Here Are 40 of the Best Ways To Make Extra Money

Here Are 40 of the Best Ways To Make Extra Money

Want to put extra cash in your pocket?

You can find ways to make extra money on the side that can be lucrative and fun. All you need to make extra money is an open mind, motivation, grit, and determination to use your creativity and skills you may already have or can grow. Find a need you see and can fill it. You can do a side hustle in your free time to make extra money legitimately:

  • working from home and online
  • using a car or a house
  • getting additional training or certification
  • in your spare time

40 Ways To Make Extra Money

1. Drive For Uber or Lyft

Have spare time? You can drive for ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft. There are a few requirements like having a driver’s license and meeting the minimum age requirement in your chosen area. You can make $100 a day for a six-hour shift, though if you hustle (safely), your pay can go to $500 a day.

They will review your background, including your driving record, for safety purposes. You will need a four-door car, preferably not a 20-year-old model, have insurance and registration. If you don’t have a suitable vehicle, you may rent one from these companies.

2. Wrap Advertisements On Your Car

Speaking of cars, have you thought about using this asset to advertise for well-known brands? You can earn $200 per month without having to change your daily schedule just by having vinyl decals on your car that you can easily remove. Wrap advertising companies calculate your typical driving routes.

They look for newer cars and daily commutes of 30 miles per day. The denser the traffic, the more you can earn. However, some municipalities have restricted this practice, so check your area.

This type of marketing has been around since 1993 when a Pepsi Crystal product appeared on a wrapped bus. Several companies are in this space, including Wrapify, Nickelytics, and Havas Media, part of the global Havas Group.

3. Food/Groceries Delivery Services

In combination with the ride-sharing companies, or on your own, you can participate in delivering prepared meals, groceries, or other things while you are on your way to a destination. We live busy lives and make tradeoffs between time and money. The demand for ordering delivery jumped significantly during the pandemic and remains strong.

In the prepared food delivery services, the success of Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub has been astronomical. If your car is too old to drive for Uber, you can still use your car for Uber Eats to deliver food or go by scooter, bicycle, or foot. You can make $8-12 per hour plus tips.

The delivery of grocery shopping got a similar boost, benefiting companies like Instacart, Shipt, and FreshDirect. A more recent entry to the delivery of meals is Amazon Fresh.

4. Become A Roadie

You can get paid for delivering packages that are already on your way to the other side of town, a different city, or across the country by becoming a Roadie. Your compensation for a local dropoff ranges up to $60, while long-haul deliveries could be as high as $650. Imagine taking your kid to college by car and arranging deliveries in both directions. You decide on how you want to participate with Roadie.

5. Hire A Chef

Can you cook with flair and enjoy doing so? People like hiring skilled personal chefs for special events or long-term culinary needs. There may be education requirements for being a private or persona chef who can differ from who your clients are. If you are cooking meals for a particular person or family once in a while, it may be a less formal arrangement.

Hiring a chef may be for varying purposes such as nutrition, elderly or ill, parties, or in-home eating for busy people. Hourly rates are about $30-$40 per hour. However, charges vary by person for large parties.

On the other hand, clients may call on you to have a broad repertoire. You may need to show evidence of your cooking ability, culinary training, and certification. You list zip codes or areas you can provide services on sites like Hire A Chef.

6. Tutor Online or In Person

Do you have a passion for teaching and want flexibility? Become a tutor online or in person and share your knowledge. Select your hours and subject of expertise for the ACT or SAT, or graduate exams. Consider tutoring privately or classes. It can be a seasonal or all-year-round gig.

There are education requirements, with high school completion as the minimum. Typical hourly pay of $30 or higher will depend on the subject, with a more challenging curriculum like math getting higher demand and pay.  A few companies to consider working for: The Tutoring Company, Tutor.com, and TutorMe.

7. Private Coaching

Becoming a coach can be very rewarding. Coaching is a service you provide to help transform themselves in a part of their lives. It is a form of mentoring, not counseling, though some training in the area of your expertise can be helpful. Private coaches are in demand in various sports, either one-to-one, teams, or in groups. Parents are willing to pay for extra help for the kids or adults who want a running or tennis partner to get stronger.

You can either work freelance as a coach with a large gym, schools or work for companies like CoachUp, CoachNow, or TeamPro that can help you build your portfolio for one-time fees and a small percentage of your pay. Besides sports coaching, you can be a finance or life coach. 

8. Answer Surveys

There are several ways you can make cash, get gift cards, coupons, earn redeemable points or rewards by answering surveys and participating in polls. It is easy to sign up and contribute your opinions on market research, brands and watch movie trailers in your free time. It is easy to participate, earn some money (it won’t be significant), and learn something new.

Here are the more established names:

  • Swagbucks
  • Branded Surveys
  • Survey Junkie
  • InBoxDollars
  • Life Points,(originally National Family Opinion)
  • VolKno (video trailers)
  • Pinecone Research

9. Participate In A Research Study

Medical research is essential to finding new drugs, remedies, and dietary supplements, but they have to go through many clinical trials. Teaching hospitals, clinics, biotech companies, and research organizations seek people who will participate in their studies for paid opportunities that can be $1,000 or more. You can check local hospitals or clinics in your area, like ResearchMatch.org, Covance, or ClinicalTrials.gov. Kessler Foundation does survey questionnaires.

10. Taste Tester

Want to make some cash or gift cards in your free time, be a taste tester and have some fun.  You can work for companies, such as Schwan’s Food Company, who may deliver their food to your home, and in less than 15 minutes, you can make $15. Several market research firms can contact to taste varying products, including PVR Research, CMR Research, Discuss Research, and Contract Testing Inc. Besides food testing, there may be smell testing.

11. Teaching A Language Online

Being bilingual is a great skill in life and can be profitable in our global world. There is a tremendous demand for teaching languages to children and adults online as professional teachers or community tutors across the globe. Requirements vary, but reliable technology is essential.

Knowledge of reading and writing in more than one language and a college diploma are a plus. Hourly pay ranges from $8-$30 per hour, with the higher amount associated with more excellent proficiency and experience. You can teach a language from anywhere.

These companies are looking for those with language expertise:

  • Verbling
  • VerbalPlanet
  • VIPKid
  • iTalki

Teaching a language should strengthen your skills and may open doors to more opportunities. There is substantial demand for translators and interpreters with higher pay per hour of $20 or more depending on the specific language.

12. Become A Drone Pilot

This choice is a fascinating way to make extra money if you own a drone. To become a drone pilot, you will need training  (DroneU, ABJ Drone Academy, or Pilot Institute) and FAA certification. Freelance drone pilots can do aerial inspections for utility companies, aerial surveying for real estate companies, or social events like weddings, travel, and hotels that want to show their grounds. You likely would need insurance.

Although there are some upfront costs (e.g., drone, training, insurance), you could do this kind of work on a part-time basis. Your compensation varies by the company or group you may be working for $500-$600 per week is not out of the question.

13. Earn Money Working For Amazon

Did you see the movie Nomadland with Francis McDormand? Her character, Fern, works as part of Amazon’s “Camper Force’s” temporary workforce. Amazon offers sign-on bonuses of up to $1,000 and $20 an hour to work in their workforce. The vast majority of Amazon’s 1.3+ million employees have hours that work for them. Part-timers get the same benefits as full-time employees. Amazon has other opportunities, notably:

Amazon Flex encourages you to use your car to make deliveries for $18-$25 per hour, depending on the location.

Amazon Fresh is its grocery delivery of fresh food.

Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is an online crowdsourcing marketplace. You can become an MTurk employee in your spare time and be part of their global on-demand workforce.

Suppose you have spare time and want to work at MTurk from home. In that case, you can apply your skills to research data processing, data verification and details, image/video processing,  transcribe audio recordings, and information gathering.  A lot of the work deals with tedious data gathering of completed surveys and polls. The hourly pay varies from low single digits to $16 per hour depending on the task, plus some jobs pay bonuses.

14. Become A Local Guide

If you have specialized knowledge, speak in more than one language, and are passionate about the area you live in, you can become a local guide. People enjoy learning about things off the beaten path from the typical tourist stops. The guides are usually experts in  nature, history, food, wine, or cemeteries.  People will pay up for a quality tour, plus tips. You can freelance or list on Rent A Local Friend or Traveling Spoon.

15. Become A Hair & Makeup Artist

There is high demand for people who can do hair and makeup in their homes for special occasions, work events, parties, including weddings, and bar/bat mitzvahs. This freelance job is a lucrative field for those with talent and flexible schedules. If you have the flexibility to do the work at odd hours like six AM, during weekends or holidays, you can earn $150-$600 or more for this job. You may need some training to learn about different styles and cosmetics.

16. Become A Photographer

Do you enjoy photography as a hobby? Why not take it to the next step and pursue what you love doing, whether portraits, family photography, travel, sports, nature, stock photographs, or candid photography. Sell your photos online or to respective companies that specialize in your area of expertise. Consider listing on Fine Art America or stock photo sites like Getty Images or Shutterstock.

