Can I Use Venmo to Split Bills?

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Venmo Review

The ever popular company PayPal was founded back in 1998.  The company has been the go to payment platform for years among individuals who want to share money via the internet.  The popularity of checks has been dwindling in the United States for years now.  So what is the best way to pay someone without a check or PayPal?  It’s Venmo.  Can I use Venmo to split bills?  The simple answer is… Yes!

What is Venmo?

Venmo is an app you can download for your smartphone.  The company calls the app a free digital wallet that allows you to create and share payments with your friends.  The company was founded back in 2009, but it has only recently become the preferred payment method among millennials.  Despite the growing popularity of the app, it is currently only available with valid United States bank accounts and phone numbers.

How do I use Venmo?

  1. Download the Venmo app to your phone the app is available for iOS and Android.
  2. Open the app and create your account.
  3. Verify your phone number and email address.
  4. Add and verify your bank account along with any debit or credit cards you would like to add to the account.
  5. Begin sending payments.

Is Venmo Free?

Yes and No.  The Venmo app is a free download.  When you set up your Venmo account, you will be asked to link either a bank account or a credit card to your account.  Linking a bank account has the same effect as a direct deposit or a direct withdrawal and is free.  The fees come into play when you decide to link a credit card to your account.  Venmo charges a standard 3% fee when sending money via a credit card, but does waive the fee for Authorized Merchant Payments, Venmo balance, bank accounts and debit cards.

Why use Venmo?

Say you and a group of friends went out for a nice dinner.  Perhaps the restaurant doesn’t split the checks or it is just easier if one member of the party picks up the bill.  Venmo allows your friend to charge you for your portion of the dinner or allows you to pay your friend for your meal.  Venmo can be used to split bills.  No cash has to exchange hands.  Venmo also allows the user to create a social connection through the app.  When you pay or charge a friend, you can add words along with emojis to the title line.  You can choose to have your charges and payments to a friend public (everyone can see), private (only you and the friend making the payment can see), or friends (only your friends and that persons friends can see).

Venmo Review Conclusion:

Venmo is rapidly growing in popularity and has been for some time.  Users like the ease and accessibility of the app along with the fact that it is mostly free.  PayPal bought Venmo back in 2016 and is working on expanding the app along with the services offered.  Venmo allows users to not only quickly and easily split bills with friends, but it also helps create a social experience along the way.

Danny Willett’s Net Worth

Danny Willet's Net Worth

The 2017 Masters golf tournament has now come to a close, but we will take a ride back to Augusta with the 2016 winner, Danny Willett.  Willett is a professional golfer who hails from England.  He turned professional back in 2008 at the age of twenty after finishing his college golf career at Jacksonville State University.  While he has been a big name on the European Tour for many years now, he was unrecognizable to many Americans until his 2016 Masters victory.

At 29 years old, Willett has had quite a successful professional golf career thus far.  Danny Willett’s net worth has increased throughout his playing career.  He holds a total of five professional wins, four of which occurred on the European Tour along with last year’s Masters.  His breakthrough came back in 2012 when he won the BMW International Open in a playoff against Marcus Fraser.  That victory netted Willett over €300,000 or approximately $350,000.  Of his remaining victories, two came in the 2015 golf season and then another 2 last year, in 2016.  His Masters victory of 2016 was by far his most lucrative.  He received $1.8 million for his Augusta victory along with a green jacket, an ever living symbol of the tournament.

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Danny Willett Masters Champion

Willett is currently in his 10th season on the European tour, while just having played on the PGA Tour for eight seasons.  The official prize money he has been awarded on the European Tour during his ten seasons totals €12,267,975 which converts to approximately $13 million.  If you add his PGA Tour totals to that amount, $2,713,938, he has a total career earnings of $15.7 million during his professional golf career.  Like many professional athletes, on the field/court/course earnings play only a small part into an individual’s net worth and the same could be said for the net worth of Danny Willett.  After his 2016 Masters victory, sponsors came knocking at his door.  In fact, he gained nearly 50k Twitter followers as a result of his win in Augusta.  We estimate Danny Willett’s net worth to currently sit at €7.5 million which converted equals $8 million.  As he further progresses in his career, we expect his net worth to continue to rise.  This will be fueled mostly by future career earnings on the PGA and European Tours along with further involvement in a variety of sponsorships that most golfers are able to carry.  Although he wasn’t able to capture the green jacket in 2017, if he can win in 2018 or in the future he will join an exclusive club of players with multiple green jackets.  There are currently only 17 players in that exclusive club, but a win next year will make him number 18.

