8 Secrets to Help You Detect Credit Card Skimmers And Protect Yourself

Veterans: Could You Detect A Fake Credit Card Terminal If Presented With One?

You’ve got enough problems already and might be trying to figure out how to get out of debt.  What with monthly bills trying to overwhelm your pay, the cost of everything rising constantly, and raises few and far between, we simply don’t need the added burden of someone stealing from us.

That’s why we should always be on our guard when it comes to protecting our personal information even if the big companies (we’re looking at you Equifax) aren’t up to the task.  In that light, we’d like to present you with a list of photos that will help you determine whether you should swipe that credit card, or put off your purchase until you get to a less shady feeling retailer.

So let’s review the details that your eagle-eye should be trained to spot, in order to keep you from needing to file a fraud report.

1. Skimming Terminals Are Significantly Larger Than Normal

A skimmer should be longer and wider than the terminal itself to correspond to its size. That’s why a skimming terminal is noticeably larger than a true one. This is the principal feature that helps recognize fraudulent devices.

Note the card depth of the reader on the left.  It almost practically swallows the entire card like you are performing a swipe inside the chip reader area.  If your card goes to far inside you might have a problem.

Chip reader terminals should only allow enough depth to get the chip just inside the reader.


2. Does the terminal look oddly sized?

A skimming mechanism MUST be longer and wider than the terminal itself in order to fit on top of it. That’s why a skimming terminal is noticeably larger than a true one. This is the principal feature that helps you recognize any fraudulent devices you might come across.

Be on guard and constantly make note of the size of the average terminal reader you might use at your local convenience store, grocery store, or other highly trafficked areas.

That way, when you come across a reader that is bulkier than normal you’ll say “No Thank You” to the purchase.


3. Are the button highlights missing or do they feel “odd” when pressed?

If so, you need to be on guard that the terminal you are using might not be worth the trouble of using.  If criminals are in a hurry, they might try to apply the cover interface too quickly, leaving a bad fit.

This will leave a problem with buttons.  A wary shopper would instinctively feel that something isn’t quite right with the setup.

And leave.


4. Green LED light is not there, not working, or blocked

When using a proper terminal, each time you scan the card the reader will have a green light go on at the top of the reader.

When the underlying reader is covered, the light may be blocked or obscured.

Most people wouldn’t notice this bit of information, but now you should be on the lookout, even when using a legit reader.  The reason is that the more you get used to seeing a properly working reader, the more likely you will spot a phony.

Be on guard!


5. Does the terminal cause a long line or delays?

Skimmers are often attached shoddily to real card readers.  This means that while the real reader is trying to do its job the skimming mechanism is getting in the way.

It may take several tries to make each transaction go through.  If you see this in the line you happen to be in, it may be best to put your stuff back.

Unless you’re starving, with no other options for miles, it may be time to take that hike.

And save yourself some trouble.

@oberthur Technologies

6. Where’s the freaking stylus?

Payment terminals that haven’t been tampered with will have a stylus that allows you to create a signature after the card has been scanned.

A skimming plate that has been placed over the top of a real reader will necessitate removal of the stylus.

See in the photo how the area for holding the stylus has been taken up by the added skim plate cover.

It is residing on top of the real card reading mechanism, ready for cheating.

Image result for stylus missing from credit card terminal @ingenico

7. The machine just plain feels shoddy.

If you approach a card reader ready to put your credit card in, you might want to give it jiggle, tug, or a hard grab at the face plate.

If everything doesn’t feel like it is all “of a piece” or tightly manufactured, think whether something could be wrong.

If the face plate feels like it could be removed, it may be a good idea to bring this to managements attention.

Or leave.

It’s probably easier to leave, but others will very likely continue to be victimized.  Do what you think is best..

Note how much additional bulk this skimming reader adds.

8. It’s not just retail store terminal’s that are at risk.

ATM machines (particularly in 3rd world countries) are ripe for picking off card stripe information.

Just take a look at the photo below.  Is there anything that would make your spidey-senses tingle?

Well, the fact that the place where you enter your card doesn’t have a normal, level look ought to tip you off.

If you knew nothing else, you should be able to say to yourself “that ain’t right…” and keep moving.  The cracks in other areas of the interface might also give you pause.  This machine simply screams “Shady!”

Best to move on from this one, or you might end up with some awkward unknown charges on your bank or credit card statement.

how to detect ATM skimmer imgur

So there you have it.

Thieves are constantly on the prowl and are ahead of the curve.  I am sure that we’ll be seeing much more sophisticated attempts to get our information in the near future.

However, at the very least we can become more aware of the less sophisticated stuff and protect ourselves.

Are Tax Lien Investments As Juicy As They Say?

Hey Veterans: Are You Interested In Tax Lien Certificate Investing?

Imagine the following scenario on your favorite tv drama cop show: A guy in a dark coat with an evil glint in his eye walks up to the star of the show and tests their financial intelligence:

“Hey…Psst…You kid…c’mere… You interested in getting 20% interest GUARANTEED and easy as pie? Well, check this out.  looks around suspiciously  Right here in my trench coat, you see, I got this gold-plated guide.

It shows how normal Joe Schmoes are makin’ out like bandits. It’s all right here in this book called “Guide to Get-Rich-Quick Buying Tax Liens”.  Shhhh… SHHHH!!! Normally, people pay $497 for this inside info, but (and I’ll probably regret it later) ima let it go for only $97.  Whaddayathink??”

Luckily for you, just the other day you happened to see this exact blog post.  It was like having a vaccine against tax-lien hucksterism!

Oh, you say that you can’t remember all the finer points of the article?

Well, the TL: DR version is “I personally wouldn’t waste my time on this”.  There are easier ways to make money.

But, for those who wish to get a little bit more in-depth knowledge, read on!

Below, I break down the reasons why most people probably should steer clear of tax-liens or tax lien certificate investing.

Note: This article does not get into the ethical question of whether one should get into this racket (the “you’re-making-widows-and-orphans-homeless” argument). It is not my place to judge how you legally invest your money.

The fact is, local governments are desperate for the cash that comes from this activity.

So, what’s a tax lien?

In simple terms, it is the process that occurs when a person does not pay their property taxes.

The county or other jurisdiction needs to collect a tax payment from the homeowner.  Instead of hiring a collections firm or bugging the homeowner, the ask investors to pay the person’s bill.  What the investor gets in return is called a tax lien certificate from the city or county government that states that they’re not only going to get their original investment back, but that they will be able to collect a sizeable amount of interest too.

The typical cost of property taxes for a year can be a thousand, three thousand, five thousand, or even eight thousand dollars per year depending on the area. Not only does an investor get the original investment back but you will also get an unusually high-interest rate or rate of return. All because they paid that homeowners bill. All because most American counties are in dire economic straits and typically have significant money needs.

Incredibly Specific Local Rules

The first thing any potential investor needs to be aware regarding tax lien investing is that the rules are very area specific.

The rules vary from County to County and from state to state. Each state has global rules but then at a county-specific level there are even more details, rules, and regulations.  The basic risk is that every area is different. You need to be fully aware of all rules if you are going to operate in a specific area.

Some locales are going to offer a higher rate of return than others. In other areas, it can be easier to actually become the owner of the property if the person never pays back their taxes. That’s where things become really interesting.

Disclaimer: I personally do not buy tax liens.

I have purchased real estate in the past and have studied the process of tax lien property investing and decided it was not worth the headaches. We’ll discuss pros and cons I think potential investors ought to be aware of.

Tax liens or tax lien certificates on homes can cost from two to eight thousand dollars. Of course, it’s going to cost much more if the lien is on a big commercial property.  That might cost you a hundred thousand or more, but in most cases, the average investor won’t be buying this type of lien.

Let’s talk about the process.

It starts with a property owner who will not pay their property tax.

Who is most likely not to pay their property taxes and have the property end up on a tax lien list?

People that don’t want their property and also do not have a loan against their property.

This means that there may be some properties on a tax lien list that potentially have equity. Most of the time, these properties don’t have a loan on them.


Because most loans on a home are made through a mortgage company.  The mortgage company usually will pay the taxes and insurance each year, on time.

