Why Rich People Stay Rich and Poor People Stay Poor

Why Rich People Stay Rich and Poor People Stay Poor

The American dream has been exported across the globe and passed down from one generation to the next. It is the belief that anyone who works hard enough, stays dedicated to achieving their goals, and has the right mindset can have it all. However, many people continue to work themselves to the bone with little to show for it. Year after year, it seems that rich people stay rich and poor people stay poor. So, what are the keys to success and economic mobility? Is it simply changing the way you think, or is it more complicated than that?

Best-Selling Books Suggest It Is Your Financial Outlook

In an attempt to answer this very question, many best-selling books offer psychological reasons and personal testimony as to why rich people stay rich and poor people stay poor. The common thread through all these publications boils down to your attitude towards money and your outlook on personal prosperity.

Simply stated, rich people think and act differently with their finances. According to several authors, changing the way you view money and realigning your goals according to your new mindset can help you gain wealth. So, what are some of the differences between a rich mindset and a poor one?

1. Rich people control their money instead of letting it control them.

Rather than let things happen to them, rich people identify the behaviors that contribute to their circumstances and take control of them. They take an active role instead of passively watching and accepting things because “that’s the way it is.”

2. Rich people are more willing to risks.

Rich people understand that risk is an inherent part of investing, and sometimes you have to ride out the lows before you see gains. So, rich people are more willing to take risks rather than playing it safe. In other words, when it comes to investing, they play to win rather than playing with the hopes of not losing.

3. Rich people commit to the goal of being rich.

Although most people imagine what it would be like to be rich, those who are wealthy commit to the goal. While some only dream about it, rich people commit and work towards building and maintaining wealth.

4. Rich people think big.

Some people impair themselves by limiting the scope of their thinking. When you move beyond the small mindset and start thinking bigger, new opportunities present themselves.

5. Rich people look at the big picture.

In the same line of thinking, rich people also look at the big picture. They focus on long-term goals instead of the setbacks along the way. Rich people realize they are bigger than any of their problems and have the confidence to overcome them.

Economic Research Shows Increased Income Equality

Although your personal drive and motivation play crucial roles in economic mobility, research suggests the problem is much more complicated than changing the way you think. There are institutional factors that help rich people stay rich and poor people stay poor.

Reduced Employee Benefits

One of the most significant reasons that economic mobility has become more limited is due to the huge reductions in employee benefits. People have a diminished savings capacity since they are now paying for benefits that previous generations enjoyed as a perk of their employment.

Although workers once relied on pensions and retirement benefits in return for company loyalty, expectations are changing. Where workers used to be automatically enrolled in companies’ pension plans, they must now participate and contribute to receive benefits. Unfortunately, the rise of employee-sponsored 401(k) plans has led to unequal participation across income levels. Those who earn less are at a greater disadvantage for several reasons. First, they have less disposable income and may not be able to afford to contribute. Therefore, they receive lower matching contributions, if any, from their employer.

Another drastic change has been in employee-sponsored health insurance plans. While many companies once offered comprehensive plans for medical, dental, and vision, you will be hard-pressed to find comparable benefits packages today. Many employers are now opting for watered-down plans to save money. However, this always means workers are forced to pay more out-of-pocket expenses which undermines their ability to build wealth.

Increased Costs of Living

Speaking of increased expenses, we cannot overlook the government’s failure to keep up with the rate of inflation.  Although the federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009, inflation has increased drastically.

In fact, it has risen by 23.94%. To put this in context, if you had $100 in 2009, you would now need $123.94 to purchase the same items or products. This undermines people’s savings goals and deteriorates their purchasing power. Unless people receive matching wage increases, it will be impossible to keep up with the rising cost of living and cause the wealth gap to widen.

Burdened by Debt

Finally, we cannot overlook how increasing debt is negatively impacting people’s ability to build wealth. In 2021, the U.S. set a new record when we reached $14.6 trillion in household debt. According to CNBC, the average American carries $90,460 of debt. Even if some of this is considered “good debt” that will increase your net worth or generate income over time, it is still a staggering figure.

Whether you are trying to pay down student loans, credit cards, a mortgage, car loans, medical bills, or other personal loans, it is difficult to build wealth or get ahead when you are starting in the negative. If the majority of your income goes towards your debt, that leaves very little for other financial pursuits.

Find Ways to Facilitate Economic Mobility

Despite all the outside factors affecting wealth, the environment you are raised in has the greatest impact. The family and social class you are born into determine how easy it will be for you to become rich. If you are born into a wealthy family, you already have a huge advantage. Not only do you have greater access to education and opportunities, but you also have more security with the passing of generational wealth.

However, if you were not fortunate to have these advantages in life, you must create opportunities for yourself. Even if the system is stacked against you, adopting a rich mindset can help you rise above it and achieve your financial goals.

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Healthy Costco Foods on a Budget

healthy costco food

Many people questioned renewing their Costco membership when they announced that they were raising their membership fees.  Although it was only a 9% hike, Executive members now pay $120 a year, while Gold Star members pay $60 a year.  Despite the minimal increase in the annual fee,  Costco shoppers reap huge savings when they buy items in bulk.  It is great for large families and those looking to stretch their grocery budget.  While the savings are attractive, quality produce and products provide another significant benefit. Healthy Costco foods are good for both your well-being and your wallet.

