How to Get Over Buyer’s Remorse

How to Get Over Buyer's Remorse

The truth is that we all make unwise purchases and financial decisions at some point in our lives. Nobody is perfect. Even with the best of intentions, we occasionally make mistakes that lead to buyer’s remorse. However, it can be difficult to pick yourself up and move on afterwards. Here are some tips and pieces of advice to help you deal with and get over buyer’s remorse.

What is Buyer’s Remorse?

In the simplest terms, buyer’s remorse is the feeling of regret after making a big purchase or investment. The regret is often accompanied by stress, anxiety, or panic as well.

For most people, these feelings usually happen after making expensive purchases, such as a house or vehicle. However, we also experience them after buying smaller things that we believe we paid too much for. In some cases, you may even consider returning the item or pretending the purchase never happened.

Most psychologists attribute buyer’s remorse to the concept of cognitive dissonance. The reason it happens is because the action of buying something expensive contradicts the perception you have of yourself as frugal or having responsible spending habits. Buyer’s remorse is a result of your internal battle between the need to avoid risks and consequences versus the desire to get what makes you happy.

How Do You Deal With and Get Over Buyer’s Remorse?

For many people, these emotions are so deeply ingrained that they never fully get over buyer’s remorse. However, there are always ways to cope with it. Like most problems, the first step is to find the cause and understand where the regret is coming from. Once you know the source of your feelings, it becomes easier to accept that you made a mistake and move on from it.

If you are experiences feelings of regret over a recent purchase, here are some methods to help you get over and move past your buyer’s remorse.

1. Remind yourself of all the reason for making the purchase.

Unless you made an impulse buy, you probably had several reasons for spending the money. Take a few moments to remind yourself of the reasons why you made the purchase. Reflect on the circumstances the led to your decision to help you determine whether your feelings are valid or misplaced.

2. Determine whether you actually regret the purchase, or just the amount you spent.

Sometimes buyer’s remorse is confused with the guilt about spending money in general. If you are experiencing these emotions solely based on the sticker price, you can get over buyer’s remorse by reminding yourself of the value of quality over quantity. Investing in better quality homes, vehicles, and items will require more money up front. However, they will also last much longer, saving you more money over time.

3. Practice self-forgiveness.

If you truly have made a mistake, you have to remember you are only human. We all stumble at times, but you cannot continue to beat yourself up for past mistakes. Practice a little self-forgiveness and cut yourself some slack. You cannot always undo a mistake once it has been done. So, it is better to take the lesson from the situation, but leave the regret behind. Holding on to guilt is a waste of valuable time and energy.

4. Try to recoup some of the financial losses.

In some instances, you may be able to recover a portion of the money you lost. Reselling unwanted items can at least help lessen the sting of large financial mistakes. Don’t force yourself to keep something you don’t like just because it cost a lot of money.

Even if you are unable to sell the unwanted item, you can always give it to someone who really needs it or would appreciate it more than you. Furthermore, you can adjust your budget and tighten the purse strings in other areas to save a little extra to compensate for your buying indiscretions.

How Do You Avoid Buyer’s Remorse in the Future?

Once you realize where you went wrong, the best way to get over buyer’s remorse is to make a plan of how you can avoid it in the future.

1. Research and compare before you buy.

Before making any big purchase, spend some time comparing your options and researching what features you actually need. The more you know about the item you are buying, the more difficult it will be for salesmen to talk you into buying more than you need. Doing your homework also means you are less likely to regret your decision later on.

2. Make a pros and cons list.

Whenever I am struggling with a decision, I use the old Ben Franklin approach. I list out the pros and cons of the purchase so I can better evaluate my decision. More often than not, I have an answer by the time I complete the list. Sometimes things become clearer when they are plainly printed out for you in black and white.

3. Stick to the list of budget you have created for yourself.

Once you have decided that the purchase is necessary, the next step is to set a clear budget and list of required features. When you know exactly what you are looking for, it is easier to resist the temptation to buy upgrades or add-ons you don’t really need.

4.Take a day and sleep on your decision.

This is one of the easiest and best techniques to help you avoid buyer’s remorse. First, it removes any pressure you feel to make a decision on the spot. Second, it also allows the excitement dissipate so reason can prevail.

Sleeping on your decision gives you more time to revisit your pros and cons list, compare options, and gather information. Taking an extra day to decide can help you make more practical decisions. When you remove your emotions from the equation, it is easier to see whether you are acting on impulse or making a good decision.

Feeling buyer’s remorse after a large purchase is perfectly natural. However, understanding where your feelings come from and recognizing your mistakes can prevent you from making them again and help you get over buyer’s remorse.

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The IRS Extends the Tax Deadline for 2021

The IRS Delays the Tax Deadline for 2021

Every American knows what April 15th means, and if you are like me, dreads the day every year. However, this year the IRS announced that it would delay the IRS tax filing deadline for the second consecutive year. Although it is not as long as the previous extension, this year taxpayers have until May 17 to complete their returns and pay outstanding levies. Many are grateful to have the extra time to sort through the confusion caused by the pandemic, including the IRS itself. But the most important question is…how will the extension affect you?

IRS Tax Deadline Delayed to May 17

The IRS just announced that taxpayers have till May 17 this year to file their returns. That means you have an extra 32 days to complete your paperwork or consult with your financial advisor about your taxes. If you are mailing it in, you must postmark it by midnight to avoid penalties. For those filing online, you will receive an electronic acknowledgement by email once you complete it.

This delay only applies for the year of 2020. For individual taxpayers, including those who are self-employed, first quarter estimated payments are still due on the regularly scheduled dates. Furthermore, it will not affect anyone who already applied for the October 15 extension.

