It’s the end of nearly two decades of classrooms, tests, essays, late nights, and early mornings, but it’s the start of your full-fledged independence.
That move isn’t always easy. We face a huge number of unknowns when we leave the hallowed halls of the university and enter the dog-eat-dog “real world.” What kind of job will I end up with? Where will I live? What will my coworkers be like? How well will I adjust to a totally new routine? Those are important questions that don’t always have clear answers. However, there are some things you can do that will help navigate your post-graduation world. These aren’t magic antidotes, just helpful steps that might bring some stability and order to your experience!
Having a career vision is essential. It can provide structure and a sense of purpose. Decisions can be weighed by how much they move you towards realizing your goals, which can help give you clarity when making tough calls.
Keep your vision as specific and precise as possible. That dream of working at a prestigious law firm and wearing designer suits every day? Take it and drill down on the details. What kind of law do you want to practice? What’s your dream city? How high up on the ladder do you want to climb? Be honest with yourself about what you really want.
It’s also important to develop a time frame for your goals. Think about a 5 to 10 year time frame and see what you think is realistic!
Now it’s time to map out how you’ll make your vision a reality. What needs to happen for you to get that promotion or end up in the city you want to experience?
The first step is research. Your dream position might require a master’s degree or special licensing that you can’t afford just yet. Maybe you need some time in the field before moving up. Break down exactly what needs to happen, and when, for you to achieve your goal. Sometimes it’s best to start with the goal itself and deconstruct it into smaller and smaller pieces that are easier to manage. Start checking off those little steps until your goal looks more and more achievable!
It’s also a good idea to find a mentor to guide you. Ideally this would be someone who’s undertaken this journey themselves! They’ll have insights into roadblocks that you’ll face and little tips that can make all the difference.
No plan is perfect. We’ll always overlook a detail, not factor in a risk, or overestimate our ability to handle something. It’s easy to get discouraged when those things go wrong. It can make your dream feel unattainable, and you might start to doubt yourself. But rolling with those punches and not getting discouraged by setbacks is essential to achieving your goal. Take a step back, assess the situation, learn from your mistakes, and get back to the grind. You might have to adjust your expectations and even re-evaluate your process. That’s fine! Do what you need to do and get back to work once you’ve hammered out the details.
Remember that flexibility is key. Your passion for a certain type of work or field of study might cool off as the years go by. You might find that your goal of becoming an alpha executive conflicts with your goal of being an available parent. Don’t push those hard decisions off until tomorrow. Do some serious soul searching about what matters to you today, make some goals, figure out a process, and don’t let little failures get you down!
They’re not usually meant to consume hours of your time each week or distract you from your main source of income. Fortunately, right now we’re in a side gig golden age. There are dozens of opportunities just a tap or click away. Here are a few simple side hustle ideas that might make you a few extra bucks without sacrificing all of your free time!
Working as a freelance writer can be a simple, efficient way of turning your prose prowess into cold, hard cash. Powerful and persuasive writing is of top importance in the information age, and there are plenty of people and companies that are willing to pay writers for quality content. Look for opportunities to write about your favorite hobbies and interests. It’s an easy way to combine your personal passions with making a little extra each month.
Do you have a hidden talent? Maybe you’re a secret chef, a low profile ping pong wizard, or a late night guitar hero. You might be surprised by how much people will pay for your insights and guidance—certain video game coaches can make between $10 to $140 per hour, depending on their skill level!(1) The beauty of this gig is that it doesn’t take tons of leg work to get started. You already have the skills and your client base can be from your local community. Just plot out a curriculum, set a price for your services, and get the word out!
Rideshares have become icons of the side-hustle economy. But ferrying strangers to and from bars on the weekends isn’t the only way to make some extra cash with your car. There are plenty of startups and companies that need drivers. That might mean delivering food for a local restaurant chain or dropping off packages for a more established company. Do some sleuthing on what’s available near you and what demand looks like in your area.
The beauty of these gigs is that they’re built on skills and tools that you already have. Put in the leg work to get things started and you might just find yourself with a dependable extra income stream!
Research has shown time and again that your work environment plays a critical role in your level of focus, analytical thinking, and creativity.
So if you have the freedom to do so, here are a few ways to spice up your workspace to maximize productivity.
It turns out that standing desks aren’t just a fad—they can actually boost productivity.
According to Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, research has shown that halving your sitting time at work can…
And best of all, you don’t need a fancy contraption to make it happen. Simply stack some boxes or books to lift your computer and monitor—voila! Now you have a standing desk.
At the start of your day, increasing your light exposure can boost your focus. Why? Because your body and brain are conditioned to respond to sunlight. It’s a powerful trigger that your day has started and you need to get it in gear!