Willett currently resides in Rotherham, Yorkshire with his wife and son.  His son was born just before his 2016 Masters victory.  He currently ranks 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Interested in knowing your net worth?  Click the link below and download:

MY NET WORTH

Retailers That Accept Bitcoin

Retailers That Accept Bitcoin
Retailers That Accept Bitcoin

A couple years ago I found a $20 bill in the parking lot outside a movie theater.  Nobody was around so I decided to keep the money.  “Finders Keepers” they say.  Cash has become incredibly more difficult to keep up with in the present day of credit and debit cards.  Fact is credit and debit card transactions have increased dramatically over the past five years.  In fact, you can now store your cards on your phone.  You don’t ever have to reach into your wallet to pull it out in some cities.  With these recent technological advances in payment methods, we have bitcoin.

Bitcoin has become widely more popular in recent years due to mainstream coverage and wider acceptance of the currency.  A few years ago, there weren’t any retailers that accepted bitcoin; however, it has become much more mainstream and today there are many retailers that accept bitcoin.  Bitcoin hasn’t come without it’s challenges though.  There have been many hurdles the currency had to overcome.  A lack of ability to regulate payments and their origins has scared off many governments to making bitcoin part of their monetary policy.  In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ bitcoin ETF they were trying to introduce.

Despite the hurdles that still exist for bitcoin in the future, it has come a long way in development over the past few years and leading the charge is retailers that accept bitcoin.  Many bitcoin believers think that wider use and acceptance of bitcoin will lead to a great future for the block-chain currency.

Biggest Retailers that accept bitcoin:

Overstock.com– Online retailer with deals on everything for your home and your family

DISH Network– American direct-broadcast satellite service provider

Expedia– Online travel retailer

WordPress.com– Website creation tool

1-800-Flowers– Floral gift retailer

Zynga– Mobile gaming company

The company that sticks out to me is Overstock.com because they were the first major retailer that began accepting bitcoin payments on their site.  In fact, back in 2014 when they began accepting the currency sales were averaging around $15,000 a day on bitcoin transactions alone for the site.  Paying for bitcoins is also very simple at retailers.  As simple as adding a credit card to your payment information in fact.

Retailers that Accept Bitcoin

Overstock.com has now been accepting bitcoins on their site for almost three years.  They have repeatedly explained the benefits they see to accepting bitcoin and have advocated that other retailers accept bitcoin.  Some retailers are still hesitant to accept it due to the volatility that can exist.  Although the volatility has stabilized in recent months, the SEC rejection of a bitcoin ETF showed the currency still wasn’t mature enough to prevent drastic volatility as it dropped 18% upon the news.

For a comprehensive link of retailers that accept bitcoin: Click Here

Do you have bitcoins?  What places would you like to see start accepting bitcoin payments?

Financial Spring Cleaning

Spring is finally here, regardless of whether it feels like it outside or not.  Around this time of year, many see it as their obligation to go through their homes and rid themselves of unnecessary items that clutter the place up.  The idea that a clean and happy dwelling is a rebirth and a new start.  Why not take this same approach to your finances?

At the start of every calendar year, I always suggest creating a new budget for the upcoming year.  Mapping out your income and expenses presents saving opportunities and fiscal responsibility.  We are now almost three months into the new year and expenses sometimes change.  That is why I always do a financial spring cleaning.  Below are my favorite three ways to do a financial spring cleaning

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Financial Spring Cleaning

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 1:  This first tip is directly related to a normal spring cleaning of the house people already do.  Go through your closet and determine which clothes you don’t need anymore.  Maybe you have shoes you don’t wear, pants you’ve outgrown, DVD’s you no longer watch because of a Netflix subscription.  Gather up these items and donate them to a local shelter like The Salvation Army.  Not only will you eliminate these useless items from your place, but you will be giving to those who could benefit from such items.  The best part about all of this is most of the times you can receive a tax deduction for your donations.  This can lead to a higher income tax return for the 2017 year.