Even if the homeowner doesn’t pay their mortgage, the bank will still pay the property taxes and the insurance because they want to protect their position. If there’s a loan against a property, the taxes are almost certainly being paid and most of the time you won’t see these properties on tax lien lists. If the property is owned free and clear you might definitely expect some people to stop paying.

What kind of properties are own free and clear? Those that have been owned a long time by an owner.  They probably paid off the loan a long time ago.

Sometimes an heir might inherit the property. Those are the most likely people not to pay their taxes.  Imagine if you just inherited this wonderful property but now owe an extra $6000 a year to pay the taxes to keep it.

If it is in a depressed area of the country you may have trouble selling it.  If you don’t have the $6K lying around, this could make you throw your hands up and say “No Thanks!”.

Beware The “Too Good To Be True”Outhouse-fixer-upper

There are other people who don’t want the properties they have, though.

Examine closely: If someone owns a property free and clear and doesn’t want it, you must carefully ask “Why?”.

Maybe it’s some weird piece of land that’s completely landlocked containing only a whole bunch of trees. In this case, you couldn’t even sell the trees to a logging company because they couldn’t get in to harvest the trees.

Many properties you will see on the list have strange unmarketable features weird like that.  Perhaps it’s raw or vacant land that the owners themselves don’t want.  They say “Forget this crap! I’m not going to pay four K a year for this poopy property. I’m out! Peace!”

In these cases, the city will eventually become the rightful owner because the land has no value. Unless some sucker bids on a tax-lien.

But I Want It, Mom!!!

If you win an auction for tax lien certificates, in many cases you have the option of potentially becoming the owner. This can happen if you pay the taxes over a number of years. This process depends completely on the state, though. In Florida, for example, if the person doesn’t pay their taxes for three years, the property is sold at a tax deed foreclosure auction.

So, the only way to own the property if you hold the tax lien is that no one else bids at the final auction.

Yet, if I am the lien holder, this would really scare me because this means that no one else wanted it. NO ONE??

If no one else wants the property, why should I?

I’d probably now be stuck with a property I now really do not want that I now must continuously pay taxes on.

If you’re interested in investing in tax liens, you’re obviously going to have to evaluate each property individually to see which one you want to potentially buy the tax lien certificate for.

Do Your Homework!

In Chicago, where I am from, they issue a list once a year. There are over 50,000 tax lien certificates that are sold in a year and they do it once a year.

That means you have potentially to crawl through all 50,000 just to make sure you are not going to end up screwing yourself.

If you have a budget of twenty grand in a year and you want to invest in these tax liens you could just go shopping properties down the list until you estimate that you’ve eaten up your budget, but remember you may lose on this or that auction so you will have to have some backups.

Please, please, please evaluate each property in person before you make the decision to put the money into a tax lien certificate. You absolutely need to know what you’re putting your money into.

If you’re blindly putting that money on some weird slab of land, you just may end up with it. After that, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will suffer a loss of your investment.

No Mom! I Still Want It!!!

In certain cases, you may actually want the property. This is where it gets interesting. You are probably going to have lots of competition if the property is desirable.

You will now be going up against the big boys.  Your competition will likely be local banks, hedge funds and other major players.

Here’s what they typically do: They will cherry-pick the single-family homes or properties that have a big mortgage on them. This happens because if the tax lien isn’t paid after two or three years, depending on the area, that mortgage could get wiped out.

Most mortgage companies will come in and pay the tax lien right before the tax deed sale. Either that or somebody is getting fired.

Banks and hedge funds absolutely love this game because they may get 2, 4, 6, and 8% on their money. Currently, deposits in a bank might make .5%. You do the math.

But I Heard About Making 20% Interest on Tax Liens?

You may have heard that there are places in this country that give up to 20% guaranteed rates of return on tax liens, but it doesn’t quite work like that. Why? Because it’s an auction process.

The person who bids the lowest interest rate will probably win. 20% is where the bidding usually starts. Competition then bids the price down.  You’re bidding against other people on the interest rate so the final percentage may end up on 6% or 8% or maybe 10% which is still hefty compared to, say, a savings account.

Once again, it depends on the area.

All in all, you’ll probably have serious competition which will be a challenge because you’re going head to head with people that have been doing this a very long time, know a lot more about this than you do, and have deeper resources than you.

A single-family home with a high dollar first mortgage on it is probably going to get redeemed. If not by the homeowner, at least by the banks. They will definitely go pay the back taxes before the property goes to foreclosure and they lose their mortgage investment. If that’s your goal, great!

But if your goal is to pick up a couple of these properties, then you’re going to need to take the approach of finding the deals that are least likely to get redeemed.

Just how do you get the property?

Start by going to tax auctions with the intent to learn the ropes for a few rounds before you first do any investing.  Study the process.  Study the players.

Figure out who the competitors are and what they’re doing.  Study what happens to each of the listed properties.  It will take time but you’ll start to notice some holes in the system.

I’m telling you to go study your local area (or area of choice) because that’s where the key pieces of information are. No tax lien course will be so thorough that it will allow you to skip this step.

It’s simply not possible given the competition, the amount of money at stake, and the possibility of rule changes.

It’s also a really good idea to go talk to an attorney that handles tax foreclosures.  For example, if you are a tax lien owner and you need to get your money back and the property owners didn’t pay you, sometimes you can file for a quiet title or for a tax foreclosure.

If this is possible in your area, this can make you much more competitive picking up properties.

Find out who’s handling tax foreclosures and learn from them.  There may be some local providers that handle this for investors.  In fact, I would bet that if you went to an auction and asked around you would quickly get to know what attorney to use and which title company to use because everyone wants a clear title.

Getting clear title can be a challenge in certain states.  For example, in Tennessee, it used to be a very big problem.  In Florida, there are closing companies that focus specifically on clear title for tax foreclosures.

You’ll have to definitely get a better understanding and that’s where these local service providers can give you some great wisdom on this subject.

Again you must really dig in and learn what’s going on in the game.  Remember, it’s much better if you know the property you’re dealing with.

Be Careful, You’re Playing With Real Money Now!

In every investment, you have got to verify whether it’s a good idea. The problem is that you have to go through so many to find a few that are going to be winners, that the time investment may not be worth it. It is difficult to know what’s going to be a good use of time.

You definitely need to have money ready to play in this arena.  This is not the no money, no cash down, creative financing stuff.

You have to have the money now. I would not personally put my own money into it because I could use that money to make a lot more deals out of it.

For example, if I was going to take $20,000 and throw it into a tax lien, I could also take that same $20,000 and give it to a homeowner or someone who needs to get out of their property ASAP.

I could then turn around and, most likely, flip that property for a lot more than I put in.

Getting more done in less time would mean that I can get a much better rate of return over the course of a year.

However, there are some people out there who are cash rich and don’t want the hands-on work that’s required with what I am suggesting.  They would much prefer to just go buy a bunch of tax liens and expect to get six to eight percent on their money.

They might focus on single-family homes that they know will get redeemed.  They won’t have to worry about owning the property and that’s exactly how they want it.

So are there any good things about tax lien investing?

In many instances, it’s a hands-off real estate investment style. Sure, it’s not hands-off in the beginning when you have to examine and choose which property you’re buying but it becomes hands off once you buy it.

You buy it, set it, then forget it. Then you move on. That that’s definitely a benefit.

You are also getting a guaranteed interest rate. Of course, it is very likely that you’re going to wait a couple of years before you can get it back. As a financial planner I prefer to think this is positive or negative related to your personal need for liquidity.

This type of investment is not very liquid because once you buy it, you have to sit on it. And wait.

You can end up sitting on it for three years before you get your money back.  But it’s a good rate of return, much better than any bank cd’s on the market today.

My Personal Preference Is Not To Invest in Tax Liens

Once again, I don’t do it because I prefer to have a better place to put my money.  However, I do love to check out tax deed auctions in Illinois, just out of curiosity.

Where I prefer to be in the real estate game is more on the active side because I’m happier with the hands-on, person to person deals. I don’t prefer to invest in a hands-off fashion because I’m happier actively making deals.

If possible I don’t want to get a specific return on my money over three years but would prefer active buying and selling which increase monetary turnover.

So That’s It! Location, Location, Location!

I hope you enjoyed this article and hopefully, you have gained some insights that you won’t see in other places whether paid or free.  This data comes from the good ol’ school of taking my lumps on the street.

