Author Archives: MoneyforCollegePro

Should you use a Challenger bank over your bank?

digital Challenger bank

Challenger banks are what they say on the tin: a challenge to traditional banks. They pose as a challenge, or a threat because they’re up and coming with a different approach to banking.

By nature of being rebellious, they’re young businesses. They threaten the status quo of banking because they offer a new take on banking procedures, infrastructure and services. Generally, you’ll find much cheaper currency exchange fees, more tech-heavy usability and much faster sign up processes. 

Start-ups in this field have a very good understanding of what ticks us off about traditional banks, and they’ve engineered a way to overcome such bureaucracy, high priced and ancient UI.

With incredibly easy sign-ups, super speedy transactions and innovative technology, it’s not difficult to see why they’re on the rise. There’s no doubt that traditional banks are becoming extremely weary of this trend, and it may be the threat they need to evolve a stuck-in-the-past, complacent service.

How popular are challenger banks?

To no surprise, there are a growing number of challenger banks. Of course, they’ve not replaced traditional banks in either quantity or userbase (yet?), but they’re on the rise nonetheless.

What’s interesting though, is that this has been the story in Europe. In America? Not so much.

They’re popular in most of the world in fact, particularly in Europe in places with a strong fintech scene. London is perhaps the birthplace of the most prominent challenger banks, with Monzo, Starling and Tandem being situated there. With a 5 minute in-app sign-up process, these are becoming extremely popular and seem to be slowly replacing traditional banks.

It’s strange then that the US hasn’t really welcomed them with open arms, and haven’t been producing many themselves. It’s thought that US companies are focused on payment solutions instead of bank accounts, as they have more scope for profits and fewer regulations. This surely applies to most countries, though.

The real answer lies in the distrust of startups. In Germany and the UK, customers don’t think twice about trusting fintech’s with their money, in conjunction with having faith in government-backed deposit protection regulations. Americans it seems don’t have the same trust. 

It seems that although payment startups are trusted, a little more time (or value offered?) is needed for mobile banks.

Despite this, one of the largest challenger banks, N26, has launched into the US (with 100,000 wait-listed US customers ready to pounce), along with Monzo set to enter the US too. There already some domestic US challenger banks to choose from, although they’re certainly not in their stages of maturity yet.

The advantages of challenger banks

The thing that challenger banks have over traditional banks is their lack of infrastructure. This sounds like a disadvantage, but it means they can react faster to changes. Traditional banks have huge sunk costs, with many different departments to attend to, making them always a bit behind. When tech is at the foundation of a business instead of brick and mortar capital, you can be fluid in the market.

The innovation of technology has perhaps been its strongest point so far. The services they provide are highly customizable. You can find yourself creating saving spaces – virtual spaces that are safe from spending. These can be saving pots for different areas of your life, allowing you to budget better.

And it’s secure because you can freeze your card with a simple click in the app, as well as limit certain spending like gambling or ATM withdrawals. There are fewer fees, more transparency, and an overall feeling of clean efficiency because they don’t have their hand in a million different departments.

The largest benefit for small companies and those who like to travel is the cheap fees of challenger banks. For Americans (and Europeans), N26 is one of the strongest options. If we take them as an example, then for no monthly account fee, you can benefit from free card payments in any currency. This is profoundly advantageous, and completely embarrasses traditional banks which charge flat fees on top of huge 4% currency spreads on any foreign purchase.

And with many challenger banks, you can also withdraw from a foreign ATM for no extra cost, and receive a second-to-none exchange rate. This on its own is what sets them apart, and is the reason why expats are in love right now. Many companies (such as Transferwise in the UK) even go as far to call their debit cards as “borderless cards”, because that’s exactly what they are – complete and utter frictionless foreign spending and money transfers.

Disadvantages

For many users, it can be difficult to author some drawbacks of using them. Of course, though, the reality is that nothing is perfect.

Firstly, they’re smaller companies. This smaller, more malleable infrastructure is their greatest asset, but it also means they’re less reputable. They feel less safe. They’re of course fully regulated, but their smallness means they might not inspire credibility.

They’re somewhat limited too. Many people like dealing with one entity and building a relationship with them. Traditional banks may have debit cards, credit cards, mortgages, various savings and student account and so on. Challenger banks are very much for one job and whilst they do it well it may not be suitable for those who want to go in-store, build a relationship and rely on them for all financial aspects of their life.

