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How the $88,000 debt payoff journey helped me to transform

How the $88,000 debt payoff journey helped me to transform

Today’s post is contributed by Amy Nickson, a passionate writer on finance. Amy is a professional blogger who has started her own blog and also works as a contributor for the Oak View Law Group. Please share your opinions by commenting below.

The debt payoff journey was the turning point of my life. Once I was a reckless spender; the debt payoff journey helped me to become a financially responsible person.

Read my story to know my debt journey

The year 2011 wash ruthless; my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer, which took her life after 6 months of struggling. In addition to this, I started getting creditors’ calls that made me realize about my high credit card debt, which was a double shock for me.

Being a single mom, my mother earned our bread, showered love and compassion on me and treated me as a most delicate possession.

She never wanted me to see hurt or sad. She had given me a credit card and told me to use for convenience. I started living a lavish life (planning trips, visiting Starbucks, partying, shopping, and hanging around with friends) with my boyfriend.

My boyfriend wanted me to buy a good car. I soon took out an auto loan to buy a costly car without giving it a second thought.

After college, I started working and earning. But, most of the money went out on leading extravagant lifestyle. As a result, I fell into costly credit card debts.

How I paid $51000 credit card debts that I mostly incurred during my college days

I had no clue where to start; what to do with $88,000 debts including $51,000 credit card debt and $37000 student loan debt, and a car loan.

I was not in a normal state of mind; my mom wasn’t there to support me, not even my boyfriend who influenced me to live a lavish life.

The settlement story

A few weeks later, I called John, my friend and a financial advisor.

After knowing all the issues, he advised me to settle the debts, especially the highest interest rate debt. A few months later, I got rid of the higher interest credit card debt ($16000).

The cost of the debt settlement was too high for me. I decided to pay the rest of the credit card debts on my own.

How debt snowball method worked as a savior

I contacted John for the second time to know how to pay off the debts on my own. He explained me the debt snowball method and suggested me to consider a side hustle to save quite a bit so that I can make some extra debt payments.

As per the guidance, I started paying some extra to the smallest amount of debt while paying the minimum to the rest of the debts. Since I had to manage the living cost on my own, I thought this could be the easiest way for me to get out of debt. Following the same method (debt snowball), I paid off the $35000 credit card debts within 3.5 years.

How I started freelance blogging

I had interest in writing projects. So, I tried to search online to find out blogging related freelance jobs. Soon, I started getting small to big projects. Freelance jobs are well paying. For instance, Wallet Squirrel makes $35 per article on Seeking Alpha.

Honestly, the side income helped me quite a bit to make extra payments on my credit card debts.

After paying off the debts on my own and earning extra, I felt a sense of accomplishment and started working on the other debts enthusiastically.

How I paid $37000 student loan debt

The student loan debt payoff journey was relatively smooth, because the credit card debt journey had taught me to live a frugal lifestyle. I started following the extreme money-saving strategies to pay off my student loan. I paid a little extra than the minimum payments. I followed the same until I paid off the entire loan. After 3 years, I was also free from my student loan.

Financial lessons I learned from my debt-ridden past

To be very honest, the intense financial situation helped me to become financially disciplined. I have learned to live life staying within my means. Since I grew up in a lavish way, I never realized the importance of living a disciplined financial life.

However, thankfully, the bad time helped me to learn how to set aside money and advantages of living a debt free life.

Here are some useful tips that will help you to avoid debts and get rid of them fast:

1. Budgeting is the key to avoid

I realized that without following a budget, it is impossible to keep finance in order. I had no idea how to manage monthly bills along with those credit card payments.

John told me to follow a budget where I include debt payments as the main expenses including other necessary expenses like grocery, utility, transport, etc.

By doing so, I noticed an improvement in my money managing skills. Dealing with bills became easier. And trust me, you never experience financial difficulties if you honestly follow a budget.

2. Cut down junk expenses to set aside money

I truly felt restless and unprotected when the situation needed to save every dollar. But, you have to set aside money if you want to get rid of debts.

To do so, you need to cut down unnecessary expenses like eating out, partying, clubbing, subscribing to unwanted things, etc.

I did the same and was able to save some extra dollar so that I could make extra debt payments.

3. Live within your means

Living a lavish life leads to debts. If you spend more than you earn, you will soon fall into debts.

After college, I started earning but I went overindulged and used to spend more than I earned. Most of the time, I used credit cards randomly, which was enough to accumulate huge credit card debts. Extravagant lifestyle only welcomes debt; so, you need to live within your means.

How can you do so?

  • Eat homemade food as much as possible. Try a PBJ.
  • Carry a water bottle and lunch from home.
  • Skip expensive morning latte from Starbucks. You can make your own coffee that tastes same as Starbucks at home.
  • Plan short trips instead of long and expensive gateways.
  • Practice home exercise and yoga instead of paying a big amount for a gym.
  • Shop grocery when you need and also reduce wasting food.

4. Make your credit card bill payments on time

You should deal with your credit cards responsibly. You shouldn’t buy an item, using a credit card, that you can’t afford; because making credit card bill payment within the stipulated time is very important.

If you avoid paying credit card bills on time, you will shorty fall into costly credit card debts.

5. Save money as much as possible

I took out an auto loan and bought an expensive car, which was a fatal mistake. To pay off the auto loan, I sold the car. Later, I bought a small car with cash. It took quite a bit of time to save money for the car, but buying a car with cash is actually a win-win deal.

6. Consider a side hustle

You should boost your income to get rid of debts fast. Earning some extra, like these extra ways to make money, will allow you to make extra debt payments. You can also be able to save a certain amount, which is a good way to avoid falling into further debts. I started part-time blogging to earn some extra. I had a full-time job, but the income was not upto the mark; the extra income helped me to pay off the credit card debt fast.

7. Get rid of junks to get out of debts

You should remove all the junks. Try to remove junk expenses and junk goods. By doing so, you can easily save money that you can use for debt payments.

8. Choose the right debt payoff strategy

I have mentioned earlier that I couldn’t continue with the debt settlement program due to its high cost. I didn’t have a well-paid job; so, I gave up. But enrolling in a debt settlement program helped me to pay off the highest interest debt fast.

Though a settlement program is a good debt repayment option, it is a costly one. It will also impact your credit score since you are not paying the total debt.

On the other hand, DIY debt repayment options are also effective. You can choose either debt snowball or debt avalanche to get rid of the debt on your own. You don’t need to pay money to a third party debt relief company.

Lastly, I should agree that living a debt free life is amazing. At least you can sleep peacefully without worrying about creditors’ calls. The debt payoff journey made me more mature and complete. Thank you for reading my debt payoff journey patiently.