I have certainly suffered enough headaches and stress to know what my personal preferences are.

So if you want to go the tax lien certificate investing route, just remember to know where your profitable paths lie.  It really is all about being a local expert, knowing other local experts, and knowing your local laws thoroughly.

If you study long enough in your local area and talk to enough professionals who are doing it, you’ll eventually begin to see where the opportunities are and that’s a HUGE key to success.

It’s simply about knowing what’s going on locally, asking a lot of professionals for information in that area and finally digging into knowing who the players are.

Maybe the guys at the auction that are bidding may not want to help you but if you knock on enough doors and buy enough people a latte, you can start to get to the juicy money-making information that others won’t know.

If you have any question, or if you have any comments you know please ask them on our Facebook page.

A Simple Do-It-Yourself Credit Repair Guide


Hey Veterans: Here’s A Simple Do-It-Yourself Credit Repair Guide

Hey Veterans: You might be aware that there are many options available on the market if you find that you need to repair your credit.  It’s not a fun job, but there are many companies ready to take on the task for you if you don’t already know which loans to pay off first.

However, most credit repair companies will not help you until you hand over their fee. Some credit repair companies do a really good job, but too many customers claim that many do not.

You must remember that these companies are mostly only out for your money, so you should be on guard.

Repairing your own credit, however, is quite possible, if you want to take the time to learn to do it. But you’ll need persistence and organization.  Get those two things going for you and you can do your own repair as well as any company who charges for the service.

Before we get started, just realize that this process cannot force a company to take off any information that is UNTRUE. But there is still always a little room for improvement on most credit reports.

Follow these steps to begin to successfully repair your credit on your own:

1. Get copies of all your credit reports.

Experian, TransUnion, and yes, even Equifax are the big 3 credit reporting firms. You should get your reports from all three sources so you know what you’re dealing with.

• You can easily get a free copy of your credit report once a year from all three companies by visiting https://www.annualcreditreport.com.

• OR if you’ve recently been denied credit or a job (yikes!) for having poor credit, you are also entitled to free copies of your reports, as long as it has been less than a year since you got copies.

• Sit down and carefully read the reports to figure out what these companies are saying about you and your beloved creditworthiness.

2. Determine if there any errors in those reports.

Once you obtain your credit reports, be sure to list any negative information, even if it’s true. Due to the nature of the beast, almost all people will have at least one error on their credit report.

• Remember that the credit bureaus are just machines designed to spew any information that gets posted to them. They simply can’t take the time to verify it, so it’s up to you.

• Make a concise list of every item you’ll want to dispute.

3. Dispute all the negative items.

It won’t do any good to dispute true items still carrying a balance because the lender still has a vested interest in making you pay up.  However, everything else is fair game. Items with a balance will just reappear the following month anyway.

• All disputed items should be documented in writing from your own Word doc or Google doc. Don’t use forms that are available online on the credit bureau’s website. They need to do some work anyway.

• Do a search. There are many form letters online that you can use for your dispute. You basically just want to say that you don’t agree with the items and wish to have them verified.

Sample letters to remove inquiries from mortgagecalculator01

• The credit bureau now has 30 days to go back to the creditor and try to verify the accuracy of the item or else it must be removed from your credit report. This also works if they fail to accomplish the ask in a timely fashion, for any reason. It’s the law!  Boom!

• Make certain to send all business correspondence via registered mail, FedEx, or their equivalent. You’ll want to be able to prove that the item was indeed received by the credit bureau and when.

• Then, if they don’t verify the disputed items in time, you can then remind them of the law and demand that the items in question be removed from your credit report.

4. Don’t give up. Queue the Rocky Theme Music!

Patience, persistence, and organization (ok, so I couldn’t come up with that third “P” word) are going to be the keys to success. That, and the fact that the bureaus have no real vested interest in keeping items on your report.  However, you must send and resend your letters if necessary, then follow up, and document everything. Be sure to keep copies of your letters in a folder along with the company responses. You might need this information later to make some things happen.

5. Remind yourself of the basic truth.

The truth is that credit bureaus make money by selling credit reports and not by responding to your nit-picking inquiries. The last thing they prefer to do is waste time and resources on helping you fix your reports.  However, if you can prove to be a bit of a pain in the neck, you will eventually get what you desire.

6. I’ll see you in court!

Threatening to take or even going through with taking the credit bureaus to court and suing them to change your information can be thought of as a last resort, scorched earth solution.  For monetary reasons, though, it really shouldn’t make it that far. Why?  Because:


• Anytime there’s a mistake on your credit report and the credit bureau refuses to remove it, they’re subject to a $1,000 fine. The same $1,000 fine applies for each item they fail to verify and/or refuse to remove.  Talk about a big stick!

• Credit bureaus have a long and glorious history of caving-in at the last minute and giving the consumer everything they want.  It’s just smart business.  Why subject yourself to all those fines plus the potential bad PR?

• They don’t even want to show up for the People’s Court.  Don’t hesitate to file a lawsuit with your local small claims court to get “satisfaction”.

• Of course, there may be the odd case when you might have to actually show up to court before they are willing to deal. So be it.  Just remember that these credit agencies simply don’t want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in fines, especially when they have nothing to gain. If some manager lets it get this far, their job is surely on the line. Remind them of that.

Summing It All Up!

Free (Ok – mostly free in money, but not time) DIY credit repair is something that anyone with some patience and perseverance (Oooohhh, I found that third “P” word!) can do. It is super simple but brutally effective.  Be prepared, though, because it can take months to see any real improvement.  Just remind yourself that it’s much faster than just waiting out ten or so years it will take for the items to fall out of the database and off their lists naturally.

Boost your credit, fix your good name, and take control of your life. You’ll be very happy you learned how to be these bureaucracies at their own game!

INFOGRAPHIC: 10 Ways To Make Extra Money Online

make money online infographic

Veterans: Are you looking for a way to make more money

Have you ever wondered how some people are able to earn money from home?

Do you ever wish it was you who gets to kiss the day job goodbye? Do you feel like you could be doing something better than working your current gig?

Well if you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions then you might be interested in this fun infographic we have for you below.

This infographic dives into how certain people are using internet marketing strategies to earn a living from their laptop anywhere in the world.

However, I admit to you that there is always a “catch” you should be aware of.

The “catch” is that if you not ever sold anything online or learned to make any real money from the internet, people will never tell you that it is hard work. Like really, really hard.

Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week definitely got me started heading down the path of earning income from the web, but the biggest draw for me (and for most people) was the lure of getting showered with cash for basically doing very little work.

Of even worse, some may follow the glitter all the way to scam land.

After years of jumping from shiny object to shiny object in the make money online space, I finally came to the realization that of all the people I saw making big bucks from internet ventures, all of them clearly worked more than four hours a week. Most worked more like 60 hours a week or more.

I went through a long period of disillusionment once I began to realize the size of the task I was trying to accomplish. Here’s the Truth of the matter: Hard work, combined with insight into what your customer wants, is the surest way to make people pay you through the internet.

With that said, this really is a great infographic you can use to give you some inspiration to chase the dream of doing the impossible.

What is the impossible you say? Oh, it’s quite simple really. It is nearly impossible to:

  1. Get a person who barely knows you to stop their mindless, rambling internet entertainment search and;
  2. Sit up and take notice of you and your offer then;
  3. Rummage through the house to find their wallet, and;
  4. Use their card to perform a transaction with you online!

I say this is nearly impossible not because it actually is, but because 99.8% (a scientific figure I arrived at after buying stupid course after stupid course) of the marketers you will come across in your “make money online” journey will want you to believe that a silver bullet exists that negates the need for simple, tiring, relentless, mind-draining, hard work.

So, yes, making money online can be done. It can even make you wealthy. However, just like farming, you cannot just take a bag of manure (most online money making courses) and spread it on an un-prepped field (your computer) and expect a bumper crop of corn to spring up (magic money in your PayPal account).

That said, you have been duly warned!

Now let’s get to that darned awesome infographic listing 10 ways to make money online.  Review and comment on our Facebook page!

infographic ways to make money online


How To Hack Your Financial Life


Veterans: Reduce Your Debt Using These Hacks!

