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    Get a Free Lyft Ride Home If You’re in One of These 9 States

    Get a Free Lyft Ride Home If You’re in One of These 9 States

    Want a free ride home after a night out one weekend? If you live in Texas, New York, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia or Washington, D.C., Lyft can help.

    The ride-share company teams up with Budweiser to offer two $10 credits toward rides between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through the end of 2017. The expanded partnership is an effort to get customers safely to and from their destinations.

    How to Get Free Lyft Rides Every Weekend

    To get the Lyft URL for your two $10 credits, visit Budweiser’s Facebook or Instagram page every Thursday at 2 p.m.. Keep in mind the URL changes periodically, so make sure to check Budweiser’s social media pages for the latest link.

    The credits are good for rides taken between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights.

    You may use the credit for Lyft rides in the following states:

    • Texas
    • New York
    • Colorado
    • Illinois
    • Florida
    • Massachusetts
    • Pennsylvania
    • Missouri
    • Georgia
    • Washington, D.C.

    Why Take a Ride on Bud?

    Lyft and Budweiser first joined forces in 2016 to curb drunk driving. Last year, Budweiser donated $1 to safe-ride programs every time someone used the hashtag #GiveaDamn.

    “This partnership encourages passengers to make the right choice about how they get home and celebrates the drivers who make it possible.”​ Budweiser declared in a blog post announcing the expanded partnership.  

    This offer is limited to 10,000 round-trip rides each weekend, so we suggest visiting the site at exactly 2 p.m. on Thursdays to get your credits. With your credits in hand, you can make some awesome plans for the weekend.

    Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    This is Why Nearly 2 Million Parents Sacrifice Their Careers for Child Care

    This is Why Nearly 2 Million Parents Sacrifice Their Careers for Child Care

    Nearly three years into my life as a parent, there’s little about being a mom that still rattles me.

    I’m used to the lack of sleep.

    Public temper tantrums don’t embarrass me.

    Bring on the poop, pee and vomit — dealing with bodily fluids is just part of the job.

    But the thought of day care sort of terrifies me.

    Some fears are irrational: My daughter won’t end up loving her teacher more than she loves me, and I’m told the extra exposure to kid-germs will build up her immune system.

    However, affording the stress-inducing cost of child care is a very legitimate concern.

    All across the country, parents of young children find themselves facing child-care-related challenges, which can center around affordability, availability or even quality of care. For many, these struggles bleed into their work lives.

    Sacrifices Must Be Made

    The Center for American Progress analyzed recent data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health and found that nearly two million parents of children age 5 and under had to make significant career sacrifices in the past year due to child care issues.

    The survey, which was conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, asked participants, “During the past 12 months, did you or anyone in the family have to quit a job, not take a job or greatly change your job because of problems with child care for this child?”

    Results weren’t broken down to specify which of the 1,925,865 individuals who responded “yes” left the workforce to become stay-at-home parents and which turned down job opportunities or had to make adjustments, such as reducing their hours.

    However, the data did indicate how many of those parents came from each state and the District of Columbia. California had the largest number of parents who claimed child care problems resulted in work sacrifices (197,781). Texas (165,924) and New York (123,142) rounded out the top three states.

    Kristy Gaunt – The Penny Hoarder

    The fewest number of affected parents (2,056) came from Vermont. Wyoming (3,227) and Delaware (3,264) rounded out the bottom three states.

    Potential Legislation for This Nationwide Problem

    Last week four Congress members introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, according to a recent Working Mother article.

    A fact sheet says this proposed bill would ensure families who make less than 150% of their state’s median income would not pay more than 7% of their earnings on child care.

    The bill would also support “universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3- and 4-year-olds” and would improve training and pay for child care workers.

    I, for one, will be watching to see whether support for this new bill gains steam. Dealing with child care should not have to be a scary thing.

    Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She is a single mother of one and is fortunate that her own mother saves her from having to put her daughter in day care just yet.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    Ask Brianna: How Can I Budget When My Rent Is So High?

    Ask Brianna: How Can I Budget When My Rent Is So High?

    “Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to [email protected] This week’s question: “A huge…


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    How to Join a Deluge of Insurance Claims for Flooded Cars

    How to Join a Deluge of Insurance Claims for Flooded Cars

    The one-two punch of Harvey and Irma will make this one of the most destructive hurricane seasons ever for cars. Together, the two storms rendered more than 500,000 vehicles a total loss, according to estimates from Cox Automotive, which owns Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. By comparison, the estimated vehicle toll was 250,000 from Superstorm…


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    Need Budget-Friendly Bike Repairs? Pedal Over to the Local Bike Co-Op

    Need Budget-Friendly Bike Repairs? Pedal Over to the Local Bike Co-Op

    There’s nothing quite like having a shiny new bike.