Personal preference is one thing, but what’s important here is that it’s important for the US to be more accepting of challenger banks. Choice is at the core of free America, and what better way to increase that than to threaten traditional banks with innovative technology?

What is a FICO Score and How Will the New FICO Score Affect You?

FICO score

For most of us, debt is a fact of life. It’s not hard to understand why – post-secondary education expenses have ballooned over the past 40 years. Back in 1980, tuition, fees, and accommodation cost about $9,400 (in 2020 dollars). Today, that figure is nearly two-and-a-half times higher, sitting just below $24,000.

Meanwhile, wages haven’t budged much over time. In 1980, the federal minimum wage sat at $3.10 – or $9.70 in 2020 dollars. Today, Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the country at $13.50. Meanwhile, states like Idaho still allow employers to pay as little as $7.25 an hour. That’s right – some of us make $2/hour less than our parents did 40 years ago.

Suffice to say, many of us borrow tons of cash to pay for post-secondary schooling. According to CNBC, more than two-thirds of 2018 graduates needed loans to pay for their degrees. This isn’t just some rite of passage – it’s something that could seriously impact your creditworthiness down the road.

Recently, banks have been tightening lending standards in response to the COVID crisis. This development has negatively impacted FICO scores. Because of this, many institutions are leaving behind many would-be borrowers.

However, FICO has recently announced a new credit assessment tool – the Resilience Index. What will it mean for college students and graduates? We’ll explore this issue in-depth in today’s post.

What Is A FICO Score?

FICO scores are statistics used by lenders to assess the legitimacy of a borrower. “FICO” is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation, a data analytics firm based in San Jose, California. They debuted the FICO score in 1989; shortly after that, it became the gold standard for determining creditworthiness.

The Fair Issac Corporation determines your FICO score by assessing five indicators of credit risk. These are as follows: The length of one’s credit history, credit utilization, the number of accounts held, recently opened accounts, and payment history.

After assessing your finances against these factors, FICO then assigns you a score. It runs, oddly enough, from 300 to 850. FICO and most lenders consider anything below 580 to be poor. On the other hand, anything above 800 is deemed exceptional.

Few borrowers have a FICO score that is truly bad or exceptional. Most lenders deem a FICO score between 670 to 739 to be a “good” score. However, FICO occasionally changes the weighting of their variables. As such, even borrowers that maintain consistent credit characteristics can have their FICO scores change significantly.

The FICO Resilience Index is one change that could have a significant impact on scores. We’ll break down what it means later. But before we do, let’s address a common question: Can a bad FICO score really impact your life negatively? To be frank, yes.

How Can Your FICO Score Impact Your Finances?

Lenders aren’t the only entities that check credit scores. From phone companies to your landlord, scores of firms do. In other words, if your FICO score tanks, your life can quickly become a living hell.

Let’s start with your bills. If your credit score is low (but not terrible), it can affect the interest rates you pay. Those with scores that slip below 670 may notice a rise in the rate on their credit cards. Need to go back to school for a graduate degree? If you have a “fair” credit score, interest on private student loans can get as high as 14.5%. In both cases, double-digit interest rates can result in monthly payments hundreds of dollars higher than those with good credit.

Are you trying to land that first significant role? Playing fast and loose with your credit can make it tough to get a well-paying, prestigious job.  According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 47% of employers admitted to running credit checks on potential hires. Many fear those with bad credit will “help themselves” to company funds or sell trade secrets.

Worst of all, a bad credit score can make it tough to keep a roof over your head. Increasingly, landlords require credit checks from applicants. If you don’t meet a lender’s minimum FICO score, the application process usually ends there. Often, this situation forces those with lousy credit to seek out a roommate. Sometimes, these living arrangements work out. Much of the time, though, they can prevent you from living your best life.

When It Comes To FICO Scores, Every Decision Matters

Often, measures taken against those with bad credit make sense. Businesses don’t want to lose money. Companies don’t want to hire dishonest employees. And landlords want dependable tenants.

There’s just one problem – as a young person, making even one mistake can screw everything up. As someone fresh out of school, you already have one strike against you. If you have a credit card, you’ve probably haven’t had one for long.

You also lack employment experience. It can be hard to find work, and when you do, you may not make all that much. If you miss one credit card, car, or student loan payment, it can have a disproportionate impact on your FICO score.

