I Started Investing 3 Years Ago, Best Decision I Ever Made

I Started Investing 3 Years Ago, Best Decision I Ever Made

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

In the beginning of 2015 I paid off my credit card debt for the first time and started to learn about investing.

It was terrifying, but so totally worth it!

How I Perceived Investing As A Kid

Up until 3 years ago (I was 28), I knew NOTHING about investing. To me, investing was some insane, chaotic spree that made rich people rich and the middle class poor. I didn’t know how it worked, but I knew tons of people who lost money during the recession.

If you’ve ever watched any movie that talks about Wall Street or Investing, it’ll have your brain swimming in confusion trying to understand it. Were they just trying to make it look hard and impressive? (Yes).

I was terrified of investing, I just shut down anytime someone talked about investing and assumed they were a financial genius if they owned stock. Someone who had enough money to pay their bills, live their life and put something extra away investing for retirement was a financial god to me.

I Started to Learn About Money On My Own

Like I said before, at the beginning of 2015 (3 years ago) I paid off my credit card debt after paying countless $70 monthly payments. So once I paid it off, I wanted to use that $70 for something else, something reasonable.

I will admit my company did have a financial planner come into our office and talk about our 401(k) plan. While the company plan was pretty awful, the financial planner did a great job at terrifying me to death.

I will always remember their words “Running out of money in retirement is worse than death”

Well f*&k, that was more terrifying than Halloween. So I started to learn more about money and how it worked.

I started reading finance books like “Total Money Make Over” by Dave Ramsey. I consumed it in a day.

I started listening to finance podcasts. Not the hardcore stock analysis ones, but the more Investing for Dummies type of podcasts like “Listen, Money, Matters”. I LOVED that podcasts and in my mind, being surrounded by those announcers talking about money and finance as a regular thing, I began thinking of money in a different way.

After reading books and listening podcasts. I started to view money not as static thing to sit in my bank account, but more as income streams.

Understanding how much money I had in my bank account mattered less than how much I had coming in each month. That’s why investing became a fascination because it’s one of the most common income streams for people.

I Tried Investing $100 To See What Happens

On the podcast “Listen, Money, Matters” they raved about the investing app “Betterment” (Adam uses Betterment and did a review). They brought the Betterment team on the podcast and explained it and how it’s meant for people who know nothing about investing but want to start. That was me!

I remember how nervous I was signing up. I had to put in my info and social security number. I was convinced that I would immediately lose all my money straight away and because they knew my social security number, the IRS would start to hunt me down.

This was a legit fear I had.

Since I had so much anxiety, I only invested $100 to see what happened. I invested in a “moderate risk” portfolio which they automatically invested for me. All I did was put in $100 and waited to see what happens.

They say not to check it daily, but I did. Oh my goodness, for the first week I checked it hourly. I wanted to see EXACTLY how the stock market worked. After a week I limited myself to daily. So for 5 months, I checked my Betterment account every day, scruitinizing everything that happened.

However, I found that my money fluctuated. One day it went down to $99 then up to $102 and slowly kept rising. This helped me understand how the market moved (at least during those 5 months), how it worked and it slowly became less mysterious.

In fact, I started to notice little things like every once in a while, I would receive extra lumps of change in my account. Just a few pennies, but they were dividends. I received money just from owning certain stocks. I couldn’t tell which stocks with Betterment because it doesn’t show that amount of micro detail, but it was a great feeling.

Then I started to invest more and look at other stockbrokers (companies which you need to invest) like the Robinhood App (I still use Robinhood, here’s my full review on how it works). With Robinhood I could start to pick my individual stocks and it was amazing! I chose stocks that were on the safe side such as Apple, Realty Income and Johnson & Johnson that were well known and established. I knew if these companies tanked, there was something seriously wrong with our economy, so I felt comfortable.

I Wasn’t Addicted, But I Was Obsessed

After I learned how the stock market worked, I felt comfortable but wanted to see more gains than the couple of cents I had been earning. So I could have gone in two different directions. I could have started to invest in risky stocks for bigger gains (don’t recommend) or find new ways to earn money so I could buy more stocks. I did the latter.

