I’m a Single Mom With a 6-Figure Business. Here Are the 3 Rules I Live By Every Day.

Emma Johnson and her two children. ( Courtesy of Emma Johnson)

Emma Johnson thrived, both financially and professionally, after enduring a complex, costly and painful divorce in 2009.

Johnson, now 40, a journalist and founder of WealthySingleMommy.com, an online community of professional single mothers, was at that time pregnant with her second child, working just 12 hours a week and living paycheck to paycheck. The fear of not being able to support her children on her own drove her to juggle multiple jobs and painstakingly manage her finances.   

Today she’s an entrepreneur with a successful digital marketing business, which includes her blog and podcast targeting professional single mothers, along with a new book, “The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children.” In the book, which debuted Tuesday, Oct. 17, Johnson tells her personal journey as an entrepreneur and mom. She also maps out financial management strategies she hopes other single mothers can use, both to improve their finances and to establish a career they love.  

“Money is power and money is control,” Johnson tells MagnifyMoney. “Men have been very comfortable with that since a long time. And women are never going to have equality in the world, we’ll never have control of our life individually … until we have our money and just as much as men.” 

We spoke with Johnson about the three mantras of her daily life.  

1.Create a lifestyle that you can afford now.

Johnson lived a comfortable life, largely dependent on her ex-husband’s income and benefits while she worked part time. She found that separating from her husband also meant learning to recalibrate her money mindset. 

Legal expenses from the divorce quickly piled up, and she decided to return to full-time freelance work, which meant shelling out $2,000 a month for child care. She knew she had to live frugally in order to make ends meet. Some of the immediate changes she made: Stop buying new clothing for herself. And find as many useful secondhand items for her children as she could. 

“You absolutely have to go frugal,” she says. “I don’t care how rich you were before you were divorced or your kids’s dad is. … Your lifestyle is determined by how much money you have coming in the bank right now.” 

For other single mothers looking to cut spending, she has suggestions both big and small — downsizing to a smaller home, for instance, or just getting rid of unnecessary expenses like a cable subscription or a rarely used gym membership. 

When you are successfully living beneath your means, especially as a breadwinning single mother, Johnson says you can finally start to feel as though you’ve got control over your life again. “You have no control of your life,” she says, “if you are worrying about paying your rent.”   

2. Focus on earning more — unapologetically.

Single mothers shouldn’t just focus on saving more. They should also be unashamed about taking steps to earn more, Johnson says.   

The median income for families led by a single mother in 2014 was about $24,000, far below the $88,000 median for married-parent families in which Mom was the higher earner and the $84,500 median for households where Dad was the principal earner, according to a Pew Research Center report. 

Emma Johnson

The surprising upside of her divorce, Johnson found, was that she realized she had unintentionally suppressed her own financial and professional goals during her marriage to preserve the status quo. 

“Our society definitely values monogamous partnerships and marriage, and women genuinely do want that, but it often comes at a price for reaching our own potential,” she says. 

For Johnson, embracing her ambition wasn’t just a matter of choice. She was granted only one year of child support from her ex-husband, and the clock was ticking. She set about beefing up her income from freelance assignments, taking on everything from corporate blog posts to journalistic articles.  

By the time child support ended, she felt financially stable enough to refinance the the apartment in Queens, N.Y., that she and her ex-husband had bought in her own name. Roughly half a year later, she says, she had lined up enough consistent writing work to confidently support her family independently for the first time.   

Something else happened when she re-entered the labor force full time. She found she had bigger career ambitions than simply writing. She started WealthySingleMommy.com in 2012 as a hobby and slowly grew a loyal audience. (She reports 100,000 unique monthly visitors and 190,000 monthly page views.) 

A few years later, she experimented with monetizing the effort, snagging a mix of brand partnerships, speaking engagements and eventually, a book deal. While she worked on building the WSM brand, she continued to work as a freelancer (her primary income source).  

Finally, in 2016, Johnson says, she made an “internal shift” to focus on her business full time because she saw in it a better financial opportunity.  

“I really feel like it was an important internal shift I had to make because all the freelance writers I knew were [complaining] about not making money,” she says.  

This year, she expects to bring in $400,000 in revenue.  

3. Outsource labor — time is money.

Efficiency is the centerpiece of Johnson’s finance management philosophy. She quickly learned the value of paying professionals to take on some tasks in order to free up hours she could use to work, spend time with her children or focus on her personal needs.  

“You have to be very diligent with how you use all of these things — your time, your money, your energy, your headspace and your emotions,” she says.  

Johnson says that over the years she has invested heavily in child care, housekeeping and outsourcing chores (like laundry) that that take time away from work and her children and aren’t enjoyable. In her book, she writes that she has a handyman on call.  

To be sure, not all single mothers earn enough to outsource, a fact Johnson acknowledges. But she still encourages women not to feel guilt over delegating some household duties in pursuit of that extra quality time. She argues that it’s a worthy investment for peace of mind and efficiency. 

The bottom line: ‘You have go to bigger’

An advocate for gender equality, Johnson says her ultimate goal with the new book is to empower women across society — not just single mothers — to pursue their passions and become role models for a next generation with increasingly abundant resources and opportunities available. 

She hopes single moms will stop taking pity on themselves or viewing their situations as detrimental. “I want women to start seeing themselves as more than they are, and that their family status can be an an asset,” she says. 