Are you a veteran looking for methods to get out of debt?

This site is dedicated to providing veterans with information that can help in all areas of their financial life and also provides information on how to how to make money online.

The following is an idea generated by a reader comment talking about the transition from becoming debt-free to living debt-free.

In this guest-post from James G, he describes how he created a virtual employer in order to limit his natural spending habits. By playing games with himself, he was able to go from $50,000 in debt to having over a million in savings in just fifteen years. This is a pretty interesting take on moving to a financially clean slate.

Save more money monthly

By James G:
How is living debt-free different than becoming debt-free? If you are rational (and fortunate) it shouldn’t be different at all.

In my early 30s I lived paycheck-to-paycheck, had no assets to speak of, and was $50,000 in debt. At that point I decided to change things. I did so in the usual and most uninteresting way:

  • I moved to a less expensive apartment.
  • I stopped eating out (or eating take-out) every night, and started cooking my own meals a majority of the time.
  • I found ways to buy the luxuries I enjoyed more cheaply — it is easy to find ways of spending 20-30% less on many things things that bring you pleasure, like wine and good food.
  • I reduced the size of my wardrobe but spent more on each item. I saved money because the clothes lasted longer and looked better throughout their useful life.

Through these frugal ways I devoted 20-30% of my income to paying down debt, and was debt free in several years while enjoying my life no less.

Since I was devoting so much of my income to debt, I decided to keep things the same in the next phase of my life. I opened 401K and IRA accounts and maximized my contributions immediately. I had a little left over, so I opened an account for savings. Since I knew I was still bad with money, I decided to play a trick on myself. I set up my financial accounts to make it appear that my salary was mine to do with what I pleased, but did so in a way to disguise my actual income.

A tale of two employers

My real-life employer direct-deposited my paycheck into a money market account. This account used an automated bill-payment service to make deposits into my regular checking and savings account every two weeks.

This last set of accounts was used for ATM transactions, and for paying all of my bills. Income into this account was my salary. I had to live within my means just like I ought.

However, it was like I did not work for my employer, but for a fictitious employer. When I got raises or bonuses, they went into this fake employers money market account and did not appear in my salary — they were left to build my savings faster.

Once a year, I gave myself a raise by changing the amount of the bi-weekly salary that went into my personal bank accounts. My income kept rising, just a bit more slowly than in my real-life job.

I never felt that I was scrimping because my virtual job was increasing my virtual salary faster than inflation. It took me about two years to pay off debt, and another 4-5 years to build up emergency savings and open a brokerage account and start investing.

Now, my fake employer (my emergency fund money market account) kept making deposits for my salary but also started making deposits into my investment account.

Again, I was tempted to spend more as I started building assets. However, I was still able to limit myself to my virtual salary, and though I treated myself to slightly larger raises, this still only happened once a year and I could do so rationally without feeling too tempted.

I had a couple of windfalls along the way, an unexpected gain, and a severance package when one of my employers went under. However, these benefited my fake company, and never appeared in my virtual salary. Thus I increased my assets and did not suffer any loss.

Fake employer, real rewards

Now, fifteen years after I started, I have a modest amount of wealth. I passed $1,000,000 a while back and am nearing $2,000,000. My income from investing is now larger than what I ever earned as an employee.

However, my long-term goal has remained unchanged, and my way of accomplishing it is just as useful. My goals are to be financially independent (not tied to any external source of income) and rich (having a reasonably high disposable income).

As most of you know, being rich is the enemy of being wealthy. The road to wealth is simple: keep expenses (and the effects of inflation) beneath income.

It really is that simple.

The larger the difference between income and expenses, the faster your wealth will grow.

Now I am at a point where I could retire immediately. However, once I stop devoting many hours per week toward generating income, I will want to spend more time doing things which raise my expenses — travel, enjoying various hobbies, etc.

I also might have insufficient assets if accident or the economy or my portfolio significantly affect my outcome. Thus, I will probably delay my retirement for a longer time.

My virtual employer is just as useful as before. My goal is still to have as small an income as possible without feeling deprived. My goal for retirement income is at least twice my current virtual salary. Once the retirement income I desire is less than 3%/year of my investments, my time will be my own.

I will be richer because my virtual salary will be much higher (about twice as high) than I am accustomed. I will also be wealthy because my income will no longer be linked to how I spend my time.

Stay the course

As you can see, though, my life and my actions did not change when I crossed the line from debt to savings or when I crossed various milestones on the way to financial independence. I still lived within my means. I use credit daily, but pay credit cards in full each month. I increase my salary each year and am allowed to spend it as I please.

However, I structured my finances in such a way that I was never tempted to treat bonuses, tax refunds, raises, or other increases to income or wealth as if they were my own. My virtual employer — me — kept me happy enough on a slowly rising income, that I truly was never aware of any hardship.

One reader wrote:

I don’t think being debt-free feels any different than being in debt. It is just different. You are paying off for your future rather than your past. Until you reach your objective where you no longer need to save, you are still living the same life. Instead of worrying about how much debt you have left, you worry about how much you have left to save. The good thing is that I don’t feel wealthy.

He hit the nail on the head. If you play your cards right, you will experience a slow and steady rise in income over time. You will enjoy your life along the way. But youll neither feel wealthy nor as if you were enduring hardship. You should never feel wealthy at all until you actually are wealthy enough to accomplish your goals.

Summing it up

That’s my take it on it. I started with less than nothing, and lived slightly above my means. I redefined my means, and then lived within them. I wont lie to you — for the first year or so, I did find this difficult to do. However, once I got over that humped, it seemed easy.

It actually was all uphill from there since for over 10 years my savings as a percentage of real income was increasing each year. However, it felt all downhill (effort-wise) since my fictitious salary did rise slowly and steadily each year.

The only emotional hardship and challenge to will-power occurred when I sat down each year and decided how much of a raise to give my self in the next twelve months. As a boss, I was sometimes a real bastard. My virtual employer (me as boss) once gave me a 6% raise in a year that my real employer (the company I showed up at 5 days per week) gave me a 12% bonus and a 20% raise!

However, he (me) was right, and I did enjoy the extra few hundred a month in virtual salary and never missed the extra income since I never experienced having it.

Is Your Debt Threatening To Overwhelm You?

Getting Yourself Out From Under Crippling Debt

Hey Veterans: Do you feel like have no idea how to get rid of credit card debt? The fantastic thing is that no matter how high the mountain looks, you can scale it and pull yourself from the metaphorical hole you might end up in.

Here are some ways to handle that debt and bring it down to size:

1. Only buy what you can afford.

The perfect way to keep debt from becoming a problem is to avoid the issue completely from this point forward. As opposed to splurging on a fancy piece of digital hardware, only wait and save up for it.

By remaining within budget and paying off your bills each month, you do not need to be concerned about debt piling up on top of you.

You can still escape debt and feel the sweet relief of being debt free by changing your mindset from “using it now” to one of appreciating it even more when you have the cash.

2. Pay off the lowest balance.

Financial adviser Suze Orman often advises individuals in debt to look after the high-interest debts first. Generally speaking, this is a fantastic thing to do, however, in case you’ve got a credit card with a balance of just a few hundred bucks, it would also be beneficial to knock that one off right from the gate.

It is possible to eliminate a complete payment, save on interest charges, and put that money towards another invoice.

3. Prioritize bills by interest rate.

In the long term, paying off the higher interest cards will save you the most money. It is usually the interest that keeps knocking you back. By taking the higher interest cards, you will feel a greater sense of advancement when paying your bills each month.

4. Consolidate.

Among the overwhelming aspects of being in credit card debt is continually being reminded of it with all these bills from various cards. 1 way to fight back is to consolidate your debt. You can do this by taking out a loan from a financial institution or shifting the balance to a card.

If you recently got a new credit card, you can transfer some of the balance to this. This will save you a little bit of interest as most cards will place that equilibrium under the introductory rate.

If you take out a loan, you are able to pay off a number of the cards and cut back the amount of email you get. It is less daunting emotionally to get one massive bill rather than a bunch of small ones.

5. Convert to money and debit only.

One of the best ways to keep yourself in debt is to continue using your credit cards. They are handy and it’s easy to justify their intermittent usage by stating that it is only a pop or a tank of gasoline.