Buying Costco Foods in Bulk

Getting  healthy Costco foods in bulk can help stretch your grocery budget when things get tight.  For example, I usually set aside $350 per month to spend on food.  This includes eating out in addition to weekly groceries from Costco and other supermarkets.  A family of four will likely have a monthly food budget closer to $1000.  The great part about buying food in bulk is that you get a better price than when you buy the same item individually.

Products with Long Shelf Lives

Many who purchase items in bulk from Costco stock up on paper products and food items with a long shelf life.  For example, paper products, dry goods, and condiments are a few items where you can receive huge savings by buying in bulk.  Even if you don’t use these items right away, they can always be used down the road when you need them.

Healthy Foods that Can Be Stored

Shopping for lean healthy meats at Costco can provide huge savings to a family of four as well.  Purchasing healthy Costco foods such as lean chicken breasts, ground beef, beans, and brown rice in bulk can provide healthy nutrition and savings.

Purchasing many pounds of meat at once can net you huge savings. Although they come in large packages, you can divide the meat into smaller 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’s Reputation with Its Customers

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 aren’t many downsides. Even if you come across a bad apple, chances are good they’ll accept returns.

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 stock up during sales.  Finally, by planning your purchases ahead of time with a list, you can avoid unneeded items.  Eating healthy and sticking to your budget doesn’t have to be hard.

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10 Things You Shouldn’t Pay For

10 Things You Shouldn't Pay For

We are all guilty of spending money on things we don’t need. Although sometimes it is worthwhile to pay for the convenience, there are some things you shouldn’t pay for. Here are ten items that are costing you extra money.

10 Things You Shouldn’t Pay For

1. Water

Bottled water is one of the biggest wastes of money people have bought into. Each year Americans spend an estimated $100 billion on bottled water. Not only does it produce tons of waste and pollute the environment, but several quality tests show that it is just as safe as the tap water from your sink. America has some of the cleanest potable water in the world. So, save yourself a ton of cash and use a refillable water bottle instead.

2. Books

Books are another item you shouldn’t pay for. New books cost anywhere from $10 to $20 depending on whether you get the paperback or hard cover copy. Instead of buying new ones, I browse these free online resources or visit my library when I’m looking for new reading material. Some of my favorite novels have come to me from book exchanges with friends as well. There are endless ways to access free books. So, unless it’s a must-have in your library, you don’t need to spend extra money to find good books.

3. Mobile Apps

At one time or another, most of us have paid for downloadable apps. Most of my paid apps only cost a few bucks a month. However, once I found the free alternatives, I canceled this unnecessary expense. By avoiding these microtransactions, particularly in-game purchases, I saved money every month. It can be hard to resist spending a dollar or two here and there. But, simply remove your credit card information to also remove the temptation.

4. Cable TV

Cable TV is no longer considered a necessary expense. In fact, many would say it is becoming more obsolete as we get more online streaming options. Services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and YouTube have largely replaced cable TV. With bundled services and customized packages, you only pay for the shows you want to watch. So, you shouldn’t pay extra when you have better and cheaper options available.

5. Late Fees

Late fees are another expense you can completely avoid. With the ability to automate payments and set reminders, there is no reason you should incur late fees if you have the funds. You can schedule and manage alerts from your credit card, bank accounts, and monthly bills right from your phone. However, if you do overlook a payment and receive a late fee, most companies will waive the fee as a courtesy if it is only a one-time mistake. However, if you have a history of late payments or cannot pay the full amount, call the company and arrange a payment plan to avoid additional fees in the future.

6. Banking Fees

You shouldn’t have to pay to access your money. Therefore, banking fees are among the things you shouldn’t pay for. If your bank charges high ATM, maintenance, or overdraft fees, you may want to consider changing banks. However, you can easily avoid these pesky fees by using your bank’s ATMs and setting alerts on your accounts to notify you when balances are low. Mobile apps like Mint can also help keep track of your finances and offer free ways to help you better manage your money.

7. Credit Reports

Although you likely have seen several advertisements for paid services, you should never pay for your credit report. Simply go online and request your free ones at creditreport.com or ask your bank for your FICO score. There is no need to spend money on something that the law entitles you to. Every citizen can receive a free copy of their credit report from all three reporting bureaus every year. I prefer to stagger my requests to receive one every four months to better monitor my personal finances. Regular checks ensure that my information is safe and that there is no fraudulent activity with my accounts.

8. Newspapers and Magazines

With news available through TV, radio, satellite, and online, there is no need to spend money on newspapers or magazines. You’re also more likely to receive up-to-the-minute information through these sources since print media can’t keep up with breaking news. However, if you still want to find copies of your favorite periodicals, visit your local library or digital copies online.

9. Extended Warranties

Whenever you make a large purchase, the salesman will always offer to sell you an extended warranty from the manufacturer. Although you might be tempted to buy in, remember these companies only exist to generate profit. They exist to bring in more than they pay out. Furthermore, the extended warranty usually provides poor coverage that reduces payouts through the fine print. And, you will still have to pay deductibles as well. Unless there are higher probabilities of your purchases needing repairs, extended warranties are usually just another waste of money.

10. Car Leases

If you want to drive a new vehicle but can’t afford the price tag, car leases can be very attractive. It may seem like a good deal if they offer low monthly payments, but it will actually cost you more in the long run. Unless you decide to buy it once the lease is up, you must return the car with no benefits of ownership. Moreover, dealerships limit your annual mileage and ability to customize your car. However, you will still be on the hook for any damage and repairs to the vehicle. Leasing a car gives you all the responsibility of owning a vehicle with none of the benefits.

