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The Ultimate Risk-Free, High-Yield, Guaranteed Investment

From time to time, this kind of question pops up in my inbox:  How can I get started investing in stocks and mutual funds that are risk-free and have guaranteed high rates of return?

Of course that makes me laugh hysterically, not only because there is no such thing as a risk-free investment let alone one with a guaranteed high rate of return, but more because someone thinks I am an investment advisor. I am simply not qualified nor licensed to advise anyone on traditional Wall Street, stock market type of investing. But that’s not to say I don’t have some advice for them.

Happy couple jumping for joy investing in their debt

My investment advice is unconventional, perhaps, but it makes so much sense, I think you’re going to be amazed. When looking at investments, many people disregard one of the best and easiest places to invest their money—their own debt.

 

First, let’s agree that the reason anyone wants to invest is to increase their net worth by making their money grow. There are two ways to do that. 1) You can increase your assets or 2) decrease your liabilities.

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19 Realistic Ways to Make Money Online

For all the convenience and access to information that the Internet offers, the ability to make money online, honestly and legitimately just might be one of the most useful. At a minimum, you need an Internet connection and computer. Or for some jobs, just a smartphone will do.

The challenge is to wade through all the sales pitches for free get-rich webinars to find authentic ways to make money. The opportunities for online jobs are there. But it’s not like winning the lottery. Most require hard work and dedication before you get paid for your time. But isn’t that true of just about any kind of job? None of what follows will make you an overnight millionaire, but each represents a legitimate way to earn extra money online.

 

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How to Break Bad Money Habits

Money a little tight these days? You might assume it’s due to rising costs, tightening credit and the fact you haven’t had a raise in, like, forever. But truthfully, if your basic needs are being met, problems you’re having are more likely a result of bad money habits you’ve picked up—behaviors you’ve repeated so often they’ve become almost automatic.

Woman stopping the domino effect suggesting she's breaking a bad habit

Don’t despair. In the same way you picked them up, you can replace bad habits with good ones: Stop the old behavior, and consciously repeat the new one so often that it becomes an almost automatic response.

Living without a spending plan

Spending money without a plan has to be the mother of all bad money habits. It’s like driving blindfolded. You don’t know where you are and can’t see where you’re going, so you don’t know when to stop. Pre-spending your paycheck on paper (also known as a budget) is the way to remove the blindfold so you can see what’s going on.

ALSO: Get Financially Fit With Good Habits

Paying with plastic

Depending on plastic—and I’m talking about both debit and credit cards—to cover your day-to-day spending might be very convenient, but it creates a bad habit. You stop noticing how much you’re spending, and that opens the door to overspending. Break this habit by figuring out how much cash you’ll need for the day, and put that much in your wallet. Leave your plastic at home, or put it in a less convenient place in your handbag or wallet.

Rolling a credit card balance

Credit card issuers know that once they can get you to cross the threshold where you owe more on your credit card than you can pay in a single month, they’ve got you where they want you—paying them interest month after month.

If you cannot pay the entire balance in a single month, you’re living way beyond your means. To break this bad habit, make it impossible to use it anymore until that balance is paid in full. Don’t close the account, but put that plastic far from you. Hand it off to a trusted friend or freeze it in a block of ice! Anything to help you break this bad money habit by replacing it with a good one. Then start paying down the balance as rapidly as possible.

READ: You Need to Kick Your Credit-Card Habit

Waiting to save

It might make sense to pay your bills first and then see how much you have left to put in savings, but that’s a really dumb idea. It will lead to a very bad result also known as no savings, because you will keep doing this same dumb thing month after month, year after year.

To break this habit, pay yourself first before you pay any of your bills. In fact, treat yourself as your most important creditor. Make up payment coupons like you have for your mortgage or car payment. Or set up an auto bill payment to “Myself.” Now move “Myself” to the front of the line so that the very first bill you pay each month is to You!

READ: How to Break the Habit That’s Eating Up Your Future

Even if it’s only $25—or even $10—to start with, do it. Over and over again. It won’t take long for that to become an almost automatic response and a very good habit!


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How to Break the Habit That’s Eating Up Your Future

Let’s not beat around the bush. Eating out is eating up your future. It’s gobbling down your present and keeping you stuck in the past. That heavy debt you’re hauling around didn’t happen while you were asleep. Chances are pretty good that you’re eating your way into debt. 

Breaking the eating out habit isn’t easy to do, but it can be done. What it takes is motivation, determination, and perseverance.

Restaurant hamburger and fries good enough to eaat

Cost

Let this exercise act as a quick-start motivator: For one week, track your household spending on every form of eating out including coffee, donuts, restaurants, cafes, diners, street vendors, food trucks, fast food … all of it.

Once you have that number, multiply by 52. But wait, there’s more. Estimate the cost of all of the food that you throw in the garbage every week because you buy it, then eat out instead. You may be looking at the reason you aren’t saving for retirement, building an emergency fund, or stuck in debt.

6 Ways to Stop Throwing Rotten Produce in the Garbage

Gross factor

I don’t want to get too graphic here describing a negative motivation that might persuade you to eat at home more often, so let me allow the CDC to do that: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in five restaurant workers admit coming to work while sick with diarrhea and vomiting—two main symptoms of the stubborn norovirus, which understandably is now running rampant.

The problem lies with these sick workers who take a bathroom break, do not wash their hands with soap then return to prepare and serve our food. Not only is it expensive to eat out, but your chances of getting sick are also increasing.

