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Elon Musk Needs to Get His Life Together + Tips to Get Your Financial Life Together

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk is facing fresh scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission after a recent tweet discussing production numbers. This is not his first mishap so it may be time for Mr. Musk to get his life together! The SEC has asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt for violating a settlement he made in which he would consult Tesla before any social media posts or other communications that could impact investors. Musk got into hot water last year after saying that he had the funding to take the electric car company private.

Not following rules or protocols can really cost you big! So How can you get your financial life together so you won’t be under scrutiny from your bills and savings account? Below are 6 tips:

1. Establish financial goals.

As the saying goes: “If you fail to plan then you are planning to fail.” As cliché as that may sound, it is important to realize that the first step of establishing your financial goals is the most important step to take—especially when attempting to get your financial life together after college.

Start by separating your goals into three buckets: short-term goals (between 0-3 years), mid-term goals (between 3-7 years) and long-term goals (7+ years). Once you have identified which goals fall under each category, map out a plan of action that will help you achieve each financial goal within the given timeframe. It is also a good idea to make each goal a S.M.A.R.T. goal—Not SMART as in intelligent but S.M.A.R.T. as in Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. This will help you organize your financial goals into bite-size chunks that are digestible and doable.

2. Build an emergency fund.

Building an emergency fund is one of those necessities you don’t realize you need until you need it. It’s sort of like car insurance; you drive your car every day with the hope that you never get into an accident, but if ever you do, you need a system in place that will help!

An emergency fund is just that—preparation for the unexpected that will make you whole again. Emergencies can be the loss of a job, significant medical expenses, home or auto repairs, or any other situations that disrupt the flow of your life. An emergency fund should be between three and six months worth of your monthly expenses. This figure gives you enough lead-time to get back on your feet if needed.

Start small by saving at least 10% of your income with a goal of saving one month of expenses. Once you do, increase your goal to two months and so forth. But remember, you must pay yourself first! This means that before you pay your bills, buy groceries, or anything else vital before setting aside a portion of your income to save. In essence, the first bill you should be paying each month is to YOU!

3. Create a monthly spending plan.

Now that you know your financial goals are and have a process in place that will help you build your emergency fund, it is time to create a monthly spending plan. This will help dictate where your money should go.

To begin, separate your needs from wants. Your needs can be fixed expenses: rent, utilities, food, clothing, transportation, taxes, health care, childcare, and (possible) home repairs. Wants can include entertainment, cable, Internet service, magazine subscriptions, eating out, hobbies, and cell phone bills. Once you identify your expenses, start by paying yourself first (as discussed in step 2), then create a system where you are paying all of your needs/expenses in a timely manner. Make them automatic if you can. Your wants should be included in your budget, but make sure you are keeping track of everything you spend to assure you are not veering from your plan.

4. Start banking on your future.

Banking and the future have more in common than people know. Whether it’s starting up a savings account or contributing to your employer ’s retirement plan, an individual retirement account, or stocks and bonds, where you put your money and how you allow it to work for you will help you get your financial life in order.

You must start by choosing the right bank—ideally not a bank that will bombard you with unnecessary fees, but a bank that cares about your bottom line is convenient and can help empower you financially. Interest rates should be competitive, and you should have a wide network of ATMs available for free. Your online transactions should be secure, and you shouldn’t have to worry about a minimum balance.

5. Stay on top of student loan obligations.

“I love student loans,” said no one ever! Regardless of how much you despise your student loans, it is imperative you stay on top of them to avoid getting into financial trouble. Student loans can really have a negative effect on your financial life if you don’t manage them properly—not only will they affect your credit by showing up as a derogatory account on your credit report, but in some cases, your paycheck can be garnished, and bank account levied.

Make sure you are, at least, paying the minimums. If your current financial situation doesn’t permit this, speak to your lender about a deferment or forbearance, so your loans stay in good standing.

6. Use credit wisely.

Lastly, using credit wisely will only help your financial situation. Good credit can help you rent an apartment or buy a home. It can allow you to finance a car, save money on insurance, or even help get a job (in some states employers check credit before making job offers).

The first step in using credit wisely is to understand that credit is not free money and should not be used for everyday purchases. It should be used for emergencies. Also, it is important to check your credit report at least once a year to make sure what is on your credit report is accurate. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from all three credit bureaus (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax).

