Swago For April: It’s Like Swagbucks Bingo


Swagbucks has one more bit of April fun – it’s the return of Swago! It’s just like bingo, but in this case you’re filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online.

The best part is that the points you get can be used to get free gift cards to places like Amazon, or PayPal cash!

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points – if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 700 SB ($7) bonus!

Click here to sign up and get started! If you sign up through my link and earn 300 SB before May 1st, you’ll get a bonus 300 SB!

Loyal3 Is Shutting Down

Prioritize Your Finances to wind up with a suitcase of money
You won’t be maximizing your money with Loyal3 any more.

Back in 2015, I learned about a relatively new investing platform that allowed users to invest in increments as low as $10 per purchase. Additionally, you could buy partial shares, which made the opportunity even more attractive. This platform was Loyal3.  This actually got me to start investing. Unfortunately, after having used this online brokerage for about two years, I got an email that Loyal3 is shutting down.

Loyal3 Is Shutting Down

This email that I received from the company was a bit of a surprise, but not too big of one. The company did not charge any fees, claiming to make money from marketing the stock of the 60 or so companies that it provided for investors as well as the interest from holding onto cash that was not yet invested in an interest-bearing money market fund.

Loyal3 is shutting down.
Loyal3 is shutting down.

This did not seem like the most sustainable of business models, but because Loyal3 was a member of SIPC, I figured at the time that my investments were safe. I enjoyed the chance to build my investment holdings in small increments over time.

Many in the investing community advocate buying stock in increments of $1,000 or more because of fees that hurt long-term returns. This can make it difficult for small-time investors to begin the process of investing. It can also make diversification a very slow process. With Loyal3, I had as many as eight holdings at one time, built up with purchases that ranged between $10 and $200 for any single transaction.

This was a pretty cool deal.

But now it’s done.

What To Do Now?

Now that Loyal3 is shutting down, what is the small-time investor to do? There are some investing options that might work. RobinHood is one that comes to mind. I’ve not used this platform, but I’ve read about it. RobinHood requires investors to buy full shares, which makes the minimum investment a bit higher.

The email from Loyal3 indicated that those who choose to leave their holdings alone would automatically have them transferred to a new brokerage called FolioFirst. This new brokerage, according to the email, is just for Loyal3 clients. The offerings for FolioFirst accounts will grow to around 200 companies and funds, which is good. Then comes the bad news.

There are still free trades( at least up to 2,000 a month), but the new outfit is going to start charging a $5 monthly fee per account. The minimum investment will now go up to $25 from $10. $5 a month might not sound like much, but it would add up to $60 a year.

Let’s say that a new investor has $50 a month to invest. This fee would mean that the investor would go from paying $0 with Loyal3 to paying $60 with the new FolioFirst platform. That’s a fee that would take up 10 percent of the total investments for the first year. Admittedly, the fee would go down over time as more money gets invested, but it would slow down the growth process quite a bit.

Investors with Loyal3 also have the option of instigating an account transfer to the brokerage of their choice. Option 3 involves selling all shares and then cashing them out.

What Am I Doing?

After getting the email that Loyal3 is shutting down, I decided that I’d opt for the third option. My account has some modest gains. I figured that my $100 in gains would cost me about $20 in taxes at most. Not too bad.

Furthermore, I also took into account the fact that I’m investing for dividend income. With the current size of my account, I’d have to pay about 4 percent of its value in account fees over the next year. That’s more than the roughly 3 percent yield that I’m earning on my holdings.

I’m planning to take the proceeds and invest them into my IRA account with TradeKing. This will provide a positive tax effect because I’ll be able to cut my current-year income by the amount I invest and then save 15 percent of the investment in deferred taxes.

I am planning to make one major purchase or two smaller purchases with the proceeds. This will not have me as diversified as I was, but it will cost me a max of $9.90 in trading fees, which is much less than the $60 I’d lose when looking at the monthly fees that FolioFirst would charge.

I can also buy REITs, telecoms, and utilities that pay higher dividend yields, so my overall dividend income for the next 12 months will probably go up with the purchases.

Conclusion

Loyal3 is shutting down. This is sad in one regard. Small-time investors who are getting started will have one less option when it comes to making small purchases and not having to pay major fees.

I’m cashing out and cutting my current-year taxes by putting the proceeds into a traditional IRA. I should also see a bit of a bump in my annual dividend income as a result.

Get 15 Percent Cash-Back on Steak ‘N Shake

Steak ‘N Shake is one of my favorite restaurants. The food is done pretty quickly, it’s pretty tasty, and it’s a good value.

If you love Steak ‘N Shake, you can get a 15% cashback when you purchase Steak ‘N Shake gift cards from MyGiftCardsPlus, which is a site that gives you cash back when you buy gift cards to your favorite retailers.