So first thing, go outside and sit in the sun for a few minutes. When you’re in the office, turn on overhead lights, lamps, and ring lights. If you can, work by an open window. You might be surprised by the impact it has on your alertness and focus.
Just be sure to tone down the intensity as the day wears on so your body knows it’s time to settle down, relax, and hit the hay. Bright light exposure when it’s too late can be detrimental to sleep, especially looking at your phone less than an hour before you want to go to bed. The light shining in your eyes tells your body that you need to stay awake.
You read that correctly. The height of your ceiling can help you toggle between analytic mode and creative mode.
High ceilings tend to promote creativity and brainstorming. Low ceilings promote analytical thinking.
It’s called the cathedral effect, and for good reason. Think about how you would feel stepping into the Chartres Cathedral vs. say, your basement. One creates awe, wonder, and an appreciation of beauty. The other forces you to zero in on only what’s in front of you, like that load of laundry you forgot about.
So as a rule, try to do your creative thinking in high, open spaces. Do your analyzing in closed, dull, non-distracting spaces.
Try one or two of these strategies over the next week and see if they impact your productivity. I’d love to hear about your results!
Maybe you used the credit card to buy something you didn’t really need, even though you’ve sworn it off time and time again.
Maybe you found yourself clicking checkout, even though you promised to stop online shopping.
Or maybe you just found yourself discouraged by the number in your bank account… again.
Either way, you’ve had a financial relapse—you did something to set back progress with your goals, even though you knew better.
It sucks. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and quit.
But here’s the truth—it’s part of the process.
Research suggests that there are six steps to changing behavior…
Pre-contemplation Contemplation Preparation Action Maintenance Relapse
Why is relapse the final step? Because it’s an opportunity. It reveals the limitations in your strategy, unnoticed behavior triggers, and above all, new areas for growth.
This is good to acknowledge, but it’s a far cry from how relapses make you feel. They feel like proof positive that you’ll never change, that you didn’t change. You fell back into your old behaviors.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that relapses merely point you to deeper truths about yourself… and what you’re capable of.
So next time you feel down about a hard-to-break financial habit, give yourself some grace. Examine what happened, and integrate what you learn into your strategy.
Consider meeting with a financial professional to chat things through. They can help you process what happened, refocus on your goals, and create a strategy to prevent future relapses.
And if you feel like you’re stuck in harmful financial habits that you can’t break, book a meeting with a licensed and qualified mental health professional. They can help you identify patterns, understand their origins, and develop steps for change.
¹ “Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model for Social Workers,” Yeshiva University, May 11, 2021, https://online.yu.edu/wurzweiler/blog/prochaska-and-diclementes-stages-of-change-model-for-social-workers
Most major banks have apps or websites that allow you to transfer funds and manage your account without ever going into a branch. But what about the new generation of online-only banks that seem to be popping up? Can you be a reliable bank without brick and mortar locations? Let’s explore the world of online banks and some pros and cons.
Online banks and physical banks have a lot in common. They’re both places that store and protect your money. They both loan out your money for a profit. So what’s the big difference?
For one thing, banks with brick and mortar locations have high overhead. They may pay rent on properties, maintain buildings, hire managers to operate locations, and pay tellers to serve customers. Online banks typically have drastically lower upkeep costs. Sure, you need to pay developers to keep the system running smoothly and securely, but it’s generally much lower compared to the costs of maintaining physical locations.
So what do those differences mean for you, the consumer? Banks with physical locations will pass on their location upkeep expenses to you, the customer. That means they’re more likely to charge you for opening an account, give you as little interest as possible, and crank up rates on loans for houses and cars.
Online banks aren’t weighed down by those physical locations. They have fewer expenses and don’t have to charge you as much to make ends meet.¹ That means you might get significantly higher interest rates on your savings accounts. They also tend to lean less on fees than traditional banks.²
But there are some drawbacks to using an online bank. You might find withdrawing cash without paying ATM fees more difficult than before.³ Depositing cash might also take some more leg work and research.⁴ Customer service can’t be handled in person so problems must be solved via phone or online chat. Plus, safety deposit boxes are harder to come by with an online bank. In short, many of the old school conveniences just aren’t provided by the new generation of online banks.
It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before pulling the trigger and opening an account with an online bank. Trying to make more with your savings account? You may want to investigate banking online. But if you’re on a strict cash diet to avoid excessive spending, a traditional bank might have some classic services that will come in handy. Talk with a licensed financial professional before you make the decision.
¹ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Amber Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet, Mar 25, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/banking/pros-cons-online-only-banking
² “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.
³ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.
⁴ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.
Maybe your numbers never add up or too many expenses are coming “out of the blue”. You might also feel a sense of dread every time you make a purchase. No matter what you do, this whole budgeting thing doesn’t seem to be working.
Hang in there! Here are a few budgeting potholes that might be slowing down your financial goals and how to avoid them!
Budgets are supposed to help you use your money wisely. They should be a positive part of your life—they’re not supposed to make you feel like you’re constantly failing. But sometimes our passion to save money and get our financial house in order gets the better of us, and we set up budgets that are too restrictive. While coming from good intentions, an overly thrifty budget can actually make it harder to achieve your goals. An impossible to follow plan can make you feel discouraged and resentful. You might even decide that it’s not worth the hassle! Try starting with a more reasonable strategy and then build from there!
Sometimes our budgets are just too complicated to actually be useful. Not everyone loves working with numbers, and sometimes fiddling with spreadsheets can get so overwhelming that we just want to quit. Plus, there’s plenty of room for human error! A good option is to investigate free budgeting sites or apps. All you do is punch in the correct numbers and the magic of technology will do the rest!
Life is constantly changing. Your simple, streamlined budget might be perfect for the life of a young single professional, but will it still hold up in five years? Where will the portion of your paycheck that works down your student loans go once you’re debt free? And when will you start saving for a house?
Take some time every few months to review your budget and see what’s changed. Evaluate what you’ve accomplished and areas that need improvement. Ask yourself what your next milestones should be and if those line up with your long-term goals!
Budgeting takes work. But it shouldn’t be a burden. Cut yourself some slack, prune your process, and stay consistent. You might be surprised by the difference filling in budgeting potholes can make in your financial life!
Recently, that dream became a reality for dozens of former students when the U.S. government gave $17 billion of debt relief to 725,000 borrowers.¹
Still, that hardly puts a dent in the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt collectively owed by 43 million Americans.²
So, what are the chances that your loans will be forgiven, and how do you know if you qualify?
Here are three ways to qualify for student loan forgiveness…
Work for a qualifying non-profit or public organization? Then you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
Under this program, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after you make 10 years’ worth of payments.³
And fortunately, it just got far easier to qualify—before recent reforms, the denial rate for the PSLF program was up to 99%.⁴
So if you’re a public servant, head over to the Federal Student Aid website and click Manage Loans.
Similar to the PSLF program, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is available for educators. If you’ve taught in a classroom for 5 years and meet the basic qualifications, you could be eligible for up to $17,500 of debt forgiveness.⁵
But be warned—there are some highly specific qualifications. From the Federal Aid website:
“You must not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998.”⁶
Sound complicated? That’s because it is. As with most financial moves, meet with a debt professional or financial planner to see if you qualify.
If you’re totally and permanently disabled, you may be eligible for a complete discharge of your student loan debt.
You’ll need to submit proof of your disability to your loan servicer. The proof can come in many forms, such as a doctor’s letter, a Social Security Administration notice, or documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
As with everything involving bureaucracy and disability, you may quickly find yourself mired in red tape and conflicting phone numbers. That’s why it’s always wise to seek out professional help if you think you might qualify.
The sad truth is that few actually qualify for these programs. If you work in the private sector, are healthy, and face significant debt, you’ll need to find alternative strategies for moving from debt to wealth.
Still, it’s good to know that there are options out there for those who qualify. So if you think you might be eligible for one of these programs, don’t hesitate to explore your options.
¹ “Here’s who has qualified for student loan forgiveness under Biden,” Erika Giovanetti, Fox Business, Apr 26, https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/student-loan-forgiveness-programs-biden-administration
² “Student Loan Debt Statistics: 2022,” Anna Helhoski, Ryan Lane, Nerdwallet, May 19, 2022 https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/student-loan-debt
³ “Want Student Loan Forgiveness? To Qualify, Borrowers May Need To Do This First,” Adam S. Minsky, Forbes, May 16, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamminsky/2022/05/16/want-student-loan-forgiveness-to-qualify-borrowers-may-need-to-do-this-first/?sh=6aa44a617cdb
⁴ “Want Student Loan Forgiveness?” Minsky, Forbes, 2022
⁵ “Teacher Loan Forgiveness,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher
⁶ “Teacher Loan Forgiveness,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher
It’s linked to lung cancer and heart disease, and is associated with nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States.(1) But smoking damages more than your body. It can also seriously hamper your financial health in ways that might surprise you.