For women living in small communities, Johnson’s advice is that maybe they should consider relocating for better job opportunities or finding work that they could be doing virtually.  

The fear of being on one’s own, Johnson says, can become the biggest motivator for pursuing a big goal, be it starting a business or returning to school. And she is convinced that the risks women take and sacrifices they make along the way will eventually pay off. 

“You have to go bigger,” she says. “You have to go bigger because there is less security.” 

The post I’m a Single Mom With a 6-Figure Business. Here Are the 3 Rules I Live By Every Day. appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

How the Discover it Miles Card Can Help You Afford Next Year’s Vacation

Tricks-for-vacation-moped

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]

If you’re already daydreaming about next year’s vacation, take notice: the Discover it Miles credit card could help you make it happen. Discover’s flexible rewards program and impressive sign-up bonus can take a big bite out of your travel expenses.

Here’s how you can use the Discover it Miles card to splurge on an epic vacation next year.

All Purchases Earn Miles

To save on your trip, you’ll need to earn miles, which can be redeemed for travel expenses.

All purchases automatically earn 1.5 miles per dollar, with no confusing restrictions or spending categories to keep tabs on. You also have the opportunity to earn additional miles when shopping at more than 100 merchants on the Discover Deals platform.

Miles are unlimited and don’t expire as long as your account stays open. You can even earn miles using mobile wallets, as the card is compatible with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.

If you begin earning miles now, you’ll have a head start saving up for your vacation.

The First-Year Matching Bonus

Here’s how Discover can really make a big difference on your next trip.

After the first 12 consecutive billing periods, Discover will match all the miles you’ve accrued, posting them to your account within a month or two. This automatically doubles the miles you earn. Essentially, you’ll be earning three miles per dollar (rather than 1.5) for a full year.

After you make a year’s worth of purchases and receive your first-year matching bonus, you should have a sizeable stockpile of miles to redeem for your trip.

Redeeming Miles for Your Vacation

Redeeming miles is simple and flexible. You won’t have to deal with special travel booking platforms, and you aren’t limited to certain travel providers.

You can redeem miles at any time for travel purchases made on your card within the past 180 days. Simply select the desired purchase(s) you wish to redeem for, and your miles will be posted in the form of a statement credit.

Qualifying travel purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, cruises, local and public transportation, and more. There are no blackout dates.

One mile has a cash value of one cent, so every 100 miles is worth $1 in travel redemption.

The Costs

The card has no annual fee. There’s an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases for 14 months, and then a variable 11.99% to 23.99% APR applies. Balance transfers get an introductory 10.99% APR for 14 months for transfers that post to the account by January 10 in 2018, after which the standard purchase APR applies.

Balance transfer fees are 3% of the transfer amount, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

How to Use the Card to Your Advantage

The quickest way to earn miles is to use your card for all your everyday purchases. That way, you’ll earn miles as you spend and get rewarded with a big sign-up bonus after a year.

Of course, you should always try to pay down your balance in full each month. Miles are great, but they aren’t much help if you can’t afford to make timely payments. And even though you won’t incur interest on purchases for 14 months, you don’t want your balance to become unmanageable.

When booking your next vacation, timing is important. You don’t want to make travel purchases too early, as your miles can only be redeemed for purchases made in the last 180 days. If you plan on making travel purchases ahead of time and redeeming miles later, make sure to check your calendar first. Keep in mind that the first-year matching bonus may take a month or two to show up.

Discover also provides up to $500,000 in flight accident insurance and up to $25,000 in auto rental insurance. So feel free to decline the extra insurance offered at the car rental agency.

If the Discover it Miles card isn’t right for you, review our other featured travel rewards credit cards. But before you apply for any credit card, you should be reasonably confident that you will be approved, as hard inquiries can lower your credit score. Review your credit report for free on Credit.com for the best chance of successful approvals.

Image: istock

At publishing time, the Discover it Miles card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.

The post How the Discover it Miles Card Can Help You Afford Next Year’s Vacation appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Credit Cards That Help Grandparents Spoil Their Grandkids

Will Your Grandchildren Ruin Your Retirement?

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]

Spoiling your grandkids can get expensive, especially if you’re on a fixed income. But some credit cards can help out financially, earning rewards as you treat your grandchildren to ice cream or take them out on adventures.

Here are four credit cards that can help you spoil your grandchildren.

1. Blue Cash Preferred by American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in annual US supermarket purchases (1% cash back on purchases beyond that threshold); 3% cash back at US gas stations and select department stores; and 1% cash back on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: $200 bonus statement credit if you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR):
0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 13.99% to 24.99% APR.
Why We Picked It: This card offers a well-rounded variety of ways to earn cash back as you spend.
For Your Grandkids:
There are special cash back rates at supermarkets, gas stations, and eligible department stores. That means you’ll earn a lot of cash back whether you’re stocking up for a family dinner, driving your grandkids around town, or picking up some cute kids’ outfits.
Drawbacks: There is a $95 annual fee.

2. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
Sign-Up Bonus: $150 bonus cash back if you spend $500 in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $0
APR:
0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 15.99% to 24.74% APR.
Why We Picked It: Every purchase earns the same dependable cash back rate.
For Your Grandkids: 
Every purchase you make (including grandchild-related expenses) earns 1.5% cash back.
Drawbacks: There are higher cash back rates available, especially if you’re willing to keep track of spending categories.