17. Become A Tasker With TaskRabbit

Are you handy with hands and have some flexibility? There is a task waiting for you on TaskRabbit, and they will pay you a generous hourly rate, depending on the job and location. Can you wait in line to get tickets for a show in NYC? They will pay you $43 per hour. TaskRabbit takes a 15% cut of your pay before tips for popular tasks such as deliveries, handyman, TV mounting, hanging pictures, moving, and furniture assembly.

Next Door, a neighborhood community version, posts similar tasks..

18. Freelance Writing

Do you enjoy writing? If you write well, you may want to consider doing it on a freelance basis. You want to consider a desirable niche that works for you. It takes time to develop your niche, writing skills, and voice.

There are many ways to land some writing jobs online. It is easier if you have a professional blog so that you can point to your work. However, you can start by doing cold pitches and contact editors online. When you’re new to freelance writing, check the job board for freelance writers,  and ask around if you can guest post.

19. Become A Blogger

Like a freelance writer, if you are interested in blogging, you need to find your niche. Earning money from a blog takes a longer time than many other areas suggested in this article. There are some upfront costs like building and designing your website and hosting.

You can go at your own pace in building a following and traffic before you can earn money from ads, affiliated marketing, sponsored posts, selling courses, and other products. Think of blogging as a longer-term proposition to potentially make a living on a flexible schedule.

20. Repair Electronics

Like fiddling with computers and smartphones? You will be in demand by folks like me who don’t know what is wrong with their electronics. This kind of work can be done locally on your schedule when you are free. The compensation for repairing electronics varies in the $15-$20 per hour range.

21. Selling Spare Electronics

Somewhat related to repairing electronics is selling spare, used, or unused electronics such as iPads, media players, smartphones, printers, cameras, or headphones. The parts from these devices are valuable and profitable. You can contact several companies for selling your electronics, notably BuyBack World, Sellcell.com, Decluttr, Swappa, Gazelle, and Facebook Marketplace. You can trade-in your electronics for cash, and these companies will refurbish and sell certified pre-owned.

22. Sell Your Used Items On Craigslist or eBay

You can sell used items like electronics, appliances, and furniture online. Craigslist is more like an online community board, with most advertisements being free. eBay has various fees, and you will pay a percentage of the final value to them.

23. Sell Your Crafts As An Online Storeowner

It has become much easier to sell your crafts and unique goods to a seemingly boundless market in recent years. These online marketplaces may charge listing, transaction, and payment processing fees, so you will need to check each company. The best-known companies are:

  • Etsy
  • Shopify
  • Big Cartel
  • Zibbet
  • IndieMade
  • ArtFire
  • Handmade at Amazon

24. Selling Your Professional Services Online

There are expanding platforms to sell your professional services as freelancers. Among the places, you can list your services and bid for jobs are Fiverr, Upwork, and 99 Designs. You can name your price starting at $5, give your experience, and how you work. Among the services you can offer:

  • Graphics & Design
  • Digital, Email and Social Media Marketing
  • Web Development
  • Writing & Translation
  • Videos & Animation
  • Music & Audio

25. Sell Unused Gift Cards

Do you have some gift cards in a drawer? I do too. Legally, gift cards cannot expire in less than five years after the purchase price, but you may incur fees for inactivity. You should use your gift cards as soon as you can so you get the total value. Sometimes you may get a gift card from a well-meaning friend who wants you to try out her favorite place that you have little interest in shopping there.

Instead, sell your unused gift cards for up to 80% of their value on Raise, CardCash, Cash Star, among others.

26. Become A Mystery Shopper

Do you like to shop? Marketing research companies will hire mystery shoppers to buy items in retail stores, eat at restaurants, and ask salespeople and customer service questions. They provide a detailed account of their experiences. These companies engage in these shoppers to collect valuable data to measure sales and service quality and understand the market, including its competitors.

The mystery shoppers have to buy the products, but they usually receive reimbursment for their expenses or purchases. The companies pay a flat amount for their assignment, which can go up to $50-$100, or provide them with discounts. You can become a mystery shopper with BestMark, the first and largest mystery shopping measurement company. Others are Market Force, IntelliShop, and Second to None.

27. Get Cash Back From Shopping Apps

You can earn cash back, coupons, rewards, or points, from your home online using shopping apps. Ibotta is one of the better-known free mobile apps that gives you rebates for varying grocery items. You find more cash back apps that are as easy to use once you download them. They are Shopkick, Fetch Awards, Checkout 51, Dosh, Coupon.com, and NCPMobile.

28. Become A Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant is a contractor who works remotely, provides general administrative support by performing varying tasks: email management, content creation, bookkeeping, scheduling, graphic design, social media, copyrighting, and e-commerce. According to Payscale, you can earn $10.16 to $29.49 per hour. More experienced VAs can earn higher rates of $50 or more.

Outsourcing to a virtual assistant has been in demand by online businesses and entrepreneurs in recent years. You can list with Fiverr, UpWork, VaNetworking.com, oDesk, Linkedin, and Indeed.

29. Social Media Manager

Social media marketing is exploding. Over 3.6 billion people were on social media sites in 2020. The growth of social media commands companies to master engagement with consumers on various sites. However, social media management is not just for large companies, as small businesses need this exposure to grow.

Social media managers are essential in developing campaigns, managing digital marketing and analytics, helping their clients grow their businesses. Social media hone their skills to create engaging content that can convert followers into loyal customers. The managers spend time monitoring and measuring the social media presence of a product, brand, company, or even an individual. Upwork shows social media managers making $12-$35 per hour, but the more experienced managers can make $50.

30. Participate In Focus Groups

Market researchers rely on consumers to participate in focus groups to retrieve invaluable opinions on new and existing products and services. You can participate one-to-one by phone, zoom, in a small group that meets in person or online. Each focus group will be different. Your compensation could be on an hourly basis ranging from $50-$150 or per research session. Groups typically meet for an hour or two. For those who have flexible schedules, this can be a lucrative gig for studies paying $400 per hour.

Here are recommended focus groups given their ratings:

  • User Interviews
  • Respondent.io
  • Recruit and Field
  • FocusGroup.com
  • Probe Market Research

31. Sell Unused Clothes

Have an eye for fashion but still have tags on your clothes? There’s a market for that. You can sell your unused clothes on several sites that may give you up to 80% of the cost of the item. Some will take a small commission.

Places you can tap to sell your clothing are:

  • ThredUp (easy to deal with)
  • Poshmark (original reseller)
  • The Real Real (luxury)
  • Etsy (takes 3% commission)
  • eBay
  • Depop
  • Facebook Marketplace

 

32. Sell Baby Gear

Have baby clothes that are either gently used or with tags on them that you would like to sell? Listing on Kidizen is free, but they take a percentage of your selling price on various items. You can sell maternity clothes, bags, and children’s books as well. Alternatives to Kidizen, are OfferUp, and Letgo, used goods marketplaces recently merged, have an app.

33. Closet or Home Organizer

Want to organize someone’s closet or drawers professionally? If you know how to declutter someone’s home or closets, there is a job for you in this market. If you have these skills, you can make hourly rates of $20 or more, or it can sell as a package deal such as sorting out someone’s garage or basement for $250-$300 or more.

It depends on the specific needs, such as going through someone’s papers to find essential documents, redoing an entire closet or room. People often hire others for this task because of the emotional baggage, especially when a loved one has passed away.

34. Become A House Sitter or Watcher

When people take vacations or travel for work, they will consider hiring a house sitter. Owners worried about burglaries seek security and peace of mind. Professional house-sitters may water plants, collect mail, take out the trash, and do pet care. They can earn $25-$45+ per hour depending on the location. House sitters may do short overnight stays or longer stays.

It is essential to the owner to trust someone temporarily residing in your home, taking care of beloved pets or plants. They will want a background check. You can register with organizations such as TrustedHouseSitter.com or HousesittersAmerica.com, where reviews and verification are helpful for prospective customers.  When pet sitting is the primary function, you can hire a pet sitter (see below).

A house or property watcher is different than a house sitter. The person may monitor the home a few times during the week. They look for disturbances, leaks and checks the temperature inside the house to avoid burst pipes or boiler problems. This job can be seasonal when areas are primarily for summer or winter homes. The house watcher’s pay is likely weekly and provides relatively less compensation than a house sitter, but they can do more houses in total.

35. Become A Pet Sitter

We love our pets and will do almost everything to keep them comfortable when we are away. When pet sitting is the primary concern, owners will seek out experienced pet sitters to take care of their pets by feeding, walking, and paying attention to them. Let’s face it, we love these essential family members and want to avoid the kennels but. We also want to travel without guilt.

Pet sitters can be paid per hour or daily, for visiting the pets during the day or staying overnight either in the person’s home or your home. Professional sitters may have several pets in your home at a time. The house-sitting organizations mentioned above do pet sitting as well.