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 2:  Clean out unnecessary clutter in your budget.  For example, maybe at the beginning of the year you signed up for a gym membership you no longer use.  Cancel it.  Go through the various categories in your budget and see if they are relevant to the remainder of the year going forward.  Perhaps you dedicated a portion of your budget to pay off debt, but now you no longer have that debt.  Eliminate that category.  Eliminating categories in your budget makes it simpler and much easier to read and track.

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 3:  Review the dollar allocations in your budget.  Say at the beginning of the year you were eating out lunch every day, but now you realize the many health benefits and cost savings of bringing your lunch to work.  See if you can slash $30-$50 a month off your food budget.  Shop around for car insurance.  Perhaps you find the same coverage with a different company for $15 less a month.  Eliminating a little bit of money from a few categories adds up and helps boost your savings potential.

Financial spring cleaning allows you to revamp your finances for the remainder of the year.  Even if you haven’t done a good job of sticking to your budget, it is never too late.  A financial spring cleaning can allow you to set up your financial priorities for the remainder of the year and gives you a clear financial conscious heading into the spring and summer months.

Diworsification: How Much Diversification is too Much or Little?

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Diworsification

When I was picking stocks, I saw my portfolio lose 15% of its value in one day.  Simply put, I had too many of my eggs in one basket or too many of my investment dollars in one stock.  I wasn’t diversified.  Sure, I could hit it big with a stock, but I could also lose.  I saw the amount of time I was spending on picking stocks and knew it could be put to better use if I let the professionals handle my money.

My portfolio was under diversified, but many people also suffer from too much diversification of their portfolio or diworsification.  Diworsification occurs when you continually invest in the same asset class and keep your risk low but hurt your overall return potential.  It would be the equivalent of investing in many different mutual funds that only contained U.S. stocks.  If you want exposure to the U.S. domestic stock market that is great, I highly recommend it, but pick a fund that gives you just that and move on.

My investment strategy has come a long way from my earlier days when I was picking and choosing stocks.  I thought just like many that I could pick homerun stocks that nobody else could.  I did well on some and poorly on others.  I would come home every day from work and watch Jim Cramer’s show Mad Money.  I soon realized that the effort I was putting in wasn’t yielding the rewards I desired.  I quickly shifted all my investments to a mutual fund.  Being young, I knew I wanted a large exposure to stocks.  What better stocks to invest in than the U.S. Stock Market?  Warren Buffett has been noted to say that when he passes he wants the remainder of his fortune put into a low-cost index fund that mirrors the S&P 500.  That’s right, just one fund.  If he wanted his fortune to be spread across many funds that mirrored the S&P 500 he would be subject to diworsification.  I decided to follow Warren’s advice.

While my investment dollars are placed into a single low-cost Index fund that mirrors the U.S. Stock Market, not everyone will agree with this position, and that is fine.  Investment advice can be given to you from a hired professional or you can decide on your own.  My knowledge came about through the reading of numerous books.  If you want to invest in South America, there are funds for that.  If you want exposure to corporate bonds, there are funds for that.  If you think that the pharmaceutical sector is the next big thing, then by all means find a fund that suits you for that investment.  There are many ways you can invest your hard-earned money, but try and keep to the One and Done Philosophy when investing in mutual funds to prevent diworsification: Pick one mutual fund that covers the class or sector you are wanting exposure to and leave it at that.  Not only does it simplify your portfolio, but it keeps you diversified and away from diworsification.

