoying to have to change your password or remember a new one, but it is important that you stop hackers dead in their tracks. Change your password regularly and make sure you include a variety of symbols, so hackers have a tough time guessing what it is.

2. Create a different username and password – Instead of using your Facebook login for all sites, create separate usernames and password per site. This way the breach doesn’t come from another third party, and you can better protect your account.

3. Set up two-factor authentication – Add another layer of protection to your account. Two-factor authentication It is a setting in Facebook where you can choose either text message codes or a third-party authentication as your primary security method. This way you know when someone is trying to do something fishy with your account.

4. Delete your personal info – The next time you log onto Facebook, take the time to delete some of the more personal information you have shared to reduce your risk of exposure in future attacks.

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The Daily Digm (News)

SATs Keeps its Same Scoring Model + A Scoring Model You Better Undertand



The SATs are changing course following backlash over a plan to assign an adversity score to every student who takes the exam. The original adversity score was made up of ratings for the student’s school and neighborhood environments and was intended to capture the obstacles a student might have overcome. Critics said over-eager parents could use the score to game college admissions. Instead, the College Board will use a different system in an attempt to capture a test taker’s social and economic background. For many SAT scores can make the difference in so many lives but what other score affects your well-being?

Many people are aware of the important role the credit rating plays in their lives. However, understanding what goes into a credit score (the credit score breakdown) might present some difficulty. There are several different methods of scoring, but most lenders and banks rely on the FICO method that has been in existence since the 1980s when it was developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation. The three prominent credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) all worked with Fair Isaac to come up with the FICO algorithm.

Your credit score may be any number from 300 to 850. The average American falls at about 690, which is deemed relatively good credit. However, while this score should secure you a loan, it will not get you the very best interest rates on loan. In fact, 300-640 = Bad Credit, 641-680 = Fair Credit, 681-720 = Good Credit, and 721-850 = Excellent Credit. Excellent credit should be the aim.

Following is the credit score breakdown:

Payment History

The biggest chunk of your score (35%) is derived from your payment history. This score is influenced by how well (or not) you pay your bills on time, how many have been sent to collection agencies, bankruptcies, tax liens, etc. Keep in mind that missing a payment is worse than making a late payment and that being late or especially missing a mortgage payment is a bigger blow to your credit score than missing a credit card or utility payment.

Usage Ratio

The amount of debt you have (compared to the amount of credit you have not used) accounts for 30 percent of your score. Try not to max your credit cards out. In fact, it is recommended that you only use 25 to 50 of the credit that is available to you. A way to balance this out is to obtain more lines of credit and not use them. However, you do not want to apply for a bunch of credit cards all at once as this is marked against you. If your credit is in good standing, apply for a reputable card every six months or so and save it for a rainy day.

Length of Credit History

Fifteen percent of your credit score is based on how long you’ve established credit. This is common sense. The longer your credit history, the better your overall score will be. More data about your past leads to a more accurate prediction of your future credit worthiness.

Credit Mix

Having several types of credit will actually boost your score if they are managed well. This counts for 10 percent of the overall rating.

New Credit

As mentioned earlier, opening new credit accounts all at once will negatively affect your score in the short term. It’s also important that you are aware that your score can be lowered for too many “hard inquiries” about your status. A “hard inquiry” is one that you have authorized a lender to perform. If you are inquiring about your own score, this will not count against you.

Understanding what goes into the credit score breakdown is the first step in improving your score and what will allow you to design your score and begin you on the journey to financial freedom.

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