How I Started An Amazon Affiliate Website To Start Making Money

How I Started an Amazon Affiliate Website to Start Making MoneyHow I started an Amazon Affiliate Website to start making money

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

Recently I’ve committed to building an epic Amazon Affiliate Website in a new competition we’re calling the Epic Niche Site Battle. A contest over a year to see who can build a better niche website. The competition started January 1st, 2018 and this is the entire outline of how I plan to create an awesome Amazon Affiliate Website under $300.

Step 1 – Find a Niche

What do I want my website to do or sell? Do I want to be an entertainment website where people go to be happy and find cool stuff, or do I want to be an authority website where people visit to learn words of wisdom from someone who knows more than them? Or do I want to create another blog that shares silly stories?

There are a lot of choices here, but I wanted to do an entertainment website. I like being fun and frankly if it’s going to be another website to manage. I NEED this to be fun!

Specifically, I chose to niche down to a fun, witty and entertaining website on Holidays. I like holidays because people spend money (or at least expected to spend money) during these times of the year. So I’m going to create an entertainment website based on the traditional things people buy for the holidays. Cool right!

Cost – $0 to think of cool niche ideas.

Step 2 – Find a Clever Domain Name

This part takes time, give yourself plenty of time, like 3 months to come up with a clever domain name for your website. Usually, you want your website/business name or purpose to be reflected in the domain name. You want this to be memorable, easy to type, shorter is better and capable of building a brand around.

I spent 3 months thinking about a domain name. Yes, the Epic Niche Site Battle started 10 days ago, but I could still think of my website beforehand. To think about my holiday website, I came up with over 237 different domain names, slowly fine-tuning them, and emphasizing keywords that made sense to my brand. Those 237 domain names were just the ones that were available when I researched them on GoDaddy.com, there were hundreds more I tried that were unavailable. I went a little insane finding the right domain name.

This is how I felt…..

Eventually, I find a domain name that I absolutely loved! This is personally important to me because if I don’t like it, I won’t be motivated to work on it every week. If you’re not passionate about something, you WILL quit halfway through when the going gets tough. I don’t plan to quit.

Cost – $12 Domain Name + $12 Domain Privacy
*Always buy domain privacy, otherwise you’ll get calls/emails daily from companies trying to sell your new website different services. It’s like telemarketers on steroids.

Step 3 – Create A Fun Logo

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’m a graphic kind of guy and I NEED an awesome logo to rally behind. Honestly, I started to think about how the website logo will look when researching domain names. I wanted to create more than just a name in a silly font, I want to create a whole brand.

Once I had my domain name chosen, I started to research different creative logos on websites like Logopond.com and in Google Search Images. I typed in my keywords and compared what other company logos looked like. I started from there and fine-tuned until I had something that looked different, creative, but familiar.

I had about 5 pages of tiny thumbnail logos sketched out.

I needed and created something that looked professional. I used Adobe Illustrator to create it myself, but you could hire a freelance graphic designer off Upwork.com of Fiverr.com. It just depends how much money you want to spend. I personally hate spending money, so the more I can do myself, the better.

Cost – $0 if you do it yourself, I did.

Step 4 – Claim Your Social Platforms

Right before I create a website, I go through and start claiming all my social media platforms for the new company name. Chances are that if your domain name is unique enough, it should be available. If not, at least a similar enough name should be.

I’m currently going through and claiming a Gmail account for my new company (people trust Gmail), along with a Facebook Page, Pinterest Page, Instagram, and Twitter Profile. I’m doing this now so I at least have all of these claimed in the digital world.

I will use the graphic I created for my logo, as the profile photo for the new social media accounts. =P

You may not need/use all of these in the beginning, but having them for safekeeping is a nice reassurance moving forward.

Cost – $0 for the basic accounts.

Step 5 – Set Up Your Initial Website

I personally use WordPress for all my websites. It’s frankly easy to use, flexible and I like the simplicity. This new website will also be on WordPress. Most websites are.

Setting up a website is easier than you think. I personally use Bluehost (you can use whoever you want) to set up all my websites because they have a 1-click button that sets up a WordPress website for you, if that’s scary, here is a detailed post on how to start a blog written for some friends. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. We’re happy to help!

Full disclosure, I use Bluehost for all my websites. I’m a big fan. If you want to learn more or use Bluehost, I would LOVE if you used my Bluehost Affiliate Code to check it out. It really means a lot to us!

Cost – $202.32 for 2 years of Bluehost hosting.

*You can absolutely do only 1 year, but there is a better discount the longer you go. I also paid for the Site Backup Pro (in case I accidentally delete something) and SiteLock Security (in case my website gets hacked). Overall $202.32 for two years is pretty awesome! If your website hasn’t made that back in 2 years, we should chat.

Step 6 – Find The Right WordPress Theme

So I went to the same place I buy all my WordPress themes (Themeforest) and searched their hundreds of demo WordPress Themes to find the right one that made sense for my Amazon Affiliate Website. This is the style and look your website will have. I needed a clean looking blog (it’s great for SEO) and I needed a warm looking homepage. I found something flexible and looked professional after a couple hours searching.

I’m a big fan of websites that look professional. If your website looks like it was made by a 5th grader, it will be instantly judged and people will feel uncomfortable. Take the time to give your website a nice look upfront and it will pay dividends for the success of your website. WordPress themes are a great way to give your Amazon Affiliate Website a professional look for a cheap price tag.

All you do with your WordPress Theme is hit “Upload Theme” once you create your WordPress website. It’ll then give you the look and feel of what you saw in the demo theme from Themeforest.

Cost – $60 for a WordPress theme from Themeforest.

Step 7 – Add these WordPress Plugins to Improve your site

There is an infinite number of plugins you can add to your site, but the more you do, the slower your site can run and Google hates slow sites, read Adam’s experience here with decreasing website load times. Here are 6 free plug-ins I add to all of my WordPress Amazon Affiliate Websites to keep them fast, looking good and efficient.

  • Akismet Anti-Spam – Frankly getting spammy comments suck and make your website look crappy. Akismet is one of the most popular plugins to protect your Amazon Affiliate Website from spam. Or turn comments completely off to eliminate spam if you don’t want a comment section.
  • Compress JPEG & PNG Images – This is a plugin we use to automatically reduce the file size of our images. Having smaller file sizes keep your website load times quicker since the web pages don’t have as much to download.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – This helps Google bookmark your website. The plugin does everything automatically. It basically creates a roadmap for Google’s crawl bots to quickly index your site.
  • WP Fastest Cache – Cache plugins help your website load faster and this is one of the best. We’ve tried a couple different cache plugins, but keep coming back to this one.
  • Yoast SEO – One of the most popular free SEO plugins. This will tell you how well your page/post is optimized to be search friendly. I live by this plugin!
  • Viglink – This is an affiliate marketing plugin that’s associated with my Viglink Account (Here’s my experience with Viglink). If anyone clicks on a product on my website, Viglink will track this and I get a commission if they buy something. You can use Amazon Associates for your Affiliate Marketing, but I like Viglink because it has partnerships with 2,000 different stores including Amazon. Viglink is how I plan to make money with my new Amazon Affiliate Website. Here is my personal affiliate link if you want to learn more about Viglink and how it works.