Now I write articles online for money, use interest checking accounts, sell stock photos, sell things on Craigslist, use a cashback credit card and more to earn extra money each month and invest it!

Today, It Absolutely Was Worth It.

I’m not advocating for a certain investing approach, but I do want you to see money as income streams rather than a lump sum. It absolutely changed my life.

Before I was happy with $2,500 in my bank account. It was more than any of my friends had. I now keep $4,000 in both my checking and savings account as an Emergency Fund and invest the extra money each month in my investment portfolio.

Knowing I have the extra money and extra streams of income each month gives me SO MUCH more confidence to know I’ll be OK if an emergency comes up or I want to go on a vacation. That piece of mind is one of the greatest feelings ever.

Happy Holidays from Wallet Squirrel – A Look Back at 2017

Happy Holidays from Wallet Squirrel – A Look Back at 2017

Fun fact. Did you know there are a total of 29 holidays celebrated between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve?

So on that note, we at Wallet Squirrel, would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannuka, or any other holiday you might be celebrating!

Andrew and I personally would like to thank every single one of you for an awesome 2017!

Because of you, in 2017 we saw a tremendous amount of growth of interest in our journey to becoming financial guru’s, investing ninjas, and financially free. You all have decided to join us on this journey as we all learn together from our personal experiences.

Today, I would like to take a look back at our more popular and well-liked posts of 2017. Let the reminiscing commence!

Side Hustling

We, like everyone else, love to find new ways to earn more money and to see how others are making money. This is why we started searching around the globe for new awesome ways to earn more money outside of our 9 to 5 jobs.

How Andrew made $1.88 Selling Stock Photography in 10 Days – Both Andrew and I wrote several articles about stock photography throughout the year. His about how he made $1.88 within 10 Days of being accepted performed the best. I still own the title for making the most money off of one photograph though, $1,000 and counting.

Earn Money While Working Out With the Achievement App – Achievement is a fun application that syncs up with all of your activities, including your tweets. You earn more points the more you walk, workout, sleep, tweet healthy thoughts, and so on. Let the point earning begin!

How to Sell Something on Craigslist and Make Money – Andrew was able to sell some old stuff on Craigslist. He walks us through the whole process from posting his items to meeting up with the buyer. Pretty cool!

I believe he sold his old guitar. Now that he has a girlfriend, I guess he doesn’t need to walk the streets of Denver serenading women anymore.

Investing

3 Reasons Why Monthly Dividends are Better – Andrew talks about why he believes that monthly dividends are better than other dividend stocks. He walks you through why you should think they are awesome too and how to find those stocks that hand out monthly dividends.

Come learn how you can learn extra money on top of the normal gains of investing.

Cost-Benefit Analysis Example to either Pay Off My Car or Invest? – Andrew was not sure if he should pay off his car or invest the extra money he had. Enter the cost-benefit analysis. He walks through his thought process and how to properly perform a cost-benefit analysis. Check out the article to

see what he ended up doing.

Latest Stock Purchases – Andrew informs us throughout the year about the latest stock purchases he makes. This is intended to help inform us all about new stocks that might interest you. This is one example of those articles.

You can look at his entire portfolio in the investments page.

Personal Finance

How to Pay Off Your Car Loan Faster – Paying off our car early freed up $405 a month! This money has been great so we can be more aggressive at paying off our student loans. This article walks through the different ways we were able to apply to pay off $7,000 in only three months.

How and What to Teach Your Kids About Money – A lot of us have young kids. One question I had was, “How should we go about teaching them about money?” So I did some research and this is what I found out.

9 Bad Spending Habits that are Killing Your Budget – We all have bad spending habits that we need to drop ASAP. For me, I had a lot! Luckily, I have a loving and patient wife that has helped me break most of these bad spending habits.

What are your bad spending habits?

Blogging

How to Start a Blog – I could not believe blogging was still so hot! I thought I was caught in an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Barney was only focused on his own blog. Well, the blogging world is still massive and still hot! It is time for you to start your very own blog!

50 Amazon Affiliate Website Examples – The money that can be made off of affiliate marketing is amazing! This article provides 50 examples to get the ideas flowing in your mind.