Healthy Costco Foods

Last week Costco announced that they were going to be raising their membership fees.  The fee hike was relatively small, only 9%.  Executive members will now pay a $120 a year fee, while Gold Star members will now pay $60 a year.  Despite the minimal increase in a customer’s yearly fee, a shopper can still rake in many savings at the retail giant.  Costco shoppers go to the warehouse to buy items in bulk.  It is great for large families, but I even know of individuals with memberships that see the many benefits of shopping there.  While savings can abound at Costco, buying quality, healthy products can provide a big benefit.  There is a huge health benefit of buying healthy Costco foods that extends far beyond your budget and to one’s longevity.

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Healthy Costco Foods

Buying healthy Costco foods in bulk can help stretch your grocery budget for a given month.  For example, I try to set aside $350 per month to spend on food.  This includes eating out as well as purchases from Costco and other grocery stores.  A family of four might have a monthly food expenditure of around $1000.  The great part about buying food in bulk is that often times you can get a better price than buying the same item individually.  Many who purchase items in bulk at Costco tend to go ahead and plan for long shelf lives for these items.  For example, toilet paper and condiments are a few items where you can experience savings by buying in bulk.  Additionally, these items along with others can be stored in a pantry for many years down the road.  Shopping for lean healthy meats at Costco can provide a huge savings to a family of four as well.  Purchasing healthy Costco foods such as lean chicken breasts in bulk can provide healthy nutrition and savings.  By purchasing many pounds of lean chicken at once, you can slice and divide the breasts to your liking, put them in plastic Ziploc bags, and simply freeze them until a later date.  Even when shopping at grocery stores, one of the tricks I do is purchase items when they are on sale.  One week, chicken might be on sale for $1.99/lb while the next week it is $2.99/lb.  Organizing purchases so you take advantage of them during sales is the best way to optimize your monthly grocery budget.

Costco has a good reputation among shoppers. This is partly because of the quality of their products, but it is also due to their excellent customer service and robust returns policy.  So, if you’re shopping for organic food at Costco, there isn’t a lot of downside – the chances are good they’ll accept the product back if you want to return it.

While I’m raving about Costco they also have good prices on tires and are open on most major holidays, so you can get your car serviced while you’re picking up your groceries.

Buying healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, and buying healthy Costco foods doesn’t have to cost a lot either.  When shopping for groceries, the keys are to buy in bulk when available and to also buy during sale prices for an item.  Finally, by planning your purchases ahead of time by making a list, you can avoid unneeded items.  Eating healthy and sticking to your budget doesn’t have to be hard.

How to Pay Off Student Debt

Nearly three out of every four students graduating from a four-year college or university will have some sort of debt.  Despite the fact that college is supposed to be some of the best years of your life, paying off your student debt after you have graduated can seem like a mountain too big to climb for many.

How to Pay Off Student Debt

According to a recent Forbes article, the average student graduating from college has over $37,000 in student loan debt.  This number is expected to continue increasing due to the constant hikes in college tuition throughout the United States.  Whether you have graduated or are about to graduate from college with debt, there are ways to help you manage the financial burden.




Example 1 on How to Pay Off Student Debt:

Susie went to a four-year state school.  Fortunately, she had academic scholarships to help pay for schooling, and she also lived at home during the four years.  She graduated with $10,000 in student debt.  Susie was able to get a job right after school in the town where she went to school and where her family lived.  She continued to live at home and made a budget.  Susie focused on keeping her expenses low and used every bit of extra money she had left over in her budget to pay towards her loans.  Most importantly though was that she included a category in her budget for paying off her student loans each month.  She devoted $500 per month towards her student loans.  Because of her frugal living and her devotion to get out of debt, she was able to pay off the entire balance of her loans in less than two years!

Example 2 on How to Pay Off Student Debt:

After graduating high school, Chris decided to attend a private university to continue his studies.  The tuition at his university was expensive, but with the help of aid and an alumni scholarship he was able to limit the costs.  Regardless, Chris graduated with $45,000 of student debt after it was all over.  Chris accepted a job with a non-profit after graduation.  Even though he wouldn’t be making much money, he felt a calling to do something he passionately cared about.  Because of his situation, a high amount of student debt and a low salary, he enrolled in an Income Based Repayment Program.  This allowed Chris to avoid the high monthly payments his loans would typically have required him to pay and instead allowed him to pay a small percent of his income every month.  Even with this program, Chris still had to create a budget, but the repayment of his student loans was not as high of a priority as it was for Susie.  Nonetheless, Chris was able to still live comfortably, doing what he loved, while also meeting his student loan obligations.