Cost – $0 for all of these plugins.

Step 8 – Create Your Initial Pages

I want my website to be easily manageable, so I’m going to initially set up my Amazon Affiliate Website to be pretty simple. I’m having essentially 3 pages.

These pages are:

  • Homepage where I’ll sell products
  • Blog to write engaging SEO posts
  • About Me/Contact Page

I thought about separating the About Me and Contact Page, but they essentially are the same thing, I’ll have a contact form on my About Me page. In my head, the website is more manageable with 3 different pages (plus future blog posts).

I’m currently setting up these 3 pages and loading the homepage with products to sell for the upcoming holiday. Once these 3 pages are done, you’re website is almost done.

Cost – $0, just takes time.

Step 9 – Write AWESOME Blog Posts (4-5 for Launch)

In most cases, your website will be found by SEO or Search Engine Optimization blog posts. You’ll likely market your website in other ways, but most times blogs are found on Google, Bing or Yahoo. Here is Wallet Squirrel’s SEO strategy.

This is where the hard work comes! Every one of my blog posts must follow the 5 rules I discovered during my research on 50 Amazon Affiliate Website Examples Making Money in a Niche. There were the 5 important variables when investigating blog posts on these successful Amazon Affiliate Websites.

  1. Use Specific Keywords – The more specific the keyword is, the better it’ll likely rank in Google
  2. Review Posts are Popular – Before someone buys something, they want to know what others think of it. So if I have an opportunity to review something for a post, people may use my review post to click through to the product they’re thinking of buying.
  3. Content Is King – Most successful blog posts that rank well have between 1,500 – 3,000 words.
  4. Mix High & Low Priced Items – Don’t have a blog post with affiliate links to all high priced or all low priced products. Keep a diversity of price ranges and don’t overwhelm the reader with products to buy. Provide honest reviews and recommendations.
  5. Get People to the Amazon Store as Quick as Possible – The goal of an Amazon Affiliate Website is to get people to the store as quick as possible. Amazon does a great job at convincing people to buy their stuff, let them do the work and collect your affiliate commissions.

Lastly, always do your research and NEVER suggest/promote products you dislike or don’t agree with just for money. People will ALWAYS see through that.

I’m trying to create 4-5 awesome blog posts for my initial launch. Don’t worry about publishing these all at once. This just gives Google more time to crawl these pages and bookmark them for future Google Searches. After that, I’ll create a new post weekly or bi-weekly. Honestly whatever feels better with my time constraints. Either way, quality blog posts are better with Amazon Affiliate Websites.

Cost – $0 unless you pay someone else to write articles for you, but I write all my articles myself.

Step 10 – Launch Your Amazon Affiliate Website & Market It

After I finish my 3 website pages and 4-5 blog posts. I’ll be ready to launch my website!

This involves more than making it visible to the world. You need to get people to the website. Here are some ideas on how to promote your website and increase web traffic.

  • If you have an Email List, email them on the new website!
  • Create a social media campaign on your social media accounts about the launch. Add lots of hashtags if you don’t have a large following. Also, share with your friends and family, they’ll be likely to share because most people want you to succeed.
  • Post to Facebook Groups asking them for feedback on your new website. Maybe they’ll have ideas on how to make it better. You may even get a few new followers.
  • Submit the URL of your new Amazon Affiliate Website to different News Aggregators like StumbleUpon.com.
  • Try syndicating some of your blog posts to syndication sites, especially if they’re good posts. This may help you tap new audiences.
  • Create an infographic and share with different graphics platforms like Slideshare, Flikr, and other bloggers.
  • Reach out to Bloggers and/or News outlets if your new website or blog posts match their content.
  • Reach out to companies you mention in your blog posts.

Cost – $0 You don’t have to spend anything on marketing the website if you don’t want to. Find free ways to promote your website before resorting to paying for a press release or PR companies. Don’t ever try to pay for links to your website, Google may penalize you for this.

Step 11 – Repeat Writing New Blog Posts and Marketing

Remember the old shampoo commercials of rinse and repeat? That’s how Amazon Affiliate Websites work. Your goal is to attract as many visitors as possible, help them, and send them onward to Amazon to buy a product.

The more you write new content and market your website, the more visitors you’ll bring in and the more products you’ll sell.

Total Cost to Start an Amazon Affiliate Website – $274.32

Conclusion

I just laid out my entire Amazon Affiliate Website template for you to copy. If you follow this outline and track my progress, you’ll find some success for your new website.

I’m currently in Step 8, setting up my Amazon Affiliate Website now. It’s going really well! I should be at Step 9 or Step 10 by the end of January, having only spent $274.32 total. That should easily be made back in the next couple of months, I’ll continue to track and post my progress!

Leave me a comment on how your website is doing and I’ll continue to leave updates on how the Epic Niche Site Battle is going!

Serious Question: What Makes You Happy At Work?

Serious Question: What Makes You Happy At Work?

I get the simple reason why we work, we want to make money to do the things we want to do. We trade time and energy for money. Then spend money on things to make us we need/want. This I totally get.

However, most of us are trading time and energy for money and still unhappy.

In fact, over 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work.

This is crazy! In most cases if something makes you unhappy. You quit doing it! Yet most of us go to work every day at places we don’t want to be.

Are we idiots?

Are You Unhappy With Your Job?

I was recently asked if I was unhappy with my job? I was a little surprised a co-worker asked me this. Their reasoning was that I USED to be extremely happy and excited about everything, now I was more monotone or lacked the excitement I used to have.

Honestly, I was a little pissed. No one wants to be told that they lack anything. Yet in reality, I was madder at myself that I let it show that I was unhappy. I’m part Irish, I’m used to bottling up my feelings and not tell anyone that anything is wrong.

It made me ask myself if I was unhappy with my job? It was pretty scary.

What Does Unhappiness at Work Look Like?

If you ask yourself “Are You Unhappy At Work?” it’s not an easy answer. So I started to create a list of signs that would force me to see the truth.

  1. Do I hate waking up in the mornings and coming in for work?
  2. Do I feel I have no future at the company I’m at?
  3. Does the day fly by or drag on?
  4. Do I get excited about new projects or is it dread?
  5. Am I doing the same thing over and over or is it new and exciting?
  6. How do I describe my job to new people?
  7. Does Jenny in Accounting ask if you’re unhappy at work? WTF

Dang, I totally answered yes for quite a few of these. So do I quit my job now or start looking for a new one? I freaked out just writing this list.