Are you planning on starting an affiliate niche website in 2018? Andrew is doing one!

An SEO Strategy – What Works and What Does Not – We saw a 1,500% in traffic growth during 2017. This growth mainly comes from our SEO strategy (also our Marketing Strategy). This is the perfect next step after you start your very own blog!

A New Year

I love the end of a year as it is a great time to look back on the goals you succeeded at and failed. This is the time of the year to prepare how you will concur the upcoming year.

For me personally, I do not succeed at every goal on my list. I am alright with that as long as I learn from my mistakes to make the next year the best year yet!

Next week I will dive more into this concept.

 

Cheers!

Adam

Personal Finance – How and What to Teach Your Kids About Money

Personal Finance – How and What to Teach Your Kids About Money

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

No parent in the history of parenthood has ever been perfect at parenting and that is okay. No matter how much you teach them, there is always going to be one subject left out. And that is okay too.

I figure you are doing a great job if you are teaching them how to spit watermelon seeds, throw a water balloon properly, and how to ride their bike through a big water puddle.

Do not get me wrong, my parents were amazing at raising me and my siblings. I had a great childhood with lots of fun playing in the cornfields of Iowa.

But one thing I wish they would have talked more about was personal finances, specifically budgeting and saving.

This is what we will talk about today.

To be honest, this is me talking out loud to prep myself for when I need to start teaching my little one-year-old in a few years. So be sure to comment below with more ideas and thoughts!

What to Teach Them

You do not always get what you want immediately: We, as adults, always want to get the latest gadget and we want it now. Well, our kids get these same emotions, only worse as they do not know how to control them.

I suggest starting to teach your kids the concept that they do not always get what they want right away. This concept does not always have to revolve around money. For example, it could be as easy as having your child wait in line before going down the slide at the playground.

Delaying this instant gratification will show them the idea of patience. With money, this will help kids understand that they need to have patience with saving their money to buy the toy they would like.

Choices are to be made: Between smartphones, tablets, games, and the hottest toys of the month there are so many cool gadgets to be bought. Sadly, we cannot have it all. This is another great concept kids also should learn.

To help your kid, teach them to set a priority list of the different toys they would like. Then teach them how to stay focused on that list. If a new toy comes on the market, where does it fit on their list? Walk them through the thought process asking, “Is it really better than the other toy?”

Saving can turn into more money: I first learned about the stock market back in my early years of high school. Boy, it was fun to do all of the research and buy a stock that could potentially double my money.

I would save my money up just so I could buy more stocks. The prospect of gaining more money was great motivation.

Depending on the stocks you are looking to purchase the market can be pretty risky. In fact, I ended up losing more than I did making. I did know about more safe options but their potential earnings were not as quick as I wanted. This comes back to teaching your kids patience and they do not get everything they want immediately.

For me, it was a great lesson on the consequences of being aggressive with my money versus investing in a Van Gaurd mutual fund.

Now let’s take a look at how can you teach your kids these lessons.

Live by Example

Live your life the way you would want them to live their own. Kids look up to their parents and mimic them tremendously. This starts at a very early age. I cannot believe how much my one year old already watches me and mimics my actions. I have to watch for old habits.

Basically, you need to parent yourself to parent your kids.

These bad habits to watch out for include personal finance such as frivolous spending, waiting and saving up, as well as choosing what to buy over other items.

Have Conversations With Them

Living by example also includes having a conversation with your little one. Explain to them why you should not buy the item you wanted or why you need to save up to buy it.

You can also talk strategy with them. To get their minds going, ask them for ideas on how you could save up for that new gadget. Also, ask them what item they would buy first over others.

In the case of an emergency comes along like the furnace goes out. Talk with them about what is happening and how you are going to handle it. This will help them understand the importance of having an emergency fund and how to problem solve their own financial issues when they get older.

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Make a Game Out of it

When my wife was little, her parents made a game out of money. They would give her and her siblings an allowance after completing some chores. Then her mom would have a little store where the kids could buy items from. Some things were more expensive than others forcing them to learn how to save up their money when needed.

I like this concept a lot and we will implement it with my little one once he gets old enough. It will be a good lesson for him to learn how to manage and save up his money for fun toys.