Tracking your finances is crucial to your long-term goals. So, it is important to review your spending on a regular basis and adjust your budget. So, if you are looking for ways to save money, cutting out these unnecessary expenses could save you significant chunk of change each month.

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American Billionaires’ Net Worth Since the Pandemic

American Billionaires Richer After the Pandemic

The coronavirus has had rippling economic impacts around the world. While many businesses have seen significant losses or had to close their doors, the pandemic hasn’t been bad for everyone’s finances. In fact, many American billionaires have increased their net worth since the pandemic.

Billionaires Net Worth Pre- and Post-Pandemic

If you follow Forbes’ annual list of the World’s Billionaires, you may notice this year has been one unlike any other. While many Americans are struggling to stay afloat, many of the elite have seen serious gains in their net worth. In fact, their ranks have swelled like never before. The list of billionaires added an additional 493 names, bringing the total number to 2,755 worldwide. Of these, the United States is home to 724, which is more than any other country in the world.

In total, their fortunes amass to an astounding $13.1 trillion, up from $8 billion the previous year. Approximately 86% on the billionaires list have increased their net worth since the pandemic. Looking specifically at the ultra-wealthy in America, they reported a cumulative total of $4.6 trillion. This is a 35% since the beginning of this year, and a total increase of $1.2 trillion since the pandemic broke.

Hundreds of New Billionaires since the Pandemic

This year has seen more people join the billionaire’s club than ever before. An additional 660 names were added to the list. While some of these were people who had previously made the cut, 493 were new members.

So, the burning question is how did so many people increase their net worth? There are actually a few factors as work here. Some have earned their fortunes from riding the SPAC wave while others joined the list due to the surge in the value of cryptocurrency. However, at least 40 of the newly minted billionaires owe their riches to COVID-19. Some got wealthy from holdings in pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccine and conducting trials while others were involved in producing other related products.

However, a key driving force that increased billionaires’ net worth during the pandemic was monetary policies. Governments enacted these policies at the beginning of the pandemic to stabilize the market. But, when the Federal Reserve confirmed low rates and liquidity, it spurred a huge rise in the stock market. The assurance of government intervention to counteract the market’s volatility and recent shifts in e-commerce gave specific sectors a huge advantage. The tailwind of digital commerce paved the way for the ultra-wealthy to make millions, or even billions in some cases.

The Pandemic and Forbes’ List of Billionaires

Unfortunately, not everyone on Forbes’ list of billionaires fared so well. The energy sector has been slow to rebound. So, oil barons Harold Hamm and George Kaiser have lost wealth since the beginning of this year. Real estate moguls are also facing huge losses as the demand for commercial retail space dwindles. Some of America’s elite could experience even greater losses if Congress approves President Biden’s proposed tax increases on the ultrawealthy.

America’s Biggest Billionaire Winners 

Now, let’s take a look at who has benefited most from the pandemic. In terms of dollars, these five billionaires net worth have increased the most since the pandemic broke in January of 2020.

1. Elon Musk

Although he currently ranks third on Forbes’ list of billionaires, Elon Musk spent a brief moment this year as the world’s richest person. He also claims the top spot as America’s biggest gainer during the pandemic. As CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk has increased his net worth by a jaw-dropping 540%. In January 2020, his reported net worth was $27 billion. However, post-pandemic he is now worth $169.4 billion. The majority of these gains are the result of the increase in Tesla’s stock and people’s enthusiasm for electric vehicles.

2. Jeff Bezos

With more people shopping from home, Amazon has made Jeff Bezos the wealthiest man in the world. Fueled by recent e-commerce trends, Amazon shared have skyrocketed nearly 87% in the last year and a half. Thanks to his 11% stake in the company, Bezos became the first person ever to surpass a net worth of $200 billion. Even with adjustments for inflation and the most expensive divorce in history, Bezos’ fortune is the greatest amount ever tracked. Since the start of 2020, he has added $86 billion to his net worth. As of the publishing of this article, his current net worth is slightly lower than his record-breaking benchmark with $199.6 billion.

3 and 4. Larry Page and Sergey Brin

The cofounders of Google have also enjoyed a profitable year. Alongside other tech billionaires, Larry Page and Sergey Brin have seen huge increases in their net worth since the beginning of the pandemic. They have each added more than $40 billion to their fortunes, making them both centibillionaires. Page’s current net worth stands at $106.2 billion while Brin weighs in with an impressive $102.8 billion.

5. Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert first made his fortune when he co-founded Quicken Loans at 22 years old. He then added to his wealth when he also cofounded Rock Ventures. His company reached the height of success when banks began offering mortgage applications by phone. He added to his wealth by taking advantage of the economic downturn in 2008 when the banking sector collapsed. Even today, his company continues to perform well in the face of crisis. Many people are taking out new mortgages after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to help Americans weather the economic storm since COVID-19. Since it enacted these policies, Gilbert has gained roughly $40 billion. His current net worth is $42.3 billion.

The Road Ahead for America’s Billionaires

Although no one can say with any certainty what the future holds, there is a good chance that America’s billionaires will continue to increase their net worth as the pandemic ensues. However, proposed tax increases could severely impact their fortunes should they get approval from Congress. All anyone can do at this point is watch, wait, and seek advice from their financial advisors to protect their assets.

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Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2021

The Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2021

When it comes to investment strategies, there is no single prescribed way to maximize your returns. While most investors choose to put their money into stocks, bonds, or real estate, they are not the only options out there. Some people seek out more unconventional assets such as collectibles. Although many of us are still holding on to childhood memorabilia in the hopes that someday it may be worth a fortune, chances are slim that you will see five figure returns. However, some of these may net you better returns than traditional portfolio assets. Here are some of the oddest collectibles to invest in 2021.