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)

Credit Union Loans Getting Riskier + How-To Not Get Risky with Your Student Loans

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Credit unions have increasingly taken on high-risk loans, which could lead to borrowers or taxpayers getting burned in the event of another financial crisis, reports The Wall Street Journal. The member-owned alternatives to banks are designed to provide lower borrowing costs and higher deposit rates. Yet, credit unions’ assets have grown almost twice as fast as those of banks over the past ten years. High-risk loans from banks contributed significantly to the 2008 financial crisis. This is dangerous because unlike a traditional bank Credit Unions are owned by its members so it is the members who stand to lose the most. But how can you make your Credit Union loans less risky? This is the same question we ask when it’s time to pay off our student loans. Who will be the first? Or How can you pay off your loans faster? Here are six ways:

1. Develop a plan

Develop a plan to pay off your student loan debt before you graduate.

2. Save your money

Each summer throughout your college education, get a job or internship. Save half the money in a high-interest savings account. After a few months, consult a financial advisor to earn the highest possible return on your money. After college, you can use the money saved during all four years to pay down your college debt.

3. Consolidate your loans (But use caution)

Consolidating student loans combines your loans into one payment but may or may not provide you with a lower interest rate. Do extensive research before consolidating your student loans. In addition, you may not be eligible for various student loan forgiveness programs if you consolidate your student loans.

4. Exchange work to reduce debt

Perform volunteer work or work for the following in exchange for reducing student loan debt: teaching in certain locations with low-income students or areas with a shortage of teachers, providing legal and medical services in low-income areas or working for Americorps or the Peace Corps.

5. Get a work-study job

To help pay for the costs of college get a work-study job on campus to help defray the cost of college. Go to your campus employee office to ask about their work-study program. Work-study jobs pay at least the minimum wage for that state.

6. Apply for grants + scholarships

Apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible. Unlike loans, grants and scholarships never have to be paid back. Some grant websites are Zinch.com, Fastweb.com, ScholarshipPoints.com, Cappex.com, and Scholarships.com.

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The Daily Digm (News)

Black Friday Sales Could Hit $7.4b + How to Control Your Cyber Monday Spending

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You get a deal, you get a deal, you get a deal and you get a deal!!! This year everyone from Amazon, Walmart and Target are offering “holiday deals” ahead of Black Friday so it’s safe to say, Black Friday isn’t even a thing anymore? Right??? Wrong!!!! Looking at early numbers Black Friday is very much alive and well. According to CNBC shoppers spent a record-high $4.2 billion online on Thanksgiving, a 14.5% increase from last year. In addition, their data suggests Black Friday online sales are expected to hit $7.4 billion, with shoppers having already spent $5.4 billion as of 9 p.m. ET, or a 22.3% increase from last year. 

While we know that Black Friday is intended to help us save money on things we wouldn’t purchase anyway, Black Friday has now been fueled by intense FOMOOD (Fear of Missing Out on Deals). The pressure of having to amass dozens of holiday gifts coupled with the frantic message that you’ll never see these deals again often sends shoppers into a tizzy of overspending, eventually culminating in personal debt.

To avoid the deep despair that can haunt your bank account long after Thanksgiving weekend, heed the following tips:

1) Be honest: how much can you afford to spend on Cyber Monday?

Try to answer this question rationally and honestly. Do you live paycheck to paycheck, or have you saved up a little bundle that you can use on deals? Make sure that if you are going shopping on Cyber Monday, you’re not behind on any bills, and you are not using your credit cards to finance your splurging.

2) Think like Santa Claus and make a dang list.

It’s all about planning ahead. If you go into the insanity of Black Friday shopping without a plan to keep you tethered to reality, you’ll get swept up in the excitement of seemingly attractive deals and overspend, resulting in a buyer’s remorse that could ruin the whole holiday season. So make that list — and stick to it.

3) Figure out a hard budget.

It’s easy to go into Cyber Monday, believing you’ll be cool and rational and definitely won’t spend too much. You’re too smart for that, right? The most clever thing you can do is sit down ahead of time and figure out a hard budget — an amount that you’re sure you can spend — and write it down so you won’t forget. Without any limits set ahead of time, you can quickly go broke without even realizing it.