As such, we implore you – take this topic seriously. Yes, it’s okay to make spontaneous plans and enjoy your youth – but only if you’re able to pay your bills first. If your finances are drum-tight, focus on increasing your earning power/cutting expenses first. Then, save up a “fun fund” that can pay for spur-of-the-moment adventures.

This way, you can make the most of your twenties without compromising more expensive goals (e.g., homeownership) later on in life.

The FICO Resilience Index: Good Or Bad For College Students?

As if worrying about your FICO score wasn’t bad enough, a new metric has arrived on the scene. Recently, outlets like CNBC have reported on the latest tweak FICO has made to its credit reporting. In June, the agency announced the introduction of the FICO Resilience Index. In brief, this scale assesses the resiliency of borrowers to economic shocks.

Unlike past updates, the FICO Resilience Index isn’t a reconfiguration of how it determines FICO scores. Rather, it is a standalone measure that assigns borrowers a score from 1 to 99. The lower your score, the more resilient you are to recessions, sudden job loss, etc. The higher your score, the greater the likelihood you’ll miss payments, or default on loans when things sour.

Unlike traditional FICO scores, which punish the young more harshly for making mistakes, the Resilience Index could be a godsend. That one missed payment three years ago won’t dog you as much anymore. If you’ve managed to stock up an abundant emergency fund and paid down your debts, the Resilience Index would judge you more fairly.

At a time where uncertainty has never been higher, we feel the Resilience Index is a better judge of creditworthiness. In the past, a strong cash position didn’t factor in the computation of your FICO score. Now, this vital stat could help you get better interest rates, find work, and improve your living situation.

The Better Your FICO Number, The Better Off You’ll Be

We’re happy to see the implementation of the Resilience Index. Thanks to this measure, those who have a mostly trouble-free credit record will pay lower interest rates and face less discrimination. However, it’s still important to practice financial prudence, especially in these times.

By spending less than you take in, you’ll avoid overdraft fees and missed bill payments. As a result, your score will climb higher as months and years go by. Interest rates will fall, you’ll find it easier to rent desirable apartments, and you’ll get better job offers.

By focusing on things within your control, you can shape your financial future. Choose wisely.          

The Best “At Home” Jobs For Students Who Don’t Want COVID Exposure

Best “At Home” jobs For Students

For half of us, working from home is ideal. Whether this is because you’re an unsociable person or because working in retail just isn’t worth the risk of COVID, self-sufficiency is important. The reality of getting a job during a pandemic and economic instability isn’t great, but the outlook on working from home is actually looking up.

Here are the 10 best jobs you can do from home this summer:

1.   Tutoring

With schools being closed, many parents will be looking to home-school their children. To keep them brushed up on their Maths, Economics or whatever it may be, paying a tutor for online classes is their go-to option right now. Or, if you’re looking to teach English, parents in China pay a very handsome sum – but beware, the hours are odd.

2.   Content Writer

There’s always content to be written, no matter the political or sociological climate. The beauty of content writing is that it can be for any student, no matter what they’re studying. Your best bet is to try and get started on Upwork, and then contact businesses and outlets directly after having built up a portfolio.

3.   Customer Service

Given that most businesses have turned to working from home, even more customer interaction is done online at the moment. This is why there are so many opportunities to work in online customer service, such as answering customers on the Live Chat, or on emails or even social media. Pay usually isn’t very high, but then the work isn’t very hard…

4.   Video Editor

If you have great video editing skills or animation experience, then freelance work is a great option. This market is only growing, particularly because social media (Youtube in particular) is being watched even more due to lockdown. There are lots of medium-sized channels out there looking for extra editing support, and pay a fair amount.

5.   Programming and IT

Programming is an extremely general term, but it’s included because the opportunities are also a wide net. Money will be made from whatever you’re good at. Backend developers and database engineers will get better money and have less competition than front end, but you’re best off checking for yourself. Type the language or software that you’re an expert in to Fiverr or Upwork and see what kind, how many, and what pay the job posts that arise are.

6.   Virtual Assistant

There are a lot of virtual Assistant jobs online, and all you need for them is some general, basic IT skills as well as good soft skills. You’ll often get at least the US minimum wage for sending emails, data entry and other basic admin tasks.

7.   Translation work

If you’re fluent in two or more languages, then you’re almost guaranteed to be able to find some translation work. The pay can vary, but this is a good way to keep on top of your writing or speaking skills in both languages. Plus, if you’re fast at reading and typing, you can earn good money. If you’re not bilingual, you can still make money transcribing English audio. You have to be a fast and accurate touch typist, but you can easily make $20 per hour.