Those small charges add up fast! A dollar here, a few more there, and you’re going to negate the payments that you are making in a really short time frame.

Paying with cash can allow you to develop new spending habits. From the time you get your debts paid down, you will have educated yourself to the point where you do not put yourself in that circumstance.


Debt is a problem that happens to almost everyone sooner or later. Even wealthy men and women find themselves overextended by debt.

Even when you’re working on a shoestring budget, then it is possible to pull yourself out of debt. With discipline, focus, and hard work, you can end up relieved of the mounting pressures.

Hey Veterans: Would You Give Your Child A Credit Card?

Veterans: Is Building Up Your Child’s Credit A Good Idea?

Most parents will do anything in their power to protect their children from harm.  From teaching them to look both ways at crosswalks to the “don’t take candy from strangers” speech, protection is at the heart of these lessons.

But when it comes to talk about personal finances, the typical family money speech to kids resembles something along the lines of an 18th Century discussion about sex: A few words mumbled under the breath that sound like “Uhh, don’t do it.”

Image: Pixabay

Well, at least that was the way it was in my household. So when I entered the world of finance as a college freshman, I was woefully unprepared to master money and debt and thus had to learn how to pay off debt fast on my own.  This struggle continued well into adulthood before I began to get serious about frugality, investing, and debt reduction.

Many parents are in this very same boat and now feel impelled to help their kids avoid the mistakes that they made.  A good way to achieve this goal is to help the child learn to save.

However, some parents take these lessons a bit farther by helping their teens obtain credit cards or other loans. Let’s examine one argument for and against this approach.

Pro: The Child Starts Building A Credit History Early

A child who has earned a stable and established credit history by the time she turns 18 will be significantly ahead of a majority of the population at that age.  This financial head start can be a major benefit if loans are needed to help cover the cost of education.

Also, when her income level rises after college, it will be much easier to acquire a house, car, or other high ticket items at a reasonable interest rate, if so desired.

Con: Responsibility and Maturity Levels Vary

For truly responsible kids who really understand the value and danger of credit, the potential for harm can be significantly mitigated, and the future rewards amplified.

But if the child is not able to really understand the threat, no amount of speeches about the dangers of credit and the virtues of saving are going to sink in until the actual pain of monetary mismanagement comes home to roost.

In our modern and technologically advanced society the power of constant marketing and peer pressure often overwhelms even the brightest young minds.  Advertisers offer us everything we want, right now, and will give it to us even if we can’t afford really it. All that’s needed is a simple signature.

Rationalizations happen and BOOM, soon the poor kid is carrying a balance at an obscene interest rate.  Then the real struggle begins.

What We Should Be Teaching Kids

Some kids just seem to have an “I’m From Missouri, You Need To Show Me” mentality where they need to have the punishment doled out before they can really learn the lesson.  Other kids are the type that are able to learn profound life lessons merely from hearing stories about various pitfalls.  In either case, parents should instill the following principles in their kids at an early age: Minimalism and Frugality.

This is the true foundation for being able to properly evade the constant traps being offered to the unwary.  If children can learn to make correct economic decisions in small things, this same process should scale out allow them to make the correct decisions in big things.

That way, if the child chooses to go the route of building their credit profile it will be with this sturdy mental foundation as a basis for action.

Top 21 Financial Literacy Concepts For Kids


Veterans: Who Taught You Financial Literacy as a Student?

Hey Veterans: Do you think your financial life would be different today if had been taught the benefits of financial literacy as a kid? Have you become frustrated with the fact that schools teach us to be great worker bees, but teach almost nothing about financial freedom?

With home ownership, retirement, savings, and cash deposit accounts listed as things an adult needs to really understand, many people, including myself were left wildly unprepared for the real world once they left high school.

The United States is one of the countries with the highest number of citizens with checking accounts, yet many young people could not balance a checking account if their life depended on it.

With such a severe lack of financial education, one wonders how young people ever attain financial freedom in their lifetimes.

level up your money

What is financial literacy and why is it important?

In a country that is supposed to be among the wealthiest in the world, most people are struggling because they don’t understand the most basic financial concepts on a personal level.

Financial literacy training for young people is severely lacking and as such is the future financial security of the nation itself is at risk.

Even when I came out of college with a degree in Finance, it was amazing to me that it took another full year of struggling with my personal financial life for the light bulb to come on regarding financial management.

The definition of financial literacy is having a deep and unshakable understanding of the various topics topics related to managing money, personal finance (i.e. credit), how and why we save money, and what to invest that money into once it has grown to a decent size.

It involves understanding concepts such as compound interest, the rule of 72, and the time value of money.  These items are tools that in the hand of the skilled build great wealth, but in the hands of the uninitiated quickly bring about bankruptcy.

So how can we start to gain the benefits of financial literacy?

A good place to start is by reading the following list!  If you are interested in giving a young person you know a great financial headstart, then read on to find out what I wish I had learned as a high school student or even earlier.

1- Watch Out For Predatory Lenders and Credit Cards

I remember walking down the street my first few weeks on campus and seeing a kiosk with a person giving away 2 liters of Coca-Cola just for signing up for a Discover Card.

I thought wow! Free money and free Coke…What a sweet deal.  Little did I know that I should have made them give me so…much…more! I was woefully unprepared for that first card but it taught me a ton of life lessons.

Lenders love to hound young adults who are just beginning to live on their own and manage their financial lives. With credit cards from well known financial institutions starting at 23% for first-time applicants and ever increasing credit limits, it is no wonder that the average amount of credit card debt is $15 thousand dollars.

Furthermore, predatory lenders enjoy playing the no interest game to trap young people. Be smart with credit cards if you must have them.

Don’t use them for anything except what you can fully manage to pay back at the end of the month. Really, though, it is simply best not to use them at all except for strategic reasons.

2- Compound Interest – Learn The Rule of 72

Interest is the amount of money that is earned on an amount of money each period.  This is usually listed as a percentage.  For example, a person holding a $100 investment that earns 10% per month will have 110.00 dollars at the end of the month.

Compound interest is what occurs the next month.  First, the same $10.00 is earned next month, but something magical also happens.  The previous month’s earned $10 also earns 10% or 1 dollar bringing the total earnings to 100 + 10 +10 +1 = $121.

Now, this example may not seem like a big deal but if you could find a deal like this you would be advised to take it and run for the hills before they change their minds.


Because at the end of 10 years at this rate of return your $100 would have turned into $9,024,920.  That is the power of compound interest.  It is also the power that credit card companies use against the unsuspecting.

If you invest your money in the stock market, you may be able to obtain a rate of return that might be in the range of 10% per year, not per month.  However, this is still enough to double your money every 7 years.  How do I know this?  Through the rule of 72!

The rule of 72 states that if you take any interest rate as a whole number then divide 72 by that number, you get the number of years it will take for the investment (or debt in the case of credit cards) to double, without any other money being added to the pile.

This is the real reason why the “rich get richer and the poor get poorer”.  One is using compound interest in their favor.  The other is having it used against them through high-interest credit cards or predatory lending practices.

3- Start Investing in an IRA As Soon As Possible

The problem with earning money even in a passive way like investing is that the government is always taking part of the earnings, putting a drag on your money’s compounding rate.

However, tools such as IRA’s are government sponsored plans for that allow money to grow tax-free. These can be started at any age under 70 and a half years old.

You should start an IRA as soon as possible because guarding your investments against taxation is one of the best ways to ensure that the money will grow as quickly as possible.

Parents should seriously consider setting up IRA’s for their children once they begin earning money because the earlier you can get money compounding, the wealthier you will be at retirement.

For example, if a person has $10,000 in an IRA, at the age of 35, then decide to invest no more, their expected value at age 65 compounded at 8% per year would be $147,853.44.

However, if they had done this at the age of 25, with no additional savings, the expected value would be $319,204.49.  More than double with just an additional 10-year head start. Play with the numbers yourself at this calculator.

4- Balancing the cost of college against expected job opportunity pay (or ROI)

Of course, you go to college expecting to get a high paying job, but you should carefully examine the future prospects for the job market before you embark on your degree.

If the money you are expecting to earn after school is going to be significantly less than what you spent on the schooling, then you may want to re-think the chosen career path.