    That is, until something goes awry.

    Shifting gears just feels a little bit off, you know? Or a tire goes flat without warning.

    Leaving the bike in the garage and wishing it would fix itself is easy. Sitting in front of YouTube and trying to make sense of DIY fix-it tutorials is harder.

    Bike professionals can do wonders to fix your once-trusty steed, but their prices can be prohibitive. A regular tune-up can range from $50 to $150. Private mechanic instruction can help you figure out how to do repairs yourself later on, but it can run you $65 or more per hour.

    The St. Petersburg Bike Co-Op offers cycling education and affordable bike-maintenance options in St. Petersburg, Florida. The nonprofit, which is housed in an old storage building owned by the City of St. Petersburg, is run by volunteers who open up shop two evenings per week.

    Members pay $40 to $100 per year on a pay-what-you-can scale system, but anyone can drop in once and pay a fee of between $5 and $10 to access the shop and its tools.

    Similarly structured co-ops exist around the country, in urban and suburban areas, as well as in college towns.

    While one of the major perks is access to experienced bike mechanics who will answer questions and guide you through repairs, the real perk for yearlong members is access to the right tools. You use them, clean up after yourself and ride into the sunset. If you need a part, there’s probably a used spare stashed somewhere that you can buy at a deep discount.

    We paid a visit to find out what happens on co-op night.

    Co-op volunteer Sal Blanquet investigates used parts to find the best fit to install on a donated bicycle. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    No one shakes hands in greeting at the St. Petersburg Bike Co-op. There’s too much grease, too much sweat. And everyone’s holding something, whether it be an oily rag, a wrench or an entire bicycle wheel. The co-op is only open five hours each week. The night passes quickly.

    The co-op hosted a fundraiser to kick off operations in 2013 and raised $1,000 to buy its initial set of tools. Local bike shops send over used parts that might have a second life. Sometimes, people show up with boxes of bike parts.

    “A lot of these bikes would end up in a dumpster or the landfill,” founder and president Carrie Waite says, overlooking a motley crew of vintage and modern bikes that have been wheeled out of the shed for co-op night. “It’s neat to be able to repurpose them and give them a new life.”

    Christy Foust, who lives in St. Petersburg, commutes around town on her bike but plans to take it on a trip across Canada in a few months. She’s been visiting the co-op over the spring and summer to prepare, tuning up her nearly 40-year-old bike with the help of volunteer mechanics like Daniel Mrgan, vice president and another founder of the co-op.

    Daniel Mrgan, left, helps Christy Foust tune up her vintage bicycle. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    Mrgan says stories like Foust’s are common at the co-op. “People decide they want to get in shape or they want to go on a special ride,” he says.

    He recalled two young women who had commandeered their fathers’ old bikes and planned to take a cross-country bike trip together before they moved away from one another to take new jobs. “When they told me this,” Mrgan smiles but shakes his head, “I thought they were beyond help.” But in a couple of months, they were on their way.

    Leader and volunteer mechanic Chris Sheppard beams as he recalls a father and daughter team who visited before the daughter went off to college. Her bike needed a safety check; his bike needed a flat tire repaired.

    Sheppard walked her through the repair steps, quizzing her on various tools and prepping her for the types of repairs she might need to do while she was at school.

    “They both left smiling,” Sheppard said. “She left way more confident” and with one less thing to stress about as she left for college.

    “The kids are the best. They get so invested,” Waite says as she watches Sebastian Blanquet, son of longtime volunteer Sal, help volunteer Jessica Jacobs install a set of bike pedals. “The idea of do-it-yourself really resonates with them.”

    Jessica Jacobs, left, installs a set of bike pedals with help from Sebastian Blanquet. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    Sheppard chats with Gregory Nista, talking him through the process of truing, or straightening, the wheel of his bike.

    “Getting the wheels straight can be a game,” Sheppard says as he slowly spins the wheel toward him, stooping just slightly and squinting to spot imperfections in the alignment.

    Meanwhile, Nista anticipates the next task, darting around the shed to grab tools and a tube to insert into his tire.