Reasons for the Delayed Tax Deadline

The American government recognizes that the last year has been full of financial uncertainties for everyone. So, the IRS delayed the tax filing deadline for 2020 to provide extra time to “navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic.” Since many taxpayers are dealing with filing questions they have never encountered before, both accountants and lawmakers called for an extension of the IRS tax filing deadline as well. As many prepare their returns, there will be many lingering questions that will require guidance from the IRS.

However, if you have tried contacting someone at the IRS, you likely had to wait a very long time to talk to someone. This is due to the fact that their operations have been severely scaled back. And let’s not forget that in addition to its usual workload, it has also been issuing the next round of stimulus checks as well. In short, its offices have been understaffed and overwhelmed.

The extension of the deadline gives the IRS more time to process the massive amount of paperwork and calls they are handling. Not only will there be more complicated returns this year, but the IRS is also still processing remaining returns from 2019. There are an estimated 24 million returns still waiting to be logged. Furthermore, there is also an increased number of refinanced mortgages, estate, trust, and final returns. With new changes in the tax laws taking effect from December 27, 2020, this year is shaping up to become one of the most trying years for the IRS in recent memory.

How the Tax Deadline Affects You

No actions are required to take advantage of the new deadline. Every taxpayer automatically qualifies for the extension. Therefore, you will have an extra month to sort through the confusion and straighten out any problems you come across. Whether you are dealing with stimulus payments or waiting for updated forms, the extension offers you some breathing room. It also allows more time to raise funds you owe or get professional advice if necessary. This is especially good news for small business owners and the self-employed who have been among the hardest hit this tax season.

Claiming Exemptions and Deductions

Others are waiting to receive updated forms to ensure they file correctly under the new changes. For some, this means this will have to resubmit returns to claim additional deductions or exemptions. One of the most significant changes is the exemption for up to $10,200 of jobless benefits. Keep in mind this only applies at the federal level. Each state will have their own laws they determine on a case by case basis. While most are likely to adjust their deadlines as well, you should monitor the situation so you do not end up filing late if your state does not extend it.

Missing Stimulus Payments

There is another good piece of those who need to address issues with their stimulus payments. If you never received your stimulus checks, or need to contest the amount deposited, now is your chance. You can claim the missing funds on your 2020 tax return.

If the IRS owes you money, you will need to find the Recovery Rebate Credit. You can find it listed on line 30 of the 1040 and 1040-SR Forms. This line lets you claim the missing checks or the discrepancy in the amount actually deposited. Once you enter this information, it will either increase your refund or deduct from any money you owe the IRS.

Future Extensions

Another thought on everyone’s minds is if the IRS will consider additional extensions as the pandemic continues. The IRS has the authority to extend the deadline even further without Congressional approval though if they deem it necessary. Last year taxpayers had until July 15 to file. However, this caused many difficulties for businesses whose fiscal year ended June 30.  So, when it comes to the question of a similar extension this year, your guess is as good as anyone’s. Although it does not appear to be necessary at this time, it is definitely a possibility.

It is important to note that even if you file for a longer extension, you must still pay 90% what is owed by May 17 or face late payment penalties. The new filing date does not exempt you from paying taxes, but rather delays the inevitable. As the IRS finishes distributing stimulus checks and processing tax returns, they still urge you not to wait. They have even issued guidelines to help speed everything along so you can get your money faster. Deadlines have a tendency to creep up on you, so do not wait until the last minute or count on additional extensions to file your 2020 tax returns.

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Fun Jobs after Retirement

Fun Jobs after Retirement

Although we all look forward to relaxing after retirement, many retirees are choosing to return to work during their golden years. In fact, 55 percent of Americans plan on working after retirement according to a recent study. Whether it is to earn extra cash to supplement your income, preserve your retirement funds, stay active, or simply because you miss social interactions, there are many fun jobs available to you after retirement. Here are a few low-stress jobs that cater to a wide variety of interests.

Solo Pursuits

Repair Work (Computer, Car, Home)

If you have honed technical repair skills, there is a high demand for your expertise. In particular, there is currently a huge market for cheap computer repair skills. Since there will also continue to be a need in the years to come, these jobs are also a fairly reliable source of income. Service and simple repair jobs are also a good outlet for those who like to work with their hands. The luxury of repair work is that you can scale back or increase your workload based on what you feel you can handle.

Freelance Writing

If you have a knack for composition, freelance writing is a great way to earn extra income after retirement. Not only can you work from anywhere, but it also allows you to apply your knowledge in a new way. You can browse through the different contracts online to see if your skill set matches their needs. If you find something that piques your interests, put in a bid and see if writing jobs are right for you.

Landscaping and Gardening

For those who enjoy the outdoors, landscaping and gardening are a great way to stay active and enjoy nature. You could check with local companies for openings or start a garden if you have a green thumb. There are plenty of opportunities to sell your home-grown produce at the farmers market or set up a roadside stand. Of course, you should check local regulations, but it is a good source of fresh vegetables and cash.

Arts and Crafts

If you are the creative type, you can try selling your works of art as a side job. It lets you turn your hobbies into fun jobs after retirement. Online marketplaces like Etsy allow you work from home and reach a wider customer base through their websites. You can also attend local or seasonal craft shows to help you sell what you make. When it comes to selling arts and crafts, your revenue potential is only limited by your own imagination.

Social Jobs for Retirees

Teaching

If you have an advanced degree, teaching jobs could be a employment option after retirement. Many educational institutions seek out instructors who have a wealth of real-life experience. Reach out to schools or local learning institutions that you would be interested to work with.  There are also ways to earn income by developing and selling course content based on your career expertise. Sites like Udemy.com help you earn more passive income after retirement.

Driving

One job will always have great security, because there will always be a need for drivers. With ride share and delivery apps like Lyft , Uber, and DoorDash, there are more options to earn money from side jobs than ever before. All you need is a car, a valid driver’s license, and the time to do it. The best part is that you determine how often and when you want to work. For the social butterflies, it is also a great way to meet new people from all walks of life.