8.   Start a website and create a brand

If you’re able to do almost any of the above, or perhaps you’re just looking to start a blog, then creating a website and branding it is a fantastic use of time. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to sell writing services, photographs, programming, tutoring… Building up a following on social media and developing a website will be an exercise in SEO, branding, and many other skills that will look great on your CV — and maybe you can start monetizing it within a few months.

9.   Drop Serving

If you’re entrepreneurially inclined, there’s certainly some opportunities in dropshipping. It’s like Drop Shipping, only not with physical products. So, when you receive payment on your website for services, such as web building or graphic design, you outsource the work to someone else — so you’re just the middleman. It takes some time setting up, but it can scale much larger than the other options.

10. Rent out what you’re not using

Okay, so this is only one that isn’t a “job” per se, but it’s a good money-making opportunity. There’s plenty of things that Coronavirus has put an abrupt end to, and these are the things you could be renting out. For example, public transports have been mostly put on hold, and you’re likely not using your car much right now — so why not rent it out? Likewise, you can also rent out your parking space too.

At the end of the day, it will heavily depend on what skills you have and what you’re studying for. The best paid jobs will be skill-specific, so you’re best off leveraging what you’re studying for and try to work freelance (i.e. web developer, bookkeeper, graphic designer, and so on).

How to Create a Simple Budget While in College and to Tweak it so it Will Fit ME

create a simple budget

Every student could benefit from a budget. When in college, money is a particularly scarce resource, as is your time. Working side jobs can be difficult, and working too many hours will only compromise your grades. Whilst you need enough to survive, a better way to look at it might be how to reduce your spending rather than how to earn more money. Afterall, money-making can be done once your degree is in your hands.

Budgets are the best way to achieve this. Following a spending plan can help minimize debt and overspending on less-than-necessary things. It may even lead to mindset differences, such as becoming more minimal and more appreciative of the smaller things in life.

The problem with researching the topic of budgeting

The issue is that everyone’s circumstances are different. Finding budgets online is a nightmare. Templates are an issue because they will likely consist of a bunch of things that you don’t have, like mortgage repayments and rental income. Whilst you can adapt them, you will have to add in things specific to you as well as remove items (and perhaps whole sections). The process is kind of pointless.

What’s more important is to really understand your own situation and spending patterns, and then making a budget from scratch, bespoke to you, will not take very long. Plus, filling in manually every type of spending that you have might be a wake-up call that’s needed.

How to create your own budget

Creating a budget doesn’t have to take long. In fact, it can be done in an afternoon with just a few steps. If you have more time to spare though, you can add in some extras (step 5) that will make your life easier and enhance the effectiveness of the budget.

Step 1: Income

The first step is to determine what your income is. This is easier to calculate than your spending, so it comes first. It should be a relatively steady number: living cost loan income, income from working, parental help, and so on. Find out what your income will be for the near future, or until the end of college if possible. Of course, use your after-tax income here for simplicity, unless you have a small business in which you want to track expenses within this same budget.

Step 2: Track spending

This isn’t about guessing what things you’re likely to buy next month, this is about tracking what you actually buy. The issue with forecasting items is that you’re prone to underestimating. Things constantly pop up, whether it’s getting college books or new clothes. It’s best to just track what you actually spend for a couple of months, then you’ll know for sure what the average month looks like. 

This doesn’t have to mean delaying your budget creation either. You can literally just open up your bank statements and reconcile them. Go through and write a note next to each spending. Even if you can only identify 75% of them, this means that you will need less time tracking them physically, meaning you can get started sooner.

Step 3: Goals

The point of a budget isn’t the budget itself, it’s to better reach a goal. Think carefully about why you want a budget. Is it so you can pay off more of your college debt? Is it to save up for a 6-month traveling experience? Whatever it is, write down a handful of meaningful goals.

SMART goals are best, too. This means making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. For example, a poor goal would be to “have lots of savings in the future”. A better goal would be, “build a $4,000 emergency fund by July 2021”.

The reason this is step 3 and not 2 is because “track spending” is a function of goal-setting. In other words, your goals must take into account of your spending. It’s impossible to completely turn your spending on its head and set unrealistic goals. 

Step 4: Set parameters

This is the fun/daunting part; the budget itself. Now that you have an idea of what you actually spend, and what your fixed, unavoidable costs are, you can start to set parameters on your variable costs. 