The Best Collectibles to Invest in 2021

1. Stamps

As the king of all hobbies, most people know that rare stamps are worth a small fortune. With a quick Google search, you will find dozens of news stories of stamps that sold for millions of dollars. Although experts estimate that only 1% of stamps worldwide will appreciate over time, it is one of the safer options on the list of oddest collectibles to invest in 2021.

If you are lucky enough to have one of these in your collection, it could earn a yield between 5% and 20%. However, they also advise that you will need to hold these assets for up to 15 years before you see significant returns.

2. Coins

Collecting coins is a popular pastime than has huge rewards to the most persistent collectors. In fact, rare coins can bring in thousands or even millions of dollars at auction. While your wheat pennies will only sell for a few bucks, coins made from precious metals or featuring mistakes are the most valuable ones. Unfortunately, investing in coins doesn’t earn you any dividends. Therefore, the value depends entirely upon how much someone is willing to pay.

However, gold coins provide a more tangible return for investors. Even after nearly 600% growth in the last two decades, gold prices continue to rise. So, even if these coins hold no value among coin collectors, they will always be worth their weight in gold.

3. Comic Books

In recent years, Hollywood has brought our favorite childhood superheroes back to life. But, it has also made many super-fans rich. With the recent surge in popularity, original comics in mint condition now fetch top dollar at auctions. For example, a 1938 comic featuring Superman’s first appearance sold for over $2.1 million.

If your comic books have been well-loved and show their age, they won’t be worth nearly this much. However, it is possible to find rare issues at conventions which you can sell or trade for a profit. Comic-Con events are a great place to build your comic book collection as well as find some of the oddest collectibles to invest in 2021.

4. Trading Cards

While this is a broad category, trading cards are a solid choice if you want to invest in collectibles. The most attractive thing about trading cards is that you can personalize it to your own passions or interests. Whether you are into baseball, Pokémon, Yugioh, or Magic the Gathering, rare cards are worth millions.

If you had any trading cards as a child, dust off your collection and check their value. Even if you don’t have a Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card, your trading cards could still be worth money.

5. Toys

Vintage toys are another good option for collectors. As with comics, vintage toys from the 80s and 90s have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. If you held onto your favorite toys after the various toy crazes subsided, they could fetch a good price, given they are in good condition. Action figures, Beanie Babies, Lego’s, Barbie dolls, and Hot Wheels are all hot-ticket items right now.

When you are ransacking your home for valuable collectibles, look for items still in the original packaging. However, if you don’t have any toys from your own childhood, you can always begin a new collection.

The Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2021

Now that we’ve covered the most common and valuable ones, here are some of the oddest trends and collectibles that people are investing in.

1. Sneakers

Any vintage item in good condition will generally bring a good price. However, sneakers are quickly becoming one of the most valuable vintage items on the market. There is a huge demand for first and limited-edition sneakers. In particular, Nike and Adidas sneakers in mint condition regularly sell for thousands of dollars on eBay.

A recent article from the Huffington Post uncovered that vintage sneakers provided better returns than gold. However, be warned that prices and demand are unpredictable. So, it’s a bit of a gamble knowing which shoes to invest in.

2. Electronics

It’s not surprising to learn that vintage electronics fetch high prices at auction. Original Apple products and first-generation devices not only make great conversation pieces, but also sell for millions online.

While you probably don’t have an original Macintosh computer lying around, early generation iPods, Alexas, and Nintendo DS gaming systems are likely to appreciate in value over time. Since most of this technology is still relevant, early editions are relatively easy to find. So, if you have any vintage electronics still in the box, it would be worth your while to hold on to them to see if they increase in value over the next few years.

3. Anthropomorphic Taxidermy

This is by far the oddest collectible to make the list. For those who don’t know what it is, anthropomorphic taxidermy is the art of preserving dead animals and displaying them in human situations. For example, specimens are usually dressed in human clothing or posed into human roles and settings. Although it may seem odd to many people, this type of art is extremely valuable to the right collector.

Investing in Collectibles

If you are looking to invest in less traditional assets, collectibles are a fun and interesting way to diversify your portfolio. However, it always includes greater risk than more traditional options like stocks and bonds. While there are no guarantees that your collectibles will bring high returns, patience is a virtue. Although most collectibles won’t earn a fortune in your lifetime, you never know…your favorite collectibles could bring you more than enjoyment in the years to come.

 

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Does the Current Minimum Wage Perpetuate Poverty?

When discussing current events, one of the most heated topics revolves around raising the minimum wage. While many family members and friends feel that it’s unreasonable to pay unskilled laborers $15 an hour, it is also unreasonable to expect anyone to support themselves on $7.25 an hour.

All the statistical data shows that the current minimum income thresholds do not provide livable wages. Sadly, it has not been able to sustain a family’s cost of living since the 1960s. The American Dream has become a nightmare for the working poor who are struggling to survive.

Why We Need to Raise Minimum Wage

(Photo by Andy Kiersz/Business Insider)

What COVID-19 Taught Us about Minimum Wage Workers

When the pandemic first began, COVID-19 brought the world to its knees. Economic activities worldwide came to a screeching halt as people stayed home to stay safe. Factories shut down production, international trade ceased, and people stopped going to work. However, government officials and community leaders demanded a return to business as usual to avoid a global recession.