Cigarettes aren’t cheap. Prices per pack vary from $$6.11 in Missouri to $11.96 in New York, but the national average comes out to around $8.(2, 3) Smoking a pack per day will run you $56 per week, $224 per month, and $2,912 per year. Over 20 years you’ll have spent $58,240 on cigarettes. That’s a lot of money to light up!
But smoking carries more subtle costs. Hospital bills, medication, and treatment all cost money, and smoking bumps up your chances of needing those at some point in your future. In total, smoking-related illness costs the United States over $300 billion per year.(4) Smokers also have to face higher insurance costs because of the health risks presented by their habit. All told, smoking one pack per day costs around $15,000 a year, or $40 per pack.(5)
What would you do with $15,000? If you’re smoking a pack per day, your answer is to spend it on a highly addictive chemical that feels great in the moment but will damage your health long-term. But what would happen if you put that $15,000 to work? Could that be the cash you need to start building a business? Maybe that could be the foundation of your child’s college fund or inheritance. That nicotine hit might be what you think you need to destress or get out of bed in the morning, but it’s costing you more than short-term cash. It’s denying you the potential to live on your terms and start building your future.
Quitting cigarettes can feel daunting. They’re an easy coping mechanism that you might depend on. Imagining a day without lighting up with your morning coffee could be downright terrifying. But smoking costs you more than just 6 bucks per pack. It costs you more than your future health. The price of a quick nicotine fix could be stopping you from reaching your full potential and stealing life-changing opportunities.
Trying to quit? Check out these resources from the CDC.
¹ “Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm
² “Cigarette Prices by State 2022,” World Population Review, https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/cigarette-prices-by-state/
³ “Economic Trends in Tobacco,” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/index.htm#
⁴ “ Hidden Costs of Smoking,” American Cancer Society, https://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/benefits/events/flyers/tobacco-free/hidden-cost-of-smoking.pdf
One interior decoration blog estimated that decorating a living room from scratch could cost between $14,400 to almost $50,000!(1) The numbers for the dining room, bedrooms, and kitchen are similarly high. Furnishing an apartment averages between $3500-5800.² But is there a better way? How can you save some cash if you’re trying to furnish your home? Here are a few helpful tips to guide your decorating process!
Start by taking stock of what furniture you have that can be used in your new home. Some of it might work in your new home, some of it might not. Try to get an idea of what existing furniture will go where and make note of new items you’ll need.
Arrange your list of new items in order of importance and buy those first. Mattresses for your bedroom? Top of the list. Abstract modern art to hang in your bathroom? Maybe hold off on that until you’ve taken care of the essentials!
Concerned that your kitchen is a little drab? Worried that your table cloth doesn’t match your dining room? You might be surprised how far a new paint job will get you! It might be a more budget-friendly way to spice up your living situation than tossing all your old furniture out the door, especially if you do it yourself. Things like tables and wooden chairs are all potential candidates for a new coat of paint, as are the walls of your home.
But there’s no doubt that at some point you’ll need to get a new piece of furniture. What then? Cough up and pay a ridiculous price? You might be surprised by the resources available to acquire furniture at a bargain. Local thrift stores can be treasure troves for things like chairs, coffee tables, and bookcases. Craigslist and eBay are also worth investigating, as are estate and garage sales. And you can always scour the curbs for a free sofa if you’re feeling bold!
Furnishing your new house can be fun. It’s a chance to unleash your creativity and make your home a special place. Just make sure you follow these budget-friendly tips before you start indulging!
¹ “Budget Breakdown: How Much Does It Cost To Decorate A Room?” The Kuotes, https://www.kathykuohome.com/blog/budget-breakdown-how-much-does-it-cost-decorate-a-room/
² “The Cost of Furnishing an Apartment: A Step-By-Step Guide With Breakdown Of Furniture Costs,” Bonnie Stinson, Furnishr, Jan 7, 2022 https://furnishr.com/blog/cost-furnishing-apartment/
These words have been plastered all over the news and social media feeds for the last two years. And there’s no sign of it stopping.
As individuals and as businesses, we can’t control the economy.
But what we can control is how we respond to it.
The key is to stay focused on your long-term goals, and make sure your actions align with them.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate economic volatility…
1. Check your emotions. Fear is the natural response to economic volatility. What will happen to your job? What will happen to your business? What will happen to your retirement savings?
Know this—one of the worst mistakes you can potentially make is acting rashly on those fears. Volatility creates opportunity. Don’t lose out on potential because of headlines you read. Instead, assess your situation, what you stand to lose, and opportunities you might have.
2. Stay focused on your goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day noise of the news. But if you want to help your sanity—and make sound financial decisions—it’s important to keep things in perspective.
How far are you from retirement? What kind of lifestyle do you want in retirement? What’s your strategy for protecting against long-term losses?