The cash back is paid in the form of SB points on Swagbucks, which you can turn into free gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, or PayPal. You can take advantage of this deal by clicking here, and if you don’t already have a Swagbucks account, you can create one there so you get your SB points for your purchase!

This is a limited time offer that’s good through this April 30th or until supplies run out, whichever happens first!

How To Free Up Money To Start Your Side Hustle

A side hustle can help you make more money.
Photo Credit: FirmBee via Pixabay (public domain)

The following post has been contributed by Drew Cloud of the Student Loan Report.

Debt has become a way of life in the United States, with the average household now owing more than $100,000 in debt. From credit card balances to mortgages, car loans and student loans, Americans are taking on more debt than ever before. It often leads to issues in setting your priorities straight. Owing money can be incredibly stressful — and it can also make it hard for people to get out of debt. One method that many people may want to use to dig their way out of a financial hole is through a side hustle.

Those looking to start a side hustle may want to start driving for a ride sharing company, like Uber or Lyft, or perhaps they want to start selling their crafts online. Whatever their side hustle may be, they need the cash to start it up — but how is that possible if they are already in significant debt?

Freeing up money to earn money can be incredibly challenging when you are already carrying large amounts of debt. For example, the average American household has nearly $17,000 in credit card debt, over $176,000 in mortgage debt and almost $50,000 in student loan debt. With numbers like this, it can seem impossible to put together enough money to start up a side gig. But there are ways to start chipping away at that debt — and free up money to start your side hustle.

Refinancing Can Free Up Money For A Side Hustle

When it comes to mortgages and student loans, refinancing may be the right choice to help you lower your monthly payment and reduce the total amount of interest you pay over the life of your loan. A refinanced loan will typically have a lower, fixed interest rate and potentially a shorter repayment term.

When you refinance your loan, you are applying for a new loan that will be used to pay off the old loan (or in the case of student loans, multiple loans). The interest rate for this new loan will be based on a number of factors, such as your credit score, income and history of making on-time payments. If you initially applied for your mortgage or student loans when you had a lower income or credit score, refinancing can be a great way to get a lower interest rate — and to lower your monthly payments as a result.

Online repayment calculators can help you figure out if refinancing will save you money. For student loans, several sites such as my own website (studentloans.net) allow you to compare rates from a number of lenders so that you can be sure that you are getting a great deal.

Personal Loans

For credit cards, you can apply for a personal loan to pay off all of your debts with one loan. This could include medical bills, balances on credit cards and more. Credit cards tend to charge high interest rates, with compounding interest. This means that the interest charges are added to the principal amount owed and any accrued interest, so that you will be paying interest on top of interest. Credit cards may also have variable interest rates that could go up significantly based on a number of factors, like if you miss a payment.

A personal loan with a low, fixed interest rate can help you get a handle on your credit card debt, making it far easier to pay off your credit cards. Loan interest rates are determined by your credit history and whether the loan is secured or unsecured, and are usually fixed for the life of the loan. If you are approved for a debt consolidation loan, you’ll make fixed monthly payments for the loan term (usually two to five years). Making a single payment each month may be particularly helpful for anyone who has a hard time keeping up with multiple payments on different debts.

Refinancing your mortgage and student loans and using personal loans to pay off your credit cards are two ways that you can reduce your debt to help free up money to start your side hustle. Once you have paid down your debt, you will then be able to more fully commit to your side gig, whether it involves setting up your own crafting business, driving on the weekends, or any other type of work.

Drew Cloud started The Student Loan Report when he found it difficult to find student loan information in one place. He now regularly writes about the latest student loan news as well as advice articles for those in college as well as for graduates working to repay their debt.

The April Swagbucks Team Challenge


Easter is bringing with it another fun team challenge to help you earn SB from Swagbucks! For those of you who don’t know what Swagbucks is, it’s a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web!

If you’ve never tried Swagbucks before because you didn’t know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes! Their latest, the “Egg-cellent” Team Challenge, begins Monday, April 17th.
Here’s how you can join the challenge and the site:

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team. Pre-registration is going on right now! If you don’t already have an account, you can sign up on this page as well.

2. Starting April 17th at 8am PDT, in addition to earning SB you’ll contribute points to your teams total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.

3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you’ve contribute so far.

All members who participate and contribute at least 400 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Rebate on their next gift card!

Not only that, but if you earn 300 SB before May 1st, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus (as long as you’ve signed up under me)!