3. Citi Thank You Premier

Rewards: Three points per dollar spent on travel, including at gas stations; two points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment; and one point per dollar spent on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95.
APR: 
Variable 15.49% to 24.49% APR.
Why We Picked It: You can earn rewards as you take your grandkids on adventures.
For Your Grandkids: 
You’ll earn triple points on travel expenses (including gas), double points on dining and entertainment (including movie theaters, amusement parks, museums, and sporting events), and single points on everything else. If you’re out on the town with your grandkids, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to earn points, which can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more.
Drawbacks: If you tend to entertain your grandkids at home, this card won’t offer as much value.

4. US Bank Cash Plus Visa

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in quarterly purchases for two categories of your choosing; 2% cash back on one category of your choosing; and 1% cash back on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: For one year, eligible purchases earn an additional 0.5% cash back.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 
Variable 14.99% to 23.99% APR on purchases; 0% APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening, then variable 14.99% to 23.99% APR.
Why We Picked It: This card gives you the power to choose how you’ll be rewarded for purchases.
For Your Grandkids:
Every quarter, you have the option to pick one 2% cash back category (current options are gas, dining, or grocery stores) and two 5% cash back categories (including sporting goods stores, movie theaters, electronics stores, bookstores, and more). This means you can tailor your cash back rewards to your grandchild’s hobbies or your favorite family activities. You can also switch categories each quarter, which means you can adjust as your grandkids grow.
Drawbacks: You’ll have to remember to choose your special cash back categories every quarter.

How to Choose a Card to Spoil Your Grandkids

Ultimately, the best card for spoiling your grandkids depends on how you spend on them. If you like to pick up random gifts here and there, a basic cash back card might be a good choice. If you take your grandkids on road trips or out on the town, a card that specifically rewards gas or entertainment might be a better fit.

If you plan to use your card for purchases unrelated to your grandkids, make sure to choose a card that will also reward those spending habits—especially if your “grandchildren budget” adds up to only a fraction of your total spending. 

What Credit Is Required for a Credit Card for Grandparents?

The best cash back and rewards cards will require good or excellent credit. You should check your credit before you apply, and submit an application only if you have a good chance of approval. That’s because a hard inquiry from a credit card application can ding your score a few points. You can check your credit report free at Credit.com. 

Image: istock

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.

The post 4 Credit Cards That Help Grandparents Spoil Their Grandkids appeared first on Credit.com.

Our Top 5 Credit Card Picks for Fall Landscaping Projects

A summer garden can be a wonderful hobby and investment when you follow these money saving tips!

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]

With cooler weather and better planting conditions, fall is the perfect time of year for a landscaping project. But whether you’re sprucing up your garden or aiming to improve your home’s curb appeal, the expense of a large outdoor project can be daunting.

Some credit cards can help, offering you ways to earn cash back or avoid paying interest on your purchases.

Here are five credit cards for your fall landscaping project.

1. Citi Simplicity

Rewards: None
Sign-Up Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% APR for 21 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 14.99% to 24.99% APR.
Why We Picked It: Citi offers the lengthiest 0% intro APR period we’ve seen.
For Your Outdoor Project: 
You can avoid paying interest on your landscaping purchases for almost two years. That’s a long time to pay off your project.
Drawbacks: 
There are no rewards offered with this card.

2. Home Depot Consumer Credit Card

Rewards: None
Sign-Up Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% intro APR for up to 24 months on qualifying purchase types, then variable 17.99% to 26.99% APR based on your credit.
Why We Picked It: Home Depot offers both the supplies you need and the card (reviewed here) that can help you afford them.
For Your Outdoor Project: 
Home Depot purchases of $299 or more get six months of 0% APR. Various purchase types, including pergolas, snow blowers, and siding, can qualify for up to 24 months of 0% APR. Cardholders can also access special discounts and have one year to make returns, which is nine months longer than Home Depot’s standard policy.
Drawbacks: 
If you don’t shop at Home Depot, this card isn’t right for you.

3. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
Sign-Up Bonus: $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 15.99% to 24.74% APR.
Why We Picked It: This well-rounded card offers a solid cash back rate on every purchase, a nice little sign-up bonus, and a long period of interest-free purchases.
For Your Outdoor Project: 
All of your landscaping purchases will automatically earn 1.5% cash back automatically, and you get 15 months to avoid interest as you pay off your project. It should also be easy to meet the spending requirement for the sign-up bonus.
Drawbacks: There are higher cash back rates available with other cards.

4. Lowe’s Advantage Card 

Rewards: None
Sign-Up Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% intro APR for qualifying purchase types, then variable 26.99% APR.
Why We Picked It: Loyal Lowe’s shoppers have many ways to save on their landscaping projects.
For Your Outdoor Project: 
When you apply for a Lowe’s credit card, you can choose to receive 5% off all qualifying Lowe’s purchases or six months of 0% APR on purchases of $299 or more. Lowe’s also offers up to 36 months of low-interest financing on certain purchases; for instance, riding lawn mowers currently get 1.99% APR for 36 months.
Drawbacks: You have to choose between saving on every purchase or avoiding interest. 