Pet sitting can vary from $15-$50 per hour. We paid $65 per day plus tips for a pet sitter who happened to be our dog walker. He stayed overnight, feeding, walking, and caring for our dog.

36. Become A Host Ambassador With Airbnb

Do you have a property that you don’t use all the time? You might want to consider hosting or renting your property through Airbnb anywhere in the world for short- or long-term stays. They make arrangements, provide insurance for potential damage, and support services.

The average host makes about $924 per month. Amounts will go higher if your property is in a desirable market, such as San Jose, California, where a four-bedroom house may command $3,000 a week. Be aware that there may be upfront costs if you need to redecorate your home to make it suitable for renters. Besides Airbnb, there are alternatives like Vrbo and VacRentals by Owners.

37. Rent Your Car With Turo

Airbnb is so popular that it has become a verb, as is Airbnb your car by becoming a host and renting your car. You can do so through Turo, the largest car-sharing marketplace. The company website says you can make as much as $10,516 annually by renting one car. Turo’s US requirements include having a clean title, registration in any state (except New York), meet their insurance requirements, have fewer than 130,000 miles, and a fair market value capped at $150,000.

38. Become A Caregiver

Do you have a passion for taking care of others and earning some extra money?

Caregiving looks after a child (e.g., babysitter), a sick, elderly, or disabled person, and is in high demand. It can be for hours a day or evening or regularly, requiring different skills. When caring for children, the hourly pay averages about $17.50 (over $20 in New York and other cities). However, the payment will be higher if you are preparing meals or helping them with their homework.

Caregivers help adults with their day-to-day needs. That could range from keeping them company, monitoring, helping them with their mobility, medication, hygiene, grocery shopping/meal prep, run errands, pick up a prescription, and doctor visits. These professionals may need CPR certification or other training to administer drugs and physical therapy. Caregivers make from about $10-$20+ per hour, depending on their skills.

Background checks, whether for a caregiver for a child or adult in need, are likely. When our kids were young, we needed caregivers often and for our elderly parents. Care.com is an excellent resource to find the right person and a good way to land jobs based on your availability.

39. Money-Saving Measures

I can point to a few legit low-risk, high return strategies if you are looking to generate income generation that will benefit your pocket.

  • Refinancing your mortgage may produce savings, net of fees. 
  • Paying off high-cost credit card debt and don’t carry balances.
  •  Reduce or eliminate other consumer loans if you can refinance loans at lower rates.
  • Improving your credit scores ahead of planned borrowing may produce some savings.
  • Seek out learning new skills or training that can bump their salary.
  • Ask for a raise.

40. Invest Money In Dividend Growth Stocks

If you put some portion of your investments into dividend growth stocks with above-average yields, you can raise your income. For example, a $500,000 investment in 4% yielding stocks will provide $20,000 in annual pretax income. A $2.5 million portfolio in dividend stocks paying 4% yields equates to $100,000 in yearly income. At a more reasonable 3% yield, annual income would be $75,000 income.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to earn extra money, save, pay down debt, or build your investment portfolio. Consider your skills, interest, and time to spare to find a suitable way to make extra money and build your path to wealth. 

Thank you for reading! Visit The Cents of Money for more articles of interest.

This article was published first on SavoTeur and published with permission. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pros and Cons of Universal Basic Income

Pros and Cons of Universal Basic Income

Universal basic income, or UBI, is a modern-day concept under which the government distributes cash payments to all. This concept has been around since Thomas More proposed a basic income to everyone in Utopia, written nearly 500 years. Once a radical plan, UBI has many advocates from the political left and right in the US and globally. The  Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021 may be the best example of Universal Basic Income.

From Thomas More to now, many people, from Thomas Paine to Andrew Yang, have been closely associated with UBI in various forms.

Two historical efforts of universal basic income stand out.

“The Freedom Budget For All Americans”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked with A Philip Randolph and 200 prominent economists on “The Freedom Budget For All Americans,”  which advanced as a published document in 1967. This ambitious step-by-step plan’s primary goal was to stamp out poverty over the next ten years.

The program would raise higher Federal income taxes of $200 (1967 dollars), a portion to create jobs. As such, there would be a job guaranteed to everyone ready and willing to work. Alternatively, those who couldn’t work would receive guaranteed income to lift them out of poverty. The plan was estimated to cost $185 billion (not a typo) over ten years.

The plan outlined seven goals: providing and sustaining employment with full production and high economic growth; decent and adequate wages; decent living standard; wipe out slum ghettos; proper medical care and educational opportunities; and purify air and water.

The Freedom Budget had significant merit, but it lost substantial momentum after MLK’s assassination in 1968. In recent years, this concrete guaranteed income model had received new attention.

Nixon’s Family Assistance Plan

In 1969, President Nixon proposed a Family Assistance Plan that guaranteed families of four would receive $1,600 ($10,000 in 2016 dollars) annually in household income, still below the average of $7,400 at that time. The plan required “suitable” work or training for the head of the family.  By the way, Richard Nixon would not necessarily be the President to consider such a program. However, he followed President Johnson, who initiated the “War on Poverty.”

Nixon set a trial with 8,500 Americans in several states, notably New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina, and Indiana. The study would be among the first guaranteed income pilots with experimental and control groups. Nixon was motivated to do this plan to garner blue-collar votes in the 1972 election. Nixon’s program resulted in proposed laws and revisions, but political pressures hurt, and Watergate killed any hopes of legislation in Nixon’s second term.

I found a great article that provides more insight into Nixon’s plan and what happened behind the scenes here.

The 2021 Advance Child Tax Credit: An Example of Universal Basic Income? 

Interest in universal basic income has increased. Indeed, the child tax credit may be an example of decreasing income inequality. Black families are in poverty disproportionately. Rather than a credit to deduct against income, the IRS will pay half the total credit amount in advance monthly payments to many families beginning July 2021. Families can then claim the other half when they file their 2021 tax returns.

The child tax credits are an effort to decreasing child poverty in the US, with 39 million families and 65 million children receiving money directly deposited into bank accounts. The IRS will send out monthly payments of $300 for children under six years and $250 per month for children between ages six and 17. There will be six payments in 2021 and one payment in 2022 for each child in the household.

Families will receive up to $3,600 per child under age six (or $3,000 for six-17 years) well above the $2,000 per child, ages 0-16). The credit begins to decrease at certain income levels ($112,500 of income for single parents and $150,000 for married couples).

The child tax credits are being distributed to families in need based on capped income levels. It remains to be seen whether these will be a one-time event or an ongoing tax change. The IRS simply says “These changes apply to tax year 2021 only.” At the very least, we hope it will be a positive event for families in need.

Reasons For Universal Basic Income

 

Income Inequality

Income inequality has been on the rise over the past decades. The highest-earning 20% of US households have steadily brought in a larger share of the country’s income. The US ranks highest in income inequality of all G7 nations, according to the OECD.

Wealth Gap

The net worth or wealth gap between America’s wealthiest and more impoverished families has more than doubled from 1989 to 2016. At the same time, middle-class incomes have grown at a slower rate and represent a slower group. The rich are getting richer, the middle-class is shrinking, and the wealth gap is growing.

Poverty

The poverty rate in 2019 was 10.5%, or 34 million in the US. This rate was the lowest since 1959 and had been on the decline for the past few years. However, looks can be deceiving as Blacks (18.8%) and Hispanics (15.7%) were far higher. The poverty level was $26,172 for a  family of four.

The Pandemic Effects

The coronavirus pandemic caused a severe economic downturn with high unemployment, which remains at high levels. Any improvements in poverty rates quickly reversed. Researchers headed by Zachary Parolin found monthly poverty rates rose to a high of 17.3% in August 2020. That rate would have been higher if not for the CARES Act, which provided essential financial support to those in need.

Automation May Displace Workers

There have been rising worries that artificial intelligence and robotics can displace workers in the future. As many as one-third of the US workforce may have jobs susceptible to automation and need new skills and retraining.

What Is Universal Basic Income?

Universal basic income or UBI is, in theory, a government program that distributes periodic cash payments to all citizens without conditions or strings attached. There have been various pilot programs in the US and other countries. However, there is no permanent program implemented as of yet. Once thought radical, its idea is less farfetched as a potential replacement for other social programs. Even President Nixon came close to developing a UBI-like plan.

There have been disagreements as to the components of Universal basic income.

To All Or Only Those In Need

Distribution of basic income universally would mean everyone, including the wealthy, would be getting cash payments or only those in need? What income level should the cutoff be?

Should distribution be aimed at an individual or a household and include the same amount for minors? The CARES Act implemented a government financial support program for those facing hardship due to the pandemic. The plan used income caps amounts to moderate financial support levels. Also,  families received additional amounts for children under 18 years.

How Much Money Would People Receive?

Income estimates have ranged from $1,000 to $5,000 per month. The essential question is whether this goes to everyone or those in most need, and it would be ongoing, or until that person gets a stable job.