You could easily use a game format to teach your kids about money.

Setting Goals for a Toy

Teaching your kids about goals will also teach them about patience. Have them shop a little bit to find a toy they want. Then help them set up the monetary goal to be able to buy that toy.

Setting a monetary goal will teach them about saving and patience.

You will need to help them stay focused on their overall goal. They will see toys they can afford now. Remind them of the big toy they really want. Make sure you walk them through the consequences if they buy the cheaper toy instead.

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Conclusion

For me, I look forward to teaching my little one about personal finance. It will be fun to see how he grows within the subject. Also, if I do a REALLY REALLY good job at it, maybe he can take care of my wife and I financially when we get older.

What methods do you use to teach your kids about money?

Are you looking to earn more money to help teach your kids with? Well, check out our Ways to Make Money page. This page will help you decide between different side hustles as to which one is best for you.

 

Happy Thanksgiving! Here Are Some Facts To Be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving (American readers)! However, if you’re an international reader, Thanksgiving in America is just a day where people are reminded to be thankful for everything we have and celebrate with eating lots of turkey and pie. Usually surrounded by friends and family.

However in this Thanksgiving post, I wanted to be reminded of how far I’ve come, and our readers, in understanding finance. Because it wasn’t long ago (only in 2015 I paid off $6,000 of credit card debt) that I knew NOTHING about finance and started learning. So I found some interesting finance facts to remind myself of how far I’ve come.

10 Fun Finance Facts

  1. Student Loans are in the trillions of dollars and two of five student loan accounts become delinquent within the first five years of making an attempt to pay student loan payments (source). I have auto-deduct on my student loans, it helps A LOT!
  2. Nearly 30% of Americans don’t have at least 3 months of money to get them by if something happens (source). Personally, my Emergency Fund has 3 months of cash I can tap before I start pulling from my investment accounts to get me by.
  3. In the days of the pilgrims (see thanksgiving themed fact) a US Dollar was called a “buck” because the pelt of a male deer was worth a dollar (source). I didn’t know this before!
  4. Did you know Walt Disney every year for the holidays gave his housekeeper stocks of Disney? By the time his housekeeper, Thelma Howard died, she amassed a $9.5 million dollar fortune (source). Be nice to housekeepers and thankful for everyone doing these thankless jobs!
  5. Don’t take investment advice from celebrities. I’m thankful I never have. The Rapper 50 Cent in 2011 started tweeting about H&H Imports (stock ticker HNHI), an investment he owns and told people to invest. Although his tweets are now taken down, he made $8.7 million from his comments on the penny stock (source). Can’t imagine his followers did as well.
  6. If you’re having a bad day, just remember Ronald Wayne. Ronald was a third co-founder of Apple along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Ronald sold his 10% stake in Apple in 1976 for $800. That 10% stake is now worth more than $35 billion (source). I’m thankful not to have that guilt on my conscious. Remember buy/hold!
  7. I hate coins, but I’m thankful they add up! In 2015, the TSA (the people at airport security lines) collected $765,759.15 in loose change. This is the money people just left behind in those long lines and x-ray machine bins. They get to keep it all too (source)!
  8. Buy and hold stocks are a thing. As of January 2013, there were 16 people left in the world who were born in the 1800’s. If they invested (and held) in the stock market, US stocks had increased 28,000% during their lifetimes (source). I’m thankful to start buying and holding so young. I could totally live to be a hundred.
  9. 46.1% of Americans will die with less than $10,000 in assets (source). This factoid haunts my dreams. I’m thankful I  have more than this currently.
  10. In 2011, US charitable giving was $298 billion. That’s more than the GDP of all the countries in the world, except 33 of them (source). That’s pretty awesome and something to be thankful for!

Have a great day everyone!

What Is Estate Tax – How does it work & does it affect you?

What Is Estate Tax – How does it work & does it affect you?

The estate tax is a big issue lately because of the current US administration’s plan to remove it in their current their tax overhaul. While I won’t go into the politics, I do want to touch on “What is estate tax” because most of us don’t know what it is or don’t have enough money for it to be a concern.