Does it even matter though if I hate my job? Whether I hate it or love it, I still NEED it. I have bills to pay and the money I make can buy things that make me happy. Should something I do 40 hours a week need to make me happy?

Well, yes….. Your job should totally make you happy. It absolutely should. However, before you quit you should answer the same question I’m now asking.

What Would Make You Happy At Your Current Job?

The other day I pulled a senior co-worker aside and asked them “What do you think I should do in 2018 to improve the company, goals, vision, etc?” I was expecting some generic answer like things to help the bottom line. However, he surprised me entirely.

One of the best questions I’ve ever been asked was “What do you want to do that makes you happy?”.

Holy Cow! It’s a simple question, but one I’ve never been asked before. I couldn’t actually answer right there and there though. I told them I had to think about it and I’m still thinking about it.

What would make you happy at your current job?

Most people say better pay, but that’s a reward, not necessarily something that affects your everyday duties. What would you change in your day-to-day duties that would make you happier?

That’s currently what I’m thinking about. What would you say?

We’re Starting the Epic Niche Site Battle!

“Let’s do this!” is how I responded to a LinkedIn message from Barnabas of TheDadWallet.com & SerialBoss.com.

Back in May, Barnabas reached out to Wallet Squirrel following up on all our talk about building a niche website. He’s been wanting to do the same thing and he suggested we do something like Pat Flynn’s Niche Site Duel and compete to see who could make the better niche website.

F*#k, I freaked out. This is the first time I’m going against a real blogger and sharing every step of the process. What if my ideas suck?

Although terrified, I REALLY want to do this. I want to build something awesome with everything I’ve learned the last year. So I accepted the challenge of what we’re calling the “Epic Niche Site Battle”!

Niche Site, What Is That?

In an older post, I gave 50 Examples of Amazon Affiliate Websites. Essentially a niche site is a website that caters to a particular narrow group of people with a common interest. For example, people who own large fish tanks could be a particular niche. You could totally have a website about that!

You can also monetize these niche websites and have them make money for you. I’ll admit, that’s my motivation to start this. I’m hoping to build a passive income with this new website and use that money to buy more dividend stocks.

How the Competition Works

Barnabas and I sat down (via Google Hangouts) to lay out how the competition works.

Duration: We are giving each other 1 year to build & grow our niche sites. Starting on January 1st of 2018 we’re starting our site and giving comprehensive reports quarterly on both our blogs (walletsquirrel.com & serialboss.com). We each may add additional posts, but we have to share all of our stats every three months. Whoever has better key metrics at the end of the year wins.

What We’re Competing On: We’re both building niche sites to help us grow our incomes, so making money is key but not the only factor. We are tracking 4 key metrics we both felt were vital to the success of a niche website.

Updates: We’ll share our updates quarterly with January 4th as our first post. Damn that’s soon!

  • First Update – March 29th
  • Second Update – July 5th
  • Third Update – September 7th
  • Last Update – December 6th

Rules: The only rules we came up with were:

  1. No one else can help us. I can’t have my buddy Adam helping me or hire any Virtual Assistants. The same goes for him. It’s just him and I each bootstrapping a website from scratch.
  2. Paid Advertising must be deducted from profits. I don’t plan on using a lot of Paid Advertising since I’m poor and don’t want to spend money, but I may try $50 in Facebook Ads to see/track if it helps.

That’s it. All else is fair to build the ultimate niche website!

Full Transparency: We’re sharing EVERYTHING (good times and bad) except the domain names. We want to be as transparent as possible since we want to help others build niche websites and show how it’s done, but we’ve both heard horror stories of people using similar domain names and stealing traffic from new sites after the keyword research has been done.

I may share my domain name at the end of the competition, once established, but it’s up to Barnabas to share his or not. For now, we’ll call our respective sites the Wallet Squirrel Niche Site and the Serial Boss Niche Site.

My Previous Niche Site Experience

So far my previous niche site experience leaves room for improvement. In the past I’ve built 4 unsuccessful niche websites, but each one got better.

That’s right, I’ve built 4 awful niche sites in the past. It’s time to build something awesome!

Starting when I was 24 I built my first niche site reviewing online universities, it was called Top5OnlineUniversities.com. It was awful because I wrote generic school descriptions and only made money with AdSense. I hated myself for building something so lame. So I quit after a year.

At age 25 I built a website called LanguageMindMaps.com (it’s not up anymore). I wanted to use my graphic design talent to create mind maps of typical conversations in different languages to help people visually learn new languages. It was better looking but I had no way to really monetize it and knew nothing about marketing. It failed because no one was searching for the term language mind maps.

At age 26 I built a deodorant niche website that started doing well for the keyword search, but it lacked ways to monetize the website. Plus I wasn’t exactly thrilled to tell people I had a website on deodorant. So since I wasn’t excited to market it, I lost interest and it died.

At age 27 Adam (of Wallet Squirrel) and I built a Halloween Costume website. This was something that looked cool, had great keyword research and did really well. However, it was just a seasonal website so the rest of the year I lacked interest in maintaining it since it only turned a profit once a year. That lack of motivation destroyed me and I game up. By the time Halloween came around again we didn’t have the keyword strength and lost tons of traffic. It’s slowly been dying.

Now! I plan to build something that’s graphically cool, that I’m excited to share with other people, has awesome keyword strength with a topic I can write about throughout the year. These are the guiding factors for my new niche site.

Strategies

It was pretty funny when we shared our initial strategies, they were very different approaches. So we’ll get to see two common strategies in action.

I wanted to go with a traditional affiliate site where the purpose is to rank high for a particular keyword then get my audience from my niche website to a product as fast as possible. When people use my tracking codes, I get a portion of the sale if they buy anything. So my strategy is to gain traffic through keyword targeting and quickly get them to a product site quickly. The idea being the more people I get to a product site, the more products that will sell.

Barnabas with SerialBoss has a bit different strategy. He plans to make most his income from Google AdSense rather than affiliate sales. So he is focusing on ranking highly in Google in a particular niche and gain revenue through visual AdSense ads.

Overall: I anticipate I may make more money first, but he is playing the long game by trying to become the premier expert in a particular niche field. If he can rank highly for one particular keyword, it’s easier to start expanding into other similar keywords and significantly grow his traffic.

So It Begins

I’m currently in the pregame phase. I’ve built a few niche sites in the past, but none have been overly successful. I really have no idea what I’m going to do. I know I’m going to build an affiliate niche website and it’s going to follow rules I stated above from past lessons learned, but I don’t know exactly what it will be yet. I don’t even have a domain name in mind.