One of the greatest fears opponents of UBI point to is whether those who receive guaranteed income will have enough incentives to work. It is a fundamental question and may drive the stipend distributed to a lower level, so work motivation is not lost. We feel strongly about the virtues of work and how working goes beyond sole compensation.

What Is The Cost And How Would It Be Paid

In recent years, estimated costs ranged from $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion. The pandemic has driven up our budget deficit. Those who are unemployed or own small businesses still need more financial support in the near term. Of course, to figure out what UBI would depend on a few factors:

How large is the recipient base? Andrew Yang, 2020 Presidential candidate, had worked on a $2.8 trillion plan in which every US citizen would get $1,000 per month (or $12,000 annually). Yang’s plan uses higher taxes and costs savings from reducing an existing government plan to finance the UBI.

Does UBI replace the current welfare social program and other programs, and could there be cost savings? Many point to eliminating the federal welfare program at an annual cost of $1 trillion.

Incentive tax credits or higher taxes for the wealthy and corporations can contribute funds for the program.

Pros of Universal Basic Income

 

Fulfill Basic Needs, Reduce Poverty And Gaps

Universal basic income aims to provide money to people with more significant difficulties in covering the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. Over time, UBI can make inroads to reducing poverty, narrowing income and wealth disparities. Gender and racial gaps tend to be widest between white men and women of color.

A more level playing field would enhance the workplace, could potentially reduce hiring discrimination and pay gaps. Everyone should have an opportunity to have a good job and financial security, especially those who are poor and don’t have a chance without changing our system.

Stimulate The Economy

When disposable personal income increases, households have more money to either save, invest, or spend. More money in people’s wallets means increased consumption of goods and services. Generally, higher consumer spending would lead to more substantial economic growth.

Increased Standard of Living

The US has a higher standard of living than many countries. However, not all Americans share that same standard. A guaranteed income would help more people to rise to better levels than they are living now.

More Freedom To Make Changes

There may be a more remarkable ability for some people to have the freedom to pursue a different job or career if they can depend on a guaranteed income. Many people work at a job they hate or have non-paid caregiving responsibilities. Getting income would help people make changes without fear rather than feeling stymied at a job they dread. Those who need to take time off to provide caregiving to an aged parent or child can do so more efficiently.

Cons of Universal Basic Income

 

It’s Costly and Complicated

Universal basic income has its merits. It is a simple topic in theory, but its components are very complicated and political. Also, the timing is off. The final tally for the budget deficit in fiscal 2020 exceeded $3 trillion, triple the year-ago amount due to the pandemic needs. Throwing trillions of dollars around as estimates for an uncertain program during a costly pandemic is not a way to get fans for UBI. However, the economy has been stronger in recent months. 

Fear of Handouts Without Incentives To Work

Guaranteeing a basic income to all without requirements reeks of handouts. Many people fear that UBI will increase laziness by reducing motivation to work or spending the guaranteed income on “temptation goods” such as alcohol or drugs. A study by MIT/Harvard programs found “no systemic evidence that cash transfer programs discourage work.”

An 18-month experiment took place with 125 people in Stockton, California, and is still ongoing. They are each receiving $500 per month with no strings attached. The working part or full-time participants are making at or below the median income of $46,000. Instead, the researchers found that people are reasonably spending their guaranteed income on food, clothing, utilities, and car repairs.

Doesn’t Necessarily Abolish The Need For Welfare

There are several pilots ongoing around the world. Without a permanent guaranteed plan in place, there are no results to assess if one plan simply replaces another social program. What are the benchmarks for the success of universal basic income?  On paper, universal basic income sounds like it may guarantee payment indefinitely. Is there accountability for those who are part of the plan and truly no strings attached? My two cents here are that there should be a consideration to add work requirements for those who can.

Final Thoughts

Universal basic income or UBI is controversial. However, it has been gaining attention as gaps in income equality and wealth have widened. It is difficult to assess its merits as a potential government program with more questions than answers. Universal basic or guaranteed income should be piloted, studied, and addressed comprehensively in a serious manner.

 Thank you for reading! Please visit us at The Cents of Money to find more articles of interest.

 

 

 

Ten Commandments of Saving Money

Ten Commandments of Saving Money

“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.”

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett’s quotes are timeless, reflecting his wisdom. His words on saving and investments are inspiring. Saving money is the cornerstone of a sound financial plan. Through discipline and hard work, we can save money to reward ourselves with financial flexibility. By making saving a priority and making your money work for you, you are more likely to achieve financial success.

Key Reasons To Save Money

  • Help to achieve our financial goals.
  • Pay our bills on time and entirely, so we don’t need to carry costly debt.
  • Provide an emergency cushion for unpredictable costs.
  • Set aside funds for our children’s college tuition and our retirement.
  • Make investments, the best way to build wealth.

I like to revisit ancient views of saving money from timeworn texts and stories. There is a common thread across varying beliefs on saving, avoid overspending, and investing for a better financial future. Surveying these words adds a different perspective on finances. In the companion Ten Commandments of Personal Finance, we look at home ownership, investing,  retirement, and debt management.

Ten Commandments of Saving Money:

 

1. Spend Within Your Means

Saving money is an essential financial habit. According to a CareerBuilder report, 78% of American workers are living paycheck-to-paycheck.  Even those with higher incomes of at least $100,000 (nearly 10%)  are having trouble making ends meet.

I grew up in a modest household that saved diligently. As a young girl, I didn’t always understand why we were having financial problems. My mom reminded us often that our needs exceeded our wants, and we had to be careful about spending. Later on, I learned that my parents set up a small retail business that took a long time to get off the ground. Savings became part of our mindset from then on.

Control thy expenditures.”

To set aside money for saving and investing, you may need to cut some costs. To control your expenses, assess what your necessary living needs are. These are predictable monthly fixed costs such as mortgage payments or rent, property taxes, utilities, car loans, typical grocery bills, credit card payments, and any expenses you pay monthly. Remember, these costs are for our needs rather than for our wants and desires.

Be reasonable about satisfying your every want. A rise in earnings may not fully accommodate every gratification we seek. For example, that 10% raise on your $80,000 salary may not significantly help you to buy that luxury car (or chariot in ancient times), you have been eyeing.

 

2. Build A Healthy Emergency Fund

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, record jobless claims caused a dramatic slowdown of the economy. Although federal stimulus packages have added to state unemployment benefits, there is no guarantee this government aid will be ongoing. 

 Economic downturns are cyclical events you can’t time. They cause substantial financial stresses. Recessions remind us of the need for savings on hand. Having an emergency fund is necessary to pay for basic living expenses for at least six months, if not a year. Having readily accessible funds in liquid funds such as money market securities helps you avoid borrowing money.

Joseph’s Emergency Funds

Emergency funds as a prudent strategy appear in Genesis 41:34-36. In this passage, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream about seven fat cows grazing by a river swallowed up by seven skinny cows. Joseph views the seven fat cows as seven prosperous years for Egypt, followed by seven years of famine. As a result of planning for this disaster, Joseph advises Pharaoh to store grain during the good years to use for more challenging years. Save when you have more for those times you have less due to job loss, illness, or crisis.

Adopting a habit of saving more provides you with more flexibility to allocate into investment and retirement savings. Begin by setting aside small amounts of savings of $1,000 but don’t stop there. Tough times prove that amount is inadequate. Don’t think of these savings as wasteful assets. Instead, it is a means to avoid higher debt levels. As Proverbs 13:11 tells us, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

Having Liquidity is Key

Liquidity refers to your ability to quickly convert assets into cash with little to no loss of principal. When your resources are liquid, you have the financial ability to pay for unexpected costs such as a loss of job, death in the family, or your roof is leaking. Monitor your liquidity levels periodically. 

Monetary assets are among the most liquid of holdings. These assets include cash, cash-equivalent securities or money markets, treasury bills, savings bonds, savings, and checking accounts. True, you won’t earn much income as interest rates are still low, but you avoid having to use your credit cards with borrowing rates in the mid-teens.  Use liquid assets to support your fixed monthly expenses for six months or more. Here are two benchmarks to use:

Liquidity Ratio= Monetary Assets/ Monthly Expenses

Your monetary assets should support your fixed monthly expenses such as groceries, rent or mortgage, utilities, and a car loan for six months. A ratio of 6 means having six months of monetary assets to pay for your basic needs of food, rent, utilities, and car loan, if necessary.

 Emergency Fund Ratio

The liquidity ratio is linked very closely to emergency funds. This ratio is essentially a cash fund for emergencies in unforeseen events such as job loss, death in the family, unexpected surgery, or immediate house repair. It works by using a targeted number of months that you believe is ample to support you through emergencies. If you are looking for six months or higher (and this is highly recommended) to set aside money in a high yield savings account or money markets account, then:

Emergency Funds Ratio= 6*Monthly Expenses

This ratio will give you a targeted amount of monetary assets needed to be comfortable for a possible emergency. If your household generates less predictable income, you need to set aside more than six months for a more significant cushion. You can use personal finance ratios as benchmarks to see how you are doing.