Members of the 1st place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 25 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 3rd place team will receive a 10 SB Swag Up Rebate. Your SB Swag Up Rebate will be made available on Friday, April 21st and will expire on Sunday, May 7th 11:59pm PT

Big Cash Back With Swagbucks Shopping Through Easter


Spring has sprung and at Swagbucks, the deals are in full bloom. They’re giving back BIG Cash Back on your favorite merchants. If you haven’t heard of Swagbucks, when you shop there you get cash back in the form of SB points for every dollar you spend. Then you redeem those points for gift cards to places like Amazon, PayPal, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, and more! Sign up here to get started

The weekend is upon us and the weather is warming up, so now’s the perfect time to do a little shopping! Need to update your wardrobe for the new season? Check out all the great Cash Back deals you can earn at:

JCPenney – 15% Cash Back
Nike – 20% Cash Back
Macy’s – 12% Cash Back
Gap – 8% Cash Back

Looking to do some spring cleaning and organizing? Check out great deals at these retailers:

Home Depot = 3% Cash Back
Target = 4% Cash Back
Walmart = Up to 8% Cash Back
Lowe’s = 3% Cash Back

Plus, if you’ve signed up through my links at some point this month (or do it now), you’ll get a $2 (200 SB) bonus added to your account when you get your shopping SB!

You can earn SB in all sorts of ways, including discovering deals and trying new products/services, watching videos, taking surveys, or just searching the web!

Hurry though, because this deal ends on the 16th!

Online Earnings for March 2017

Many, if not most, Americans live on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis. This makes it hard for most people to build up wealth. When you spend pretty much every penny that you make, it’s hard to build up a nest egg. This is where online earnings that can supplement the money you get from your regular job.

Prioritize Your Finances to wind up with a suitcase of money
Online earnings can build up a nice nest egg over time.

While many people do quite well financially, there are more that have a job that pays little. These people frequently look to the side hustle. This is the reason I started to look for ways to make money online about a decade ago.

It’s definitely helped improve my financial position over what it would have been had I not started. My online earnings have increased over time. Some months’ I’ll do pretty well; others, I’ll make less. The way I look at it, though, any extra money that I can bring in will help me build wealth over time.

Back in February, I made just above $200, which was less than the $334 that I made in January. Now it’s time to check my online earnings for March.

Online Earnings for March 2017

Freelance Writing:                   $241.55
Swagbucks:                                  $75.00

TOTAL for March 2017:       $316.55

While this amount of online earnings was less than it was in January, it was more than I earned in February. I earned from two freelance sites. I usually write about finance, but will occasionally take a job for a different topic like travel.

I’ve also gone over $1,500 lifetime earnings on Swagbucks. If you’ve not yet signed up for Swagbucks, you can do so by clicking on the previous link. You can also learn about some of the methods that I use to earn money on Swagbucks and how this could build up to a nice chunck of change over time from this short and relatively inexpensive book on building wealth with Swagbucks:

How To Earn Money With Swagbucks In Your Spare Time To Build Wealth

I’m keeping up with my online earnings to show you, my readers, how it can be done. I started making money on the Internet nearly 10 years ago, and I’ve increased this over time. You’ll probably not get rich over time, but you can earn money and supplement your income. You can make this money in your pajamas without leaving home, and it can really go a long way to helping you improve your personal finances.

March 2017 Passive Dividend Income

Passive Dividend Income Builds Up Slowly But Surely

Yet another month has come and gone. I don’t like new months for one reason, as they seem to be coming more quickly as I get older. I do, however, enjoy them for another reason, because they give a great chance to look back. One of the best things to look back over is passive dividend income.

As you might already know, I’ve decided to embark upon a path of building a growing stream of passive dividend income. The strategy involves buying stock in a few high-quality companies. These companies have many employees who work hard every day.

They also tend to make lots of money, and part of the money that they make comes back to me in the form of dividends. These are cash payments that I can use for pretty much whatever I want. At this point in life, I’m using them to buy more stock. Which leads to more dividends. Which leads to more stock. And on and on this virtuous cycle should go.

Passive Dividend Income for March 2017

March was a great month for earning dividends. I had several companies and funds that paid out in the month. One was even unexpected. Kraft-Heinz switched up from paying out in the first month of the quarter to the third month. It’s no big deal, but it does make my first month income look smaller. Oh well, first world problem, for sure. Here are the great companies that paid me passive dividend income during the month of March:

Taxable Account

Unilever (UL)                                                                           $0.33
McDonald’s (MCD)                                                             $2.79
Kraft-Heinz (KHC)                                                               $1.72

Traditional IRA

Southern Co. (SO)                                                             $16.80
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)                                               $8.00
Realty Income Corp (O)                                                   $2.11

401k

JP Morgan Equity Income R5 (OIERX)                  $2.23
Cohen and Steers Realty Shares (CSRSX)            $8.18

TOTAL FOR MARCH 2017:   $42.16

Year-to-Year Comparison

When adding up all of these dividend payments, they come up to $42.16 for the month of March. This is an increase of nearly 210 percent over the $13.62 of passive dividend income that I received in the same month last year.