So I’m currently rapidly typing domain names into GoDaddy.com to see what’s available and sounds good. Rapidly strategizing in my head because on January 1st we’re going fulling speed!

Does anyone want to join?

The main Epic Niche Site Battle is between Barnabas and I, but anyone is welcome to join in. Does anyone want to join us building a completely new niche website in January? Sign up for my email newsletter below to follow the action!

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!

Oh My Goodness I Hate Tipping, It Ruins My Budget and Anxiety

Let me preface that I used to be a waiter so I understand the value of tipping, but as a customer, tipping is the worst! It’s psychological warfare at the end of every meal that results in either anxiety that you haven’t paid enough or havoc on your wallet for paying too much.

Then exactly how much too much and too little for a tip? Common restaurant adequate says a tip should be 15%-20% pretax, but then why does every restaurant leave the anxiety for the customer to decide how much to tip?

Let’s face it, an extra 20% of a $60 check is still a lot on your budget. That’s $12 the menu doesn’t mention.

This history of tipping is murky

From what I found in the Business Insider and Washington Post (and it’s a murky origin story) tipping originated around 17t century England where the word T.I.P. meant “To Insure Promptitude”. The upper class provided extra “allowance” to servers (lower class) to be given faster service.

This practice made its way to America after the Civil War when wealthy Americans started traveling back and forth to Europe. So we can blame them, and I do.

Tipping Today just allows Restaurants to pay it’s servers poorly

Because waiters (I’m referring to both men and women) receive tips, the federal tipped minimum wage for tipped workers is as little as $2.13 an hour because they receive tips to supplement the difference (source).

That’s kind of ridiculous, right! Restaurants are allowed to only pay their servers $2.13 an hour and expect servers to get the rest of their income from tips. So when you pay your bill, your essentially paying for the food/environment with your bill and your tip pays the waiter’s salary.

If you’re a waiter, the customer is actually your boss since they’re the ones that pay you. So every day, every hour, you have a different boss. Yikes.

How much do you pay your server then?

According to Google, yes I googled “How Much Should I Tip”, you should be paying your server 15%-20% of your pre-tax bill.

This is where the Anxiety starts

What the frack is it? Do I tip 15% or 20%?

What if the server was bad?

If my bill is $100, does the server get an extra $20 just because they played telephone with my order from the table to kitchen and walked the food back? What if they were awful? We’ve all had bad servers who ignored us. They chatted in the back or brought us the wrong items with a rude attitude. Is that when you tip them 15% instead of 20% or even less?

What about if the food was awesome but the service was terrible? ugh

Should I feel both angry at my server for bad service but feel guilty since they’re paid so poorly? How should I feel?

I recall a study conducted found that bad servers still received 15%-20% regardless of how good the service was because people felt it was the socially acceptable thing to do. No one wants to be a bad tipper, but should I tip poorly to save a bit of money and prove a point to the server?

What if the server was awesome?

You plan to spend a certain amount of money eating out and even account for a 20% tip. Do you exceed your budget further if your server was fantastic? Should your server’s awesomeness impact your planned budget? Should they be worthy of more than a 20% tip of that you’re still paying off student loans?

Damn it Janet, you were so great that now my tip for you exceeds my alotted food budget.

Are you a bad person if you don’t acknowledge their above and beyond service or will they quit trying harder if people don’t tip more for the great service?

What about tipping during group meals?

Now imagine eating out with a group of friends, each pays their own bills and it always ends with laying your bills on the table in sight of everyone. If you only tipped 10% or 15%, does that make you a jerk if everyone else tipped 20% – 25%?

On the other hand, are you a jerk for tipping more than everyone? Are you just flaunting money because you can spend more than everyone else or does it make you more generous or charitable?

This is why I hate Tipping!

Why does a nice meal out with friends have to end with awkward silences while everyone calculates percentages in their heads while they secretly judge the performance of the server? Ending in silent comparison of who tipped more, being more generous and charitable than the rest of the group.

I now tip 20% regardless of service

Tipping makes me so anxious that I’m just starting to tip 20% regardless of service (paying with my credit card). The server can refill my drink at the perfect time, every time or completely forget I exist. Tipping a regular 20% fits the socially acceptable tip amount to overcome the unnecessary anxiety at the cost of a few extra dollars on my budget. Sorry budget.

Except Subway “Sandwich Artists”, screw them. They literally walk 10 feet putting the ingredients I say onto bread. Why do they have a tip jar at the cash register? You’re a fast food restaurant.

If you also tip 20% regularly, here is a chart to help you decide what 20% would be when you’re looking over a menu because they don’t list the extra tipping cost on the menu.

20% Tip per Cost of your meal 

Check 20% Tip
$20 $4
$40 $8
$50 $10
$60 $12
$70 $14
$80 $16
$90 $18
$100 $20

If this seems like a lot, you can always stay in and eat a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.

What do you tip your servers? There is obviously no right answer otherwise they wouldn’t leave the tip field on every check blank. I REALLY want to know. Do you judge your waiter everytime or give them a flat fee regardless like me?

The Perfect Blog Post Photo Size for Sharing on Social Media

Oh my goodness, blog post photo sizes were SO confusing before I wrote this post. If you look through our older posts, they were all over the place because we made what looked pretty at any size. Now we have the data on the perfect blog post photo size for sharing on social media.

The Perfect Blog Post Image Size

Forget burying the lead, the new dimensions we’re using for our future blog posts are:

  • Horizontal – 1,024 x 512 px
  • Vertical – 800 x 1,200 px

Quick article right? Keep reading if you want to know how we came to this perfect ratio of social media and blog magic.

Apparently, this is a pretty popular ratio that many social media companies (like Buffer) and social media agencies came to through their research. I’m focusing on the ideal image size for sharing articles and photos, but if you want the ideal image size for every social media photo spot like profile photos and cover images, check out Omnicore Agency’s infographic.

 

We Did the Math: Ideal Image Size by Social Platform

I’m focusing on the 4 major social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest. Yes, there are Instagram, Google+, Tumbler, etc. Yet most bloggers don’t use these because they’re not great platforms for sharing articles, images and posts. So we’ll focus on the big 4.

No matter what size you actually upload to any of these platforms, it’ll automatically be scaled to whatever social media platform you’re using. Here is what they scale to.

Facebook Shared Link – 1,200 x 628 px

Whenever you add a URL to Facebook, it will create a “shared link” post. This will add your message in the text box above and below use the URL you submitted to automatically a Facebook article that uses your featured image as the post image. It’ll look like this:

To get the most out image size (bigger is better) out of your shared article link, you’ll want your Facebook photos to be 1,200 x 628 px. If most people find you via Facebook, maybe it’s worth making all your blog post images this size to get the most image dimensions and Facebook real estate.