    Sheppard says that wheels and tires usually need the most work, as they bear the weight of the rider and the hazards of the road. But working on a bike is satisfying, he says. “It makes your brain work,” Sheppard nods. “It makes you self-sufficient.”

    Chris Sheppard straightens a bike wheel for Gregory Nista. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    Nista knows the value of self-sufficiency. He describes himself as “upper homeless,” a transient who relies on his bike to get to temporary jobs from the PeopleReady staffing office a few miles away.

    “My bike is my life,” Nista says. “I ride it all over.” He’s cycled to Tallahassee and back several times, taking a 350-mile route that passes through several Florida cities. “I can save some money and hit the road,” he says — as long as he has his bike.

    Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.

    Heather Comparetto (IG: heatheretto) is a photographer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s exhibited her photographs internationally, loves the ocean, and enjoys coffee and tacos (but not together).

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    Your Parmesan Cheese is Probably Sawdust. Here’s How to Find the Real Stuff

    Your Parmesan Cheese is Probably Sawdust. Here’s How to Find the Real Stuff

    The first time I had Parmesan cheese, I was 26 years old.

    No, I wasn’t raised by wolves. In fact, my parents fed me a lot of pasta when I was growing up.

    I’m just a victim of America’s lax labelling laws — and more than likely, you are, too.

    Let me explain.

    Your Cheese Might Be an Imposter. Here’s Why

    “Parmigiano-Reggiano” — that is, the original, real Parmesan cheese, as it’s called in its native Italian — “is allowed to contain only three very simple ingredients: milk (produced in the Parma/Reggio region and less than 20 hours from cow to cheese), salt, and rennet (a natural enzyme from calf intestine).”

    So writes Larry Olmsted at Forbes, where he begins to chronicle the rampant food fraudulence he fully explores in his (fascinating) book, “Real Food/Fake Food.”

    Overseas, foods must meet stringent guidelines to earn the privilege of printing place-derived names like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Champagne on their labels.

    But it’s not just about location. The government also controls the intricate details of how these products are made — sometimes down to the species of cattle allowed to produce the milk or, as Olmsted points out, the maximum distance between the cows and the creamery.

    These guidelines are based on an item’s history, concretizing the way things have been done for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.

    This means that when you purchase these foods in their native lands, you know a whole lot about the product you’re getting. The name is a heuristic for quality.

    But here in the U.S., companies can get away with using ancient names without following ancient practices. Our labeling laws favor the manufacturer, erring on the side of marketability over clarity. This is why many oft-used labeling terms, like “natural,” actually mean nothing.

    In “Real Food/Fake Food,” Olmsted reveals how such labeling loopholes have robbed Americans of experiencing the best versions of a host of seemingly common foods, including honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and more.

    Case in point: Perhaps the most familiar version of “Parmesan” cheese in America, Kraft’s pre-grated, green-can iteration.

    This cheese includes additives, like cellulose powder and potassium sorbate, which are “completely illegal” in the production of real Parmigiano-Reggiano, as Olmsted points out.

    The result? A whole country that has no idea what real Parmesan is supposed to taste like.

    “It’s far enough from the real thing that Kraft was legally forced to stop selling its cheese labeled Parmesan in Europe.”

    Why Does Getting the Real Thing Matter?

    So, why am I going on about other countries’ labeling laws? What on earth is the difference between cheese from cows in France and cheese from cows in Wisconsin?

    It’s not about the place, so much, as it is about the process. And about honesty in marketing. And getting what you pay for.

    Here’s why you should care if your cheese is an imposter.

    1. The Real Thing Is a Lot Better

    If you genuinely believe Parmesan is sawdust in a green can or know Swiss cheese only as the plasticy, hole-filled block sliced at the deli, you are missing out on an experience I firmly believe to be a birthright: eating real cheese.

    Trust me on this one. It is so good. SO GOOD.

    2. It Might Also Be a Lot Better for You

    Maybe you’re satisfied with your Kraft American singles and non-refrigerated “cheese food.”

    And goodness knows, these processed, domestic products are a whole lot cheaper than shopping the gourmet cheese bin. Why spoil yourself and ruin a good thing for your pocketbook?

    Well, if you care about the health of your body as well as your bank account, there is another motivator.

    For one thing, that stuff you sprinkle on your spaghetti may have actual wood shavings in it. (Hey, at least it tastes like what it is.)

    When you buy a genuine product, you know exactly what’s in it and how it’s made.

    And that means you likely won’t end up accidentally ingesting foreign objects, fillers or questionable synthetic chemicals.