Caretaking

Caretaking is a great option for both temporary and long term income revenue. You can look for part-time jobs that offer flexible hours or more permanent positions with steady income. Search for babysitting jobs if you enjoy spending time with children. There also find positions to assist with elder care to ensure they receive the attention they need. Animal lovers can offer services to pet owners who want to avoid expensive kennel fees. Caretaking jobs are a great way to meet both your social and financial needs.

Retail

If you want to work in retail, there are many fun jobs for you after retirement. Check for part-time or seasonal positions at your favorite stores. Retail jobs can help keep you sharp and meet new people. Although they are physically taxing at times, they also have many social benefits. The bonus of working in sales is that stores usually offer an employee discount as well.

Fun Jobs for Travelers

House Sitting

Since you have plenty of free time to travel after retirement, you have flexible hours that are perfect for housesitting. There are several websites posting positions to watch people’s homes while they are away. Some are temporary positions for only a week or two, like annual vacations. Others are seeking more long-term employees for vacation homes and rental properties. You can also search out these jobs in vacation destinations and help cover your travel expenses.

Tour Guide

Tour guides have fun jobs after retirement. It is the ideal job for those who live in places that attract many tourists every year. It does require a combination of skills, but these types of jobs allow you to teach, socialize, and get outdoors. You also get to do something you enjoy while getting plenty of physical exercise. Working as a tour guide could also be an interesting way to learn more about where you live.

Consultancy Jobs after Retirement

The best paying job for retirees are usually consultancy positions. For those who are highly trained or have years of professional experience, you can contract out your special skills. You could use your knowledge to find business solutions or develop structured frameworks for businesses to follow. Since these jobs are largely dependent on your networking and technical skills, there is more variation in how much they bring in. However, you have more marketability if you are familiar with software applications. The greatest draw to consulting work is that you can choose which clients to work with and determine your own schedules and fees.

If you are seeking new job opportunities after retirement, there are many opportunities available to you. Depending on your interests, needs, and skills, there are many fun jobs after retirement that could provide extra financial and social benefits during your golden years.

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Is Dogecoin a Joke?

Is Dogecoin a Joke?

Within months, what started as an internet joke quickly became one of the most highly valued cryptocurrencies. Spurred on by its base of online supporters, Dogecoin quickly changed from a joke to something very real.

What is Dogecoin?

Even if you are unfamiliar with internet meme culture, you have probably heard about Dogecoin in recent months.  Pronounced “dohj-coin,” it is a cryptocurrency that facilitates individual transactions through a decentralized network. Like its predecessor Bitcoin, you can get coins by solving math puzzles.

However, Dogecoin was never intended to be a legitimately traded digital currency. It combined the concept of blockchains with a popular internet meme featuring a Shiba Inu that spoke in monosyllabic words that appeared in comic sans font. Its creators never dreamed it would blow up like it did. Rather, they expected Dogecoin to quickly die off once the novelty of the joke wore off.

Where Did Dogecoin Start?

Dogecoin was born from a joke between two software engineers from opposite sides of the globe. Jackson Palmer, who describes himself as your “average geek,” was working as an Adobe software engineer in Australia when he came up with the idea. He combined two wildly popular cultural phenomena – the Doge meme and cryptocurrency – to create Dogecoin.

Meanwhile, an IBM software engineer, Billy Markus, had been developing a new cryptocurrency derived from Litecoin. Markus was looking to appeal to a broader market interested in more than profits. After posting the idea for Dogecoin, Markus tweeted at Palmer, expressing his interest to work together. Both men thought it was funny, so they ran with the joke and made an actual coin stamped with the meme. In December 2013, the pair launched Dogecoin and it soon gained traction among the Reddit community.

How Is Dogecoin Different from Other Cryptocurrencies?

While many speculate that Bitcoin will revolutionize monetary transactions in the 21st century, Dogecoin is a meme that has been stamped on a coin. Its founders never had plans to compete with larger cryptocurrencies. Markus and Palmer created Dogecoin as a joke. It was never designed to serve any other purpose that to get a few laughs.

Like other cryptocurrencies, you mine the coins by completing math puzzles. However, the rewards are entirely random. You could earn anywhere from a single coin to several hundred coins for each one you solve. Furthermore, there were no limits on the number of coins the system could produce.

How Did Dogecoin Become More Than a Joke?

Although Dogecoin started out as a joke, that was all about to change. Reddit threads quickly picked it up and users began trading it as a source of kudos and thanks for comments. After the introduction of the “tipping bot,” stock prices soared as people continued tipping each other with Dogecoin. However, as they shared the cryptocurrency, it greatly expanded the user base and increased its value.

One week after it launched, Dogecoin become the second-most used cryptocurrency for internet tipping. The community grew as it created mining pools and normalized trading Dogecoin between members. One reason for its widespread popularity comes from the Internet sub-culture that prides itself on its irreverent attitude towards corporate America and Wall Street. The fact that it started as a joke is partially what helped drive the buzz about it.

Another factor that helped legitimize Dogecoin as a viable cryptocurrency was the famous people attaching their names to it. Dogecoin was no long a joke when it was validated by a $1.5 million investment from Tesla. Memes and social media posts from celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Soulja Boy, and Gene Simmons further popularized it. Elon Musk even posted one himself with a spoof fashion cover titled “Dogue.” Following a string of tweets as well, Dogecoin shares skyrocketed nearly 1,500% this year.

What is the Current Value?

Dogecoin hit a new milestone in 2017 when it reached $2 billion. However, it now has an estimated market value around $10 billion. Its stocks are worth more than Under Armour, Western Union, and Xerox.

When the markets opened on January 1, 2021, Dogecoin sold at $0.0057 per share. Within a few short weeks, it peaked on February 7 at $0.0788. Since the beginning of the year, the valuation has stabilized, closing at $0.055 on Friday, March 12.

What Can I Use Dogecoin for?