Twitter Shared Link – 1,024 x 576

Twitter has over 313 Million active users a month. If you’re not on twitter you likely don’t exist. So if you want to exist on Twitter, you REALLY need to use images to convey your ideas and share your articles. Tweets with images get 2x more engagement than those without.

If your adding images to your tweets you want to use the right sized images to get the most real estate for your tweets because a regular tweet only last 18 minutes. Twitter uses a 2:1 ratio and 1,024 x 576 px is ideal. This is what the photo will look like when it’s selected otherwise, Twitter will minimize it to 506 x 253 px in the Twitter stream looking like this:

LinkedIn Shared Link – 552 x 368 px

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn will only allow you to add one image per post. So you can get creative having one image made up of multiple images or use one good image. Either way the ideal ratio for LinkedIn according to a moderator on LinkedIn’s help forum, the ideal size for image uploads is 522 x 368 px.

Anything larger than that will be automatically cropped for the image preview to fit their maximum width and height. Your actual image won’t be cropped if selected for full view, but most people only look at the image preview.

Pinterest Shared Link – 600 x 900 px

People are regularly raving how great Pinterest is for driving traffic to their website. I’m hoping to try this as stated in my recent income report because 90% of Pinterest pages are external links to people’s websites.

Pinterest has said that the best aspect ratio are images with a 2:3 ratio. This could be 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels tall or 800 pixels wide by 1,200 pixels tall. You get the idea. However, the actual Pinterest feed on the main page and on boards shows pins with a width of 236 px and adjustable height.

Conclusion

We’re going to start using the perfect blog post image size to help us get more real estate from social sharing, what image size do you use for your blog post images?

The PBJ Theory, Please Quit Complaining About Food Budgets

Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

I’m about to save you thousands of dollars.

All the money you spend in your life, or even an average month. Chances are one of your largest expenses is food. It happens, literally to everyone.

Eating Out Is The Worst For Your Wallet

So when people start to track their budgets, they always come to the same conclusion. “I need to quit eating out more”. Get this, the average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average according to a 2016 survey conducted by Zagat.

“the average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average”

That means the average person spends $54.63 eating out a week or $218.52 a month on just eating out. Unless you earn lots of money, is the obvious answer to eat in?

What About Eating In?

Most people think they can quit going out to start having nice and relaxing meals in. Here’s the thing with eating in, the movies get it wrong.

It’s not always a romantic and soothing experience.

Often times it’s a “Crap, I need to eat. What should I cook?” experience that you pray to the food gods you have the right ingredients in your fridge and dishes are clean.

Let’s face it, we are busy in our lives and don’t have the time to visit the store every day buying new ingredients for a new recipe we found on the internet.

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, researcher Eddie Yoon over two decades collected data as consultants for consumer packaged goods companies. He found that:

  • 15% of people say they LOVE to cook
  • 50% of people say they HATE to cook
  • 35% of people say they are ambivalent about cooking (mixed feelings)

If you’re one of the people that hate cooking, you should create a meal plan to make it as easy as possible. Plan a week in advance what you’re going to eat for each meal and know how to cook it. This way you’ll have the ingredients and can plan accordingly for time.

However, not all plans work out.

Introduce The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

When meal plans fail, let me introduce Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, otherwise known as a PBJ.

Let me first admit that I have an addiction to commenting on Finance forums, Facebook Groups, and Blogs. The mechanics of building wealth are simple and I’m always happy to remind people that things are often more simple than they appear. Like how I responded this comment and created “The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory”.

I get it, you want to start saving money on food and you’re looking for suggestions from the personal finance community to help.

Answers ranged from getting a crockpot to make meals simple, cooking large meals on Sunday and eating leftovers throughout the week, to buying frozen meals that may not be great for you, but easy to prepare.

All of the responses skirted around the idea that a solid weekly meal plan is the best option to help you save money on food. However, sometimes these meals don’t work out for a number of reasons and one fall off the wagon can end up at the local McDonalds.

So I introduced the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory. The cost-effective, quickest meal ever to keep your budget on track.

This is easily the most actionable thing you can do to start immediately saving on your food budget. In many cases when people eat out, it’s due to convenience because they don’t have anything at home that sounds appealing. That’s when the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory comes in handy.

Stash emergency PB&J supplies in your kitchen. When hungry but have nothing else, eat a PB&J. If you’re not hungry for a PB&J, wait 2 hours until you’re hungry enough to eat a PB&J.

Sometimes a PBJ isn’t exactly what you’re craving and your favorite restaurant sounds better, or your “husband would not be happy about that” (see comment). Well suck it up, you’ll soon be out of debt and you can buy your husband a jet ski. Everyone loves a jet ski.

Try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

If you want to save THOUSANDS on food budgets, you should try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory! Meals cost less than $1 to make, you’ll save time and money. Most importantly, you’ll have a secret stash of PBJs to make when you get those cravings to go out and spend money.

You’re welcome.

Disclaimer: Wallet Squirrel did not invent the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, just an advocate of saving money. Wallet Squirrel was not sponsored by big PBJ corporations to promote their superior and delicious product.

Top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the Internet Can’t Get Enough Of

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has a net worth of over $78.2 billion and is known as one of the greatest investors of all time. So when he speaks, people take notes. Here are some of the top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the internet can’t get enough of.

Warren Buffett Quotes Infographic

Top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the Internet Can’t Get Enough Of

Here are some of the top Warren Buffet quotes found on every list of Warren Buffet quotes around the internet. These quotes range in wisdom on investing to regular life. I try to live by these quotes on my own investment portfolio.

Warren Buffett Quotes

1. Rule #1: Never lose money. Rule #2: Never forget rule #1

One of my favorite Warren Buffet Quotes. The fastest way to grow your money is to never lose it in the first place. This applies from saving on your groceries to focusing on less risky stocks of well established companies.

2. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently

Think about the Wells Fargo or Equifax scandals. It takes years to build enough trust for someone to have brand loyalty. Warren Buffet quotes it takes 20 years, but it takes 5 minutes or less to destroy all that goodwill you’ve built. People are quick to revolt if you’ve done anything to betray their trust.

It is infinitely harder to build trust than destroy it.

3. Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.

Multiple studies show that diversification in the stock market will help protect you against market falls. Or it could be summarized in the old proverb “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Unless you have insider information that a stock is going do really well, maintain a diversified portfolio to protect you. No one knows what they’re doing all the time.

4. If you aren’t willing to own a stock for ten years, don’t even think about owning it for ten minutes. Put together a portfolio of companies whose aggregate earnings march upward over the years, and so also will the portfolio’s market value.