If your goals are in line with your current reality, take a deep breath and ride out the storm. If not, it’s time to reevaluate where things stand and make adjustments as necessary.
3. Review your budget and financial strategy. Once you’ve gotten past the initial emotional reaction, it’s time to take a clear-eyed look at your budget and finances.
There are two critical components to examine here—your emergency fund and your debt.
If you have an adequate emergency fund in place, keep it intact. Resist the temptation to tap into your savings to cover short-term losses. You’ll need your emergency fund for different expenses, like emergencies.
As for debt, make sure you’re not overextending yourself with credit cards and loans that only might make sense when the economy is booming. If you lose your job in a downturn, the last thing you want is high-interest debt hanging over you.
4. Meet with your financial professional. It’s simple—a licensed and qualified financial professional can help stop rash financial decision making in its tracks.
A financial professional can help you see the big picture, keep things in perspective, and develop a strategy that can help you stay on track—no matter what the economy throws your way.
While economic volatility can feel frightening, it’s important to stay focused on your long-term goals. Having the right mindset and guidance can help you navigate a crisis with confidence.
But what exactly is a credit score? And how is it different from a credit report? It turns out the two have a close relationship. Let’s explore what they are and how they relate to each other.
Credit Report. Your credit report is simply a record of your credit history. Let’s break that down.
Many of us carry some form of debt. It might be a mortgage, student loans, or credit card debt (or all three!). Some people are really disciplined about paying down debt. Others fall on hard times or use debt to fuel frivolous spending and then aren’t able to return the borrowed money. As a result, lenders typically want to know how reliable, or credit worthy, someone is before giving out a loan.
But predicting if someone will be able to pay off a loan is tricky business. Lenders can’t look into the future, so they have to look at a potential borrower’s past regarding debt. They’re interested in late payments, defaulted loans, bankruptcies, and more, to determine if they can trust someone to pay them back. All of this information is compiled into a document that we know as a credit report.
Credit Score. All of the information from someone’s credit report gets plugged into an algorithm. It’s goal? Rate how likely they are to pay back their creditors. The number that the algorithm spits out after crunching the numbers on the credit report is the credit score. Lenders can check your score to get an idea of whether (or not) you’ll be able to pay them back.
Think of a credit report like a test and the credit score as your grade. The test contains the actual details of how you’ve performed. It’s the record of right and wrong answers that you’ve written down. The grade is just a shorthand way to evaluate your performance.
So are credit reports and credit scores the same thing? No. Are they closely related? Yes! A bulletproof credit report will lead to a higher credit score, while a report plagued by late payments will torpedo your final grade. And that number can make all the difference in your financial well-being!
¹ “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby, The Balance, Mar 4, 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/side-effects-of-bad-credit-960383
² “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby.
The rarer the resource, the “wealthier” you are.
On a surface level, that definition conforms to the common stereotypes of wealth. Can we all agree that a stacked bank account is a rare and precious resource?
But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that wealth takes many shapes and forms.
Your knack for finding the right word at the right time?
Your secret talent for creating with your hands?
Your indestructible support network that’s there for you, no matter what?
Those are all resources. Those are all rare. Those are all wealth. They just don’t have a dollar value… yet.
To be fair, you shouldn’t monetize all of your assets, especially if those assets are people. Leveraging your network for money is something that must be done with the utmost care and respect, if at all.
But the fact remains that you likely possess an abundance of resources that could be converted into increased cash flow. Your talents, your ability, and your time are all precious assets that have the potential to boost your income.
The takeaway? When you break it down, you’re wealthier than you may think. The real question is, how will you monetize the resources you’ve been given?
And it’s not just a minor price hike. Used cars saw a 66%-110% price increase from December 2019 to December 2021.¹ For comparison, overall prices have increased “only” 12% from 2019 to 2022.²
Why? Like almost everything over the last two years, it all comes back to the pandemic.
Here’s the story…
New cars need microchips. That’s where all the computerized magic happens that consumers have come to expect when they drive out of the dealership.
But chip manufacturers were hit right between the eyes by the pandemic. They faced extensive lockdowns, followed by surging demand once the economy began to recover. Factories were simply unable to produce new cars quickly enough. Consumers needed alternatives. So they started buying used cars, en masse.
Demand shot up. Supply went down. And as a result, prices for used cars have soared.
Fortunately, there may be relief on the horizon. If chip manufacturers reopen and new cars hit the market, used car prices should start to trend downward. J.D. Power estimates the market will stabilize in late 2022 or early 2023.³ Morningstar puts the date in 2023.⁴
But whether those predictions become reality remains to be seen. For now, if you’re in the market for a used car, expect to pay more than you would have just a few years ago.