In fact, only 0.2 percent of Americans will owe any federal estate taxes in 2017, but it’s consumed 70% of the media lately. So let’s dive into what is estate tax.

What is Estate Tax

Estate Tax is a federal tax you pay when you die. So when someone dies and leaves their children their estate, it’s taxed before your children get your wealth. When I say “estate” we’re not talking about your mansion (although it could be), I’m talking about all your assets combined including cash, real estate, houses, stocks, etc. Everything you owned makes up your “estate”. I explain “estate” in the article what happens to debt when you die.

The Estate Tax is a tax on your “Estate”, but it only taxes your estate after a certain amount.

The federal estate tax exempts the first $5.49 million of your estate but taxes anything over that $5.49 million at a 40% rate, that’s what you pay in estate taxes. However if you’re married, you’re allowed to exempt the first $10.98 million and taxed anything over that.

What is the Estate Tax Formula

It helped me a lot understand the Estate Tax once I visually saw how it worked.

(Your Estate – $5.49 million) * 0.4 tax rate = How much you pay in Estate Taxes

So if you died with $10 million in assets to leave to your children ($10 million is my goal). You would subtract 10 million from the $5.49 million federal exemption which is 4.51 million. That 4.51 million would be taxed at a 40% rate, so in the end , ou would pay $1.804 million in taxes to the federal government.

So the rich are taxed 40% when they die? Well no

When we talk about the federal estate tax, we’re talking about taxing those assets over $5.49 million at the 40% rate. Not your entire estate.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a table on the average amount of wealth people paid in estate taxes in 2017.

So the average person who paid estate taxes in 2017 paid the federal government 17% of their entire wealth because of the estate tax. This is lower than 40% because of two reasons.

  1. You have such a large exception, the first 5.49 million is tax free. So in my example of a $10 million dollar estate, the entire estate is only taxed 18% in total. Because the 1.804 million I pay is 18% of the overall 10 million portfolio.
  2. There are several ways shield your money from estate taxes including donating to charity, gifting money (you can gift an individual up to $14,000 per year), set up a trust and other loop holes that help lower your estate tax bill.

How much money does the estate tax make?

In 2014, according to the Tax Foundation, the estate tax raised $19.3 billion or 0.6 percent of the total federal revenue ($3 trillion). In the past, it used make up 1% of the federal revenue. Because in 1990 the federal estate tax exception was a lot lower and more people had to pay the estate tax.

Does the estate tax affect you?

Likely not unless you’re bundled up with a large amount of wealth, or more than $5.49 million.

Keep in mind this is your total wealth as your “estate”, so farmers who don’t necessarily make a lot, but own large amounts of land. That land could be valued at a high rate, bringing your “estate” higher than that $5.49 and causing you to pay the estate tax before passing it down to your heirs.

However most people, 99.8% of Americans, don’t have to worry about paying the estate tax.

First Time Home Buyer? Here is What You Should Know Before You Buy!

First Time Home Buyer? Here is What You Should Know Before You Pull the Trigger

Last week I had a friend on Facebook ask a really important question for anyone that is going to be a first time home buyer.

She asked, “Things you wish people would’ve told you before you bought your first house.”

The responses she received were really good and I thought were also very important for any of you considering to buy your first house.

Some responses were not as helpful but were just hilarious.

So let’s dive into some of the best responses.

Inspect Expensive Appliances and Other House Features

Here is the scenario.

You just move into your beautiful new home after paying all of those expensive closing fees. Your savings account is basically at zero now. Dinner time comes so you venture into the kitchen to grab something out of the fridge to only find everything lukewarm.

The fridge has already burnt out.

While you are inspecting the house, you should consider the age of the furnace, appliances, hot water heater, roof, and windows. All of these items can create a major expense at some point in the homes life but we do not want them happening right away when you are already recovering from some major bills.

Now, sadly, bad luck does hit so not everyone will be able to avoid it but increase your luck by not buying a home with a hot water heater that is 15 years old.

Do NOT Get Hung Up on Cosmetics

Many people get overly worried about the small things in a house.

Do not fall into this trap.

The paint in the living room can be changed. The landscaping can be updated. Floors can be replaced. And cabinets can be refinished.