However, a key variable is how happy you will expect to be in your chosen field.  If you know without a doubt what makes you happiest, then money earned will be irrelevant. The key is to live way below your earnings, whatever they may be.

Also, don’t be afraid to work and learn at the same time.  There are plenty of IT professionals that are now foregoing 4 year colleges and are turning to micro-learning vehicles such as Certification Training. This allows them to advance at their own pace with no risk to their future earning potential.

5- Reducing college cost by taking as many AP courses as possible

Let’s face it.  A college education is becoming ridiculously expensive.  But smart high schoolers know that Advanced Placement courses can cut down on time spent in college and save you money as you wouldn’t have to pay for taking those courses in college.

Taking as many AP courses as possible in high school and passing the AP exam allows you to very cheaply offset the costs of a normal college education.

6- Reducing college cost by taking prerequisites at junior colleges in summer

Junior colleges are significantly cheaper than the conventional universities and as such, taking some of your pre-requisite courses will help save money and also cut down on your college hours.

It is also a wise choice financially as it will show you whether college is for you or not.  Be sure to check with the top three universities you would like to attend to ensure that the courses you want to take would qualify as transferable.

7- Saving the MAX in a 401(k) as soon as I got my first job

In youth, you have very few obligations. But the moment you have the opportunity, you must get into a 401k and immediately save the maximum amount possible in your 401k.  One big caveat: The 401 k must not be solely invested in the stock of the company that you are working for.

If you can’t diversify your portfolio then that is a huge risk.  In that case, you should probably only save enough to get any matching amount that the company would give you.  That’s free money!

If you can’t diversify your portfolio then that is a huge risk.  In that case, you should probably only save enough to get any matching amount that the company would give you.  That’s free money!

8- Learn to save a little bit of any money received

When you are young and you get some money, there is usually no real need for discipline. Most kids have no concept of budgeting or needing their money last because bills are coming due.

We get it, we were young once too but it is important to learn good spending habits early. Some parents like to teach their kids to use the 25% formula.

Save 25% of whatever money you get and go wild with the rest.  Goals are important in teaching teens about money as they respond better to ideas when they can see how it will be to their benefit.

9-Understand financial jargon

This credit offer seems legit! Image: Pixabay

Financial education for kids is profoundly important. If they do not know what financial jargon means then they could be left vulnerable when it comes to predatory lenders.

Why not have your teen spend a little time on Investopedia or even make learning the terms a game with a small prize.

If a teen goes into the adult world with blinders on, they may end up making some poor choices regarding credit or investments that are not really investments but gambling.

10- Play the game Cash Flow 101 from Rich Dad (and other money games for kids)

You are never too young to learn to be a great money manager.  Robert Kiyosaki has a great game called Cash Flow For Kids that can really help parents teach financial discipline.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with teaching 4-year-old’s practical money skills. The internet is full of money games or you could even use your child as a banker in the next monopoly game. Why not check out www.winthemoneygame.com for some educational fun.

11- Good money books for kids

The children’s book market is a billion dollar industry with books on potty training to the welcoming of a new sibling there is a book on everything.

Picture books on money are also in abundance and are a very good tool to help young ones understand the concepts of saving, spending and the notion that money doesn’t grow on trees.

Bunny Money” by Rosemary Wells is a good book to start with as it teaches basic money math and other little tricks to help your child understand the concept of money.

12- Learning ways to earn money as a kid (particularly sales and self-promotion)

Let’s face it, the majority of wealth is generated by people who are employers, not employees.  This is where learning an entrepreneurial spirit early in life comes in handy.

There are many ways for your child to earn money, such as by recycling cans, door-to-door candy sales, starting a lawn mowing business, opening a lemonade stand or even negotiating a garage sale with their stuff-hoarding parents.

Making sales and getting customers to buy is not only a great social exercise, but it also teaches grit in the face of rejection. This is a great way to boost their confidence and to help out with the added items your child may want to purchase.

Learning the value of a hard day’s work will help them to appreciate their hard-earned nickels.  Just don’t forget to save a portion!

13- Read www.themint.org

Launched in 1997, themint.org provides tools to help parents, as well as educators, to teach personal finance lessons for high schoolers on how to manage money wisely and develop good financial habits.  In today’s hyper-consumerism environment, these are lessons that desperately need to be learned.

Furthermore, the website offers financial literacy activities for high school students and teaches everything from best saving practices to how to protect themselves from predatory lenders.

14- Use Mint once on your own

New college grads should consider using Mint on their own as soon as possible and explore the wealth of financial knowledge they put at our fingertips. The website is broken up into sections for all ages and even has a section for recent graduates in order to guide them through their post-college years.

It has helpful tips on how best to manage any new debt they have and learn how to manage their money.  Of course, it also offers budgeting tips and saving ideas. Check out the option tailor-made for new grads at http://www.themintgrad.org/

15- How to make money with money

There is an old saying that goes “you have to spend money to make money”. Now if you want to learn ways to increase your wealth, then you need to put it to work.

You can do this through putting your money in investments such as stocks or bonds, mutual funds, starting your own business or perhaps real estate.

If you have a pretty large nest egg already, you might consider buying a franchise as these tend to have systems in place that help ensure that you’ll make money. With your growing wealth, you can provide jobs, boost the economy, and give back to those in need.

16- Learn about stock index funds and why it beats most money managers yearly

A stock index fund is a low cost, mostly unmanaged investment fund. “Indexing” is a passive form of fund management that generally outperforms most actively managed mutual funds over long periods of time.

Money managed funds are beaten by index funds due to the fact that managed mutual funds are typically more aggressive in their attempts to beat the market.

Index funds, on the other hand, mimic the market.

Managed funds pose a greater risk while giving the investor no greater expected return on the investment. Basically, if you are using an index fund, you will very likely beat most money managers over the long term.

17- What frugality really means

To be frugal is to be thrifty or a wise shopper. Frugal people are not cheap or tight-fisted, they are simply economical in everything they do. A great example of this is couponers or bulk shoppers.

There are coupon shoppers who have whole files of supermarket layouts and arrange their coupons so that they have a cheap and effective shop.


There are even ways to get money back from the store and walk out with free groceries.

Frugality is something to be encouraged, especially when it comes to young adults just starting out.

More important than finding great deals, is embracing a Minimalist way of living.  Only buying what you absolutely need and letting go of the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses”, is a sure-fire path to peace and wealth.

18- How to balance a checkbook

Now as previously mentioned, there are some people who cannot balance a checkbook to save themselves, but the process is really very simple and only requires basic math skills, or even better, Quicken.

Balancing a checkbook means you’ve recorded all additions (deposits) made to your account and subtractions (withdrawals).

Most checkbooks will have pages for you to record the transactions made. You simply make sure you do not write checks for more than the amount of money that is in your checking account.

It is important to remember that a person who you pay with a check may not cash it for several weeks.  So you must keep a record of uncashed checks as well as leave sufficient funds in the account to cover the unpaid portion.

What’s even better is that in today’s environment you really don’t need to bother with checks these days. However, even if you do not use checks, you should check your bank balance daily to make sure you know what your money is doing.

Another good idea is to always pay everything you can from your bank account online.

Chase Bank is great because they immediately withdraw and hold any amounts you pay online, even if the business you are paying hasn’t received the funds yet. This is awesome because you have much less of a chance of overdrawing your account with this feature.

19- Why budgets matter

Budgets are important educational tools for those new to the wonderful world of financial independence. Many Americans do not stick to or even have budgets.

Budgeting is important because it helps expose what your silent but deadly spending habits are and helps you overcome them with simple math.  It can often be really illuminating to see your true spending habits versus what you planned to do.

Many people have commented that they do not know where their money goes and still do not keep track of their spending.  This is like trying to drive to New York from L.A. with no map.

Budgets are important tools to help you with your financial goals. If you stick to a budget then you are more likely to have a healthier financial life.

20- What good debt is

Now, this is a concept that may confuse you. For years we have been told that debt is a bad thing, but that is not strictly true.

Good debt is simply debt that allows you to purchase something that pays the debt back for you. Examples of good debt are real estate

Examples of good debt are real estate loans, or loans for businesses that need to grow in order to meet heavy demand for their products. You can have debt and still be smart about it. Just make sure it is a debt that will pay itself back in the long run.