¹ “When Will Used-Car Prices Drop? 3 Things Car Shoppers Should Know,” Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com, Feb 3, 2022, https://www.cars.com/articles/when-will-used-car-prices-drop-3-things-car-shoppers-should-know-446525/
² “$1 in 2019 is worth $1.12 today,” in2013dollars.com, https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/2019?amount=1#:~:text=Core%20inflation%20averaged%203.02%25%20per,2022%2C%20a%20difference%20of%20%240.09
³ “When Will Used-Car Prices Drop? 3 Things Car Shoppers Should Know,” Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com, Feb 3, 2022, https://www.cars.com/articles/when-will-used-car-prices-drop-3-things-car-shoppers-should-know-446525/
⁴ “Used car prices continue to surge. Here’s why — and when they could come back down,” Mike Stunson, Miami Herald, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article257060717.html#storylink=cpy
This isn’t to talk bad about your brain—it’s like a supercomputer ceaselessly working to make sense of the world and keep you safe. The trouble is, sometimes it does this by coming up with shortcuts that feel like they should make sense, but can lead to serious errors.
These mistakes are sometimes called mind traps. They can derail logical thinking and lead you astray. And they can have a big impact on your money.
Here are some of the most common money mind traps, and how you can avoid them!
1. All or nothing thinking. This is a classic example of the “great” being an enemy of the “good”. You might feel that unless you can go all out on saving and building wealth, you might as well do nothing. Go big or go home, right?
It’s an obviously flawed line of thinking. Saving even a little is always better than saving nothing. But the temptation not to is still very, very powerful. Why? It might be because of anxious or perfectionist tendencies. Anything short of perfection seems like failure. And that sense of failure is so uncomfortable that it seems safer to not even start.
But here’s the truth—you’ll never go big unless you start small. Waiting for the stars to align, or even to get all your ducks in a row, will result in permanent inaction.
The solution? Commit to save $20 per month (or whatever amount works with your budget). Read one blog article about money. Follow just one money influencer. You might be surprised by the difference that even just a little change can make!
2. Magical thinking. For example: “I’ll start saving when I get a raise.” Spoiler—you won’t.
Why? Because you didn’t start saving after your last raise. What would make this time any different?
This is magical thinking. This time is going to be different, even if you do nothing different. It’s the hope that circumstances will change on their own, and with them, your behavior.
The solution is to be proactive. If you want to save more money, you have to take action. That might mean reworking your budget or setting up automated transfers into savings. It might mean looking for ways to make more money. But whatever it is, do it now. If the “present you” won’t do it, neither will the “future you”.
3. Catastrophizing & personalizing. Have you ever opened your bank account and thought “This is the end of the world?” It’s happened to everyone at least once. Suddenly, you realize you’re far closer to zero than you realized. Worst of all, you’re not sure why.
To be clear, that’s NOT the end of the world. There could be plenty of good reasons why you’ve spent more this month, and there are plenty of ways to get your financial house back in order.
But that’s not how it feels. It feels like defcon 3. Surely this means that you’ll default on the mortgage, lose the car, and ruin your future.
And that catastrophizing almost always leads to personalization. You start blaming yourself. How could you let this happen again? What’s wrong with you? Those negative voices are off to the races, and it can feel impossible to get them under control. And it’s all because you’re looking at your bank balance with no plan.
The solution is to step back, take a breath, and remember that it’s just a number. It does not define you. Sure, you need to take responsibility for your actions. But follow your train of thought. Where are you jumping to conclusions? What are you assuming? If you can catch yourself in the moment, it’s a lot easier to calm those anxious thoughts before they get out of control.
Mind traps are dangerous because they’re so believable. They seem like rational thoughts, but they’re really just faulty logic that can lead to costly mistakes.
The good news is, once you’re aware of them, you can start to catch yourself in the act. And with practice, it gets easier and easier. So next time you find yourself thinking you have to go big or go home, or that your finances will magically fix themselves, or that you’re a failure, take a moment. Write down your thoughts. And then ask yourself—is this really true? Or is it just a mind trap?
Sure, it’s a source of value and a medium of exchange. But above all, it’s a symbol.
What is a symbol? It’s a visible representation of something that’s invisible.
Think about it—can you see success? Not really. It’s an abstract idea. So money is largely how people evaluate if they’re succeeding or failing.
What do you see when you imagine a successful person? Expensive cars, big houses, fancy clothes, and lots of zeros in a bank account.
Those are the symbols of success. And make no mistake—money is the central symbol of success.