Even though shares are only worth about a nickel each, you can still buy and sell Dogecoin. As long as you have a credit card, you can purchase it through cryptocurrency exchanges and trading apps. Any exchange where you can trade Dogecoin will also convert it into traditional currencies as well.

Although cryptocurrency has not yet become a standardized form of payment for most major retailers, it is still worth something. You can trade in your Dogecoin at dogeswag.com for a wide selection of doge swag apparel. There is also the option to redeem gift cards at Bitrefill.

What’s the Future for Dogecoin?

Dogecoin’s rapid rise was primarily driven by Reddit users. However, when profiteers began taking over and driving up its valuation, both founders quickly got out of the venture. Both Palmer and Markus have distanced themselves from the cryptocurrency, especially after the Moolah debacle.

Instead, the founders have given all their Dogecoin to charity initiatives to use Dogecoin as force for good. When the Jamaican bobsled team qualified for the Winter Olympics in 2014, they set up a Dogecoin address on subreddit and raised $25,000 for them. They have also raised money to build wells in Kenya and train service dogs for autistic children.

When questioning the future of Dogecoin, I look at how the creators view it themselves. In an interview, Markus stated that he doesn’t “think it solves anything. If anything, it exists as an educational tool. It’s a reminder that we can’t take this stuff seriously. ”

What we can all learn from Dogecoin is that future of cryptocurrency remains uncertain. Until it becomes a widely accepted for retail transactions, it will always be vulnerable to the market’s volatility. As Markus advised, “keep educating yourself as much as you can on how cryptocurrency works, how these markets work, never risk more than you could safely lose, be vigilant and aware.”

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What Are Your Retirement Options after Employment Termination?

What Are Your Retirement Options after Employment Termination?

When you leave a job, there are several loose ends that you will need to tie up. One important consideration when you leave your position is what to do with your employer-sponsored retirement accounts. If you are new to investing or not well-versed in financial matters, you may be wondering what your retirement options are after employment termination. You have a few choices. But, some are better than others. Before you make any major decision, you must evaluate eligibility requirements, know the tax implications, and compare the fees and investment options available to you.

Options for Your Retirement Plans after Employment Termination

1. Leave it where it is.

Depending on how much you have invested in the employer-sponsored 401(k), you may be able to leave your money in the current account. If you have more than $5,000 invested in the old plan, most companies allow you to maintain your retirement account. Even if you are no longer work for the employer, you may be able to leave your money parked in the account.

This will be most beneficial to you if the old plan has low fees, good investment options, or you have a large balance. If you go in this direction, you could always roll it over to a different account in the future as well.

However, if the balance is less than $5,000, your former employer might require you to move it after employment termination. For balances under $1,000, the company could force you out by simply writing a check. But, for balances between $1,000 – $5,000, your former employer must assist you in setting up an IRA if they are forcing you out of their plan.

When considering you retirement options after employment termination, this may not the best one for you. You may want to consider alternatives if you are likely to forget about it, let the account sit dormant, or you are not impressed by the terms. Your former employer’s plan may have more limited options when compared to various IRA offerings or your new employer’s retirement savings program.

2. Roll it over to a plan with your new employer.

Another possibility is to roll over the balance to your new employer’s retirement plan. Most companies will allow new employees to enroll in their retirement savings plan once they have reached the minimum length of employment. It is a fairly simple process, and only requires some paperwork to complete a direct transfer. The administrator of your former plan can deposit the balance of the previous account into your new one.

Rolling your retirement plan into a new one prevents you from paying any taxes on the balance. If you do not want the direct transfer, you can also have your former employer issue a check for the balance. Then, you can deposit the funds yourself. However, you must do so within 60 days. Otherwise, you will pay income tax for the entire lump sum. Before you close the first account, make sure the new 401(k) is set up and able to receive balance transfers.

This option is cost-effective because you can defer taxation. Additionally, you can consolidate your funds into a single account rather than keeping track of several different retirement accounts after employment termination. It also makes things easier down the line for family members or heirs when they need to handle your financial affairs. Just be sure to compare the available options and fees. Once you transfer the balance, you cannot go back to your old plan.

3. Roll it over to an IRA.

If your new employee does not have a retirement plan for its employees or the options are not ideal, you should consider rolling it into an IRA. Whether you choose a traditional or Roth IRA, the account will be in your name. Therefore, you have greater control over the account and can choose any financial institution you like. Since you are not restricted by your employer, you have freedom to decide how and where you invest your money.

There are few restrictions or limitations on these kinds of transfers. Furthermore, both traditional and Roth IRAs provide a wide range of low-cost offerings. Consolidating your investments into a single account also makes them easier to track.

If you go this route, you will have to include the untaxed amount in your gross income for the fiscal year you completed the rollover. But, if you meet certain qualifications, future withdrawals could be tax-free.

4. Begin taking distributions.

If you are nearing retirement age, you may want to begin taking distributions from your accounts. You can begin receiving distributions at age 55. But, you may have to pay the penalty on the taxable portion of it. Most retirement accounts dictate that you must be 59 ½ to receive distributions without the 10% tax penalty on early withdrawals. However, those who retire between the ages of 55 and 59 ½ do not need to pay this penalty.

Many people avoid this option because of the taxation and penalty fees. Moreover, when you begin receiving distributions from a traditional 401(k) you will need to pay income tax. On the other hand, distributions from your IRA will be tax free as long as you meet the age requirements and had the account a minimum of five years.

5. Cash out the balance of the account.

The last resort is to cash out your retirement accounts. However, if you liquidate your retirement accounts early, you will have to pay taxes on the full amount in addition to the 10% penalty. Most financial advisors warn against this because you are depleting your retirement savings. Unless you need the cash now, it is better to leave it in your accounts until the balance and distribution payments are tax-deferred.