21- Why A Big House Is a Bad Investment

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase “We just need a bigger house”? Well, there are some interesting home usage statistics that show that what this person is really saying is that “I need more space for my junk”.

From a purely cash-flow based analysis buying bigger houses are a bad investment.  Why?  They do not pay the owner cash on a monthly basis to help pay the debt.

This fact came home to roost in the 2008 real estate crash. This is not to say that one should not buy a home.  However, we should rather buy the least amount of home possible so that we retain our financial freedom.


Clearly, financial education is a vastly under-appreciated field for teaching children how to become responsible adults with money. Many, including myself, wish they had learned about some of these concepts at an early age.

If we want the youth as well as those grown-ups who continue to struggle to have the drive to plan for the future then it is important to focus on financial literacy. This ensures that they will be independent and make great decisions because they will have the practical money skills necessary for a sound financial future.

Are You Ready To Be A Social Media Freelancers?


Hey Veterans: How To Be Your Own Boss As A Social Media Manager

Are you looking for a business that you could start out of your house yet allow you to work from anywhere in the world on your laptop?

Would you like to start a side-hustle that could really turn into a big business down the road?

Are you tired of the rat race and the life of the employee?

Well, the side-business in the YouTube video below just might be for you.

The video represents a great walkthrough of how to earn money online without paying anything.

However, there are a few items needed to make the business truly succeed that are not talked about in the report so I have chosen to include these items after the video.

Really, if you have any service-based business idea you can implement my add-on ideas to supercharge your chances for really succeeding.


Because most of the people you will be competing within your space simply are too lazy to go out and do these things.

When I was still searching for a way to make money online that could also be a legit offline business that could really grow into something I really wish I had found this report from Fox News 7. Give a look and then let’s talk about how to really make sure you succeed should you choose to go that route.

Are you pumped to go out and start getting clients? Good! Here’s what you should do to try to stand out from the herd:

  1. Find the true physical address of the business contact who will make buying decisions for the prospective client.
  2. FedEx (not snail mail, not email) them a package that also contains a bulky trinket related to your service. They should be able to feel the item through the package. It should be something memorable for the business (i.e.-they should be super reluctant to throw it away)
  3. Follow up with a phone call – be sure to remind them of the trinket. The only goal of this call is to get an invite to sit down and chat for 15 minutes about their business needs.
  4. If you get the invite do your homework – try to anticipate the problems the business might be having. Let them confirm or deny these in your 15 minutes.
  5. Use the 15 minutes to learn about the ONE BIGGEST PAIN POINT regarding their business
  6. At the end of the 15 minutes offer to do a simple, super low-cost, hard to resist service for them based upon your research (i.e. – build or beautify a facebook fan page or LinkedIn profile)
  7. Over-deliver if you get the order, then ask for more business by showcasing how your service can SOLVE all or a portion of the BIG PAIN POINT you discovered in the 15-minute interview.
  8. Over Deliver. Rinse and Repeat.

You now have the keys to the kingdom, no matter where that kingdom lies.

From Beijing to the Bronx, this is a formula for success in service industries. Now it’s time to take your slice of the Pie of Success.

But you’re gonna need a bigger plate, my friend.

If you have other points you think should be added to this success template let me know!

SEC Says How To Invest In Mutual Funds

Hey Veterans: Are You Looking To Invest In Mutual Funds? See This Checklist First!

The following information comes from the SEC and should be helpful for anyone looking for a long-term investing solution.

This information is straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, so it should be studied closely if you want to have a grip on the very basic rules of financial competence you need to play the game.


* Mutual funds are NOT guaranteed or insured by any bank or government agency. Even if you buy through a bank and the fund carries the bank’s name, there is no guarantee. You can lose money. (see Part IV “Kinds of Mutual Funds”)

* Mutual funds ALWAYS carry investment risks. Some types carry more risk than others. (see Part IV “Kinds of Mutual Funds”)

* Understand that a higher rate of return typically involves a higher risk of loss. (see Part IV “Kinds of Mutual Funds”)

* Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Beware of dazzling performance claims. (see Part V “Comparing Different Funds”)

* ALL mutual funds have costs that lower your investment returns. (see Part V “Comparing Different Funds”)

* You can buy some mutual funds by contacting them directly. Others are sold mainly through brokers, banks, financial planners, or insurance agents. If you buy through these financial professionals, you generally will pay an extra sales charge for the benefit of their advice.

* Shop around. Compare a mutual fund with others of the same type before you buy.


Mutual funds can be a good way for people to invest in stocks, bonds, and other securities. Why?

* Mutual funds are managed by professional money managers.

* By owning shares in a mutual fund instead of buying individual stocks or bonds directly, your investment risk is spread out.

* Because your mutual fund buys and sells large amounts of securities at a time, its costs are often lower than what you would pay on your own.

This document explains the basics of mutual fund investing — how a mutual fund works, what factors to consider before investing, and how to avoid common pitfalls.

There are sources of information that you should consult before you invest in mutual funds. The most important of these is the prospectus of any fund you are considering. The prospectus is the fund’s selling document and contains information about costs, risks, past performance, and the fund’s investment goals. Request a prospectus from a fund, or from a financial professional if you are using one. Read the prospectus before you invest.

Before you buy a mutual fund, make sure it is right for you.


A mutual fund is a company that brings together money from many people and invests it in stocks, bonds, or other securities. (The combined holdings of stocks, bonds, or other securities and assets the fund owns are known as its portfolio.) Each investor owns shares, which represent a part of these holdings.


You can buy some mutual funds by contacting them directly. Others are sold mainly through brokers, banks, financial planners, or insurance agents. All mutual funds will redeem (buy back) your shares on any business day and must send you the payment within seven days.

You can find out the value of your shares in the financial pages of major newspapers; after the fund’s name, look for the column marked “NAV.”


Net Asset Value per share (NAV): NAV is the value of one share in a fund.

When you buy shares, you pay the current NAV per share, plus any sales charge (also called a sales load). When you sell your shares, the fund will pay you NAV less any other sales load (See Part V “Comparing Different Funds”). A fund’s NAV goes up or down daily as its holdings change in value.

Example: You invest $1,000 in a mutual fund with an NAV of $10.00. You will therefore own 100 shares of the fund. If the NAV drops to $9.00 (because the value of the fund’s portfolio has dropped), you will still own 100 shares, but your investment is now worth $900. If the NAV goes up to $11.00, your investment is worth $1,100. (This example assumes no sales charge.)


You can earn money from your investment in three ways.

First, a fund may receive income in the form of dividends and interest on the securities it owns. A fund will pay its shareholders nearly all of the income it has earned in the form of dividends.

Second, the price of the securities a fund owns may increase. When a fund sells a security that has increased in price, the fund has a capital gain. At the end of the year, most funds distribute these capital gains (minus any capital losses) to investors.

Third, if a fund does not sell but holds on to securities that have increased in price, the value of its shares (NAV) increases. The higher NAV reflects the higher value of your investment. If you sell your shares, you make a profit (this also is a capital gain).

Usually funds will give you a choice: the fund can send you payment for distributions and dividends, or you can have them reinvested in the fund to buy more shares, often without paying an additional sales load.


You will owe taxes on any distributions and dividends in the year you receive them (or reinvest them). You will also owe taxes on any capital gains you receive when you sell your shares. Keep your account statements in order to figure out your taxes at the end of the year.

If you invest in a tax-exempt fund (such as a municipal bond fund), some or all of your dividends will be exempt from federal (and sometimes state and local) income tax. You will, however, owe taxes on any capital gains.


You take risks when you invest in any mutual fund. You may lose some or all of the money you invest (your principal), because the securities held by a fund go up and down in value. What you earn on your investment also may go up or down.

Each kind of mutual fund has different risks and rewards. Generally, the higher the potential return, the higher the risk of loss.

Before you invest, decide whether the goals and risks of any fund you are considering are a good fit for you. To make this decision, you may need the help of a financial adviser. There are also investment books and services to guide you.

The three main categories of mutual funds are money market funds, bond funds, and stock funds. There are a variety of types within each category.