3. Pay Yourself First

Start thy purse by fattening

George S. Clason, who wrote The Richest Man in Babylon, is believed to have coined the term “pay yourself first.”  That means you should put away at least 10% of every paycheck into savings. Start to save small amounts working your way up to 20% of income to allocate into retirement savings investment accounts. You can distribute the initial savings to an emergency fund amounting to at least six months’ coverage for essential living costs. Unforeseen events are unpredictable and undesirable but do your planning.

Once establishing this fund, use some savings stashes to invest for retirement and taxable investment accounts. Putting away some money may be difficult at first, depending on your spending habits.

Savings should be one of the most essential parts of your household’s financial goals. Adopt a “Pay Yourself First” attitude. Your monthly budget should call for savings to be at least 10% of gross income.

Savings Ratio = Savings/Gross Income

Savings refer to money in the bank, liquid funds, deposits, money markets, and other liquid funds, such as your emergency fund. Gross income is your total source of income on your budget and includes what you earn, side businesses, bonuses, dividends, and interest income.

Your savings rate should be at least 10% of gross income. It may be challenging to do when you first start to work. As your salary or what you make rises, it should get easier to put money away for savings. A healthy savings ratio of 20% would be a bonus (pardon the pun).

4. Track Your Spending By Budgeting

Spending more than your means is a bad recipe that leads to borrowing more. It is far more profitable to save money and allocate to investments that yield 5% returns or more than having to borrow at mid-teen rates with credit cards to pay for your overspending habits. “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” (Proverbs 28:19).

Track your spending carefully by budgeting according to your priorities. Bava Metzia 42a instructs us, “A person should always divide his money into three: one-third in the ground (for the future), one-third (invested) in business, and one-third in possession.” That may be an ancient way of splitting your funds. There are several ways to budget, such as tracking your expenses, creating a monthly budget, or using the 50/30/20 rule. The 50/30/20 budget uses 50% of aftertax or net income for your needs, 30% of net income for your wants, leaving 20% for saving money and paying off debt.

Budget In Any Reasonable Manner

Budget in any reasonable way that allows you to control your spending. It is easier now than ever to track your spending using various (free or fee) apps such as Mint, Personal Capital, PocketGuard, and YNAB for zero-based budgeting.  Alternatively, scrutinize your credit card bills and build your own excel spreadsheet.

Our spending changed dramatically during the pandemic. Our bills for grocery and household goods were higher than usual. On the other hand, we saved more from cutting out retail shopping, dining except for occasional outdoor places, hair salon appointments, gas, tolls as we stayed closer to home. While I appreciated the extra cash, I like the return to normal, even as Covid cases are rising.

5. Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

As our income grows, we often increase “essential costs,” leading to lifestyle inflation. While we are allowed the occasional latte and extravagant dinners, we need to keep our spending in check. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of everything. However, fulfilling every desire is no longer a special treat.

“Keeping up with the Jones”  and conspicuous consumption often refers to material goods we may accumulate to fit within a particular social class we admire.  We compare ourselves to our neighbors or colleagues at work.  As a result, people fall into the trap of spending on a better car or house simply to enhance their prestige and social standing. Targeting social status may be costly and divert resources better used for investing your money for more incredible long-term wealth.

It is pretty common for people to spend their raise and bonus as soon as they receive it. Temptation runs high to buy something special upon getting a raise and bonus after a year of working hard. I often bought something special to reward myself for hard work. However, you soon realize your pay hike is pretax and shrinks on an after-tax basis. If you need some things, make a list of what you believe is essential if you had some extra cash.

Overspending And Materialism

Overspending leads to materialism and lifestyle inflation that is hard to maintain. Mishlei Proverbs 13:7 tells us, “There is one who feigns riches but has nothing; one who feigns poverty but has great wealth.”  According to Psalms 128:2 “You shall eat the fruit of your effort–you shall be happy and it shall be well with you.” This text reminds me of another favorite book, “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.

Stanley and Danko profiled and compared millionaires in two categories: those under accumulators of wealth (UAW) and the prodigious accumulator of wealth (PAW). The UAW’s were individuals who had a low net wealth compared to their high income because of spending to maintain their status. On the other hand, PAWs managed their wealth better, often living in blue-collar neighborhoods and buying used cars. It is an eye-opening account of the good and bad money habits of the wealthy.

 6. Bargain hunting or Shopping Addiction?

Shopping is often a fun activity to do with friends or on our own. Marketing experts count on our emotions when we shop. Be aware of the biases we wear when shopping. Retail expert Mark Elwood has written about the psychological benefits of seeing bargains. He points out that stores like Best Buy use Goldilocks pricing or three-tiered pricing from low to high prices. The store hopes you will buy the middle option with higher pricing than the low-end but not necessarily feature-worthy enough to pay more.

We should not pay the list price for anything but make sure it is a real bargain. There has been a lot of worthwhile academic research about bargain hunting being a form of shopping addiction. 

There is the thrill of getting a deal,  even when we may not want that item.

Impulse Shopping vs. Compulsive Shopping

Overspending can cause financial difficulties if you are subject to impulse or compulsive shopping. There is a difference between the two though often seen interchangeably. Impulse buying happens more frequently when a consumer has a sudden urge to buy on the spot without much deliberation. We all do this from time to time. Compulsive buying, on the other hand, happens where one experiences an uncontrollable urge to buy. We may trigger negative feelings relieved by that purchase. This kind of shopping may be more like a shopping addiction that potentially needs therapy before financial hardship occurs.

7. Compounding Growth

Start saving for retirement in your 20s through your employer’s sponsored 401K plans. Deposits in small amounts in retirement accounts regularly benefit from tax advantages and compound growth over a long horizon. Automate these savings out of your paychecks. As such, your contributions are tax-deferred. Employers often match a portion of your contributions. Match contributions are extra money you can earn from your company. Separately, establish an IRA (Roth IRA) for further retirement savings. Target your contributions to amounts capped by the IRS for maximum growth for retirement. Avoid withdrawing from these accounts as you may then trigger penalties and taxes you will need to pay.

As a goal, try to contribute to your 401K plan to the maximum level, which is $19,500 in 2021.  Some years it may be hard to do, especially when you are experiencing a job loss. Resist withdrawing money from your retirement account as there is usually a 10% penalty and taxes to do so before you turn 59.5 years. Withdrawing retirement money will put a dent into your retirement fund that will be painful longer term.

One of my favorite quotes in The Richest Man is this: “It behooves a man to make preparation for a suitable income in the days to come, when he is no longer young, and to make preparations for his family should he no longer be with them to comfort and support them.”

Compounding Works Best When Investing Early

The power of compounding interest, linked to the time value of money, will benefit you the most if you save and invest early. Let your earnings accumulate and grow rather than withdraw cash from your accounts. It makes a big difference if you start saving for your retirement ten years later than your friends or if you invest for ten years and then stop contributing to your 401K retirement account. It is difficult to catch up by doubling the amount if you start investing later on.

As soon as your child is born, start saving for college through a 529 plan. These plans vary but are available in virtually every state. Like retirement accounts, they have deferred tax benefits and may have contribution limits. Check with your respective state program for details.

 8. Make Savings A Priority

Saving money is hard work and not necessarily natural for many of us. To make it a good habit, take steps to automate your savings. Most banks will allow you to automatically transfer a set amount of money from one account to another account. Your employer will be able to automatically deduct a percentage or a set amount of your paycheck to deposit into accounts such as retirement or investment accounts. Essentially, you are adopting a “pay yourself first” attitude so that you can allocate money into different buckets, especially for unforeseen expenses.

In recent years, there have many headlines about insufficient savings by Americans for years. As the outbreak of the virus caused lockdowns, most of the country stayed home. The personal savings rate rose dramatically to an unusual 32.2% in April 2020 as consumer spending dropped significantly. Over time, it will likely come down to the more normal 7%-8% range. Spending versus saving is a common trade-off with lots of tension. Motivate yourself to save by setting short-term and long-term goals proactively. Reduce spending you can’t afford. Money trade-offs require you to consider the best balance for you and your family.

Saving As A Good Habit. How Long Does It Take?

I had always heard that it took 21 days to break a bad habit. As a member of Weight Watchers, which is ALL about breaking bad eating habits (and it works for me as I am down 30 pounds and declining!), they always refer to the 21 days. However, I did not know of the 21-day origin.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a 1950s plastic surgeon, found that it would take his patients about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face, or post-amputation, they would still sense a phantom limb. The 21-day time frame dates back to nearly 70 years. Dr. Maltz wrote about his adjustment period to changes and new behaviors to form a new habit….”.it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”

More research indicates that it takes a longer time to form a new habit than 21 days. A 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology by Phillipa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, indicated it took 66 days on average (in a range of 18 days to 254 days) to form a new habit.