Explore Your Retirement Options

Before making any major financial decisions, you should explore all your options. Weigh the pros and cons and determine which route gets you closer to your financial goals. There are many online resources that can help you make informed decisions. However, there is no shame in admitting you need help if you are in over your head. When in doubt, it is always wise to seek professional advice.

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The SMBX: Changing the Way You Invest in Small Businesses

SMBX: A new way to invest

As an individual investor, I am always looking for new and innovative ways to diversify my portfolio and increase my earnings. I already have a healthy range of holdings in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

However, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to generate passive income. That’s where platforms like the SMBX come in. This new marketplace directly engages with its investors to make it simpler for you to invest in small businesses.

The platform is somewhat complicated and new, so here is some explanation of what it is.

What is the SMBX?

The SMBX is new investment platform where small business owners can directly connect to the public. Their model utilizes regulation crowdfunding to allow small businesses to go straight to the source. As their tagline states, individual investors get to “be the bank,” providing an entirely new way to raise capital. Rather than purchasing stock in a specific company, any investor can buy small business financial securities through their marketplace.

What sets the SMBX apart is that they have created a new asset class: the Small Business Bond. The idea is to help small businesses generate capital through bonds instead of relying on bank loans. Private investors purchase bonds, which are debt-based financial assets. The investor (you) loans money to an issuer (the small business) for a period of time. In exchange, the issuer has a legal obligation to repay them, plus interest.

It is a win-win scenario for everyone. Small businesses can bypass the loan process to get the funding they need at better prices than banks offer. Meanwhile, investors have more control over where their money goes since you can pick which small businesses to invest in.

What are the Advantages of Investing with SMBX?

The greatest advantage of the SMBX is that it creates new options for both small businesses and individual investors. Unlike other marketplaces that emphasize equity, the SMBX is transforming small business debt through community engagement. Additionally, investors have the opportunity to affect change by supporting these businesses. What seems like a modest investment to the individual has the potential to impact not only the business owners, but also the people they serve.

For Small Businesses

The greatest benefit to small businesses is that they have the ability to bypass traditional lenders. Small companies no longer have to be captive to bank loans. It is much easier and cheaper to raise capital through Small Business Bonds since they can appeal directly to the public. Furthermore, there are less regulations and fees associated with this type of asset. Here is what their website says:

SMBX value for businesses

For Investors

There are even more advantages for individual investors. Since you get to replace corporate banks, you have the ability to affect change within your community. You support local commerce when you invest in small businesses, allowing them to continue operating. What seems like a modest investment from the individual can have a huge impact on hundreds of people by creating more jobs locally and returning profits back to their communities.

Another benefit is that the SMBX welcomes non-accredited investors to join. The platform is easily accessible and very user-friendly. There are no investors fees and you can begin with as little as $10. The average returns on investments is approximately 6.5%, and it pays the principle plus interest each month.

What are the Disadvantages?

As with any investment, there is always risk. It is possible that your investment will not see profitable returns, and you could lose your money. SMBX is offering bonds, so you’ll want to read the bond prospectus for each offering.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the SMBX is a relatively new platform. Any financial advisor will tell you that it is risky to invest with new firms that have a short history. However, the expertise and combined experience of the founders give me confidence that I’m not throwing my money away.

One thing that I was disappointed with was the limited offerings. Since it is a relatively new marketplace, this makes sense. However, I hope to see a wider variety of small businesses on the marketplace and more frequently updated offerings in the future.

Here are some of the companies in their marketplace offering bonds.

SMBX Offerings

How Do You Start Investing with SMBX?

Getting started was the easiest part. It is simple to sign up. First, you need to create an account, which requires you to enter your personal details. They will ask for typical information including your legal name, address, estimated income, and estimated net worth. Once you verify your email and add a payment method, you are ready to get started. Just be aware that you must link to either a credit card or bank account to your profile.

After you confirm and submit everything, you can then browse the available offerings and choose which one to invest with. I carefully looked at each one, evaluating their financial goals, bond duration, expected yield, and overall mission.

Once I reviewed my options, I chose to purchase my first Small Business Bonds from ChildWise because I am very passionate about education. Furthermore, the bonds I bought have an estimated 8% yield. Not only can I feel good about where I am investing, but it also seems like I will see good returns.

Why Should You Use SMBX to Invest in Small Businesses?

My initial experience with the SMBX has been extremely positive. I feel it is important to find innovative ways to directly connect investors with the small businesses they want to invest in. Through their marketplace, investors are able to engage and interact with the company in an entirely new way. As the markets continue to evolve, it is important that small businesses find ways to thrive.

The best part is that it creates new revenue streams for your portfolio by supporting your local community.  You don’t need thousands of dollars to get started. Even a modest investment in Small Business Bonds with a high yield can significantly increase your earnings. You can get started with as little as $10 and choose from the latest offerings at the SMBX. The bonds pay between 4% and 9%, which is higher than most bank accounts, although you are taking a bit more risk.

By way of a quick wrap up here, if your looking for some additional revenue and you like the idea of investing in small businesses, you can sign up here.

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Energy Stocks during America’s Cold Snap

Energy Stocks Have High Performance during the Cold Snap

This February brought another bout of extreme weather to the United States. As subzero temperatures swept across the country, energy providers experienced unprecedented demands for heat and electricity. While many of us were watching the news, financial analysts have been watching how these winter storms affect energy stocks during this cold snap.

Record Lows during America’s Cold Snap

Normally, Arctic temperatures are contained within the polar vortex by the jet stream. However, the pressure systems usually concentrated around the North Pole pushed winter snow storms south. It brought snow and freezing temperatures to some of the driest, hottest parts of the country.

At one point, an estimated 150 million Americans experienced winter storm warnings. Meteorologists said roughly 73% of the country received snowfall. Many who live in the northern regions have seen these conditions before. But, southern states proved they were unprepared to deal with energy demands during the cold snap.