My dividend income  for 2017 is now up to $90.35 for the year. I was at a little less than $25 at this point last year. My $42.16 in dividend income would have bought me just north of 2 hours of freedom in March, based upon my estimate of needing $20/hour of passive income to keep up my standard of living without full-time work. My monthly passive dividend income page that tracks my progress over time has an update with this information.

How was your dividend income for March? Let us know in the comments.

If you’d like to keep up with my progress, be sure to sign up for updates in the email signup box near the top of the page. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional financial advisor. I intend this information for informational and educational purposes only. Perform due diligence before investing in any equities. See my disclosures page for more information.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

Sign Up For Swagbucks In April, Get $5


It’s April, and Swagbucks has an early Easter treat in the form of a $5 bonus! Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $5 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 5/1/17. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you spend at least $25 through Swagbucks Shop* you’ll get another $2 (200 SB) bonus on top of the cash back you’ll get from shopping. If you have some shopping to do online, just go to Swagbucks first and visit the store through them. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but you’ll get SB points for every dollar you spend (on top of the bonus)!

That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned more than $1,500 with the site over the past few years. It’s totally legit, and I use it to buy dividend stocks that can make even more money for me.

*You must receive your shopping SB before June 1st

How To Prioritize Your Finances

The following contribution comes to us from Dave Chen.

How to Prioritize Your Finances

Your finances are a crucial part of your life. Without them, you would not have a place to live, you would not be able to afford to drive your vehicle, and so on. Your finances need to be properly managed to ensure that you do not wind up in a huge debt hole without a way to climb out. Below, we will provide you with some tips and steps to prioritize your finances.

Of course, you want to make sure that you ALWAYS pay your obligations first because you need a place to live, and sacrificing this to put money into your savings account does not make much sense. Okay, let’s take a look at the tips now.

Prioritize Your Finances to wind up with a suitcase of money
Prioritize your finances, and you could wind up with a suitcase of money. Image via Pixabay.

1. Pay Off High-interest Debt

The first priority is for you to pay down your highest interest debt and also any dangerous debt that you may have. You need to tackle these first  because they will hurt you and stick with you if you do not. Many people do not know what debts to consider as dangerous debt. These debts include those with high interest rates, tax liens, debts in collection, and so on.

Pay-day loans, credit cards, high-interest car loans, and high-interest personal loans need to be paid off immediately. The longer you wait to pay them off, the worse off you will be. You will accumulate interest on this debt at a rapid rate, and the sooner you pay it off, the better – you will save thousands.

Pay off credit card debt to get finances in order
Pay off high-interest debt to get your finances in order. Image via Pixabay.

2. Save For Retirement

You want to retire at some point, right? If so, you need to think about your future and start to save for retirement. The longer you wait, the more money you will need to put away. For example, if you do not start saving for retirement until you are 40, you may have to put away half of your salary to be able to have a nice nest egg when you retire.

Your retirement account will ultimately determine whether or not you will live in poverty when you retire. The less you save, the more government help you will need, and the longer you will have to work.

To help you determine how much money you should save, if you were to save $500 per month for a period of 20 years and earn 10 percent on the money, you would save about $380,000 for retirement.

3. Create an Emergency Fund

What would you do right now if the roof on your home caved in? What about if your vehicle’s engine blew? These are things that you need to think about and consider. Many people do not have any type of emergency fund set up, and this means that they have to forgo some of the things they need because of it.

An emergency fund will cover three to six months of all of your living expenses in case the worst situation ever happens. For many people, this means more than $10,000. You should start putting extra money into this account and leave it there. Even if you save one or two percent of your income yearly, you could easily reach a target of $500 per year or so.

4. Go Over Your Expenses

If you already live paycheck to paycheck, the only way that you will be able to have room to save would be to sit down and think about your expenses and then look at them from an unbiased view. If you have a cable bill at $200 and your car insurance is another $200, you may want to cut back on the cable and talk to your agent about a better rate.

You need to explore areas where you may be paying too much and then try to lower the cost. In addition, you should eliminate any expenses that you do not need. On top of this, there are ways to make extra money that can help handle these extra expenses.

Start to Prioritize Your Finances Today

If you are ready to get your financial future into focus, now is the time to do it. We have helped you above by letting you know what we think you need to prioritize first when it comes to your finances. You should focus on the highest interest loans you have because these loans can throw you into a crazy whirlwind of debt, especially if you only make the minimum monthly payments each month. Quite often, this may be private student loans taken out to pay for college. Even more often, these rates can be much higher than federal options.

From there, you should then focus on your retirement, your savings account, and setting goals for yourself. Now is the time for you get a head start and get on the right financial track by starting to prioritize your finances.

— Dave Chen is young professional working in the engineering field. On the side, he skiing, hiking, and writing about all things personal finance at MillenialPersonalFinance.com.

Making Money without Leaving the House