5. Discover it – Cashback Match

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases in quarterly bonus categories; 1% cash back on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: Discover will match all cash back earned in the first year.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 11.99% to 23.99% APR.
Why We Picked It: You can earn 5% cash back on your landscaping supplies if you get them from the right merchants.
For Your Outdoor Project: For October through December this year, the card’s 5% cash back bonus category is Target and Amazon.com purchases. You should be able to get at least some of your landscaping needs from these merchants, earning a great cash back rate as you spend.
Drawbacks: 
The card’s “home improvement store” bonus category, which would have been ideal, has already passed by this year.

Choosing a Card for Your Landscaping Project

General cash back cards without merchant restrictions will be suitable for a project that involves purchases at many different stores (or if you want a card you can also use for everyday spending). But if you’re sourcing your project at one type of store, you may want to look for a card that offers a special cash back rate at that merchant type.

If you’re after a 0% intro APR offer, you should start by estimating the cost of your project. Choose a card with a payback period that gives you enough time to pay off your estimated project cost in full before it expires. Otherwise, you’ll be hit with interest when the intro period is up.  

What Credit Is Required to Get a Card for My Landscaping Project?

Credit cards with cash back rewards and 0% intro APR offers often require good to excellent credit. Store-specific credit cards might be easier to qualify for, but they generally don’t hold as much long-term value. Before you apply for a card, you should be confident in your chances of approval. You can check your credit report for free at Credit.com.

Image: AleksandarNakic

At publishing time, the Citi Simplicity, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and Discover it cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.

The post Our Top 5 Credit Card Picks for Fall Landscaping Projects appeared first on Credit.com.

Should You Get Another Credit Card? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions First

favorite credit cards

Credit cards play a significant role in your financial life—from establishing credit to determining your buying power and more. While credit cards have become an integral part of society and even have their perks, you may be wondering how many credit cards you should keep and if it would be wise to get another one.

Before you decide to add another credit card to your wallet, there are some things that you will want to consider. Find out if applying for additional credit cards makes sense by asking yourself these five questions first. 

How Long Have You Been a Credit Card Holder?

If you are a new credit card holder, it can take six months to a year to see an effect on your credit score. Without an established credit history, it may be difficult for lenders to decide whether to extend credit to you. A short credit history can also impact your interest rates, keeping them higher than desirable. If you have had your credit card for less than a year, getting a new one may not be the best choice right now.

What to do: Be patient. When using the credit cards you already have, pay on time and in full each month so that future credit card companies will see how responsible you are and will be more likely to extend you credit with a good interest rate. If you are a new credit card holder, try holding off for one year before applying for another credit card.

How Are You Managing Your Current Credit Cards?

It may be tempting to have more spending power at your disposal, but before you apply for another credit card, make sure you can financially handle it. Examine how you are currently managing your credit cards. Are you struggling to pay the minimum each month? Are you unable to make payments on time? If you answer “yes” to either of these questions, it’s probably not a good idea to apply for another credit card right now.

What to do: If you are already struggling, ask yourself why you need to get another credit card. Is it because you don’t have enough cash flow or you have an emergency situation? Instead of making any hasty decisions by opening another line of credit, develop a plan to lower your current credit card balances and create a budget that will help you organize and control your spending.

How Are You Going to Use Your New Credit Card?

When considering a new credit card, it’s important to know what your intentions are and how you are planning to use it. Some reasons for opening a new credit card account may be more impulsive than practical, so think carefully before signing that credit card application. If you plan to use the new card as a backup, most likely you won’t use it often. Some credit card companies have a policy of canceling credit cards due to inactivity, and a canceled credit card can cause your credit score to take a dip.

What to do: Before you decide to apply for a new card that you may not use, use your current cards effectively. Pay your balance on time and in full to build your credit. Some cards even offer cash back rewards that reward smart spending.

What Types of Perks and Rewards Does the Credit Card Offer?

If you have established excellent credit, you may be receiving offers from many different credit card companies claiming perks and rewards galore. If you know that you can financially handle another credit card and are looking to take advantage of some perks that your current credit cards do not offer, you may want to consider another credit card. Before you move forward, do your research on each one.

What to do: Don’t get sucked in by flashy offers that won’t benefit you in the long run. Cash back rewards and frequent flier miles won’t help if you aren’t able to pay your balance or if the cards don’t offer rewards that you can take advantage of. It’s important to make sure that the credit card you choose is the right fit for your needs. Decide which perks are most important to you and would give you the most bang for your buck. 

What Is the Interest Rate?

While you may have every intention of paying off your credit card balance in full every month, sometimes life happens and the only option in the moment is to make minimum payments. Whether it’s the loss of a job or a divorce, many situations can throw you off track financially. High interest rates on credit cards can compound an already stressful situation.

What to do: While some credit cards may hit everything on your perk and benefit checklist, if the interest rate is too high, skip it. Hefty amounts added to your credit card bill every month will only make it that much harder to get out of a tight financial situation should life throw you a curveball. Look for credit cards with low interest rates that will be sustainable for long term use.

Once you’ve examined your reasons for wanting another credit card, you can determine which one is best for you—if any at all! Depending on your needs, you can use Credit.com’s Credit Card Finder to find the right card for you.

Image: istock

The post Should You Get Another Credit Card? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions First appeared first on Credit.com.