If you have optimistic goals though, don’t shy away from being ruthless on your fixed costs. For example, running a car may seem like an unavoidable fixed cost, but you should think carefully about whether it really is. 

Most college students live close to or inside the campus. Having a bicycle may be the more healthy, environmentally friendly lifestyle choice that could save thousands per year.

Step 5: The spreadsheet itself

Now that you’ve created your budget, you want to represent it on a spreadsheet effectively. Downloading templates and copying them is one way to do this, but alternatively, you can play around with it yourself and learn some valuable Excel skills.

For example, you may want to use conditional formatting to change the colors of the cells depending on their value. This is how you make your balance appear in red when it goes below zero, for example.

Likewise, you want to set borders around sections, instead of having prose of messy information. You could use different pages for different sections too, and have the main page that represents and pulls in all the data together.

If you want an easier way to input data into the sheet (i.e. input each purchase you make as you go), then you can make use of forms. Google forms (inputted into Google Sheets) are an easy way to do this — you simply make a small Q&A where you type in the data and hit enter. This will be submitted to the budget. The link to the form can even be placed on your mobile home screen.

Lastly, formulas are important to learn too. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you want to automate the calculations as much as possible so there are few mistakes. “=SUM” will perhaps be your most used formula.

How To Create Your Own Online Tutorial Channel For Private Lessons

Create Your Own Online Tutorial Channel

If you’re an expert in a field or have a passion for a certain skill or craft, then sharing this with the world can be extremely rewarding. You may find yourself with a following quicker than you expect, and hearing back the positive comments of their success in your teaching can be inspiring. Not to mention, this is a project used by many college students to help fund themselves — many top Youtubers earn more than top athletes.

Step 1 – Topic choice

Ideally, you will either have a really strong passion for something or just be exceptionally good at communicating and breaking down a topic (or even better… have both). This could be in Calculus, crochet, carpentry, watch making, Python programming, and so on. A camera (or screen recorder) and a decent mic are all you need. If you’re serious about making the channel, then invest in a decent mic (avoid anything under $50) and learn some basic audio editing — this is extremely important for user experience.

Step 2 – Youtube channel > Personal website

First and foremost, you will need a Youtube channel. You may want a website of your own too, like the incredible Justin Guitar tutorial entity, but even with his set of courses and tutorials, its foundation is on Youtube. It’s easy to embed Youtube videos on your own channel for a start, and still reap those monetary rewards. Creating a Youtube channel takes all of 5 minutes, just make sure to have a Google account.

Step 3 – Content

Whatever topic you opt for, stick with it. It will be counterproductive to cover two types of tutorials for the same channel (i.e. gardening and investing). If you have two topics, create two different channels. It’s advised to put all your energy into one for the first few months though, to prevent spreading yourself too thin. That way your second channel can avoid the mistakes you made in the first one.

When creating content, have a strategy in mind. Plan out your first 10 to 20 tutorials to prevent them from being random. It’s not a prerequisite, but it’s preferable to publish them in some sort of order. This is so there’s a logical “in the next video”, so viewers stay on your channel. This will quickly turn into a course. 

If you have some separate content you haven’t published, you can create bonus content. This could be accessed only by patreons or perhaps collated into a paid course on your website. By this point, you will already have an audience, so it’s only natural to monetize away from Youtube as well as on-site.

Step 4… Profit?

In order to reap any monetary rewards, you will need to be in this for the long haul. Before you can even get accepted for monetization on Youtube, you will need 1,000 subscribers. In order to get this, one incredible video will not do it. You will need regular, useful content. If users find your video useful for solving their problem, they will likely click on your channel for related videos. Because of this, do not hold back content. If it’s ready to publish, put it out there ASAP.

For a side project, you may only want a couple of hundred bucks from this. This is entirely achievable with even only a few thousand subscribers. Why? Because subscriber count isn’t everything. It’s great to have but viral videos tend to be seen by more non-subscribers than subscribers. Just make sure you understand basic SEO and how the Youtube algorithm works.

The most basic form of monetization is ads on Youtube videos. These don’t produce a ton, because many people have adblocker these days. A way around this is to include promotions in the videos themselves (i.e. the intro). If you’re doing English lessons, for example, you could have affiliate links in the bio and in the video to an English learning app, where you get a cut of every person that uses it to pay for the app.