1. MONEY MARKET FUNDS have relatively low risks, compared to other mutual funds. They are limited by law to certain high- quality, short-term investments. Money market funds try to keep their value (NAV) at a stable $1.00 per share, but NAV may fall below $1.00 if their investments perform poorly. Investor losses have been rare, but they are possible.


Banks now sell mutual funds, some of which carry the bank’s name. But mutual funds sold in banks, including money market funds, are not bank deposits. Don’t confuse a “money market fund” with a “money market deposit account.” The names are similar, but they are completely different:

* A money market fund is a type of mutual fund. It is not guaranteed, and comes with a prospectus.

* A money market deposit account is a bank deposit. It is guaranteed, and comes with a Truth in Savings form.

2. BOND FUNDS (also called FIXED INCOME FUNDS) have higher risks than money market funds, but seek to pay higher yields. Unlike money market funds, bond funds are not restricted to high-quality or short-term investments. Because there are many different types of bonds, bond funds can vary dramatically in their risks and rewards.

Most bond funds have credit risk, which is the risk that companies or other issuers whose bonds are owned by the fund may fail to pay their debts (including the debt owed to holders of their bonds). Some funds have little credit risk, such as those that invest in insured bonds or U.S. Treasury bonds. But be careful: nearly all bond funds have interest rate risk, which means that the market value of the bonds they hold will go down when interest rates go up. Because of this, you can lose money in any bond fund, including those that invest only in insured bonds or Treasury bonds.

Long-term bond funds invest in bonds with longer maturities (length of time until the final payout). The values (NAVs) of long-term bond funds can go up or down more rapidly than those of shorter-term bond funds.

3. STOCK FUNDS (also called EQUITY FUNDS) generally involve more risk than money market or bond funds, but they also can offer the highest returns. A stock fund’s value (NAV) can rise and fall quickly over the short term, but historically stocks have performed better over the long term than other types of investments.

Not all stock funds are the same. For example, growth funds focus on stocks that may not pay a regular dividend but have the potential for large capital gains. Others specialize in a particular industry segment such as technology stocks.


Some funds may face special risks if they invest in derivatives. Derivatives are financial instruments whose performance is derived, at least in part, from the performance of an underlying asset, security or index. Their value can be affected dramatically by even small market movements, sometimes in unpredictable ways.

There are many types of derivatives with many different uses. They do not necessarily increase risk, and may in fact reduce risk. A fund’s prospectus will disclose how it may use derivatives. You may also want to call a fund and ask how it uses these instruments.


Once you identify the types of funds that interest you, it is time to look at particular funds in those categories.


A fund’s past performance is not as important as you might think. Advertisements, rankings, and ratings tell you how well a fund has performed in the past. But studies show that the future is often different. This year’s “number one” fund can easily become next year’s below average fund. (NOTE: Although past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance, volatility of past returns is a good indicator of a fund’s future volatility.)


* Check the fund’s total return. You will find it in the Financial Highlights, near the front of the prospectus. Total return measures increases and decreases in the value of your investment over time, after subtracting costs.

* See how total return has varied over the years. The Financial Highlights in the prospectus show yearly total return for the most recent 10-year period. An impressive 10-year total return may be based on one spectacular year followed by many average years. Looking at year-to-year changes in total return is a good way to see how stable the fund’s returns have been.


Costs are important because they lower your returns. A fund that has a sales load and high expenses will have to perform better than a low-cost fund, just to stay even with the low-cost fund.

Find the fee table near the front of the fund’s prospectus, where the fund’s costs are laid out. You can use the fee table to compare the costs of different funds.

The fee table breaks costs into two main categories:

1. sales loads and transaction fees (paid when you buy, sell, or exchange your shares), and

2. ongoing expenses (paid while you remain invested in the fund).

Sales Loads

The first part of the fee table will tell you if the fund charges any sales loads.

No-load funds do not charge sales loads. When you buy no-load funds, you make your own choices, without the assistance of a financial professional. There are no-load funds in every major fund category. Even no-load funds have ongoing expenses, however, such as management fees.

When a mutual fund charges a sales load, it usually pays for commissions to people who sell the fund’s shares to you, as well as other marketing costs. Sales loads buy you a broker’s services and advice; they do not assure superior performance. In fact, funds that charge sales loads have not performed better on average (ignoring the loads) than those that do not charge sales loads.


Front-end load: A front-end load is a sales charge you pay when you buy shares. This type of load, which by law cannot be higher than 8.5% of your investment, reduces the amount of your investment in the fund.

Example: If you have $1,000 to invest in a mutual fund with a 5% front-end load, $50 will go to pay the sales charge, and $950 will be invested in the fund.

Back-end load: A back-end load (also called a deferred load) is a sales charge you pay when you sell your shares. It usually starts out at 5% or 6% for the first year and gets smaller each year after that until it reaches zero (say, in year six or seven of your investment).

Example: You invest $1,000 in a mutual fund with a 6% back-end load that decreases to zero in the seventh year. Let’s assume for the purpose of this example that the value of your investment remains at $1,000 for seven years. If you sell your shares during the first year, you only will get back $940 (ignoring any gains or losses). $60 will go to pay the sales charge. If you sell your shares during the seventh year, you will get back $1,000.

Ongoing Expenses

The second part of the fee table tells you the kinds of ongoing expenses you will pay while you remain invested in the fund. The table shows expenses as a percentage of the fund’s assets, generally for the most recent fiscal year. Here, the table will tell you the management fee (which pays for managing the fund’s portfolio), along with any other fees and expenses.

High expenses do not assure superior performance. Higher expense funds do not, on average, perform better than lower expense funds. But there may be circumstances in which you decide it is appropriate for you to pay higher expenses. For example, you can expect to pay higher expenses for certain types of funds that require extra work by its managers, such as international stock funds, which require sophisticated research. You may also pay higher expenses for funds that provide special services, like toll-free telephone numbers, check-writing and automatic investment programs.

A difference in expenses that may look small to you can make a big difference in the value of your investment over time.

Example: Say you invest $1,000 in a fund. Let’s assume for the purpose of this example that you receive a flat rate of return of 5% before expenses. If the fund has expenses of 1.5%, after 20 years you would end up with roughly $1,990. If the fund has expenses of 0.5%, you would end up with more than $2,410. This is a 22% difference.


Rule 12b-1 fee: One type of ongoing fee that is taken out of fund assets has come to be known as a rule 12b-1 fee. It most often is used to pay commissions to brokers and other salespersons, and occasionally to pay for advertising and other costs of promoting the fund to investors. It usually is between 0.25% and 1.00% of assets annually.

Funds with back-end loads usually have higher rule 12b-1 fees. If you are considering whether to pay a front-end load or a back- end load, think about how long you plan to stay in a fund. If you plan to stay in for six years or more, a front-end load may cost less than a back-end load. Even if your back-end load has fallen to zero, over time you could pay more in rule 12b-1 fees than if you paid a front-end load.


* Beware of a salesperson who tells you, “This is just like a no-load fund.” Even if there is no front-end load, check the fee table in the prospectus to see what other loads or fees you may have to pay.

* Check the fee table to see if any part of a fund’s fees or expenses has been waived. If so, the fees and expenses may increase suddenly when the waiver ends (the part of the prospectus after the fee table will tell you by how much).

* Many funds allow you to exchange your shares for shares of another fund managed by the same adviser. The first part of the fee table will tell you if there is any exchange fee.

Shop wisely. Compare fees and expenses before you invest.


Read the sections of the prospectus that discuss the risks, investment goals, and investment policies of any fund that you are considering. Funds of the same type can have significantly different risks, objectives and policies.

All mutual funds must prepare a Statement of Additional Information (SAI, also called Part B of the prospectus). It explains a fund’s operations in greater detail than the prospectus. If you ask, the fund must send you an SAI.

You can get a clearer picture of a fund’s investment goals and policies by reading its annual and semi-annual reports to shareholders. If you ask, the fund will send you these reports.

You can also research funds at most libraries. Helpful resources include fund investment books, investor magazines and newspapers. The fund companies themselves can also provide information.


If you encounter a problem or have a question concerning a mutual fund that you believe can be addressed by the SEC, contact an SEC consumer specialist at one of the offices listed on the next page.

Remember: There are no guarantees in mutual fund investing. Inform yourself and exercise your judgment carefully before you invest.


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