6 Common Mistakes Side Hustlers Make—and How to Avoid Them

It's possible to purchase the items you love from Anthropologie without breaking the bank.

Andre Spicer, a business professor, was delighted when his 5-year-old daughter expressed interest in an entrepreneurial endeavor. He couldn’t have foreseen the outcome, though: a firsthand lesson in side hustle mistakes and a nearly $200 fine, according to a July article in the Telegraph.

Spicer and his daughter decided on a lemonade stand and set up shop on a busy sidewalk near their London home. They quickly attracted customers and sold out.

Unfortunately, the father-daughter duo also attracted the attention of local law enforcement.

An officer approached and “read a lengthy legal statement—the gist of which was that because my daughter didn’t have a trading permit, she would be fined £150,” Spicer wrote, an amount equal to about $200. His daughter burst into tears and repeatedly asked, “Have I done a bad thing?”

This experience is a cautionary tale for side hustlers and other small-business owners, proving that it’s all too easy to run afoul of the law when you try to launch a side business.

6 Common Legal Mistakes Side Hustlers Should Sidestep

Ignorance of local business laws and legal requirements could result in hefty fines and fees. These needless costs can set you back or permanently damage your side business.

You probably can’t afford to make such mistakes with a fledgling side hustle. Here’s a look at common ways your side hustle could break the law—and how to make sure it doesn’t.

1. Failing to Get Proper Business Licenses and Permits

Let’s start with the example of Spicer and his daughter. They were fined for operating a business without proper permits. Business laws in the US differ from those in the UK, but ignoring them could land you in similar trouble.

Here are just a few of the permits and licenses you might need to offer services or products.

  • Local business licenses: Most cities or counties require business licenses and will levy fees or force you to suspend operations if they discover an unlicensed business. Your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office should be able to help you sort through the local rules and figure out how to get a business license.
  • Occupation-specific licenses: There may be regulations for the specific kind of business you own. For example, you’ll likely need a specific license for a side business preparing or selling food or providing home-based child care.
  • Federal business licenses and permits: The SBA provides a list of federal business licenses and permits you might need, such as liquor licenses.
  • Doing business as: If the customer-facing name you use for a business differs from its legal name, you’ll have to file the former as your doing business as (DBA) name. You can do so by filing a DBA application with your local government office, which usually includes a fee.

Though some requirements are obvious, side hustlers often won’t find out about lesser-known permit requirements unless they check local commercial regulations regularly and thoroughly.

2. Violating Local Zoning Laws or Your Lease

Many side hustles and startups are homegrown. But when you start a commercial enterprise in your home, you can run into legal red tape.

Taking the time to ensure your business is properly zoned will prevent costly fees or a shutdown of your new business. Check the following documents for rules and restrictions on doing business out of your home.

  • Local ordinances and zoning laws: Your city or county might restrict businesses from operating in certain residential areas, and some local laws might allow only certain kinds of home businesses. You can find and review those rules at your city or county clerk’s office, on municipal government websites, or at your local library.
  • Your lease agreement: If you have a landlord, be sure that your business operates within the terms of your contract. Many leases have clauses that forbid subletting or short-term renting, for example, which could kill an Airbnb side hustle.
  • Your homeowners association (HOA): If your home or condo is in a neighborhood governed by an HOA, check out its rulebook (often called a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) for any rules concerning home businesses.

The above regulations might also limit how or when you can operate your business. For instance, an on-the-side carpenter who works in the evening might violate quiet hours or noise ordinances. A sign advertising an in-home hair salon could be considered an eyesore by an HOA.

You don’t automatically have to accept a “no” you get from the city, your landlord, or your HOA, though. Check for a way to appeal the rule and to ask for a variance or exception.

3. Infringing on Your Employment Agreements

You probably don’t want your side business to get you fired from your day job, right? Avoid this outcome with a full review of your employer’s rules and the hiring documents you signed, including the company’s employee handbook and policies, your employment contract, and any nondisclosure or noncompete agreements. Watch for language that clarifies whether your business would violate any of your contract clauses. If these documents don’t offer clear answers, ask a human resources manager.

Even if your company allows side businesses, you should proceed with caution. Avoid conflict between your employment and side hustle with these tips.

  • Work on your own time and on your own property: Don’t work on your side hustle on company time. And don’t use company property to work on your side hustle, either, whether it’s a company-owned laptop, email address, or software service account login.
  • Don’t use your employer’s intellectual property: Never use employer-owned proprietary knowledge, trade secrets, contact lists, or other materials for your side business.
  • Differentiate your side business from your employer: You shouldn’t be competing with your employer. If your business is similar, try to serve a separate target market, and make sure your products or services are sufficiently unique.

Better yet, build a business that’s completely different from your day job. You’ll avoid these legal issues and prevent side hustle burnout.

4. Skipping Business Liability Insurance

Protecting your business from legal issues includes insuring yourself against lawsuits and other legal actions people might take against you. Business liability insurance covers judgments as well as the costs of defending lawsuits.

Take the example of Student Loan Hero writer Kat Tretina, who built her own pet-sitting business on the side. She’d heard horror stories about sitters being held responsible for a pet damaging furniture or for a burglary after losing a key, so she knew getting her own policy was a must.