The examples above illustrate a couple of real-life situations that people face when paying off student debt.  To some, paying off the debt is a very high priority.  To others, not so much.  Only you can decide how quickly you would like to pay off student loans.  The commonality that both Susie and Chris shared in both examples was that they created a budget.  Susie created a budget that allowed her to aggressively pay off her debt.  Chris created a budget that allowed him to live within his means but also meet his payment every month.  Regardless of which category you fall in, creating a budget is a great foundation to tackling any debt, especially student loans.

Should I Invest in Stocks?

The U.S. Stock Market is at an all-time high, and many are wondering how much longer this can be sustained.  People are asking themselves if it is still worth investing in stocks at this high.  The simple answer is: YES!

Below is a chart of the S&P 500, which covers the broad range of the stock market.  The chart below illustrates performance from 1950 until the end of last year.

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Should I Invest in Stocks?

As you can see based on the chart, there are rises and falls, some of which are quite big.  If you look at the chart as a whole, you can ultimately say that U.S. stocks have increased in value over time.  Here are three reasons why one should consider investing in stocks.

Should I Invest in Stocks? Reason 1:

U.S. stocks have outperformed almost every other investible asset over the past 100 years, especially government and corporate bonds.  People often think of bonds as a safer alternative to investing in stocks, but what they really mean by “safer” is less volatile.  Yes, stocks can fluctuate with higher highs and lower lows in a given period of time, but over the long-run they will outperform bonds.

Should I Invest in Stocks?  Reason 2:

Stocks are the easiest and safest way to build wealth.  What I mean by this is that continual investment in stocks will yield higher and higher returns over time if you let your returns compound.  Compounding interest is a great thing when it comes to building wealth and all it takes is two simple steps:

Step 1: Continued investment and reinvestment

Step 2: Time

By continually putting money into your stock investment on a consistent basis and allowing your returns to reinvest, after a period of time you will be able to build a substantial amount of wealth.  And again, since stocks outperform other investments over the long-term, you are compounding a greater percentage each year.

Should I Invest in Stocks?  Reason 3:

Because Warren Buffett says so!  At the time of this post, Buffett’s net worth is estimated to be in excess of $75 billion USD.  It has been said that he is the greatest investor the world has ever seen.  How did Warren and others like him make their great fortunes?  Through investments in stocks.  Warren has constantly invested in companies throughout his time via stock purchases in what he calls “value investments”, which is a simple way to say in companies he believes to be cheap in valuation.  Buffett has gone so far as to say that even upon his passing he would like the remainder of his fortune to be placed in a low-cost index fund that mirrors the S&P 500.  The greatest investor ever believed and still believes in the power of stocks.

Hopefully by now you have been convinced that investing in stocks is the right thing to do, but how do I get started?  Simple, to begin investing in stocks I would recommend investing in a mutual fund that covers a wide range of the U.S. Stock Market as well as knowing more about forex trading online. Investment firms such as Vanguard and Fidelity offer these sorts of funds that will allow you to get exposure to the broad range of the U.S. Stock Market and begin reaping the rewards.

What is the Starting Credit Score?

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Starting Credit Score

Having a credit score can have many benefits.  Wait, having a good or great credit score can have many benefits.  As we go through life, credit becomes an essential tool for an individual to progress through society.  You can use credit to purchase everyday items, a car or a house.  Without credit, some of the essential purchases we rely on to carry us through our lives every day would be unavailable, such as a car for transportation to and from work.  Having a credit score and a good one at that can allow you to get the best deal on large purchases and also helps create a financially responsible person.  But just how does one get a starting credit score, and where do you begin?  I will lay out some of the easiest way to start down the path of a good credit score.