If you want to avoid being viewed as spammy or perhaps you feel the channel needs to keep a high standard of impartiality for whatever reason, you could simply ask for patreon donations. Remember, 20% of your following could account for 80% of your profit — so don’t just chase the view counts, keep your cult following happy.

Example Youtube tutorial channels to learn from

  • Justin Guitar — Justin Guitar, of course, makes guitar tutorials. He put out a high volume of Youtube tutorials before making a website which helped structure these into courses. He now has an IOS and Android app, which was probably not as much effort as it sounds, seeing as all the content was already made on Youtube.

— 903K subscribers, outputs ~20 videos per year for 11 years

  • Corey Shafer — Having started 5 years ago, Corey made Python tutorials. Many old ones are low view counts, but because of his incredibly concise explanations and structured tutorials, he pretty much created the best A to Z Python course for beginners that you can find.

— 482K subscribers, started 5 years ago, posts irregularly (~35 times per year)

  • Khan Academy — Quite possibly the king of Youtube education. Khan academy seems to have tutorials for almost anything your high school or college would throw at you. Maths, economics, sciences. Khan created an empire, organizations (for free courses), apps… anything you can think of.

5.53m subscribers, started 13 years ago with a high output, with incredible visual learn methods

  • King’s Fine Woodworking — if you’re not an academic genius or coding wizard, it doesn’t matter. This channel represents that functional skills, such as building things with wood, can make for a great tutorial channel. Plus, they can be completely independent videos, not a sequential course. This can make it more fun

— 196k subscribers, started only 3 years ago, 1 to 2 videos per month

  • ATHLEAN-X — Here is a great example of how image, branding, confidence, and being good at what you do can lead to. ATHLEAN-X is prolific in posting and is estimated to earn $5,000 per day from ads alone.

— 9.66m subscribers, posts a couple times per week for the last 10 years (lower frequency in older videos).

The Best Online Platforms to Raise Money for Your Project or Idea

Best Online Platforms to Raise Money

Crowdfunding can be a great way to raise finances for a young company. By taking little from the many, crowdfunding’s popularity comes from the additional benefits it provides, not just the funding itself.

Firstly, is profoundly more efficient than traditional financing. You get full autonomy and the freedom to put your message across in the exact way you want it to. The platform (and picking the right one is important!) will serve as a place in which you can build social traction and generate more substance and proof – proof in the form of social backing. People want to jump on board of what’s going to be popular – and what better way to show its gaining popularity.

On top of this, you’re not claiming that it’s the finished product. With more isolated funding paths, you’re alone in your design. Crowdfunding, however, can give more opportunity for feedback, perhaps in the form of sending backers some prototypes. The loyalty of early advocates can be rather profound and can stick with you for the long-term.

How do you prepare for the fundraising?

Seeing as this is just as much a marketing opportunity as it is a funding one, you want to ensure you succeed at both.

Research, research, and more research

At the stage of preparing for a crowdfund, your product and idea research should already be finished. This is your opportunity to fully understand the scale and benefits of crowdfunding, along with strategies and what makes a successful campaign.

Picking the correct platform

Choosing the right platform is crucial. There are many factors to consider here, not just the benefits and disadvantages of each but which ones perform best in certain niches and which ones are focused on certain industries. 

Target audience

Understanding the wants and needs of the target audience is important. You’re going to not only figure out exactly the target audience (you should already know this) but perform comprehensive research on understanding them.

Goal setting

Make sure you don’t aimless begin a campaign without having SMART goals in mind. This means the amount you want raised, timelines, quantity of backers and so on.

Prepare the content

Ahead of launch, you want to prepare all of the marketing content so it’s ready to go. This includes planning what tools you’re going to use (perhaps a promotional video over a presentation?) and then get to work. it may also be a good idea to outsource the parts that could be better done by a specialist, as this can really enhance the effectiveness of the crowdfunding campaign. This of course isn’t a necessity if you’re at college and on a budget, as this may be your chance to show and prove your own creativity.

Communicate effectively

Not only should you communicate in a personal way (a good strategy to enhance relationships and feelings towards your idea or product) but also keep the communication on-going. This means being transparent and letting them know all the details. Hiding any information will likely soon be discovered and the word will spread. Honesty is key to gaining sustained social traction. This also means taking feedback on board and recognizing it.