Many sharing economy–based companies such as Rover, Uber, and Airbnb include insurance as part of their services. Owners starting up on their own, however, will need to find and purchase their own business liability insurance.

5. Mishandling Business Taxes

When you start a new business, it’s crucial to set out with the end in mind—specifically, the end of the fiscal year, when you’ll have to file taxes for your side business.

Complicated business tax codes make it easy to file an erroneous return or fail to claim an important deduction. Either mistake can cost your business money or draw the scrutiny of the IRS.

Forestall unexpected tax bills or penalties and fees from missed tax payments by following some business tax best practices.

  • Set aside money for taxes or pay taxes quarterly: By setting aside money and paying on time, you’ll avoid late fees, penalties, and sky-high tax bills that you can’t afford come April.
  • Keep all receipts for business purchases: This will make it easy to calculate and write off your side hustle costs—and cover your bases in case of an audit.
  • Separate business funds and purchases from your personal finances: Keeping separate accounts for your business will help ensure you don’t mix up any expenses.
  • Create a specific place and time to work on your business: Having a set number of hours per week and square footage you dedicate to your business will make it easier to track and deduct business costs when you file taxes.
  • Pay others appropriately: Say you have a friend who runs your books for you. Is she your employee or a contractor? You’ll need to know the difference to calculate taxes you owe and file appropriate income tax forms.
  • Choose the right business structure: Do you run a sole proprietorship, general partnership, or limited liability company? You need to know, because how you set up your side business will affect how you pay and file taxes.

6. Trying to DIY When You Need Professional Help

The above tips offer some great guidelines to get a side business up and running without too many legal hang-ups. But at the end of the day, they can’t replace professional legal and tax advice.

Local business laws and regulations can vary widely, as can your personal business plans, structures, and management systems. You can and should read up on commercial regulations and tax codes, but the best way to know for sure that your side hustle complies with all legal and tax concerns is to hire a professional.

An hour with a lawyer or accountant is a worthwhile investment to shore up your business practices and ensure your operation is on the right side of the law. When in doubt, hire a professional to clarify any fuzzy areas. Your growing business—even if it’s just a lemonade stand—could depend on it.

Starting a side hustle takes some planning, but it can really pay off if it’s done right. For help finding loans and getting your business off the ground, take a look at Credit.com’s Small Business Loan marketplace.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

The post 6 Common Mistakes Side Hustlers Make—and How to Avoid Them appeared first on Credit.com.

Honeydue App Review: A Way to Help Couples With Their Finances?

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Honeydue is an app intended to help with one of the most common sources of conflict in relationships: money.

According to a study by SunTrust bank, finances are a major point of stress and conflict in relationships. The study goes on to say that couples with different money personalities — spender versus saver, for instance — must grapple with even more stress, but communication can lessen the impact of the differences.

Eugene Park, co-creator of the money management app, found that managing finances with his fiancee after she moved in was painful. The pair were using totally different tools to track and manage their finances from day to day. Eugene’s co-founder, Thien Tran, was going through the exact same thing at the same time with his fiancee.

That’s when the idea for Honeydue was born. It officially launched in August for 2017, and the user base has been growing every since.

Through Honeydue, couples can share information like bank accounts and bills to limit confusion and miscommunication around their finances. The app aggregates information like bill payments and transactions via bank feeds to help couples get a true picture of their combined (or separate) finances in real time.

It’s true that there are a lot of financial apps out there that offer similar services — Mint, YNAB and Personal Capital, to name a few. But Eugene insists that Honeydue isn’t just a financial app.

“We think of ourselves as a collaborative tool first and a financial tool second,” he says. “The goal is to create a collaborative environment for couples to develop both financial habits and literacy together.”

The creators of the app noticed that there’s asymmetry among couples when it comes to money. Usually only one partner manages the finances. When this happens, the other partner may feel as if he or she lacks of firm grasp of where their earnings are going, setting the stage for conflict.

For this review, MagnifyMoney decided to put Honeydue through a true stress test — my husband and I used the app for two weeks straight to see if actually helped us manage our money better.

What I liked about the Honeydue app

After having used the app for some time, what stands out most is the convenience of having all bills and accounts in one place.

If you are the kind of person who likes to stay on top of your entire financial situation at a glance, this app does the job. To me, it’s like having a financial health assistant that scans all your accounts and gives you updates like these:

If you’re a busy person and want to stay on top of your finances, but can’t check every account daily, then Honeydue works. Indeed, it works even for the person not managing money with a significant other.

But once you do add a partner, things get interesting. You both can see everything that’s happening in the world of money that affects you as a couple.

For example, I was able to add a brokerage account that my husband can now see updated daily. Once he sees it, it’s a constant reminder that investing is a worthwhile activity with real returns. It’s more motivation to curb our spending and attempt to save and invest more when the numbers are there, at our disposal and updated in real time.

I also like the idea that we both can see all bank account balances and transactions. If I know that my husband will see my financial life and potentially question my spending or account balances, I’m more apt to “behave” and think a little more about my spending choices. The extra layer of accountability is a welcome change for me.

The alerts, notifications and email updates from the app serve as prompts to help us discuss finances with some regularity. There are many times I want to talk about finances and financial decisions with my husband, but it simply slips my mind. Honeydue reminders help make money discussions happen more frequently.