How do you feel when your bank account looks full? You probably feel awesome! You get a quick rush, and your steps are just a touch lighter.
But what about when you’re in debt or when you can’t make ends meet? Maybe you feel not so great. You might become stressed and anxious, and feel like you’re not good enough.
That’s because money is a visible representation of your success or failure. It’s a way to keep score.
You see that loaded bank account, and you think “Everything looks good! I’ve really got my act together.”
You see an empty bank account, and you think “What have I been doing? I’ve really messed up my finances.”
Here’s the sticking point—the symbolic nature of money is great for motivation. But it’s terrible for guiding decisions.
Why? Because chasing the symbol can easily lead you to making moves that give you the appearance of wealth without being wealthy. You start buying things far beyond your budget to represent wealth you don’t actually have. This is the fast-track to living paycheck-to-paycheck.
But as motivation? That’s where the power of the symbol lies. Think about that bump you get when you see your net worth climb. Use that feeling as fuel to keep pushing when you hit roadblocks and obstacles.
So what does money mean to you? Is it a scorecard? A way to motivate yourself? Or something else entirely?
How you answer those questions will determine whether money is a powerful tool or a dangerous weapon in your life.
It’s a precarious position—few things are more dangerous than being overconfident AND wrong. It’s a direct path to acting rashly and making big mistakes.
And when it comes to money, those mistakes can be costly.
This isn’t speculation—it’s a scientifically studied phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Put simply, it’s the tendency for unskilled people to grossly overestimate their own competence. The lower the skill level, the more likely they are to overestimate themselves.
And that plays out in personal finance time and time again.
Think about that family member with yet another hair-brained business idea. Or the NFT-slinging college student who’s certain that one of the .JPGs on his computer will be worth millions someday.
It’s the same pattern—you learn a factoid about money. “Compound Interest makes your money grow.” “Real estate can be lucrative.” “You need to start saving ASAP.”
You take that information and, instead of using it as a foundation to do more research, you use it as ammunition. Now you’re an expert! And experts don’t need to read or learn—they already know everything.
From there, it’s a slippery slope into dangerous territory.
Next thing you know, you’re swept up in businesses you don’t understand, or handing your money to “gurus” who promise get-rich-quick schemes.
It’s not always so dramatic, of course. Overestimating your financial literacy can manifest in more subtle ways—like not bothering to comparison shop for a mortgage because you’re confident you already know all there is to know about home loans.
But the end result is always the same—you make mistakes, and those mistakes cost you money.
So, how can you avoid falling into the trap of overconfidence?
The first step is to acknowledge that it’s a trap. Be aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect and its impact on your personal finances.
The second step is to commit to lifelong learning. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts, meet with a professional—whatever it takes to continuously expand your knowledge.
And finally, be humble. Recognize that there’s always more to learn, even if you’re already pretty savvy when it comes to money.
If you can do those things, you’ll be on your way to financial success. And that’s something you can feel confident about.
That’s the question that divides intrinsic motivation from extrinsic motivation. And learning the difference could salvage your career from disaster.
Why? Because different motivation types are useful in different circumstances.
Intrinsic motivation is process focused. It comes from the sense of satisfaction from a job well done. It’s why you keep coming back to hobbies you love, or why you’re compelled to work on that project even when it’s not required. You do it for the love of the game.
Extrinsic motivation is reward focused. It comes from the anticipation or acquisition of something tangible, like a trophy, a raise, praise, or a bonus. It’s the reason you put up with a high paying job you hate, or why you grind out those extra reps at the gym. You do it for the payoff.
Intrinsic motivation is internal, while extrinsic motivation is external.
Here’s the strategic difference—intrinsic motivation is powerful long-term, extrinsic motivation is powerful short-term.
Think about it. How long can you really tolerate that awful job? Eventually, it’ll wear you down, no matter the pay. It will tax your mental health, your relationships, and your quality of life. Trying to leverage reward motivation over the long-term is a recipe for burnout.
That being said, it’s excellent if you need a burst of energy. “Just a few more months, and then I’ll be debt free. I can make it.” Extrinsic motivation is often what we rely on to push through short-term challenges.
By contrast, intrinsic motivation can provide powerful groundwork for planning long-term goals. What are the hobbies and activities you find inherently rewarding? Are they career oriented? Family focused? That’s where you should focus your long-term energy.
You know how it goes. The thought flashes through your mind—”I need to start saving money!”
And then… well, that’s it. You read a few articles on saving and try to spend less, but after a week or two your mind has moved on.
Why? Because all forms of positive change are energy intensive, at least at first. And your brain, smart as it is, likes conserving energy.