Unless you’re a day trader (I will never be), you should only be investing in the stock market with the intention to hold those stocks for a long time. You can do really well as a beginner if you’re buying stocks and not planning on selling till you retire. Those are where you get the best returns. Warren Buffett is infamously known for rarely selling stocks.

5. It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.

When you buy a stock, you should think of it as owning a piece of that company. You should be looking at wonderful companies that have a competitive advantage in the industry. Those are the companies that will do well over the long run. You may find a wonderful price on a mediocre company, but really what are you getting? A mediocre company that will likely be edged out of the market by a better company.

Many of the famous Warren Buffett quotes are about investing in strong companies with a competitive advantage and strong brand loyalty rather than cheap companies where you think you can make a quick buck. Warren Buffett is never into buying a company for a quick buck.

6. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.

During the 2008 financial crisis when investors were all exiting the market, Warren Buffett invested in a few large companies even though their stock prices were falling. Those deals made Warren Buffett over $10 billion dollars when the market stabilized and it’s continuing to show dividends. When the market goes upside down during world events, politics, market forecasts, those are the times when everyone else is fearful, that Warren Buffet sees an advantage when the markets crash.

Think about it this way, the New York Stock Exchange has been around since 1817, it has always recovered. Chances are, minus a world apocalypse, that the market will always bounce back. Those who capitalize on those downturns are usually rewarded.

7. The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

One of my favorite Warren Buffett quotes because it has so many applications. You will see many opportunities in your life and you may want to jump on everyone, but it’s ok to be selective and say no. You’ll burn yourself out if you say “yes” to everything. This also applies to going out on a Saturday night with friends drinking. It’s ok to say “no” to save a few dollars or have a night to yourself to finish your article on Warren Buffett quotes. =)

This also applies to going out on a Saturday night with friends drinking. It’s ok to say “no” to save a few dollars or have a night to yourself to finish your article on Warren Buffett quotes. =)

8. Develop and build the habits you admire in others.

Remember all those times that your parents wanted you to hang out with those “good kids”. The habits of the people you surround yourself with rub off you on, consciously or unconsciously. When you find people like Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, who is one of the greatest investors of all time. You should find out what makes him so successful and learn those traits to improve yourself.

9. Passive investing will make you more money than active trading

Oh my goodness, fees are the WORST! Active trading requires more work and more fees, so more of your money will be paid to your broker. Yet studies have shown over and over that passive investing where you set your money and forget it are far more successful for growing wealth. I don’t plan to ever touch my stocks currently making dividends.

10. There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.

Great quote, people always imagine things are more difficult than they really are. When I first considered starting investing, I thought there were so many hurdles and financial experts I would have to pay. Yet, when I finally decided I wanted to start investing in the stock market, I just downloaded the Robinhood App and started investing. It took 10 minutes to sign up and buy my first stock when I worried about investing in the stock market for over 5 years. Things are often more simple than you think they are.

11. Tell me who your heroes are and I’ll tell you who you’ll turn out to be.

This is similar to the Warren Buffett quote “Develop and build the habits you admire in others”. If you want to be an entrepreneur, start joining local meetups of entrepreneurs. You learn SO MUCH MORE when you surround yourself with the people you want to be like. You can learn A LOT in a book, but you’ll learn even more by surrounding yourself with people you admire.

12. We have long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune-tellers look good.

No one can predict the stock market, no one. Not even Warren Buffett. Anyone who says they know exactly how the market works is trying to sell you something. You can lump stock forecasters being as accurate as the carnival fortune-tellers. You know the ones with 3 teeth, crystal ball and you’re going to die in 2083.

13. When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever.

If you invest in an outstanding company, even if the stock price goes up, why would you ever sell it? No matter when you sell it, outstanding companies will continually do better and better. Don’t sell until you absolutely have to, otherwise, you’ll just be losing money in the long run. Many of Warren Buffett Quotes are like this, they are all very Anti-Day Trader.

14. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ.

If you follow the basic principals of Warren Buffett and buy outstanding companies with strong competitive advantages like Apple (AAPL). You don’t have to be a genius. Just buy and hold forever, you literally don’t have to do anything until you sell.

Many Warren Buffett quotes are similar to this because he stresses that anyone can invest in the stock market. The simplest way is just to invest in index funds that follow the market. Set it and forget it. The market sees an average increase of 7% per year and that’s WAY better than a savings account.

15. I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them. Because sooner or later, one will.

Look for companies to invest in that are so strong that they can weather any storm because soon enough they will have to. Think about Apple (AAPL), as long as they keep pushing out iPhones it doesn’t matter who runs the company, they’ll continue to do well. People were worried when Steve Jobs passed because they didn’t know the future of the company, but Tim Cook stepped in and maintained the same Apple legacy. As long as Tim Cook sticks to the secret Apple recipe, they’ll be in good shape.

16. Buy into a company because you want to own it, not because you want the stock to go up.

If you see a company that you think is going to do well or heard will do well, don’t buy it unless you’re willing to hold it for awhile. If something goes wrong and the stock dives, you’re stuck with a company you don’t believe in and will likely sell at a lower price to get rid of it, ruining the reason you bought it in the first place.

17. Wall Street is the only place that people ride to work in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.

This is just a funny Warren Buffet quote.

18. Charlie and I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems. What we have learned is to avoid them.

I’m sure Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have learned how to solve difficult business problems, but the best way to navigate murky waters is to avoid them all together. The more problems your business can avoid, the better shape you’ll be. You can avoid a lot of problems from being proactive instead of reactive.

19. Long ago, Ben Graham taught me that “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

Ben Graham, Warren Buffett’s mentor had this popular quote. I always think about it simply. Price is what you buy a stock for and Value is what you sell that same stock for.

20. It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.

If you can’t tell, Warren Buffett believes in surrounding yourself with the right people. He credits much of his success from surrounding himself with smart, good people.

21. If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.

When you analyze a stock based on its historical performance, it’s called technical analysis. Yet past performance does not necessarily mean future performance. Just because you know what the stock has done in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to follow that same trend.

22. You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.

It’s ok to mess up, focus on learning from those mistakes for the next time. It just sounds cooler when Warren Buffett quotes it. Or you can take this as no matter how many mistakes you’ve made in the past, you always have a chance to do more good. It’s one of those life quotes that can go many ways.

Ultimate Lottery Guide – What to do if you Win the Lottery

What To Do If You Win The Lottery Header Image

Ultimate Lottery Guide – What to do if you Win the Lottery

After the recent big lottery wins, people have been searching for what to do if you win the lottery. The odds are only 1 in 175 million, but it has to happen to someone right. Everyone imagines it and it’s fun to think about, but if it actually happens, here’s what to do according to the Ultimate Lottery Guide.