It was during this time that we finally viewed low wage laborers as “essential workers.” Our national conscience suddenly awakened. We finally realized how much we depend on the people who serve and deliver our food, stock our shelves, care for our children and elderly, clean our buildings, and take away our garbage.

However, it seems deeply hypocritical that we expect low wage workers to risk their lives, yet are still unwilling to provide a sustainable salary. The current minimum wage falls far short of covering a family’s daily expenses for basic necessities.

And, since most employers only offer watered-down health benefits to its workers, and often none at all to part-time employees, many couldn’t afford to risk their health. The medical expenses alone are enough to set someone deep in debt for years to come.

While these jobs are essential to our country’s daily operations, what incentive is there to return? Why should anyone risk their life for a job that can’t even pay their bills?

Current Minimum Wage Limits

It is important to note that the federal and state governments can set different limits. The Fair Labor Standards Acts puts federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, but minimum wage also varies by state.

A quick scroll across the interactive map will show you that many states already have higher minimum wages than the federal government.  Currently, 29 states have their minimum threshold set higher than the federal standard. An additional 16 states have at least matched it. Furthermore, 25 states have voted for additional raises in 2021 rather than waiting for Congress to take charge.

The strongest argument for raising the federal minimum wage is that it is long overdue. In fact, it has not changed since 2009. However, inflation certainly has changed. A lot. Although wages remain the same, the rate of inflation has increased by an astounding 23.94%. The spending power of $100 in 2009 is now equivalent to $123.94. If corporate America and the federal government want to keep people out of poverty, then they need to pay wages that keep up with the annual rate of inflation.

Raising Minimum Wage Lifts People Out of Poverty

Maintaining the Status Quo Perpetuates Poverty

By continuing to maintain the status quo, we are keeping people in poverty. Although many families already live paycheck to paycheck, long absences from work and periods of unemployment due to COVID-19 have pushed people over the poverty line. And as anyone who has been in debt will tell you, it is hard to get ahead once you have fallen behind with your bills.

When you are unable even to meet the lowest standards for the cost of living, social mobility becomes an impossibility. Every extra cent goes towards survival. When you can barely afford to put food on the table or a car to get to work, it becomes impossible to raise yourself out of poverty. It is an endless cycle of strife and struggle.

Important factors for socioeconomic change such as education, savings, and investments aren’t even an option if you can’t afford to keep a roof over your head. Most minimum wage workers are fighting to stay afloat, yet find their finances sunk when faced with an unexpected emergency expense.

As inflation increases and wages remain stagnant, social mobility becomes even more difficult. The wealth gap dividing the rich and the poor grows even wider. By raising the minimum wage, the federal government can help bridge that gap and raise people out of poverty.

The Immediate Benefits of Raising the Minimum Wage

Even the federal government acknowledges that raising the current minimum wage would benefit millions of workers. The Congressional Budget Office conducted a study and determined that raising the minimum wage to $15 ($600 a week) would lift an estimated 900,000 people above the poverty line. Overall, more than 40 million workers – a quarter of America’s workforce – would receive higher wages.

The most immediate and impactful benefit would be giving people more security. With so many Americans facing food insecurities, evictions, and mounting debt, raising the standard would allow some much needed breathing room. The stimulus checks helped Americans get through difficult financial times. But, they hardly scratched the surface for those forced to live on minimum wage.

The Long-Term Benefits of Increasing Minimum Wage

The long-term benefits are even more powerful than the immediate relief it would provide. Raising the federal limit would actually fuel economic growth. When you put money in the hands of people who will use it, you are putting it directly back into the economy. It boosts the purchasing power of those in the lowest tax brackets which causes a ripple effect through the entire economy.

Additionally, it empowers people by giving them more options. It also reduces people’s dependency on federal programs. When you earn a livable wage, there is no need to seek government subsidies since you can afford basic necessities such as food and health care.

Lastly, it puts greater pressure on corporations to properly compensate their employees. It removes the burden from taxpayers to subsidize these multi-billion dollar corporations and forces them to take care of their employees.

Any way you look at it, there is a critical imbalance. We need to start prioritizing those hardworking Americans that keep our economy running. The first step is to pay them fair wages to ensure they can take care of their families. We need to recognize the value of these jobs and respect the dignity of those performing them by properly paying people for their time.

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Is It Worth Subscribing to Food Boxes?

Is It Worth Subscribing to Food Boxes?

Personally, I love cooking. But, it does take a lot of thought, planning, and prep work. After working long hours, the last thing I want to do is more work. I have little desire to cook, let alone think of recipes, so I usually resort to something easy. This usually consists of fast food, takeout, or some other highly-processed prepackaged item with little nutritional value. Recently, a friend of mine was raving about the healthy meals she got from her new meal kit service. To be honest, I balked when she told me how much she paid. However, after looking at my meals the past week I have been asking myself, is it worth subscribing to food boxes?

What You Get When Subscribing to Food Boxes?

Food boxes are becoming popular because they cater to people just like me. I really try to be health-conscious. But, shopping takes time and there are already too few hours in the day. Once COVID-19 spread, I developed even worse eating habits and had less motivation to get to the grocery store.

So, I began looking at the options and seriously considering subscribing to food boxes. The more I read, the more appealing the idea has become. Each week, you receive deliveries of fresh ingredients right to your door step. With various recipes and protein options, you can customize your food boxes to fit your palette and dietary needs.