So to jump-start saving, you need to take several one time actions that are borderline thoughtless.
Enter automation. It’s a small step with massive return potential.
Like that, you’ve set the stage for dozens of wealth-building actions well into the future.
And what did it take? A few taps over a few minutes.
So what are you waiting for? Automate your savings right now. I’ll wait! Even if it’s $5 per month, it’s a step in the right direction—to build wealth for your future!
But everyone’s heard their share of HOA horror stories. Nitpicking neighbors, outrageous fees, and dysfunctional meetings are just a few of the woes that an HOA can bring your way.
So, should you join an HOA, or stay away? Here are a few factors to consider if you’re currently in the market for a new home and not sure if an HOA is a green light or red flag.
When it comes to HOAs, there are pros and cons to both being in one and not being in one. Here are some of the pros of being in an HOA…
You have access to amenities that you may not have otherwise. This can include things like a pool, a clubhouse, or even just a nicer street.
Rules and regulations of the HOA can help keep your neighborhood looking neat and trim and boost the value of your home—single family homes under HOAs sell for 4% more than the market average.¹
HOAs can often enforce rules more effectively than individual homeowners. That can be helpful if you have a problem with neighbors who are damaging property values.
HOAs can have substantial value. One survey found that for every dollar of fees, an HOA brought $1.19 of benefit.²
But HOAs aren’t all flowers and sunshine. Here are some of the cons of being in an HOA…
HOA fees can be expensive. Yearly fees range from $1,000 to $10,000, which can put certain homes out of your price range.
HOAs can nitpick trivial things, like the color of your house or the kind of plants you put in your yard. There are few things worse than having someone else tell you how to decorate the home you’re making mortgage payments for.
HOAs can be toxic. Like all organizations, HOAs are subject to corruption. Board members can be aggressive and narrow minded, chairmen can become tyrants, and neighbors can be selfish. Rest assured, there’s almost nothing worse for homeowners than getting stuck with a toxic HOA.
HOAs can be useless. There’s nothing worse than an organization that demands money and then doesn’t do anything. In some cases, HOAs fail to enforce rules or regulations, making them little more than a money-sucking black hole.
The key takeaway is that a healthy HOA can be a benefit, while a toxic HOA is a massive liability.
How can you tell the difference between the two? First, check out the quality of the other homes. Are they well maintained, or falling apart?
Second, review the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R). These are the rules and regulations you’ll have to follow if you move into the neighborhood. If you see anything outrageous or suspicious, ask about them.
Finally, talk to your potential neighbors. Are they happy with the HOA? If not, why? Their answers may be trivial—or they may reveal significant issues.
HOAs can be a great way to maintain property values and improve your quality of life. But they can also be expensive, time consuming, and even toxic. So do your homework before you buy a home in an HOA neighborhood, or you may regret it later.
“HOA Pros and Cons for Homebuyers: Rules, Fees, and Perfect Lawns,” Valerie Kalfrin, HomeLight, Dec 23, 2019, https://www.homelight.com/blog/buyer-hoa-pros-and-cons/
But is it really worth the investment? This article looks at the cost of electric cars and whether they’re a good purchase in the long run.
The main way that an electric car can save you money is with its lower fuel costs, especially when gas prices are high. One study found that an EC is 60% cheaper to fuel compared to cars with combustible engines.¹
That’s not all—because they have fewer parts, they can require up to 31% less maintenance. No more oil changes!
Finally, some states incentivize purchasing electric cars with tax credits. These credits can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, making the switch to electric even more enticing. Incentives vary from state to state, so do your research before making your final decision!
But there are serious drawbacks to consider. Many places have yet to build the infrastructure needed for electric cars. An electric car may not be feasible if you live beyond the cities and suburbs.
You should also consider the sticker price of an electric car, which is often higher than gas vehicles. The cost of the car can be offset over time with the lower fuel and maintenance costs, but it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure that the numbers add up for you.
Plus, the consensus seems to be that electric car prices will only drop in the future. Perhaps you should purchase an electric car at some point, just not now.
It’s important to do enough research to know the different benefits of an electric car before you make a purchase. An EC may save you money in fuel costs but they are often more expensive than traditional cars, so it might be hard to justify that investment. It’s worth doing your homework to determine if buying an EC will actually help you save money over the long term.
¹ “Here’s whether it’s actually cheaper to switch to an electric vehicle or not—and how the costs break down,” Mike Winters, CNBC, Dec 29 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/29/electric-vehicles-are-becoming-more-affordable-amid-spiking-gas-prices.html#:~:text=Electric%20vehicles%20tend%20to%20have,to%20internal%20combustion%20engine%20vehicles