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25 Ways to Save $1,000 on Monthly Expenses

A number of years ago I met Kathryn and Galen. They’d won a contest sponsored by Woman’s Day magazine. The prize? A money makeover and financial coaching with … me! From our first meeting, we became fast friends.

Not only were they drowning in debt, Galen was dealing with a protracted season of unemployment. Their financial situation was grim.

 

Young couple worried about how to cut expenses and get out of debt

Kathryn and Galen were totally committed to working with me as I created a plan that, if followed diligently, would get them out of debt and on their way to financial freedom.

The problem was that even with their new scaled-back lifestyle, my students were $1,000 short every month—an amount they would have to find somewhere, some how, if this plan were to work.

Never have I seen a couple so committed to getting out of debt. They didn’t complain or seek pity. They didn’t whine or make excuses. Instead, they adopted a “scorched earth” attitude as they became committed to doing anything and everything possible to reach their goal.

Here’s Kathryn’s list of the 25 things they did to cut expenses and find find the $1,000 they needed every month in order to stay on track with getting out of debt:

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How to Manage Money for College Freshmen and Others, Too

All around the country, newly-minted high school graduates will soon be heading off to college. They’ll be taking a lot of things with them, but statistics tell us that financial literacy is not likely to be one of them. If I could spend a little time with these awesome students, I’d attempt to cram the basics for how to manage money into their heads, then pray that it penetrates their hearts.

 

A diverse group of college freshmen who need to learn how to manage money

A budget is your friend

That means …

  1. You have a written plan for how you are going to spend and manage money
  2. You use that written plan like you would a road map, consulting it often and
  3. You use a site like Mint.com or a pencil and paper to record how you spend every nickel.

Sallie Mae has a monthly budget worksheet you can print out to help you estimate your costs and keep expenses under control. Do not attempt to do this “keeping track” thing in your head. You are amazing, but don’t push it.

Live with cash

Your generation has been somewhat brainwashed to believe that plastic is the only safe way to pay for things. That may be true if you buy things online, but overall it is just not true. Even then, there is a really cool way that you can shop on Amazon with cash. Let me show you here.

I don’t have the time or space to get into a long dissertation on the subject, just believe me when I tell you that using cash—currency, greenbacks, dollars, coins—will simplify your life and it will keep you from overspending.

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The Easiest Way to Get the Most Money for Old Phones and Devices

If you’ve ever wondered where old mobile phones and electronic devices like iPhones, Androids, iPads, tablets, and computers go to die, it’s pretty simple.

Some get tossed into a recycle bin somewhere to be parted out and melted down. iPhones are often passed down to children to be used as iPod touch substitutes. A large number of mobile phones are simply abandoned and misplaced due to neglect. Thankfully, a growing number are finding a next life with a new owner.

As a result, the secondary market for electronic devices is on its way to becoming as robust as the primary market.

So let’s say you’re ready to order the new iPhone 8 or X. You paid a lot for your current phone and it’s still in great condition. Your plan is to sell that old phone to help pay for the new one. You have options:

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Weird Ways to Earn Money on the Side

Recently, while brainstorming with a reader who needed to supplement her regular full-time job, I made a quick list of the ways I’ve done that in my life. I wanted to help her discover what she does well that others might pay her to do for them. 

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Process Server

I worked as an independent process server for a company that attorneys hire to have subpoenas delivered in their civil cases. Whenever I had a couple of hours to spare, I’d pop into the office, pick up a stack of subpoenas and head out to attempt to “serve” unsuspecting defendants in civil lawsuits.

My mission was to locate the defendant then address the said person by name (Laura … Laura Smith?). By law, I was required to make sure I had eye contact, wait for that look of “knowing” and then hand off the document. Even if the person refused it, turning to walk (run) away, I could legally assert that I had completed the mission.

The best part? I got paid $35 per attempt to serve. That means if I knocked on the door and no one was home, attempt complete and back into the stack that document would go for a future attempt.

I could easily “attempt to serve” two or three subpoenas per hour. The attorney service company I worked for loved me because I was available at odd times, like late at night or early on a Saturday.

Process servers are legally required to serve papers in the correct manner laid out by their state. Process serving laws differ by state. But basically, if you are an adult, have not been convicted of a crime and can engage strangers in a warm and friendly way, it’s possible that you too could be a process server in your spare time.

Piano Teacher

I got started young at age 15 as a student teacher in a music academy. I loved it—not so much the teaching, but the $5 per lesson. My little students did well and soon I was teaching on my own, at home after school.

Teaching piano lessons was the way I paid my way through college. At one point I had 72 students, giving  30-minute individual and group lessons per week. Read more

Revisions

The Easiest Way to Get the Most Money for Old Phones and Devices

If you’ve ever wondered where old mobile phones and electronic devices like iPhone, Androids, iPads, tablets, and computers go to die, it’s pretty simple.

Some get tossed into a recycle bin somewhere to be parted out and melted down. iPhones are often passed down to children to be used as iPod touch substitutes. A large number of mobile phones are simply abandoned and misplaced due to neglect. Thankfully, a growing number are finding a next life with a new owner.

As a result, the secondary market for electronic devices is on its way to becoming as robust as the primary market.

So let’s say you’re ready to order the new iPhone 8 or X. You paid a lot for your current phone and it’s still in great condition. Your plan is to sell that old phone to help pay for the new one. You have options:

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