    3. You Get What You’re Paying for

    Buying so-so cheese because it’s cheap and good enough is one thing, and there’s no shame in it. If you make that decision intentionally and know what you’re getting, I’m 100% on board. This is The Penny Hoarder, after all.

    The tricky thing — and the one that bothers me — is when you’re willing to pay more for “the good stuff” and end up, through no fault of your own, shelling out extra bucks on what turns out to be a fraud.

    If you’re going to spend the extra cheddar on fancy cheese, you should be able to feel confident that you’re getting the authentic article.

    Otherwise, it’s a total waste — to say nothing of the fact it’s false advertising, plain and simple.

    You’re spending money for a product that’s promising you an experience you don’t even know you’re missing. You should be outraged!

    How to Tell if These Gourmet Cheeses Are Authentic

    So, ready to learn how to identify the real deal next time you’re in the market for some dairy?

    Let’s dig in.

    Parmigiano-Reggiano

    Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    I start with Parmigiano-Reggiano because this cheese was my own real-food wakeup call. And what a wakeup!

    As it turns out, Parmigiano-Reggiano has nothing to do with the crap I put on my penne growing up. But even the hunk of solid, plastic-wrapped “Parmesan” you get at the market might pale in comparison to the real deal.

    Here’s how to get the actual stuff.

    What to look for:

    • Parmigiano-Reggiano is spelled out on the rind. That’s right, authentic versions of this cheese are a dead giveaway, as every single wheel created in Parma, Italy has its name emblazoned into the rind like this one.

      Depending on the size of the wedge you purchase, you may not be able to see either word in its entirety… but if the rind spells out a different name, or is unmarked entirely, you can rest assured it’s not real Parmigiano-Reggiano. Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano are frequent substitutes and good cheeses, but neither has earned authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano’s moniker, “The King of Cheeses.”

    Mozzarella

    Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    First things first: It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get real buffalo mozzarella, or Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, in an American supermarket.

    Historically, mozzarella, which is more acidic and has a totally different flavor profile than what you’re used to in your lasagna, is made from actual buffalo milk in the marshes between Rome and Naples. It’s also best to consume it fresh and close to the source.

    But you can still do better than the shredded stuff you find in pizza Lunchables.

    What to look for:

    • Avoid low-moisture, part-skim, 2% and other qualifications. These recipe changes are made to increase the product’s shelf life. This sounds like a good thing, but you’re more likely to get lunch box string cheese than soft, pillowy mozzarella deliciousness.

    Manchego

    Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    If you’ve so much as walked by a tapas restaurant in the last decade, you know that this Spanish cheese is having a serious moment.

    And for good reason. With flavor characteristics ranging from toasted nuts to caramel and butterscotch, Manchego is as complex and intriguing as it is downright delicious. Not to mention the fact it’s my personal favorite.

    It’s also one of the most commonly faked types of cheeses in the world, according to Deli Market News. Here’s how to get your hands on the real stuff.

    What to look for:

    • Real Manchego is only made in La Mancha, Spain, from the milk of the Manchega sheep that roam there. The very first thing you need to do is check the label to see where it came from. If it isn’t sheep-milk cheese from La Mancha, it isn’t Manchego.
    • The rind ranges from yellow/beige to brown and has a distinctive herringbone pattern. This apparently dates back to when shepherds aged the cheeses in grass baskets by shepherds hundreds of years ago. Pretty neat!
    • Your cheese should resemble a wedge cut from a wheel, as that’s how these cheeses are exclusively manufactured in their place of origin. The wheels have a PDO stamp, but it’s unlikely you’ll see it on your pre-cut portion.

    Feta

    Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    I know so many people who feel pretty ¯_(ツ)_/¯ about feta cheese. If I’d only ever eaten the supermarket variety, I’d understand completely.

    Authentic feta is a whole different ball game. It’s shockingly versatile and delicious enough to eat all on its own, or maybe with a simple drizzle of (real) olive oil — which is exactly how the Greeks do it.

    What to look for:

    • Real feta is not made with cow’s milk. Traditional, authentic Greek fetas are made primarily with sheep’s milk and perhaps some goat’s milk mixed in.
    • It isn’t sold pre-crumbled. At least the good stuff usually isn’t. Instead, look for a solid block or even a rounded wedge, which indicates barrel aging. The cheese’s surface should be dotted with a few holes, but it shouldn’t be falling apart.