Whether 21 days or 66 days, it takes significant time, effort, and determination to create a new habit

What About A Savings Challenges?

I have been skeptical about savings challenges. Like diets, they work for many and can be fun, especially if you do so with others. The question is whether the challenge can result in having long-term effects. I think any challenge that can motivate someone towards a good habit with lasting results has my endorsement. There are so many good savings challenges to consider. I tend to favor the 52-week challenge, which may help you build some money along with good habits. On the other hand, the no-spend month reminds me of a fasting diet and seems too difficult to attempt for most people with families or busy lives.

I often have turned to using cash only and leaving my credit cards behind. Paying for meals at restaurants or window shopping without cards has rewarded me by limiting my consumption to cash. I am not a big shopper or enjoy going into stores unless I am going purposefully for a specific outfit or electronics. My daughter, Alex, is often upset with me, encouraging me to buy something for myself. She wonders why I don’t love shopping as much as she does. Now that she is working two jobs that she loves this summer, she has become quite a hoarder herself and has asked me about my stock picks. (Okay, I am proud of her!).

9. Don’t Obsess About Money

Maintain balance in your life, and don’t just focus on wealth accumulation. According to Proverbs 21:20, “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwellings, but a foolish man devours it.”  While no one seeks to become poor, there are dangers of solely wanting to be rich. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Hebrews 13:5

Martin Luther King Jr. worried about the obsession with money in his famous speech called False God of Money. He said, “We attribute to the almighty dollar an omnipotence equal to that of the eternal God of the universe. We are always on the verge of rewriting the Scriptures to read, ‘Seek ye first money and its power and all these things will be added unto you,’ or ‘Money is my light and salvation, what shall I fear.”

King himself lived frugally, leaving little money for his family. However, he saw other goals like working hard, investing in education and having faith as far more critical.

Price Versus Quality

Being financially secure is important. The alternative is stressful. However, don’t be frugal for frugality’s sake. Consider price versus quality in your buying considerations. The cheapest thing may not be of the best value. Indeed, there are some items where quality doesn’t differ, and I  will pay the best price. I like buying private label products such as Kirkland sold in Costco, discounted from the branded items.

However, quality matters more when buying furniture, mattresses, a car, or a home. We have been burned by looking to get a bargain and not balancing quality. Buying solely on a price basis is foolish for these products or services that I intend to use for a while. That doesn’t mean I am averse to getting a bargain by negotiating.

10. Be Charitable

According to Jewish law, one cannot impoverish oneself by distributing all of one’s wealth to charity. However, one can leave one-third of his estate to charity in their will. A minimum of one-tenth of one’s income belongs to God per measure handed down from the Patriarchs as Jacob himself said to God, “Of all that You give, I will set aside a tenth to You” (Genesis 28:22). Giving 10% of your net income a year is a virtual goal—those who can.

According to HW Charles in The Money Code: Become A Millionaire With The Ancient Code, “Those who love people acquire wealth so they can give generously, after all, money feeds, shelters and clothes people.”

We should strive to be as generous as possible to those in need.

Final Thoughts

I found inspiration from timeless scriptures when writing this article.  Sometimes ancient words remind us that money management was always a challenge to overcome.  Choose success by your actions in saving money. 

Thank you for reading our post. Please let us know your thoughts. We love feedback. If you found some things of value, please visit The Cents of Money for other articles on our blog. Consider subscribing so you can get freebies.

 

Estate Planning For Digital Assets In 5 Steps

Estate Planning For Digital Assets In 5 Steps

We Live In A Digital World

Yet, most of us don’t prepare wills (only 46% do, according to a recent poll), and if we do, we may not fully address these assets in our estate planning documents. As a result, a more significant proportion of our net worth is in our digital assets. Simply defined, a digital asset is content stored in a digital format that provides monetary or sentimental value.

Estate planning for our digital assets follows a similar process as planning for the distribution of our physical assets, but there are unique challenges. The legal landscape is still unsettled, outpaced by technological advances that produce a myriad of digital assets.

Take banking, for example. If we do our banking online exclusively, there is no paper trail for our loved ones to easily locate these accounts after we die. Getting access requires security questions and passwords that may not be readily available. Historically, we could find the latest financial statements to guide us to the assets at the bank.

Types of  Digital Assets We Own

  • Content, including images, books, logos, illustrations, photos, videos, documents
  • File-sharing and cloud accounts
  • PowerPoint presentations, Excel, Word, and Google documents
  • Digital tokens (i.e., cryptocurrencies and country-created coins)
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  • Licensed domain names for websites and their blog content
  • Digital rights to intellectual property, including music, film, theatrical rights
  • Email, apps, and online community accounts
  • Social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn
  • Online bank, financial, and utility accounts
  • Seller’s accounts on Amazon, Etsy, and eBay
  • Online Gaming and betting, such as DraftKings
  • eSports Teams
  • Digital backups to important documents that were scanned (e.g., birth certificates, tax records, insurance policies)

Related Post: Guide to Estate Planning in 6 Steps

Creating A Plan for Digital Assets In 5 Steps

I will guide you through five steps (see below) so that your digital assets, those of value, monetary and sentimental, can be properly addressed for your loved ones.  How have we accumulated these various digital assets? The Internet of Things (IoT) has been extending our connectivity in our homes, at work, and socially. The line between work and home has increasingly blurred, resulting from technology and the effects of the pandemic. We are nearly all online using broadband, mobile and social media.

Take A Look At How We Use Technology:

 

    • 90% of US households have high-speed broadband connections (NCTA)

 

  • 97% have a cellphone, with 85% owning a smartphone (Pew Research); and

 

 

  • 70% are engaged in social media and social networking (Pew Research).

 

 

 

 

  • The typical person has over 100 digital accounts, ranging from email to social media, maintaining 100 passwords. Most (86%) of people commit their online passwords to memory. NordPass, multiple sources)

 

 

 

We devour digital technology, which creates our digital assets. These assets are part of our net worth. The average person in the US has over $55,000 in digital assets, but that is likely an understated number.

Cryptocurrencies Pose Unique Challenges

As much as 14% of Americans own cryptocurrencies, people have grown more comfortable with these assets. Cryptocurrency ownership poses unique challenges for your heirs who may not want these risky assets. Even so, cryptocurrencies are extremely difficult to access. Industry experts say millions of bitcoins (billions in value) have been lost.

By their virtual nature, cryptocurrencies are extremely secure, held in digital wallets by their owners. To access these assets, you need to know a private password and an especially encrypted private key known only to its account holder.

There is no central authority that tracks these keys as of yet, so without heirs having knowledge of how to access your crypto ownership when you are gone, significant value can be lost forever. Your loved ones may in luck if you hold your cryptocurrencies in a Coinbase account as they will help your family after you pass.

We May Not Be Fully Accounting For These Assets In Our Estate Planning

Digital assets refer to different forms of content stored in a digital format. A digital estate consists of digital media rights that may pass onto our heirs. If we fail to plan, we may frustrate our family’s ability to recover important photos, videos or pay our bills after we pass away.

In the past when you died, an executor of your estate, or a personal representative (if there wasn’t a will), would be responsible for the distribution of assets to loved ones.

They would sift through your paper records and physical mail recently received by the deceased to find bank accounts, insurance policies, or bills to determine monetary value.

Family members would also go through their assets at home or wherever to find their physical objects like photos, phone books with their contacts, videos, letters, all in the search for items of sentimental value.

However, a lot of that stuff is likely in a digital form now. There may be years worth of data, and it may be more challenging to find.

Finding Our Legacy Assets

In the days before the Internet, the family and the executor of the estate would likely have been granted access to the mail and the deceased person’s home. However, the amount of information we now generate online, stored in cyberspace indefinitely, has created significant privacy concerns.

If the executor or family  can’t quickly identify digital monetary and securities account ownership, those assets may end up in the state treasuries as “unclaimed funds.” Not only can these valuable assets remain hidden, but personal debts for the estate may also rise as bills go unpaid. Dormant bank accounts are particularly vulnerable to identity theft.

Ajemian v Yahoo! A Major Court Battle

Tech companies erected gateways to stall or prevent access to online accounts by loved ones and their legal representatives.  Access to online accounts has become more restrictive due to legislation, leading to a lot of lawsuits. One prominent court case, Ajemian v Yahoo!, reveals the difficulties families face when requesting access to emails.

John Ajemian had tragically died in 2006. He left a Yahoo! email account but no will or instructions for his account. Using privacy concerns, Yahoo refused the family access to their brother’s email. His siblings wanted to find information to invite friends to their brother’s memorial. Later, they sought access as a means to finding their brother’s assets.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts decided on a lengthy court battle in 2018. It held that personal representatives might provide lawful consent on a decedent’s behalf even without the express authorization in the decedent’s will.