All of these projects will cost money but can be done in phases as you save up for each one, not going into more debt. You will have enough of that as a first time home buyer.

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Be Picky About What You CANNOT Change

To follow up on the little things you should not get hung up on as a first time home buyer, you should get hung up on the things you CANNOT change.

These include the location, house layout, neighbors, lot size, and so on. Once you buy the house, these things are yours now. There is no going back until you sell the house.

Be very observant and picky about anything you cannot change to the home. Do your research about what you want in these things.

For my wife and I, location was a big deal. We did not want to live in the cookie cutter suburbs. We wanted to be 15 minutes from downtown, 15 minutes from the mountains, and close to work. Also, we wanted to be close to awesome restaurants.

The only thing we really did not get from our house was a basement but that has been surprisingly nice not to have (less to maintain).

Observe the Area at All Times

When my wife and I were in the process of buying our home, we made sure that we drove by at all times of the days. We even stopped, rolled down the windows, and listened to the neighborhood sounds.

I suggest you do the same thing. Even after you are under contract (you usually can still call it off).

We actually saw our future neighbor fighting with his son during one of the visits. We talked with another neighbor to find out that it was a one-off thing. Both were just having a bad day.

This could have gone the other way, were they fought every day. That would not be fun to live next to.

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Check for Cell Service

With younger generations ditching landlines, it is crucial for any first time home buyer to make sure they get cell service in all parts of the new house.

It would really suck if you cannot lay in bed talking to your best friend who lives in Maine on the phone.

While visiting your future home for the first time make sure to check how many bars you have while walking from room to room.

If things are looking bad, there are ways around bad reception. Check with your cell provider to see if they will give you a signal booster.

Really Plan out Your Budget

When you are looking to become a first time home buyer, you really need to know your finances in and out. This is when having an awesome budget comes into play.

Need help making a budget? Check out Mint. To me, this is the best budgeting application out there. Period.

Go ahead and download Mint to create your budget.

You will want to account for every expense to figure out how much of a mortgage payment you can afford. It is best to even do some research on how much your utilities will be for your future home.

To start you off, see if you are making any of these bad spending habits that could be killing your budget.

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Landscaping

Landscaping is something that can be easily changed. Do not believe me? Check out what I was able to accomplish this past Spring.

There are things you need to inspect though because somethings will be harder to change.

Is there a sprinkler system? If so, inspect the valves for leaks. Check for soggy spots in the yard, this may signal a leak in the piping.

How is the grading around the house? Does it flow away from the house or towards the house? Look beyond your future property to make sure water will not be flowing towards your house.

Lastly, look up. What is the condition of the trees around the house? Are they trees healthy or are they going to fall on the house in the next storm?

Also, make sure those trees are not going to be super messy trees for you. Some varieties will drop pods or seeds all times of the year. That is a lot of maintenance!

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See if you qualify for First-Time Buyers Assistance

There are a lot of grants for first time home buyers. These grants are meant to help people buying their first home a lot easier by providing assistance with the down payment.

Upfront, this sounds amazing but might not be right for you.

Talk with your lender to hear about all the options. Be aware of particular clauses that might make the loan unfavorable.

For my wife and I, we only qualified for these grants if the interest rate was higher or we carried the private mortgage insurance (PMI) throughout the entirety of the loan.

PMI

This brings me to the last thing to watch out for, private mortgage insurance.

Watch out for this insurance that usually adds on about $100 to your monthly mortgage payment.

You will need to pay this insurance on conventional loans until you reach 20% of your loan paid off.

Other loans types such as the FHA loan will require you to carry the insurance for the entire lifespan of the loan.

Now you can always refinance your loan to get out of it, but that could cost you several thousand dollars to complete.

Conclusion

Buying a home for the first time can seem like a very daunting task but it does not have to be if you plan properly. Go into buying a home with your finances in line, a plan with what you are looking for, and your vigilant eyes on.

Now there are so many other things to watch out for in a home such as a possum dean under the deck but these are big ones that were most talked about.

What advice would you give to a first time home buyer?

Looking for some more money to help support projects at your new home? Well, check out our Ways to Make Money page. Here we walk through some side hustles we have personally tried out so you can find one that works best for you.