    Emmenthaler (Swiss)

    Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    Getting real Swiss cheese is complicated and confusing, and no surprise. We’ve taken an entire country’s long and storied cheese history and boiled it down to a single word denoting a not-anywhere-near-as-good imitation product — namely, mild, white, domestically-made “Swiss” cheese filled with holes.

    In fact, the vast majority of cheeses made in Switzerland don’t have holes in them. The notable exception is Emmentaler, which our “Swiss” cheese is based on but doesn’t hold a candle to.

    If you want a real taste of Alpine bliss, you have to do some investigating.

    What to look for:

    • Scope out cheeses that are actually from Switzerland without “Swiss” on the label. If something is generically branded as “Swiss” cheese, it is likely anything but.

      Instead, look for the place of origin to see if the cheese is imported from Switzerland. Swiss cheeses come in all sorts of varieties — some common (and delicious) options include Gruyere, raclette and Appenzeller.

      Of course, there’s the danger that you’ll run into something marked Gruyere that’s actually a domestic Gruyere-style cheese. I think it’s worth the extra few bucks for the genuine, imported article, but even the Wisconsin imitation is bound to be better than the stuff you’re used to putting on your ham sandwich.

    Brie and Camembert

    Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

    Unfortunately, you’re probably not getting real French Brie or Camembert without buying a plane ticket.

    That’s because each of these cheeses are traditionally made with raw, unpasteurized milk, and the FDA is not a fan. It’s had a guideline in place since 1949 that restricts the import of raw milk products aged less than 60 days — a standard that looks like it’s about to go up, and which most of these soft cheeses don’t meet.

    Producers all over the world make Brie- and Camembert-style cheeses out of pasteurized milk, however, and some of it is better than others. Although you might need to fly to France for the authentic flavor, here’s what you can do to at least ensure you get the right texture.

    What to look for:

    • Soft cheeses should be soft, but not too soft. Don’t be afraid to give your round a squeeze. It should have a little give without being — perish the thought — squishy.
    • Buy a whole round, not a wedge. This will ensure that the creamy, gooey center has dried out as little as possible, whether the cheese is an import or a domestic product.

    Phew! Who knew shopping for cheese was so complicated?

    Fortunately, you’ve made it to the fun and (all too) easy part: Actually eating it.

    Bon appetit!

    Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) has written for SELF, Ms. Magazine, Roads & Kingdoms, VinePair, The Write Life, Barclaycard’s Travel Blog, Santander Bank’s Prosper and Thrive and other outlets. Her writing focuses on food, wine, travel and frugality.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    Inbox Dollars Review: Can you actually make money?

    Inbox Dollars Review: Can you actually make money?

    I am sure you’ve seen online how you can make money with online surveys, watching videos and even playing games, but can you ACTUALLY make money?

    Finding legitimate ways to earn money from home can be difficult. It is hard figuring out which one is a scam and which one actually pays money.

    That is why I am sharing my inbox dollars review with you so that you can make a decision or not on whether it is a good fit for you.

    Related posts:

    Make money shopping online

    30 Side Jobs to Make Money

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    Inbox Dollars Review: Can you actually make money? 

    Here are all the details about Inbox Dollars for you to read through and decide if you want to join their program to earn money from home.

    Signing Up with Inbox Dollars:

    Joining Inbox Dollars program is really simple. All you have to do is click this link and they will give you a $5 sign-up bonus.

    You will need to provide your email address and create a password for your account. You will then have to confirm your email address before getting started.

    Once you have create your Inbox Dollars account you can start filling out your information. You need to be as honest as possible with these questions because it will help them determine the right surveys and offers for you to complete.

    There are quite a few questions you need to complete before getting started but once you are finished they will provide you with some tutorials. This whole process may take you about 20 minutes, but once it’s done you will have earned your $5 for signing up!

    Earning Money with Inbox Dollars:

    Taking surveys – this is one of the main ways you can earn money with Inbox Dollars. They will provide you with a list of surveys in your dashboard and also include the amount of expected time it will take you to fill each one out. The amount you can earn varies. You do not need to take every single survey. Scan through and see how much they pay and the amount of time it will take to complete.

    Again, you want to take your time and actually answer the questions because they will help to qualify you for future survey opportunities. Keep in mind, even though it might says that it takes 15 minutes to complete, it may take longer. Some of the surveys are more in-depth. Plus, there are some surveys where you will have to complete a number of questions to find out that you actually did not qualify to take the survey.