As a result of this case, tech companies like Facebook are getting better at dealing with digital assets on death. They are providing ways for account holders to create and provide access to legacy accounts after they die. Loved ones would be able to look after the  “memorialized” account or have it deleted from Facebook. Some believe that Facebook may have more “dead people” accounts by the year 2050 than the living accounts. Apple recently announced a new digital legacy service to pass on information stored by them though details are not yet out.

We Spend Our Lives Online, But We Don’t Always Own It

Each online service provider has its respective terms of service (TOS), making it very difficult for families to easily find access to those accounts, which may contain personal content dear to them. The Ajemian decision may promote legal change for streamlining the process. You should review and understand these terms when you sign for new accounts.

Still, you should have a plan so your loved ones can secure your digital property after you die. Sometimes you think you own a digital asset, but you purchased a nontransferable license to use the asset.

Your Estate Plan For Digital Assets

 

Step 1: Create A Digital Asset Inventory

Make a list of all of your digital assets, those with monetary and sentimental values. They should be categorized and referenced in a document. If you want to provide passwords associated with the accounts, you may want to store the list in a safe deposit box or use a digital asset manager. There are inexpensive password management apps such as 1Password or NordPass you can use. Make sure your digital asset list is in a secure place.

Besides passwords, there may be data encryption or another protective layer protecting access. This list would need to be updated periodically for new and closed accounts.

You can customize your list in the following categories:

Devices. Computer hardware, such as computers, external hard drives, flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, home security systems, medical devices, smart television, digital cameras, and other digital devices like Nest and Alexa;

Online storage at home and work. Any information or data stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device. Examples would include your Dropbox accounts;

Any online accounts. Email and communication accounts (e.g., iPhone, Skype, and Facetime), online banking, insurance, and other financial sites (e.g., PayPal, Square), cryptocurrency accounts, seller’s accounts (e.g., Etsy), social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing, video streaming accounts (e.g., Netflix, YouTube), video gaming, online betting, and esports;

Points, Coupons, and Loyalty Rewards programs. Shopping, travel, hotel, airline, grocery, and shopping accounts are exceptionally loyal and have a monetary value on apps or cards.

Websites and blog accounts that you manage for personal and business;

Licenses domain names that exist and are owned by you and by your own business;  and

Intellectual Property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, patents, and any code you may have written.

Cryptocurrencies include better-known Bitcoin and Ethereum, but there are thousands of different types; and NFTs. These assets should be on your digital asset list to give notice to your heirs. Separately, you can make reference to the essential passwords or private keys which should be in a secure place.

Step 2:  Decide How To handle These Accounts

You may want to divide the list into monetary and non-monetary accounts. The latter may be more personal or sentimental. You may wish to provide specific instructions on whether you have a legacy account for your social media accounts. 

Monetary Value

Digital assets with monetary value can pass through your will or a trust (more on that later). For example, websites, blogs, and domain names may have significant value as standalone businesses or, in combination and estate documents should reflect them.

Domain names can be sold for prices in the six digits, while the most expensive names have commanded millions.

Step 3: Estate Planning Documents: Powers of Attorney, Wills, and Trust

There should be a legally binding document that reflects your plans for digital assets. It could be a will, codicil (an attachment to your will), or refer to a letter of instructions mentioned in your will. Your will should not contain any passwords. You may want to consider a trust instead.

You should consult with an attorney who could help you decide what document is best and what sample language to use in your powers of attorney, wills, or trust.

Step 4: Powers of Attorney (POA)

Each state has its own Statutory Short Form of Power of Attorney, where your attorney can include language to limit or supplement authority granted to the agent you have chosen.

You can ask your attorney to spell out the agent’s power. The agent can have powers that allow them to do certain things such as use, manage, terminate, transfer or have full access to digital accounts, and name the type of accounts.

The specific accounts may be email accounts, digital music, video, photos, software licenses, e-commerce accounts, and bank/financial accounts.

Does the agent have access, including passwords and access controls?

Your attorney can inform the designated agent whether they will handle the digital property or if there is a specific digital agent with respective powers for those assets.

Step 5: Distribution of Digital Property: Wills or Trusts

Traditionally, some assets go through your will to your heirs.  Distribution of other property may be by operation of law or designated beneficiary. A life insurance policy is such an example.

Distribution of Valuable Digital Assets May Be through Wills or Trusts

Just think about how you access your accounts now. The nature of accessing online accounts requires knowledge of your usernames, security questions, passwords,  and possibly additional encryption layers. That is challenging for those not familiar intimately with your accounts or digital assets.  That information should not be in a will, mainly because it will become part of the public record if it has to go through probate.

Trusts May Be Better Than Wills For Digital Assets

Trusts are more desirable for digital ownership and account information because a trust does not become part of the public record like wills.

You may grant authority to a trustee as to how to handle this property. If the digital property in question is of significant value, you can create a Digital Asset Trust. Alternatively, your attorney can create a testamentary trust pertaining only to the digital assets that can be folded into a will.

If You Want Digital Assets In Your Will

You can guide your attorney by providing your digital inventory list and distribution of digital assets. When you die, the executor of your estate has the responsibility of distributing all of your assets to your intended recipients.

You can pass some of your digital assets through your will, but many of these assets cannot be passed through a will. 

Examples of Distribution of Digital Property 

  • Funds that are in your bank, investments, PayPal accounts.
  • Travel reward points and frequent flyer miles.
  • Stored photos or videos on your hard drive.
  •  Business websites, blogs, products that you sell in an online store.

If you don’t own the property or have sentimental rather than financial value, it isn’t likely to qualify as a testamentary asset distributed through your will.

Examples of what may not get quickly passed onto heirs (although changes are emerging) 

  • Email, apps, and social media accounts generally have terms of service agreements that often ask you to agree that your account is “non-transferable.”  In recent years, the tendency has been to give heirs the ability to terminate these accounts upon showing a death certificate.
  • Downloaded music from iTunes usually comes with a limited set of rights, and you don’t own digital music.
  • Licensing agreements, such as domain names that you don’t own.
  • Streaming subscriptions like Netflix are services to download movies you don’t own.

Consider Naming A Digital Executor

Your attorney can add language to enable the executor (or digital executor) to have authority to manage, handle, access, use, distribute, control, and dispose of digital property, including and not limited to all named digital assets. You can assign a separate executor in the will to have authority for all digital assets.

What the digital executor does:

  • Transfers money, points, and credits from online accounts to your heirs.
  • Closes social media accounts unless you left instructions for a memorial site.
  • Archives owned electronic files that contain owned photos and videos.
  • Cancels subscriptions to online services.
  • Transfers or closes blogs, websites, or any online businesses.

Letter of Instructions

The will should never contain passwords or sensitive information because of the risk that the will may become part of the public record if the will goes to probate. Instead, you should have your attorney consider referencing in your will an external list of digital properties with relevant usernames, access codes, security questions, and passwords maintained in a separate document.

A letter of instructions is the best way to contain sensitive, detailed information about accessing your digital property. These letters have been used with traditional wills for a long time. This letter can be referred to in the will but is a separate document.

Have A Safe Place To Keep Sensitive Information

You should store information like accounts and access data in a separate location from your will. Given its sensitivity, you probably want to put your document into a safe deposit box or another secure place.

Review Your Digital Inventory List Periodically

We are often opening, closing, or changing our online accounts, along with their access information.

Monitor Income-Generating Accounts

Keep track of essential accounts, particularly income-generating accounts such as fledging small businesses, with customer lists and their websites. That is where most of the digital assets’ monetary value resides. If you are changing your passwords frequently, you will need to record that information.

Keep Track Of Your Assets

Review your estate planning documents periodically every few years and when there are life-changing events. If these documents have been completed but are largely silent concerning digital assets, you should update your plans to include them.

Final Thoughts

I have been writing about digital assets for years as mass changes occur. Our digital lives are changing so rapidly with technological advances that it is not easy to predict what we may store online in the future. Many of the laws predate the explosion of the Internet. They have not kept pace with these rapid developments balanced with our need for privacy.

Therefore, we need to be proactive about staying on top of what we own digitally. Digitization helps us in so many ways, but it is messy for those we leave behind.

Do you have an estate plan that addresses your digital property? Do you keep track of your property with an inventory list?

Thank you for reading! We hope this guide helps you in your estate planning. Please visit us at The Cents of Money. We would love to hear from you about different ways to keep track of your online accounts to save time and effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Ways To Save Money In The Summer

15 Ways To Save Money In The Summer

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” 

George Gershwin (Porgy and Bess), sung by Ella Fitzgerald

Summer is here!

It is an excellent time to spend more time outdoors.

Don’t miss an excellent opportunity to save money this season while spending time with your family. I spend a lot of time in Litchfield County and the Berkshires, essentially our local environs in the summer and year-round. However, you can find our recommendations in many parts of the country.

When it comes to saving money, get your whole family involved. It is always a good time to speak to your children about family values, particularly budgets, wants versus needs, spending, and saving. Being frugal about saving time and money can be very fulfilling. 