Step 1 to getting a starting credit score:

The first thing you need to do to get a starting credit score is simply to get credit.  The easiest way to do this that I recommend is by opening up a $0 annual fee credit card.  Your monthly limit won’t be all that much, most likely less than $1000.  Commit to making a couple easy purchases on it every month and paying it off at its due date.  For example, a couple tanks of gas or a visit to the grocery store is all it takes to start building your credit.  It is vital to pay off the full amount after a month’s time before the card’s due date

Step 2 to getting a starting credit score:

The second step to building a starting credit score is to continue purchases with your credit card and meet the monthly payment date, along with exploring an additional option of building your score.  If you rent an apartment, sometimes the apartment complex allows you to report your on-time payments to credit agencies.  Additionally, if you have student loans you are paying back, this also will show up on one’s credit report.  Time is a big factor in your credit score.  It usually takes at least six months for you to build your first credit score.  Image result for credit score rangeIf you make on-time payments in full, you can expect a score anywhere in the range of 675 to 740.

Step 3 to getting a starting credit score:

By step 3, you should already have shown a positive pattern to creditors through making payments on a timely manner.  The most important part of this step is just to be patient.  Building a good or great credit score takes time.  Two of the bigger factors that impact your credit score are the length of time you have had credit and the number of accounts you have that required credit.  Chances are as you start building your credit both of these factors won’t be too much in your favor.

In summary, there are many benefits to building a good credit score, but it all boils down to a few simple factors.  Firstly, you need to begin building credit through a $0 annual fee credit card, student loan repayment, etc.  Secondly, you MUST make your full payments and make them ON TIME.  Finally, you need to be patient.  It takes time to build a great credit score, but if you budget correctly and make sure not to spend above your income level then a great score will eventually come.

Saving for a Vacation: Ski Edition

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Saving for a Vacation: Ski Edition

We are currently in the heart of wintertime.  January and February are the coldest months in the United States.  While many people despise cold weather, many can agree that the snow which comes with it can be a nice compliment.  Although summertime seems to be the time when most families vacation, a ski trip during winter allows some families to break the mold.  Saving for a vacation is only half the battle.  While having the available funds to do something enjoyable is important, finding a good deal is also just as important.  I recently planned a ski vacation and will share my six tips on how I saved and budgeted for the vacation.

Saving for a Vacation Tip 1:

If you are like me and enjoy traveling with family and friends, then it is important to have a “Travel” category in your budget.  Setting aside $100 or $200 every month for travel allows the funds to add up and allows you to have a couple enjoyable vacations every year.

Saving for a Vacation Tip 2:

Vacationing for many people means eating out every meal, which can get very expensive.  Packing snacks ahead of time and a quick trip to the grocery store when you arrive can help limit your food costs.

Saving for a Vacation Tip 3:

Plan for transportation ahead of time.  Booking a rental car before you arrive to the airport is often cheaper than waiting until you arrive at the destination to get one.  Kayak.com is a great place to search for the best rental car rates.

Saving for a Vacation Tip 4:

If flying to a destination, use Google Flights to search for the best rates.  Google Flights allows you to search many airlines at once and see the cheapest rates for the best dates.

Saving for a Vacation Tip 5:

When booking a ski vacation, book your lift tickets and ski or snowboard rentals online.  Keystone Resort in Colorado offers online reservations to early bookers for a 20% discount.  Additionally, you can rent your equipment cheaper online ahead of time as well.  By booking my equipment through Christy Sports I was able to save an additional 20% versus the walk-in rate.

Saving for a Vacation Tip 6:

Lodging tends to be one of the more expensive parts of any vacation.  Last year when I traveled to Hawaii, a night at a resort was close to $600 per night; however, a couple friends and myself split a three bedroom Airbnb for less than $150 per night.  Exploring your lodging options can help greatly reduce the cost of any vacation.

As you can see, saving for a vacation is a two-fold strategy.  You first want to make sure you have the available funds.  This is done by creating money in your budget.  Secondly, you want to make sure you find the best deals out there.  I have found that planning for a vacation ahead of time is one of the easiest ways to save on your trip.  Meshing both of these aspects together can help create an enjoyable, budget friendly trip for all.