The entire process seems too easy. Once you set your preferences for frequency, portion sizes, and recipes, the company delivers your ingredients as scheduled. The food box arrives in a cooler-style package with all the meat, produce, grains and unique spices to prepare the meal. However, reviewers noted that they typically exclude condiments like salt and pepper which you would expect to find in your average kitchen.

Each package also includes the recipe and step-by-step instructions to prepare the meals. After looking at the recipes my friend received, they were so simple to follow that even someone who has never cooked before would be able to make a gourmet meal.

What Are the Benefits of Meal Kits?

The first and most obvious benefit of subscribing to a meal kit service is the convenience factor. Not only do they select the recipes for you, but then they deliver it right to your front door. This means you spend no time waiting in line at the grocery store or scouring the internet for new recipes. It also removes the stress of planning and prepping from your shoulders. In fact, it requires no thoughts or decisions on your part whatsoever. All the work is done for you, and then is delivered directly to you in a tidy little package.

Then, of course, there are the health benefits. The meals they provide have much more nutritional value than the fast food diet I have been surviving on. The meal kit service would ensure that I eat better on a regular basis and reduce my dependency on takeout meals. Not only would it help me to maintain a healthier lifestyle, but food boxes also offer more enjoyable healthy food choices. Since you can customize your meal plan to your specific tastes and dietary needs, chances are that I would stick with it longer than other fad diets or stricter food regimens.

Lastly, subscribing to food boxes introduces you to new recipes. When I am able to find time to cook, I usually return to the same recipes again and again. Having the recipe and ingredients chosen for you could help get you out of your creative cooking rut. In addition to experimenting with new recipes, they may also include ingredients you don’t typically use. Ordering from a meal kit service could expand your horizons and teach you new ways to use ingredients you love.

What Is the Cost of Subscribing to Food Boxes?

The cost of these services is the biggest hang up for most people. If you break down the price of prepared meals versus what you pay if you bought food yourself, you will see exactly how much you are paying for convenience.

The average male aged 19-50 spends approximately $86.80 a week for groceries while females in the same age group spend $76.70. In comparison, most food box subscriptions average about $10 per person, per meal. If you do the math for one meal a day for a single person, it would cost $70 a week. That equates to about $300 a month and $3,650 annually. Furthermore, you would still need to buy groceries to supplement two more meals per day.

If you decide to subscribe to a meal kit service, the cost is comparable to dining out. However, expect additional costs if you have dietary restrictions or want to try specialty items. While the cost is manageable for smaller households, it gets expensive the more people you add. So, it may be affordable for a single or two person household, but not for larger families.

Is it Worth It?

So, here is the million dollar question: Is it worth the money? While many subscribers whole-heartedly say yes, it depends on how much you value convenience. Subscribing to food boxes saves you the time and hassle of planning and preparing elaborate meals, but comes at a steep cost. And don’t forget, you still have to cook the food yourself.

The sad truth is that you will always pay more for quality ingredients. And, portion sizes tend to be smaller, so there will be fewer leftovers than if you shopped for yourself.

However, if you are considering a subscription, why not do a trial offer? Many services offer huge discounts for the first month as well. That way, you could sign up for the cheapest package and try it out before making a commitment. And, even if you decide to cancel, you can still keep the recipes and recreate them later. That way, you can decide for yourself whether it is worth it.

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What to Do When the IRS Rejects Your Payment

What to Do When the IRS Rejects Your Payment

I can only speak for myself, but when given the choice of dental surgery or filing taxes, I would probably opt for the former. Every year when the tax filing deadline approaches, I fill with a sense of dread. Even when I receive a refund, I still hate doing the paperwork. However, this year a friend of mine had even more reason for her feelings of loathing towards the IRS. While she did her due diligence, she received notification that she owed money. She was about to find out what happens when the IRS rejects your tax payment.

The IRS Rejection Letter

This week, a friend of mine came across an unusual tax problem. Like a good citizen, she filed her taxes before the deadline (however, in the eleventh hour). Using Turbo Tax, she e-filed her return and indicated that she wanted to make a payment electronically. But, she only received confirmation that her return had been accepted, not that the payment had been taken.

Understanding that it takes time for the IRS to process these things, she waited for the money to be withdrawn from her account. Two weeks later, the money remained there untouched. Wondering if something went wrong, a slight panic was beginning to set in. Finally, she received notice from the IRS telling her they could not locate her account. Although she had used the same account for previous payments, the IRS could not accept her tax payment.

Tracking Down the IRS Rejection

The fact that the IRS rejected her payment was the most puzzling thing. The account had sufficient funds and had been used for other purchases just that week. So, there should have been no issues making a tax payment. However, the letter informed my friend of her failure to pay, listing “No Account/Unable to Locate Account” as the reason. This seemed vague and unclear, so we called the helpline at the number they provided to figure out what went wrong.

We didn’t have to wait long to speak with an agent who cheerfully identified herself and answered all our questions. She sounded as if she had encountered this problem before and helped shed some light on the situation. Apparently, a number or character from the e-file forms didn’t match the information on the account exactly. When it is unable to verify personal information through the automated system, the IRS rejects your tax payment.

How to Pay the IRS after It Rejects Your Payment

One positive thing I can say about the IRS is that they make it very easy for you to pay them. They provide several ways to contact them online, by phone, or by mail. The letters from the state and federal government informing my friend of failure to pay also came with detailed instructions. Each one outlined where to make payments, step-by-step.

Making Payments Online

There are two separate websites where you can pay your outstanding debt to the IRS. The first is directly through their website at irs.gov/payments. From there you can choose to pay with debit, credit, or direct pay from your bank account. However, be warned that you must pay a convenience fee for both credit and debit payments. There are no fees for the direct pay option, but you will need your account and routing number to complete the transaction.