For the first time in the state’s history, every county in Texas was under winter storm warnings. At the coldest point of these extreme weather conditions, it was colder in Dallas than it was in Anchorage. When these drastic changes in temperature occur, it becomes dangerous to be outside. There are serious concerns of frostbite, hypothermia, and death when the power grid is disrupted.

Dealing with Rising Energy Demands

The Midwest and Southern parts of the United States faced record low temperatures that tested the limits of the power supply. To cope with rising energy usage, SPP implemented rotating power outages. The company had to reduce demand on their power grid in 14 states. By Sunday February 14, it became clear that supply and distribution would reach critical levels.

Rolling power outages began February 15, with residents told to expect them to last about 30-60 minutes. Here in the Midwest, we were left without power for up to an hour at a time. But, local providers quickly restored electricity and heat. Although it was inconvenient, the worst part was not knowing when or which part of the city would be affected.

However, it becomes more serious in places where the infrastructure is not designed for such extreme temperatures. The blackouts left 4.3 million people without heat and electricity in Texas. Some residents criticized the lack of response and preparedness, especially those who lost loved ones due to the extreme temperatures.

Energy Stocks Performance During the Cold Snap

As bitter temperatures drove up the country’s demand, the energy sector saw significant gains. Natural gas prices skyrocketed by 7.5%, reaching the highest levels since November. Meanwhile, oil prices also saw a boost. Oil production dropped to approximately 2 million barrels a day. This drove prices to more than $60 a barrel, the highest they have been since January 2020.

The Winners

Comstock Resources was one of the biggest winners. They reported that it was “like hitting the jackpot” since it was able to sell natural gas for premium prices. EQT Corp, a natural gas provider based in the shale regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania, also saw gains from the high prices. Australia’s Macquarie Group also expects to see a 10% rise in profits this year.

With large swaths or refineries out of commission along the Gulf Coast, companies like Valero Energy Corp and HollyFrontier Corp also saw increased production. Other refiners, like Shell and Total, have little exposure to the Texas markets. So, they are also in a prime position to ramp up production and increase profits.

The Losers

Unfortunately, many other utilities providers reported huge losses due to the winter storms. Alternative power sources became ineffective with wind turbines and natural gas wells freezing over.

Innergex Renewable Energy Inc estimates the financial impact on their Texas wind farms to be about $48 million. Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp adjusted their projected core earnings by $45-55 million due to restricted production. Just Energy doubts they will be able to continue after it forecasted $250 million in losses.

Furthermore, the extreme weather also interfered with transportation of oil and shutdown many refineries. The country’s hub of refineries along the Gulf Coast were the hardest hit. Exxon Mobil and Phillips 66 halted operations, losing 19% of the U.S.’s refining capacity. Diamondback Energy expects to lose at least five days of production. Other southern shale oil producers say it could take two weeks to restart their crude oil operations.

As milder temperatures return, you can be certain that financial analysts and investors alike will continue to watch the energy sector.

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Best Trade Simulator Apps for New Investors

What Are the Best Trade Simulator Apps?

The stock market can be an intimidating place for new investors. If you have no training or background in finance, investing your hard-earned money seems like a huge gamble. There is always some level of risk associated with investing. However, the best trade simulator apps allow you to test the waters before you dive in head first. Creating and trading with a virtual portfolio lets you learn through experience without risking real money.

How Do Trade Simulator Apps Work?

In essence, trade simulators use practice accounts, also referred to as paper trading accounts, as an experiential educational tool. Even better, most of them are free once you set up your account. The purpose of these apps is to provide a learning environment for new investors within real time market conditions. Users have access to the same tools utilized by active investors, including live feeds and tickers, watch lists, and stock screens. However, since you are using “play money,” you eliminate all financial risk.

Additionally, you can use trade simulator apps in a variety of ways. Individual investors can test new ideas and strategies before making any changes to their actual portfolio. You can also make a game of it by inviting friends, family, or coworkers to join a friendly competition. Investors that get the highest returns at the end are the winners. But, since you are not investing real money, there are no losers.

What Benefits Do Trade Simulator Apps Offer?

As an educator, I firmly believe that the best way to learn something is by doing it. The only way to get better at something is through practice and repetition. If you have never invested or learned about the stock market, trade simulator apps are a great place to start. Here’s why:

1. There is no risk since you are investing fake money.

The best part about trade simulator apps is that there is zero risk. Since you are trading with virtual currency, you can be as conservative or aggressive as you like. If it is your first time investing, these apps allow you to get your feet wet without risking your retirement accounts. If you make a bad trade, it is a lesson learned rather than a nest egg lost.

2. You can test new investing strategies and individual stock picks.

Trade simulator apps provide a safe place to learn the basics. You can begin with the fundamental mechanics of investing, then move on to other trading options. Since it is virtual money, you are free to take more chances and make mistakes as well.

Furthermore, it gives your room to explore potential strategies and ideas. Although financial experts tell you to avoid taking advice from just anyone online, these trading platforms act as a safety net. Not only does it protect your finances, but it will also help you determine which advisors have the most credibility.

3. You have access to their full library of educational resources.

In addition to real-time trading, you also can get a focused education through their resources. You can find articles, tutorials, videos, and demos on nearly every investment topic imaginable. Moreover, you can also join the online communities where you can interact with other investors and discuss strategies.

These free resources will help you become a more savvy investor by learning and mastering the basics. They can also teach you how to factor in outside variables, such as trading costs, and perform stock analysis. Understanding how these factors affect the market will help you see the broader economic picture and become a more successful investor.

4. There is less emotional investment in the outcome.

Lastly, trade simulator apps remove emotion from the equation. They grant you a more objective view since your money is not at stake. Riding the markets’ highs and lows can bring a roller coaster of emotions. However, the apps give you a preview of market volatility and how you will react to them.

What Are The Best Trade Simulator Apps?

There are a lot of trade simulator apps out there. However, these three are consistently recommended by financial experts and analysts across the web.