To me, the app sets the stage for a healthy financial relationship for couples struggling with money: Transparency, collaboration and communication are all improved with use.

What I didn’t like about Honeydue

The concept of the app itself is amazing. The execution is pretty top-notch, too. The app didn’t seem to be buggy or prone to inexplicable crashes.

Still, I noticed a few things.

The first issue: how the app interacts with institutions that use two-factor authentication. Many bank protocols ask different security questions or require you to re-authenticate with security codes if a connection needs to be refreshed.

However, I’ve used other apps with the same issue. So I am not sure there is a way around this. It’s a safety measure that I welcome to keep my data secure. However, it’s usually barely noticeable and just takes a few moments to correct.

Further, the transaction history for all accounts only goes back a couple of months. Again, not a super big deal, but something I did notice.

Finally, the budget categories are not that extensive and you could potentially spend a lot of time recategorizing transactions it does assign. That is to say, right now the budget categories are not “smart.” They don’t “learn” from the updates you make to transactions like most financial softwares and apps. Eugene says that the development road map does include plans to make the budget categories more automatic once you edit them.

The Complete Magnifymoney Honeydue App Review

  • What is Honeydue?
  • How do you sign up?
  • Fees
  • Benefits
  • Who should consider using Honeydue?
  • App drawbacks

What is Honeydue?

Honeydue allows couples to share financial information, but the partners can select what that information is and the level of detail that is included. So if one person has a bank account he or she doesn’t want visible to a partner through the app, it’s possible to choose not to share those banking details or give a limited view of them (“balance only”).

Here are some additional capabilities of the app:

Track balances

Couples can see all bank balances in one place in the app. They can track both credit card and bank balances, along with individual transactions related to each account. Transactions and balances are updated in real time so there’s always a complete, accurate snapshot of where these accounts stand.

The nice thing about this feature: that ability to choose which accounts your partner can see and at what level of detail. Eugene says many partners feel like it isn’t necessary to share at the transaction level. In his words, “trust doesn’t always mean transparency.” According to a 2014 poll in the magazine Money, surveying more than 1,000 married adults, 55 percent of respondents said finance arguments in their relationships were over purchases. This is exactly why Honeydue built these privacy features into the app.

Categorized spending

This feature allows a couple to see how all of their money is spent. As transactions are completed and updated in the app, Honeydue gives them a category: cash & checks; family & pets; getting around; gifts & charity; miscellaneous; personal & wellness; home & utilities; food & drink; trips & occasions; shopping & fun. If the app assigns a category incorrectly for a transaction, it can be fixed with a quick edit.

Secure banking

Honeydue uses military-grade encryption.

Share expenses

You can share expenses with your partner using Honeydue. Once a transaction appears in your bank feed, you can mark it for sharing and add comments. The app will send the share notification to the partner, as well as periodic reminders to settle up a balance owed with his/her mate.

Bill reminders

You can enter bill due dates and amounts with Honeydue. It will keep a running log of coming bills, so they are not lost in the shuffle of life. In the Settings areas of the app, you can create push notifications for bills as well.

How do you sign up for Honeydue?

The sign-up process is extremely simple. After downloading the Honeydue app for iOS or Android devices, you’ll open the app and enter information it will use for your account settings. Then, you’ll enter your partner’s information so he/she can receive an invite to join the app and view all of your combined financial information.

The rest of the process involves connecting your bank account and setting up bill reminders. The app connects with most major banks. You can even include a PayPal account in your bank feed.

Honeydue fees

At the moment Honeydue is totally free to use for both partners.

There is an “offers” tab in the app where you can apply for credit cards and explore bank new accounts. The app also allows you to look for deals on things like Hulu, Starbucks and Gobble. All the categories in the offers tab include bank accounts, credit cards, loans & insurance, savings and investments and money savers.

According to Park, this monetization model will remain in place to keep the app free to use.

Who should consider using Honeydue?

As my husband and I found, Honeydue gives couples a springboard for constant discussions about money. It gives them practice with communicating, negotiating and saving in money conversations they may not otherwise have.

Final words

Honeydue is another app in the sea of fintech innovation. There are so many tools out there that it might be difficult to add another to the mix for couples already overwhelmed with financial issues.

However, the branding and features that cater to couples can’t be underestimated. When was the last time you were able to stamp bank transactions with a smiley face or a comment for your partner to see? Honeydue let’s you do just that. For the price (free), I think it’s at least worth a try.

The post Honeydue App Review: A Way to Help Couples With Their Finances? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Where the Wealthiest Millennials Stash Their Money

There’s been much talk about millennials being fearful of the stock market. They did, after all, live through the financial crisis, and many are shouldering record levels of student loan debt, while grappling with rising fixed costs.

The truth is that historically, young people have always shied away from investing. A whopping 89% of 25- to 35 year-old heads of household surveyed by the Federal Reserve in 2016 said their families were not invested in stocks. That’s only two percentage points higher than the average response since the Fed began the survey in 1989.

MagnifyMoney analyzed data from the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, conducted by the the Federal Reserve, to determine exactly how older millennials — those aged 25 to 35 — are allocating their assets.

In 2016, wealthy millennial households, on average, owned assets totaling more than $1.5 million. That is nearly nine times the assets of the average family in the same age group — $176,400. Included were financial assets (cash, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, checking and savings deposits), as well as nonfinancial ones (real estate, businesses and cars).