The second option is through the Treasury Department’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) site. Once you have enrolled and received confirmation, you can pay all taxes due using this system. They will also verify accounts or update the bank information for the account you want to use. Enrollment is free, and you can terminate it after you finish using it.

Making Payments by phone

The next option you have when the IRS rejects your payment is by phone. Although the information wasn’t included with the federal notification, the state revenue service provided a dedicated line for Taxpayer’s Assistance at (800) 742-7474. I followed the automated prompts which directed me to the specified lines to pay federal income, state income, and property taxes. As with online payments, credit and debit payments will require a convenience fee. However, in just a few minutes you can get your taxes paid and be free of the burden.

Mailing Payments

The last option is best for those who prefer the tried-and-true methods of paying your taxes. You can send a check or money order addressed to ‘United States Treasury’ to the following address:

Internal Revenue Service

PO Box 1211

Charlotte, NC 28201-1211

If you decide to mail your payment, be sure to include your tax ID (either your Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number), the tax form number, and the time period your payment is for.

Further Assistance When the IRS Rejects Your Payment

There is no shortage in the ways available to pay your taxes. Not only is it secure, but also fairly efficient. That is if all you need to do is make a payment. If you are seeking a refund or need to speak with an agent, you will need to call e-file Payment Services at 1-888-353-4537 to make payment plans or discuss specific problems. I didn’t have to wait long to speak to a representative. However, it was only a general helpline. So, the agent gave me yet another number to call.

To resolve the problem of the undeserved returned payment fee, my friend will have to dispute the charge. Although you might not think it worth your time to dispute a $20, you can pursue it on principle. If you choose to go this route, there is a dedicated line for IRS Customer Support at (800) 829-1040. If you call between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. you can submit your claim and attempt to refund the penalty fees.

Even though technology has made filing taxes much simpler and less daunting, it still makes mistakes. However, if you encounter a similar situation, you can rest assured that the IRS has people on hand to help you pay your taxes.

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Is Investing in Premium Domains Worth It?

Is It Worth Investing in Premium Domains?

Choosing a company name and the domain are important decisions, especially when you are launching an online business or e-commerce site. It is the first impression you make. If you are having difficulty finding a standard domain that fits your brand, then you might consider buying a premium domain name. However, some of them will cost you a king’s ransom. So you have to ask yourself, is it worth investing in premium domains?

What Are Premium Domains?

Premium domains are higher-value, more desirable domains with more branding potential. These domains are more likely to become popular, so they come at a higher price. While some of them are expensive, they are also more memorable and easier to find through search engines.

When it comes to premium domains, there are two different types. Aftermarket Premium Domains are ones which people already own that are for sale. Registry Premium Domains are ones which the registrar has determined to be more valuable. However, they are not yet registered to a company or an individual.

A domain can receive a ‘premium’ designation for many reasons. However, these are the most common attributes that help determine if it is a premium domain.

Length

Short names are easier to remember and more appealing to a wider public. In fact, the shorter the name, the better. Two-letter and three-letter names are almost always premium domains since they can be used for abbreviations.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The right domain name should draw higher volumes of internet traffic. If the domain contains a popular keyword or phrase that people frequently search, it makes the domain much more valuable. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find names that contain them. So, people are willing to pay more money for a premium domain that brings more people to their site.

Brandability

While this factor is more subjective, a domain’s branding and marketing potential also affect its value. Catchy and unique domains make for more effective branding campaigns. A brief and descriptive domain tells visitors or customers exactly who you are and what you provide. Therefore, it would make sense that domains with more brandability go for a higher price.

Desirability

Ultimately, a domain’s value is whatever people are willing to pay for it. Names that you would think nothing of could cause a bidding war. New companies and products are willing to pay top dollar for premium domains if it fit the image they want to portray.

When Are They Beneficial to You?

When deciding between a standard and premium domain, the primary question is how will it benefit you? If you are able to find a low-cost domain that fits your needs, then it probably doesn’t make sense to pay exorbitant rates for a premium domain. However, if a premium domain serves a specific purpose or meets an important business need, it may be beneficial to buy one.

Premium domains do offer certain advantages. First of all, investing in premium domains means you usually get a name that will be easier for people to remember. This is crucial when launching a new site or online business since you can build your brand around the domain.

Then, there are the technical advantages they bring. As a general rule, premium domains also have higher SEO rankings. When you have existing domain authority, as many premium domains do, it enhances your ranking in search engines. Your site will appear in the first few pages instead of being buried in the search results. This helps potential customers find you more quickly.

Although there are several benefits to owning a premium domain, only you can ultimately decide if it is worth the investment.

Is Investing in Premium Domains Worth It for You?

This sticking point for most people is that premium domains come at a higher price. Standard domains run between $10 and $30 while premium domains could cost you hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. It is a very personal decision, and warrants careful consideration. If you are looking at purchasing a premium domain, here a few questions to ask yourself before you make the plunge.

1. Is it in the budget?

Ask yourself, can you really afford the price tag on a premium domain? If the majority of your budget is going towards the domain, you should reconsider. You don’t want to go bankrupt before you even get off the ground.

2. Are there alternative names or other workable options?

Although a premium domain name is your first choice, is it the only choice? Try not to get hung up on more expensive options simply because it is a premium domain. If there is something more suitable or appropriate available, choose the cheaper option. Having some flexibility could save you a ton of money.