    Searching online – Inbox Dollars allows you to search online and earn money for doing it. Although it is super easy to do, the amount of money is low per search completed. After doing a couple searches you will be rewarded with cents, so it doesn’t add up to a lot of money, but if you searching online why not do it there!

    Watching videos – This is another way that you can earn money with Inbox Dollars. They allow you to watch TV or videos to earn money, but again like searching online it only will earn you a few cents. This way is definitely more fun because you don’t have to read and answer questions but the payout is less.

    There are also a few other ways to earn money with Inbox Dollars like playing games and even shopping.

    Overall Inbox Dollars is really easy to use and earn money. You do have to earn at least $30 before cashing out, but a lot of other survey sites only pay out in points and Inbox Dollars rewards you with real money.

    If you are looking to join other online survey sites you can check out this list of 5 Survey Sites to Join for Extra Money.

    Have you tried Inbox Dollars?

    The post Inbox Dollars Review: Can you actually make money? appeared first on Frugal Fanatic.

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    Reaching Early Retirement Through Dividend Growth Investing

    Reaching Early Retirement Through Dividend Growth Investing

    Hello! Dividend investing is a very interesting topic. Today, I have an expert who has appeared on Forbes, Motley Fool, MSN Money, TheStreet, and more, and he is going to share tons of great information on this subject. You may remember him from his previous contribution How I Became A Successful Dividend Growth Investor. This is a guest contribution by Ben Reynolds.  Ben is the CEO of Sure Dividend.  Sure Dividend helps people build high quality dividend growth portfolios for the long run.

    Early retirement is the financial state of being where you don’t have to work.  You only work if you want to.

    Early retirement is reached when your passive income exceeds your expenses.  The average retirement age in the United States is 63.

    Retiring at any age is an accomplishment, but I think you will agree with me when I say that the earlier you retire, the better.

    There are 6 key factors that determine how long it will take for you to reach retirement:

    1. Your income (how much money you make)
    2. Your savings rate (the percentage of your income you save)
    3. Your expenses (how much money you spend)
    4. The size of your investment account (how much you already have saved)
    5. Your investment returns (how fast your investments are growing)
    6. The yield on your investment portfolio (how much your investments pay you)

    Making Sense of Cents has phenomenal information on increasing your income and savings rate, and reducing your expenses.  These are all vital aspects of retiring early.

    The size of your investment account now is based on your past decisions and for some people, being born into a wealthy family.  It is what it is; you can’t change it.

    How you invest will determine your investment returns and the yield on your investment portfolio when you are (early) retired.

    I believe that dividend growth investing is uniquely situated to offer individual investors a way to build a portfolio for rising passive income that will lead to early retirement (depending of course on your income and expenses).

     

    What Is Dividend Growth Investing

    Dividend growth investing is what it sounds like.  The core idea of dividend growth investing is to invest in businesses via the stock market that are likely to pay growing dividends over time.

    As an example, Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) dividend history over the last 20 years is shown below:

    Source:  Johnson & Johnson Investor Relations page
    Note:  The 2017 number shows dividend payments to date.  It will be higher than 2016 by the end of the year.

    As you can see, Johnson & Johnson shareholders have seen their dividend income grow from $0.43 a share in 1997 to $3.15 a share in 2016.  This is a 7.3x increase.  More importantly, that 7.3x increase in income came without buying additional shares.

    Dividend growth investing has a hidden benefit.  It focuses you on the business, and not on the stock price.  This means less (and hopefully no) panic selling during recessions.  In fact, many dividend investors take advantage of market declines by purchasing into great dividend growth stocks while they are trading at a discount.

    The reason dividend growth investing matches up with building an early retirement portfolio so well is because it provides rising income over time.  This is a powerful feature that is not a characteristic of investing in bonds, gold, Bitcoin, or stocks that don’t pay dividends.

     

    Reinvesting Dividends and Early Retirement

    A portfolio that creates rising income over time is powerful.  You can ‘super charge’ growth by reinvesting dividends back into the portfolio.

    When Johnson & Johnson pays its dividend, instead of taking it in cash, you can use that dividend to buy more shares of Johnson & Johnson.  You can see how this can greatly increase your passive income stream in the future in the example below.

    Johnson & Johnson currently has a dividend yield of 2.6%.  The company has grown its dividend at 11% a year from 1997 through 2016.  Forecasting 11% a year growth ahead may lead to disappointment; there’s no guarantee Johnson & Johnson will continue such strong growth. 