Wall Street Survivor

This trade simulator app has withstood the test of time…and for good reason. Wall Street Survive is a fountain of personal finance and investing knowledge. It offers more than 30 courses which you can complete at your own pace. Each one provides step-by-step instruction to help you succeed in the stock market.

Once you are ready to invest your virtual cash, it is time to get in the game. You can join the leagues and work your way to the top, or start your own game. All the while, you can apply different trading strategies as you play the stock markets. As you improve, you will earn more virtual cash, badges, and even compete for real prizes.

Market Watch Virtual Stock Exchange

This app is also popular with adult investment clubs and first time investors. Just like the other trade simulator apps out there, you create a virtual portfolio to trade real-time stocks. However, as you develop you investing strategies, you can also turn on more advanced features. Once you join, you are also able to join their discussion groups to compare strategies with skilled traders.

However, as an educator, I will admit that I do have bias here. In my opinion, the Market Watch Virtual Stock Exchange is one of the best resource for teachers. It even has lesson plans with required readings, videos, and report cards to help you track your progress. Public and private games allow you to interact with other users or challenge those you know to test their skill. It’s both a fun and educational way to gain experience trading stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

HowTheMarketWorks

HowTheMarketWorks is another app that has been around for quite some time. It remains at the head of the pack because it is specifically tailored for beginners. It offers all the tool and resources you need in their Education Center. In addition to basic instruction and advanced techniques, it also provides career guidance if you are interested in a future in finance.

However, this app isn’t just for beginners. This simulator gives you the ability to practice trading in the global market, mutual funds, ETFs, options, and commodities. Since you can customize your private competitions, it is another excellent resource in the classroom.

Reality Over Simulation

While trade simulator apps are a great resource, there are certain things they cannot do. Unfortunately, some lessons can only be learned through real experience. However, simulators ensure you will be better prepared to jump into the stock market.

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The Aftermath of the GameStop Saga

Analyzing the Aftermath of the GameStop Saga

Recently, the video game retailer where we used to sell our games became the center of the most recent stock market frenzy. The GameStop saga began when its stock value surged in late January, spurred on by one very determined group of Redditors. Using new technology and trading apps like Robinhood, individual traders disrupted the market, nearly bringing major hedge funds to their knees. However, there are plenty of rumors and questions remaining in the aftermath.

What Caused the GameStop Saga and the Stock Market Surge?

When Redditors got into a sparring match with Wall Street over floundering stock prices, certain share values soared to record heights. While GameStop is at the forefront of this market fluctuation, it has also affected AMC and a few other stocks as well. However, GME captured headlines on January 27.  It closed at an all-time high $483.00 per share, more than 800% of its current valuation.

The institutional investors betting against the company had to back out. In a move known as a “short squeeze,” short sellers had to repurchase stock for a higher price. Although this is not an unusual investing move, the GameStop saga did introduce new factors.  New technology and trading platforms are changing the way people invest. It is democratizing trading by making it accessible to everyone. However, you can be certain it has also caught the attention of both investors and regulators worldwide.

Why Was Everyone Up in Arms?

The problem began when Robinhood began limiting trades on their platform. The app founded its mission on bringing investing to more people. So, some individual traders interpreted the restrictions placed on GME, AMC and other stocks as a personal attack. This group became indignant when they discovered their access had been limited. They were unable to buy stock while the hedge funds still had access to them.

In truth, Robinhood simply did not have the capital on hand to cover the flood of trades. Clearinghouse trades can take a few days to settle. The amount of money moved around during the trading frenzy was more than Robinhood could handle.  So, they put the restrictions in place to cover any potential losses and slow trading until it could raise more capital.

However, there are plenty of rumors floating around and some speculation of illegal activity. Questions of conflicting interests and collusion are popping up across the web. For example, some claim that professional traders encouraged the classic pump-and-dump scheme. They say they promoted the price pumping within the Reddit crowd, intending to get out before stock prices stabilized again. Other accusations say traders ignored the rules. There is some evidence of illegally shorting stocks without ownership or control of the borrowed shares. We all anxiously await to see what new information will come to light about these allegations.

Will the Sheriff of Wall Street Shut Down Robinhood?

One thing is abundantly clear as financial experts analyze this event: lawmakers and regulators are not happy with Robinhood. Furthermore, the individual traders using the app feel slighted since Robinhood impaired their ability to purchase stock. While it was a vital resource for individuals to purchase stock, many users are now cashing out and moving their funds. The future of the trading platform could be in jeopardy.

The fate of Robinhood depends on the outcome of several investigations and lawsuits. The first class action suit was filed on January 28 in the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit claims that Robinhood “purposefully, willfully, and knowingly removing the stock ‘GME’ from its trading platform in the midst of an unprecedented stock rise… (it) deprived retail investors of the ability to invest in the open-market.”

This is likely just the beginning of legal action taken against Robinhood. Tens of thousands have already joined the first class action lawsuit. However, the investing app could be facing more than 30 more in the days ahead. In addition to investigations by both the state of New York and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, members of Congress have also come forward in support of a Congressional hearing on the matter.

Despite all the legal actions already filed, Robinhood’s CEO Vlad Tenev is standing firm in their decision to implement restrictions. He said they “had to conform to our regulatory capital requirements” and only allow limited buys. Many of these limits remain in place. Individual traders have maximum number of shares they can buy, no trading options, no buying on the margin, no fractional shares, and no recurring investments. However, the maximum number of shares available to purchase has been raised.

What Did We Learn from the GameStop Saga?

There are a few important takeaways looking back on the GameStop saga. If nothing else, it is a harsh reminder that there are just as many losers as winners in stock market buying frenzies. Many Redditors who bought too late during the highs have now suffered significant losses. This has further alienated individual investors from trading apps like Robinhood. However, shorting is a risky gamble for professional and amateur investors alike.