1. Sign your Ticket

Many people buy Lottery Tickets and stash them in their wallet or purse knowing that it’s their lottery ticket. However, a Lottery Ticket is only owned by whoever has signed the actual ticket. So ALWAYS sign your tickets when you get them. It confirms ownership and the ticket must be signed in order to claim the lottery winnings anyways.

2. Tell No One

It’s big and wonderful news, but you need to think ahead to all the potential long lost relatives, friends and random people that may soon be sitting in your front yard wanting to be your best friend. You don’t want to be the bad person telling everyone “no” so avoid the awkwardness and tell no one. In 1984, Lottery Winner Mike Wittkowski received more than 1,000 letters at his home from strangers trying to tug at his heartstrings to receive money.

It might be fun initially to have 15 minutes of fame, but you may regret it months or years later when people you never met are ringing your doorbell. Stay quiet about it and don’t tell anyone until you come up with a plan with your financial team. The plan should deal with how to handle friends/family/strangers request for money and how to deal with the sudden fame/money.

3. Take Your Time

There is no rush to turn in your ticket during all the hype, you have between 90 days to 1 year from the day of the drawing to turn in your ticket. Each state is a bit different so check them out. You have some time to take a breath, let the hype die down, and get your team of financial experts together before you claim your prize.

  • Powerball, you have 90 days to 1 year to claim your prize depending on the state via Powerball’s website.
  • Mega Millions, you have 180 days to 1 year to claim your prize depending on the state via Mega Millions website.

4. Seek Financial Advice & Hire Finance Professionals

Hiring the right professionals will help you collect the most money from your lottery winnings, help understand tax rules and take care of the gritty details so you don’t have to. Like will you take the lump sum of cash or 30-year annuity? Consider these financial professionals for your finance team.

  • Financial Planner – They will help you set up a plan for your new wealth. They’ll help you understand the benefits of taking the lump sum versus annuity and they will work with you to set up your goals, analyze your assets and set up a budget so you can make the most out of your money and not blow it. A study of lottery winners in Florida found 70% of winners spent all of their lottery winners within 5 years of winning. Don’t be one of these people, consult with a financial planner. To find a good Financial Planner check out the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) Board for a list of Certified Financial Planners in your area.
  • Tax Attorney -There will be a lot of tax (state taxes/federal taxes/gift taxes/corporate taxes and other taxes) issues that come up about Lottery Winnings. Hire a good lawyer to help you with this. To find a good lawyer, check out the reviews on LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, LawTrades and Avvo for lawyers in your area that are highly recommended and have experience handling large sums of money.

    To give you an idea, the government will withhold 25% of your winnings before you even touch it. Then, of course, you’ll have to pay State Taxes as well. Maybe even Municipal Taxes depending where you live. The rest is paid at tax time where the IRS will tax you in the top income bracket at 39.6% (source). In the end, you’ll be taxed nearly 40% on those initial winnings depending on your state.

  • Accountant – This is the person who will have a good idea how much of the lottery winnings you’ll need to set aside to pay off all the taxes. They will help plan throughout the year on the best ways to mitigate taxes and keep the most of your money. Plus with that amount of money, you’ll want someone handling all your taxes for you. To find a good Accountant, check your local Society of Certified Public Accountants directory to find a certified Accountant to help with your needs.
  • Estate Attorney – They will help you with structuring and protecting your assets. They assist people in drafting and implementing legal documents, such as wills and trusts. It’s good to have a plan for your assets in the event of your death. Who will your money go to and/or should a trust be set up for your heirs. As mentioned with finding a good Tax Attorney, check out the reviews on LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, LawTrades and Avvo for lawyers experienced with wills, trusts and large sums of money.

5. Claim your Prize – Anonymously

Here’s the deal, Big Lottery wants to promote you and share with the world that a real, regular person won the lottery. Often times state law mandates sharing your name with the public. However, you can claim your prize anonymously a couple of different ways.

  • 6 States allow you to remain anonymous – Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina.
  • 4 States allow a trust to claim your prize – Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont will allow a trust, usually, a trustee (typically a lawyer) to claim the prize without disclosing the name of the lottery winner.
  • 2 States allow you to remain anonymous IF – Illinois and Oregon have made exceptions to making lottery winners names public if the winners demonstrate a high risk of harm by revealing their name.

If you’re not in one of these states that allow you to claim your lottery winnings anonymously. Do what this guy did and hold the check over your head when you receive the lottery winnings.

What To Do If You Win The Lottery - Cover Your Face

You can also sign your first name with your first initial to make it harder for people to track you down.

You may also want to get off social media like shut down all your accounts if you win the lottery. This may sound extreme, but keep in mind that people will start searching for you online, going through all photos, friends, where you work and personal details. They may try to stake out at your favorite bar or harass your friends to meet you.

6. Create a middle man for money request

If people hear about your new winnings, you’ll likely have people from all over asking for money. Addressing all of these can be overwhelming and potentially depressing. Consider setting up a middle man to say “no” for you.

When a long lost friend comes out of the blue asking for money, or with a really great investment idea. Send them to your “middle man”, usually a lawyer, who could review all potential investments for you. You can say that they are better at investing than you, which may be true. So they can say “no” and you don’t have to feel bad telling your friend or anyone no. This will save your sanity and emotions from being the bad guy and help not waste your time/money on bad investments.

7. Pay Off All Your Debt

If you do anything with your money first, it should be paying off all your debt. You are entering a new phase of your life and it should be started off debt free.

Even if you go broke in a couple years, you’ll least have all your debt paid off to pick up your life where you started off.

8. Avoid Sudden Lifestyle Changes

While you shouldn’t be doing anything until you can physically hold the money, even after that you should avoid sudden lifestyle changes for the first 6 months. Buying that Ferrari or Land Rover, second house for your entire family, extravagant vacations can all feel like a nice reward for all your hard work, but these impulse buys could quickly deplete your lottery winnings.

Consider instead renting an apartment in that cool neighborhood you want to live in or doing an exotic car rental for a day to try different sports cars. It’ll take you awhile to understand what you want. Find out what really makes you happy before you go on a spending spree and work with your financial planner to set a budget for frivolous things to buy so that you’re still maintaining a nice nest egg for your family in the future.

9. Live within a budget

Ideally, you should only be spending the interest you’ve made off the lottery winnings. If you do this, you’ll never run out of money. The annual interest of a $100M or more lottery winnings will be more than enough to live off of the rest of your life. Especially with a good financial planner.

Otherwise, work with your Financial Planner to set up a budget live within and understand how long your money will last with your current spending habits.

10. Protect your Assets

Consider getting Liability Insurance to help with potential lawsuits against you. With your newfound money, you will be a target for anyone wanting your money. Liability insurance will help for trip-and-fall lawsuits, personal injury claims against you like libel and slander, and freak accidents. This provides an additional layer of security.