    Say the company grows its dividend at ‘just’ 7% a year going forward.  If you are reinvesting dividends, your income stream from Johnson and Johnson will grow at 9.6% a year.  Your income growth is simply the expected dividend per share growth rate plus the company’s current dividend yield (if dividends are reinvested).

    With 9.6% a year compounding, your income from Johnson & Johnson will double about every 8 years.  I don’t know many other situations outside of dividend growth investing where you have a high likelihood of doubling your income in under a decade.

    Strong income growth over time is why dividend growth investing can help you achieve early retirement.  It isn’t instantaneous, but it is achievable.

     

    Where to Find Great Dividend Growth Stocks

    Johnson & Johnson is a strong dividend growth stock…  But it’s not the only one.  There are other great businesses with long histories of increasing their dividend income every year.

    My favorite place to find potential dividend growth stocks worthy of an early retirement portfolio is the Dividend Aristocrats Index. 

    The Dividend Aristocrats are a group of 51 stocks in the S&P 500 with 25+ consecutive years of dividend increases.  A few examples of well-known Dividend Aristocrats are below:

    • Aflac (AFL)
    • 3M (MMM)
    • Coca-Cola (KO)
    • Wal-Mart (WMT)
    • Exxon Mobil (XOM)
    • Procter & Gamble (PG)
    • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

    The Dividend Aristocrats index is made up of businesses with long histories of rising dividends.  A company simply cannot pay rising dividends for 25+ consecutive years without a strong and durable competitive advantage.

    Why do competitive advantages matter? Warren Buffett himself says they are the key to investing.

    “The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage.” – Warren Buffett

    Not surprisingly, the Dividend Aristocrats Index has outperformed the S&P 500 over the last decade by 2.8 percentage points a year…  With lower volatility.

    Source:  S&P Fact Sheet

    To put this into perspective, $1.00 invested in the Dividend Aristocrats index 10 years ago would be worth $2.59 now, versus $2.00 for the S&P 500 (both numbers include dividends).  Moreover, your portfolio wouldn’t have had as severe price swings, because the Dividend Aristocrats index has lower volatility than the S&P 500.

     

    Final Thoughts

    There’s no question building a portfolio for early retirement can be complicated…  But it doesn’t have to be.

    By investing in individual great businesses and holding them for their rising income potential (dividend growth investing), you can build a portfolio that is very likely to pay you rising income over time. 

    And importantly, investing in individual stocks eliminates costly management fees from mutual funds and ETFs so your money is left to compound in your account, where it belongs.

    The bottom line is that retirement requires a stream of income in excess of your expenses.  That income stream must also grow at least as fast (though preferably much faster) than inflation.  Otherwise, you lose purchasing power – and you won’t stay retired for long.

    Dividend growth investing can create growing income streams that are likely to rise well in excess of inflation.  The unique characteristics of dividend growth investing are a compelling match for those seeking early retirement.

    Are you interested in dividend investing? Why or why not?

    The post Reaching Early Retirement Through Dividend Growth Investing appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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    One Spouse, Two Cars, Three Houses, Four Jobs

    One Spouse, Two Cars, Three Houses, Four Jobs

    There’s a simple personal finance mantra everybody should consider following: one spouse, one car, one house, one job. The idea is that if you stick with one of everything, you’ll maximize its usage, minimize extraneous expenditure, and live happily ever after.

    We get in trouble when we want too much.

    But one of everything can get quite boring. Thus, the divorce rate is ~50%. The average car ownership is six years. The median home ownership is seven years. And the average person job hops every three years.

    I want to review each item to see what’s truly ideal. I suspect the answer is different for everyone. Feel free to share your thoughts below.

    How Many Of Each Is Ideal For A Wonderful Life?

    Spouse: I only have one spouse, and plan to only have one spouse. We met when we were in college and have been together ever since. Now that we are business partners and parents, the stakes are way too high to split now! If we divorced, we’d have to waste money on lawyers, go through some serious financial forensic analysis, get another place to live, and share custody of our son.

    Verdict: One spouse is ideal.

    Cars: For my entire life, I’ve either had no car or just one car. With the invention of ridesharing, I’ve often wondered about having no car. But having no car won’t work because it would be a PITA to install a baby seat and bring a stroller every time we had to go somewhere.

    But for nine months, we had two cars because I actually bought Moose, my current family car in December 2016. Our baby was due in Spring and I wanted to get a larger vehicle before he was born. Sometimes babies are born early, and the seller offered a reasonable price.