While the wealth of each group was spread across just about every type of asset, the biggest difference was in the proportions for each category.

To add an extra layer of insight, we compared the savings habits of the average millennial household to millennial households in the top 25% of net worth. We also took a look at how the average young adult manages his or her assets to see how they differ in their approach.

Millennials and the stock market

Despite significant differences in income, we found that both sets of older millennial households today (average earners and the top 25% of earners) are investing roughly the same share of their financial assets in the market – about 60%.

Among the top 25% of millennial households, those with brokerage accounts hold more than 37% of their liquid assets, or about $224,000, in stocks and bonds and an additional 26%, or $154,000, in retirement accounts. Meanwhile, just over 14% of their assets are in liquid savings or checking accounts.

By comparison, the average millennial household with a brokerage account invests a little over $10,000 in stocks and bonds, or 22% of their total assets, and they reserve about 21% of their assets in checking or savings accounts.

Millennial households invest most heavily in their retirement accounts, accounting for around 38% of their financial assets, although they have only saved $18,800 on average.

Wealthy millennials carry much less of their wealth in checking and savings, compared with their peers. Although wealthier families carry eight times more in savings and checking than the average family — $84,000 vs. $10,300 — that’s just roughly 14% of their total assets in cash, while for the ordinary young family that figure is around 20%

The Fed data show that those on the top of the earnings pyramid are able to save far more for the future, even though they’re at a relatively early stage of their careers.

Across the board, older millennial families hold the greatest share of their financial assets in their retirement accounts. Although that share of retirement savings is smaller for wealthier millennial families (26% of their financial assets, versus 38% for the average older millennial family), they have saved far more.

When looking at the median amount of retirement savings versus the average, a more disturbing picture emerges, showing just how little the average older millennial family is saving for eventual retirement.

The median amount of money in higher earners’ retirement account is $90,000 (median being the middle point of a number set, with half the available figures above it and half below). But the median amount is $0 for the typical millennial family, meaning that at least half of millennial-run households don’t have any retirement savings at all.

Millennials and their nonfinancial assets

Most of millennial households’ wealth comes from physical assets, such as houses, cars and businesses.

While nearly 60% of young families don’t own houses today, the lowest homeownership rate since 1989, homes make up the largest share of the family’s nonfinancial assets, Fed data show.

For the average-earning older millennial family, housing represents more than two-thirds of the value of its nonfinancial assets — 66.4%. On average, this group’s homes are valued at $84,000.

The homes of rich millennial households are worth 4.6 times more, averaging $470,000 — though they represents a lower share of total nonfinancial assets — 50%.

Cars are the second-largest hard asset for the average young family to own, accounting for about 14% of nonfinancial assets.

While rich millennials drive fancier cars than their peers — prices are 2.4 times that of average millennials’ cars — their $42,000 car accounts for just 4.5% of their nonfinancial asset. In contrast, they stash as much as 31% of their asset in businesses, 20 percentage points higher than the ordinary millennial.

It’s worth noting that young adults in general are not into businesses. A scant 6.3% of young families have businesses, the lowest percentage since 1989, according to the Fed data. (Among those that do have them, the businesses represent just over 11% of their total nonfinancial assets.)

The student debt gap

Possibly the starkest example of how wealthy older millennials and their ordinary peers manage their finances can be seen in the realm of student loan debt.

A significant chunk of the average worker’s household debt comes in the form of student loans, making up close to 20% of total debt and averaging $16,000. In contrast, the wealthiest cohort carries about $2,000 less in student loan debt, on average, and this constitutes just about 4.6% of total debt.

With less student debt to worry about, it’s no surprise wealthier millennial families carry a larger share of mortgage debt. About 76% of their debt comes from their primary home, to the tune of $233,500, on average. This is 4.5 times the housing debt of a typical young homeowner.

In some cases, the top wealthy have another 11% or so of their total debt committed to a second house, something not many of their less-wealthy peers would have to worry about — affording even a first home is more of a struggle.

When is the right time to start investing?

For many millennials the answer isn’t whether or not it’s wise to save for retirement or invest for wealth but when to start. Generally, paying off high interest debts and building up a sufficient emergency fund should come first. Once those boxes are ticked, how much young workers invest depends on their tolerance for risk and their future financial goals.

“It’s never too much as long as you’ve got money for the emergency fund, and as long as they are funding their other goals not through debt,” says Krista Cavalieri, owner and senior advisor at Evolve Capital in Columbus, Ohio.

The biggest mistake that Cavalieri has seen among her young clients is that very few have been able to establish an emergency fund that will cover at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

Kelly Metzler, senior financial advisor at the New York-based Altfest Personal Wealth Management, said older millennials may not be able to save outside of retirement accounts yet, which can be a concern if they want to buy a house or have other large purchases or unexpected expenses ahead.

Cavalieri said that’s because young adults’ money is stretched thin by the varies needs in their lives and the lifestyle they keep.

“Their hands are kind of tied at where they are right now,” she said. “Everyone could clearly save more, but millennials are dealing with large amounts of debt. A lot of them are also dealing with the fact that the lack of financial education put that in that personal debt situation.”

The post Where the Wealthiest Millennials Stash Their Money appeared first on MagnifyMoney.