15 Ways To Save Money In the Summer:

 

#1 Eat more fruit and vegetables

It is always a good time to eat healthier with better choices at your local grocery. Better yet, go to the nearest farmers market. Fruits and vegetables are even more plentiful in the warmer months. Go to a farmers market near you or visit a local farmer who would be happy to show you around. 

Farmers bring their produce into urban markets, or you can order online from different farms. Healthiest picks at lower prices.

Connecticut has over 100 farmers’ markets seven days a week. We find them in virtually every town in the Northwest corner of the state.  There, you can pick among locally produced seasonal fruits and vegetables from the region. Many carry specialty bread, cheese, honey, syrup, flowers, herbs, sausage, jams and jelly, chocolates, and mushrooms.

#2 Have A Picnic

Drive around and find scenic places to roam around, like parks, waterfalls, hills, and mountains. 

Bring a blanket, some wine, cheese, and other delights you may find at the farmers’ market. If you don’t like sitting on a blanket, then find a picnic table. Enjoy the outdoors, scenery, and birds. As I grow older, I have been enjoying bird-watching for their colors and sounds.  

 Go with your family, significant other, or friends. Many state parks are free, have hiking trails, fishing, and sitting by waterfalls, like Kent Falls State Park. Save some money as you go to fewer restaurants in the summer.

#3 Garage/Yard Sales

Declutter your home and organize a sale with your family. Consider combining with homes in your neighborhood. I recommend having these events, starting on Friday, rather than Saturday and Sunday, typically the more crowded days. Avoid July 4th and Labor Day when people have more BBQs and families visiting.

Advertise with large signs so people riding by can see the dates and location at 30 miles an hour. While you can advertise in your local paper, a few social media sites try like yardsalesearch.com and garagesalehunter.com.

When holding your event, label prices. Consider lowering prices late in the day to sell off what you have left. Experts have said these sales can net $500 and up if thought out properly. Aaron Lapedis is respected in this area and has written “The Garage Sale Millionaire.” 

#4 Outdoor (and Indoor) Entertainment

Post pandemic, our country is slowly moving back to normalcy. I have always enjoyed outdoor entertainment. There are many cheap and free music festivals, film festivals, country fairs, theater, and wine tastings. Try to look for summer events in your area from sources like Cheapism

Locally, we have a robust calendar with tickets starting as low as $5.Locally, we have a Connecticut Wine Festival, Podunk Bluegrass Music, and Litchfield Jazz Festivals. There are plenty of choices on visitnewengland.com, providing far more than I can list. In Massachusetts,  Tanglewood Music Center and Shakespeare & Company have superb offerings at a great value.

#5 Earn Extra Money As A Side Hustle 

If you are off from school this summer, you may apply to be a driver, whether a student or a teacher. Demand may be less in your area, so strategize by waiting in a queue at the airports or busy areas. Make sure that the air conditioning works well in your car. According to MarketWatch, you can pick up $364 per month on average. 

Consider doing this as a side hustle in the fall if your schedule permits. There are “help wanted” signs in storefronts, offices, and online across America as people get back to work. Small businesses who laid off people during the pandemic or not necessarily getting their workers back. There are jobs out there. You just have to look around you.

#6 Staycation or Vacation or Both

Vacationing is exploding as rising COVID vaccinations are making more people comfortable about traveling this summer. There are more ways to go away with your family at many different price points. Be mindful of travel restrictions that differ by state.

The benefits of a staycation are to be a tourist in your backyard, returning to your bed at night, and not having to pack and unpack. It can be cheaper but requires planning, so your family doesn’t just laze around. Make day trips or enjoy your local environment.

Everyone should have input, and it should be a mix of play, fun, adventure, and sightseeing. Find adventure beaches, lakes, and parks on lovely days. Consider museums and theaters, if open, on rainy days.

Vacations Can Be Cheaper At The Last Minute

To save money on vacations, consider booking flights last minute when tickets are often cheaper. You can book early morning flights. Your kids may hate you (mine have and still recall these times), but they can sleep on the plane. Last-minute trips work if you and your family are flexible and will several alternative places in mind.

Someone told me to search flights via an incognito window and a regular window. You sometimes get two different prices. Before you officially book, consider if there are available accommodations.

Airbnb may help in finding attractively priced rooms to stay. It is an excellent way to save money when traveling with kids, and one hotel room will not cut it. Booking a last-minute cruise may also work well.

Driving Vacations

If you have more than one driver in your car, driving vacations works if everyone is comfortable in a car for hours at a time. It works well when everyone enjoys the ride, and it’s a “spur of the moment” adventure. Planning stops are vital for breaks. 

Our kids easily slept in the car, so it often defeated the purpose of going on scenic routes. When we woke them, they were often crabby. We haven’t gone away together in a long while. When we do, we plan to visit colleges soon. 

Consider the costs you are willing to spend and stay within your budget. A visit to a Disney park is far more expensive than going to a National Park.

# 7 Disney Parks

The one-day tickets for Disney per family member over ten years old range from $109-$159 for regular or peak prices, whether you are going to one park or hopping to their other parks on site. Food and beverages are super expensive in the park. Summer is peak season and there has been pent-up demand.

There are slight discounts if you buy multi-day packages, but you will need to book your hotel stay, which is expensive if you stay within the park. If you are going this summer, try to target August when it is off-peak and less crowded (but scorching!).

#8 National Parks

There are so many parks to visit with families in the US. There are more than 2,000 Federal recreation sites. Certain parks mainly cater to children and are clustered so that you can drive to like those in Utah. Families can enjoy hiking, fishing, and rafting. You can stay in hotels not far from entrances, and your kids can use the pools. Annual passes per vehicle are $80 per year, valid through July 31, 2022. At $80 for entry, this is quite a bargain and national treasure.

# 9 Raise Your Thermostat

Setting the thermostat a few degrees higher in the summer will not likely be noticed by your family (maybe the dog, though), but it does save money. By some accounts, 

Each degree raised over 72 degrees saves 1-3% in energy costs by some accounts. We increase the thermostat in rooms we don’t occupy and have ceiling fans that help with cooling. The nights are breezy, so we rarely use air conditioning.

Unplug less frequently used appliances. Most homes run more than 40 appliances. These account for about 10% of our energy bill. You will not only save costs, but plugged appliances can be a fire hazard.

#10 No More Plastic Bottles

We have not used plastic bottles for a long time, especially in the summer. They never stayed cold enough, and the suspicious bubbles worried me. I have the 32 ounces steel insulated bottle by Takeya, which keeps the water cold significantly longer. I bought one for each of my family members, but they prefer smaller bottles to fit our car. I am happy with mine.

#11 Have Lattes,  Even Iced Ones If You want

I was a latte and espresso freak during law school and studying for the bar in Starbucks. At $5 per latte, it felt like an investment.  I still enjoy iced lattes in the summer. You don’t need to eliminate all your pleasures. I have stopped drinking carbonated water and soda in restaurants, but I prefer the water, wine, or martinis.  

#12 Lawn Care

Keeping your grass healthy and green is expensive. A sprinkler system is generally can be used to save water costs. If it rains, you don’t need to put it on the sprinkler. You can reuse your rainwater by installing a collection system near your roof or gutter system. If you are planning a garden, consider planting low-water perennials which are drought-tolerant and use more wildflowers.

#13 Visit Your Library

Use your local library for books, online music, and audible books. I enjoy going to our excellent small-town library in Goshen, especially in the summer, and walking out with my arms. We own many books, always a treat for me, but they take up a lot of space.

I confess to being a bit of a nerd. My mom, my brother Mark, and I went to our library on the last day of school with summer ahead. It was our ritual to take 12 books each and put them in my mom’s shopping cart. They were due the day after Labor Day. It was the only time of year we were able to keep them longer than four weeks.

#14 DIY Projects

Learn how to do more things on your own without outside help. Our kids tend to be far handier than my husband or me. They are also more willing to watch videos to learn how to repair, clean, and make things in our homes. We bathe our dogs more often in the summer because they roll around in the dirt and mud. The fewer trips to the groomer help our wallet.

#15 Delay Purchases You Want

Don’t buy everything you want immediately. You should practice delaying the gratification of buying things you don’t need. Give yourself time to research and decide if you want it. You can even put it into your shopping cart online for a few days. You may even find a coupon there that provides a few dollars off your purchase.

Final Thoughts

It is often fun to save money by reducing costs, spending less, or making some extra money from a side hustle. It is gratifying when your kids participate in the endeavor. My daughter Alex has particularly shown an interest in recent years. She keeps coming up with ideas. She has shared these thoughts with her teen friends on social media.

I am sure I have missed some ways to save money. It feels good to experience having extra money for investments, a vacation, a car, or something of value. How are you saving money these days?

Thank you for reading! Please share your experiences and thoughts with us. We would like to hear from you!