4) Only use cash — and leave all credit and debit cards at home.

This one’s tough, but you’ll be glad for it in the end. Once you’ve figured out your budget, take out that amount in cash so you’ll have solid, visual evidence of exactly how much you have left to spend.

This trick won’t work if you also bring along credit and debit cards; however, because the temptation to use them will become overwhelming. Despite your preparation, there will be many tempting deals that may cause you to go temporarily insane, and with access to money at your fingertips, that can be a dangerous blow to your finances. Keeping your cards at home removes the ability to fold to temptations.

5) Don’t be overcome by emotions.

There’s a dizzying, frenetic energy to Cyber Monday, what with all the “once a year” deals demanding that you buy now or forever hold your peace. Combined with the sentimentality of the holidays, when you may be feeling more generous than usual, it becomes a perfect storm of excitement, obligation, and anxiety, causing you to spend beyond your means.

Don’t forget that retailers are actually playing upon these emotions in order to get your business. In fact, the reason why Black Friday is called Black Friday is because this is the day consumers (you) help retailers (them) get in the ‘black,’ which in accountant terms means profitable. See, they aren’t even hiding the fact that they are using you for their gain. And the reason they don’t have to hide it is because they get you to buy by appealing to your emotions. Toughen up and don’t be lured into spending money you don’t have.

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The Daily Digm (News)

Mcdonald’s Settles Its Wage Dispute + How to Settle Between Being an Employee or Entrepreneur

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McDonald’s has finally decided to end a multi year-long dispute in California over wages by agreeing to pay $26 million to cooks and cashiers who say the fast-food giant didn’t pay them enough for their work. Tens of thousands of workers are behind the class-action lawsuit, which alleges in part that McDonald’s planned shifts so as to avoid paying overtime to its workers and did not allow fair breaks during shifts. McDonald’s denies any wrongdoing.

Issues like this has many people wanting to be their own boss, but what are the pros and cons of entrepreneurship vs. being an employee?

Employee Benefits vs Do It Yourself

As an employee, you get benefits, which include health, dental, vacation, sick leave, and holidays. This allows employees to have some time to create a work-life balance. They can enjoy paid time to work on personal relationships, hobbies, exercise, or just get some rest.

As an entrepreneur, you do not have a guaranteed income, so if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Many entrepreneurs don’t consider this, so a lot of them find themselves stressed out and overworked. For those who plan early enough, they budget accordingly to afford themselves some rest and relaxation

Guaranteed Income vs. Unlimited Income Potential

Obviously, a huge advantage of employment vs. entrepreneurship is guaranteed income. As an employee, you get a fixed amount of money deposited on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis into your bank account, which means you get afforded some level of financial security. But in the same breathe as an employee, your income is limited to what you agreed on as your salary or hourly rate, which means you are capped on the amount of money you can make.

As an entrepreneur, you have unlimited income potential, which means there are no ceilings when it comes to your income. If you put in the work and sell the right products or services, you can make a lot of money, but on the flip side, there can be months that you go without a deal or steady income and other months where the faucet is overflowing.

Fixed Working Hours vs. Flexible Working Hours

As an employee, you will agree on a fixed amount of hours and schedule in which you will work. Overtime or any extra hours needed will be worked at the employee’s discretion and can include time and a half pay. Sometimes instead of extra pay, you can agree to get comped time, which means you get extra time off.

As an entrepreneur, you choose your working hours. Many entrepreneurs work 80-hour weeks when they’re first starting out, but eventually, they will get people and resources to allow them to sit back and work as little as possible.

Less Responsibility vs. Everything is On You

As an employee, you are often assigned a particular role and are only responsible for performing the tasks that are directly related to that role when you are working. You don’t really have to worry about how others are performing in other parts of the company because they too have their roles, and you are responsible for you.

As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for everything. You are the janitor, the cook, sales, marketing, promotion, operations and everything else in between.

There are many other differences, but based on what you read so far, which would you choose? There’s no right or wrong answer, and honestly, the decision should be made based on your preference. There are many successful employees who love what they do and thrive, and there are many entrepreneurs who wouldn’t trade their life for the world. Ultimately it’s about your happiness and what makes you feel full. I believe that And is better than Or, so if you get stuck on making a decision, try both.

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