It is also important to point out the inaccurate comparisons being used to describe the event. The biblical analogy of David vs Goliath is powerful, but not entirely accurate in this situation. In this instance, individual investors pumped up these stock’s valuation. Some did so in an effort to defend the underdog. Others were attempting to stick it to the arrogant hedge fund managers who have often been accused of stock market manipulation. However, these sharp declines affect their clients more than their management.

At the end of the day, the GameStop saga upended some long held conventions about trading and the influence of individual investors. Whenever you play the stock market, investors take a huge risk by joining these trading frenzies. Everyone wants to bet on the long shot, but only those who bought shares early on saw significant gains. It has become a cautionary tale to many green investors who bought in late when shares reach their highest value now left with nothing.

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How to Reduce Pet Expenses and Care Costs

 

How to Reduce Pet Expenses

Owning a pet can be a very rewarding experience. Not only do they provide companionship, but studies also demonstrate how pets can benefit our mental health. However, caring for an animal is a serious responsibility. If you are worried about the additional costs, here are seven ways you can ease the burden and reduce pet expenses.

7 Ways to Reduce Pet Expenses

1. Choose a Pet to Suit Your Budget.

I know…it can be hard to resist those big, puppy-dog eyes. However, before you bring home a new pet, you must ask yourself if you are financially able to take care of one. Caring for an animal is a huge responsibility. Therefore, you should be aware just how much the annual costs can be.

If you are getting a pet, choose an animal that suits your budget. Since larger animals eat more, it may be better to consider a smaller animal with lower pet care costs. According to the ASPCA, the expenses for a large dog are about $875 every year. Opting for a smaller pet could be a smart way to reduce pet expenses. Annual costs are approximately $670 for cats, $200 for birds, and $35 for freshwater fish. Even looking at smaller breeds of dogs could save you a considerable amount of money on pet food and supplies.

2. Adopt Your Pets from a Shelter.

Adoption is another way to greatly reduce the initial costs of getting a pet. You save a ton in adoption and veterinary fees if you adopt through a local shelter. When you take your pet home, it has already received a check-up, vaccinations, and been micro-chipped. The small adoption fee is a bargain when compared to these savings alone. Not only are you supporting their rescue efforts, but adoption also eliminates breeder’s exorbitant prices.

You can also ask around or check local classified ads for animals in need of a good home. Often times, those placing the ads are giving the animals away, free of charge. Why pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for pure-bred pets when there are so many that you can choose from for free?

3. Compare Food and Pet Supply Brands.

There is no doubt that food will be your biggest expense as a pet owner. But, as with any purchase, it makes sense to look for the most economical brands and best deals. Avoid brand names with words like “premium,” which usually only mean a higher retail price. Store brands that say things like “total nutrition” or “balanced diet” will still provide your pet with proper nutrition.

Buying pet supplies in bulk from discount clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club is very cost effective. There are also many online stores like Chewy.com that regularly offer discounts and promotional codes to their customers. Any smart budgeter will tell you that every little bit counts, especially when trying to reduce pet expenses.

4. Get Vaccines from Low-Cost Clinics.

In order to protect the pet population, state and local governments require vaccinations for domesticated animals. Although these are required by law, you don’t need to spend crazy amounts of money for private consultations. Many shelters and local universities work with low-cost clinics to provide affordable treatments. Since vet students and interns administer the injections, they usually cost next to nothing.

If you have any questions about city ordinances concerning pet vaccinations, check with the local humane society. Not only can they give you the most current information, but they can also tell you more about these types of programs in your area.

5. Maintain Your Pet’s Health.

The best way to reduce your pet’s long term medical expenses is by maintaining good health and hygiene. Just as it is with humans, it requires time and effort to keep your pets healthy. You can ensure your pet maintains a healthy body weight with regular exercise and feeding schedules. Over-feeding your pet hurts both your pet’s well-being and your wallet.

Annual check-ups and regular visits to the vet are another costly responsibility of caring for animals. However, it is extremely important for preventative care.  This includes regular dental cleaning, booster shots, and treatments for common ailments like heartworm, fleas, tick, and other diseases. When you do need medication, you can save a bundle through websites like PetCareRX and 1-800-PetMeds as well.

Finally, do not forget your pet’s reproductive health as well. Although puppies and kittens are adorable, their upkeep costs are astronomical. As a responsible pet owner and financial planner, have your pets spayed and neutered. The initial investment in the procedure is well worth the long term savings.

6. Reduce Grooming Costs.

When choosing what kind of pet is right for you, grooming is another important consideration. Larger animals or breeds with long hair require a lot of maintenance. Some pet owners have professional groomers tend to their animals, but these services come at a high price. While these visits are necessary at times, regular combing, brushing, bathing and clipping at home prolong visits to the groomer.

If you do not feel confident to trim your pet’s fur or nails, there are many tutorial videos online to help you. You can purchase the tools online, and follow along with their instruction to reduce your pet care expenses. Furthermore, shaving pets during summer months will also save you time and energy cleaning. That alone is a huge value in and of itself.

7. Try Making Your Own Pet Toys.

One of the most frivolous ways we spoil our pets is with toys and treats. Although my pets enjoy them immensely, toys from the pet store are not cheap. While it is okay to splurge occasionally, don’t stuff your online shopping cart with things they don’t really need.

Instead, look for things around your house that many pets are perfectly content to play with. Every dog I have owned happily chased after tennis balls or dragged around their favorite stuffed toy to chew on. Cats often prefer the boxes their pet supplies and toys come in. Additionally, ribbons and strings can be just as entertaining as there are plenty of items around your home that your pets will find perfectly acceptable.

If you are the creative type, you can find endless ideas for homemade pet toys on Pinterest boards and other DIY websites. You can also consider growing your own herbs like catnap to further reduce pet expenses. When it comes to finding ways to keep your pet entertained, you are truly only limited by what keeps your and your pet’s interest.

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