    Two cars felt like a complete waste of money, but because the Honda Fit was a $235/month business expense, it wasn’t costly. Further, we have plenty of free parking right outside our house, which is a rarity in a city like San Francisco. I mostly still drove Rhino except when taking the little one to the doctor’s office.

    Once I returned Rhino, I felt lighter. It was a relief not to own him anymore because he had a lot of starter problems (will show a video in a future post). Further, it was nice knowing I was not financially responsible or liable for him anymore. Calling the auto insurance company to drop coverage was a happy moment.

    Verdict: one car is ideal + a ridesharing account per adult.

    Houses: Owning your own house feels awesome. There’s this magical feeling you experience that nobody tells you when you get the keys. Owning one rental property feels pretty darn good too. It’s nice knowing your tenants are paying your mortgage and that eventually, you’ll own the property free and clear to earn a nice cash flow. A vacation property can be great if it’s relatively close by and you use it for at least four weeks a year. But after three properties, if you have a job and a family to take care of, things start getting more difficult to manage.

    I thought I’d enjoy owning four properties consisting of a primary residence, two city rentals, and one vacation rental/property. But after three years of managing three properties at the same time, I finally had enough after my son was born. If I had perfect tenants, I wouldn’t have minded holding onto three rentals. But I knew renting out a house in the Marina district (infamous for being a homogenous party neighborhood in SF) near a busy street would only attract a group of 4 – 6 male roommates and not the stable family I was looking for.

    Verdict: Two properties, one consisting of a primary residence and a rental property to be truly long real estate. It’s much better to vacation all over the world and rent instead of always going back to the same place.

    Jobs: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person has worked 10 different jobs before 40. Sounds high, but it makes a lot of sense if we are counting all the jobs one has held in their lifetimes.

    Before graduating college, I had four jobs. After graduating college, I had two jobs, three corporate consulting jobs, and my own business. What do you know. That makes 10 jobs for me too. I felt like I stayed at my last full-time job for two years too long. I should have joined a bucket shop for a big two-year guarantee and then quit. But if I did, I would have left a severance package equal to five years of living expenses on the table so I guess things kind of worked out.

    Verdict: Five jobs after college. The first job is to learn. The second job is to earn. The third job is to take a big step up in pay and responsibility. The fourth job is to explore a new field because you’re sick and tired of the old one. The fifth job is to take another gargantuan leap in pay or find your retirement job where you can just chill out, like one of the thousands of people who work at a massive corporation. During these job transitions, I hope to goodness you’re working on a side-hustle as well.

    A Wonderful Life Is What You Make Of It

    I hope everyone can find a partner or a best friend to experience all of life’s highs and lows. My luckiest break really was getting an e-mail from my wife senior year in college wondering why I had skipped Japanese 101 class. Or maybe the real lucky break was having the foresight into thinking if I took Japanese 101 senior year, I could meet a girl just like my wife. After all, I could have taken any 101 class because I already had enough credits to graduate. Ah hah! Talk about predicting the future.

    I’d consider giving up all my money to be in college again. But I wouldn’t trade my family for the world. Since reliving the past is impossible, we just have to make the best of the present. One spouse, one car, one house, one job is good advice. But it’s worth shooting for a little more if you have the courage.

    Here are some other profiles I can think of:

    The Monk: No spouse, no car, no house, no job.

    The Minimalist: Maybe a spouse, no car, no house, a boring job that doesn’t pay well.

    The Digital Nomad: Likely no spouse, no car, no house, a lifestyle business that requires cheaper living abroad.

    The Early Retiree: A working spouse, a car, a couple houses, lives off spouse, investments, or side business.

    The American: Onto their second spouse, two cars, rents, a soul-sucking job.

    The Ultra-Wealthy: Onto their second or third spouse, three or more cars, five or more properties, runs a business that will never let them be free even though they have all the money in the world.

    Readers, what do you think is the ideal number for each item and why? Which profile do you fit? 

    The post One Spouse, Two Cars, Three Houses, Four Jobs appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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    The SEC Hack: What Investors Need to Know

    The SEC Hack: What Investors Need to Know

    Consumers’ angst over the security of sensitive financial data isn’t getting much help these days. Two weeks ago, one of the big three credit bureaus, Equifax, reported hackers had accessed the personal information of more than half of the adult population in the U.S. On Wednesday, it was the Securities and Exchange Commission announcing its systems had been…


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