3. Do you have plans for monetization?

If you have plans to monetize, it might justify the cost of a premium domain. The site could pay for itself. Finding ways to earn money and attract more internet traffic could offset the expense.

4. Do you need to draw traffic?

Finally, how important is traffic to the success of your site? If you need a high-traffic site, a premium domain could help you reach those goals.

Where Can You Buy Premium Domains?

If you decide to invest in a premium domain, there are several ways to purchase them. You can buy them directly through domain registrars if no one owns them.

However, you can contact the owner directly to purchase a specific domain. If you aren’t sure who owns the one you want, you can look it up here to find the current owner. There are also dedicated marketplaces like DomainAgents and Afternic where you can buy them at set price points or make an offer.

Remember that online purchases always come with a risk. You have to trust that they will fulfill the sale and transfer ownership once payment is received. Marketplaces reduce the risk by using an open forum. And, of course, be wary of investing in premium domains that aren’t worth the price. Take time to evaluate your decision before investing in something you may not need.

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The Best Retirement Accounts to Start Saving

The Best Retirement Accounts to Get Started

Like so many other people, I was not concerned about saving for retirement in my 20s. I was already struggling to pay bills and avoid crushing student loans. Planning for retirement was the least of my concerns. Now that I am in my 30s and settling into my career, I am kicking myself for not starting sooner. However, it is never too late to begin. If you are late to the game, here are some of the best retirement accounts to help you start saving for the future.

The 5 Best Retirement Accounts for Beginners

If you don’t know where or how to begin saving for the future, it is always wise to seek professional advice. When I sat down with my financial advisor, he clearly explained the different investment vehicles available to me. After reviewing loads of information, these five types of retirement accounts seemed to be the best place to get started!

1. Employer Matching 401(k)

The easiest place to begin saving for retirement is through your current employer. Many companies offer employer matching 401(k) retirement plans for their employees. These are retirement savings plan to which your employer also makes annual contributions.

How much you earn depends on the amount you contribute and your employer’s matching program. Some companies match a percentage of your contribution, up to a set portion of your salary. The best plans match up to 100%. However, employers typically choose partial matching scheme. In other instances, the employer’s contribution is based on a pre-determined dollar amount, regardless of the employee’s earning.

While the level of benefits varies, you should always take advantage of employer matching 401(k)s. If you don’t utilize these accounts, then you are missing out on free money.

2. Solo 401(k)

Also referred to as one-participant-k, a Solo 401(k) is great for people who own their own business. Since self-employed individuals do not have access to employer sponsored retirement plans, it provides a great alternative savings vehicle.

To qualify for this type of retirement account, you have to be self-employed and the only employee. The rules state you can’t contribute to these accounts if you maintain any other full-time employees.

However, since you are both the employee and employer, a greater amount of your savings is tax-deferred. Furthermore, you can contribute more to a Solo 401(k) than other types of accounts such as SEPs and Simple IRAs. When options are limited, this is one of the best retirement accounts to get you closer to your retirement goals.

3. Traditional IRA

Traditional IRAs are retirement accounts that offer several tax advantages. Since you put in pre-tax dollars, your contributions are not considered taxable income. Any money you park in these accounts also continues to grow tax-free until you begin taking withdrawals.

These accounts give you incredible flexibility in how much and what kind of investments you can purchase. However, it does require you to manage your own retirement accounts and determine how you invest your money.

4. Roth IRA

When I asked which accounts best suited for my personal goals, my financial advised that I begin by setting up a Roth IRA. It is another retirement account that provides significant tax benefits and more flexibility in your retirement planning.

Since contributions come from after-tax dollars, you pay no taxes on your contributions or earnings once you begin taking withdrawals after retirement. Even if you take money before you are 59 1/2, there are no penalties or taxes if you take money from your original contributions. Unfortunately, you can only contribute $6,000 annually to these accounts.

While there are strict limits, Roth IRAs are a solid foundation to begin building your retirement savings on. Not only does this give you greater adaptability, but also more control over your money.

5. Life Insurance Plans with Cash Value

There are many types of life insurance available to you. In fact, your employer may offer life insurance benefits that have cash value. Investing in these accounts protects you against several kinds of potential risks as well.

Not only do Cash Value Life Insurance plans provide death benefits, but they also allow you to build its cash value that could help supplement your retirement accounts. Initially, your withdrawals first come from the premiums you paid, so they are not taxed. However, be careful not to let policies lapse because you could end owing a ton in taxes.

Life insurance plans are a good option for people who have already maxed out there annual contributions on other retirement accounts. It offers another way to build your nest egg and diversify your portfolio.

Why Should You Start Retirement Accounts

Although you will likely receive Social Security benefits after retirement, most financial advisors tell you not to rely on it as your sole source of income. Some analysts doubt there will even be any money left when millennials reach retirement age. However, one thing is certain. There are no guarantees that your benefits will cover all your expenses after retirement. So, it is important to start planning now and building your savings to fund your retirement.

There is no single correct approach to retirement planning. Your specific strategy will likely be determined why which types of accounts are available to you. As someone who is self-employed, I have fewer options and require more direct involvement. However, it is best to discuss your specific circumstances with a professional to determine the best course of action. Once you choose the best retirement accounts for your situation, max them out every year. Regular contributions can help you catch up and get you closer to your retirement goals.

While I will always regret not starting my retirement planning from an early age, it is never too late. The most important thing is to recognize that you can start saving now. The more time your money has to accrue compound interest, the more tax-advantaged funds you have to last you through your golden years.

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