Top 5 crowdfunding sites to help you fund your college project

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is by far the largest crowdfunding site. Its size means that there is instant credibility there to some degree, as well as it having a huge potential traffic and audience reach. The downside to using Kickstarter however is that the money is not kept if the goal isn’t reached – so it’s kind of an all-or-nothing scenario. Kickstarter takes 5% of the total funds raised in fees, as well as payment processing fees.

Patreon

Patreon is another huge platform, but it operates very differently to Kickstarter. The key difference is that it’s a subscription-based model, meaning you’re drip-fed funding each month. No one will take the money away from you if a goal isn’t reached, and monthly funding is great for cash flow. This has less viral opportunity, and instead is more of a network of charitable on-going support (there are opportunities to give Patreon supporters exclusive goods, services and content though). Patreon take 5%–12% of processed payments. This is the preferred method by the Youtube creators.

GoFundMe

GoFundMe is another big hitter which is great for quick funding. GoFundMe crowdfunds tend to be more focused on short-term projects. There is a very standard 2.9% processing fee as well as $0.30c for every donation. This is cheaper than Kickstarter’s 5% processing fee. GoFundMe has seen many successful campaigns that have ran into the millions. However, 0% of funding fees is charged on personal campaigns, unlike Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

CircleUp

CircleUp is perhaps your best choice if you’re a startup trying to establish a brand. It offers equity capital and credit financing, so this is more professional-centric as opposed to individualized. This is a great choice to scale up, but you have to hit at least $1 million in revenue to list on their site, though this may not be as far away as you think for your project if other crowdfunding campaigns are successful beforehand.

Causes

If your project is a non-profit, then Causes may be your best option. With a focus on social and cultural issues, Causes provides a platform for those who want to make a difference. With almost 200 million users, its global reach is massive and could really help pick up your non-profit and create a movement.

12 Interesting College Scholarship and Grants in the USA

The US has a notorious reputation when it comes to student debt. Without getting into whether college education should be free, cheaper or entirely nationalized, it’s important to recognize that there is still some help out there for students. This article will cover some of the best college scholarships and grants in the USA.

Before starting though, it’s important to distinguish that there is merit-based aid and need-based aid, as well as aid for women, career-specific and college-specific aid, and finally aid for minorities. As evident by their self-described titles, let’s not go into defining each one but instead see what ones actually exist (and that can be of great help!).

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are a huge help for many American students. They’re a classic example of need-based, as they target students who have a total family income of below $25,000. Despite this, it’s worth looking into even if your situation is slightly outside of this, as you may still qualify. The grant in 2018 was just shy of $6,000, which is a very helpful amount.

Society of Women Engineers

The Society of Women Engineers is aimed at increasing the number of women in engineering, a STEM subject, that has historically been underrepresented by females. In a bid for greater equality, the society awarded 230 scholarships in 2016, adding up to $750,000 in total funding.

Center for Women in Technology

This one serves a similar purpose and is certainly worth looking into when looking to study technology as a woman. An application could receive between $5,000 and $20,000 in funding, each year, for a total of four years. This can be life-changing, allowing more women the opportunity to afford college and acquire a STEM subject degree for the sake of their career.

ABA Diversity Scholarship

The ABA Diversity Scholarship is aimed at those coming from a traditionally underrepresented group, who are in the management and transportation/tourism industry. Candidates can receive $5,000 in scholarship funding, but must have completed their first year and have a GPA of over 3.0. Applications involve a 500-word essay, which will describe how they will play a role in spearheading the future of transportation, travel or tourism industry.

Amazon scholarship program

Online retail behemoth Amazon are taking in applications for its Future Engineer Scholarship Program. 100 current seniors at high school will have the opportunity to receive $40,000 to study computer science. This student will also receive a guaranteed paid internship at Amazon after completing their first year. Not only is this a great amount of money, but the student is then given a foot in the door at Amazon – a chance to build a relationship from the offset.

eQuality Scholarship

The eQuality scholarship collaborative awards are designed to encourage Californian students who are included in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community of LGBT. The scholarship is of $6,000, and is open to applications of all sexual orientations and gender identities. 

John Lennon Scholarships

And the award for the most rock star scholarship goes to the John Lennon one, which aims to provide the three winners of a songwriting and composing contest who submit the best original song. Each of the three winners will get $20,000 each, and the applicant must be between 17 and 24. The submitted song must have no rights at publishers.

BSU Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship

Likewise, there’s also a David Letterman scholarship. Letterman has been behind this Scholarship program since the mid-1980s, when he deposited $90,000 in the Ball State Foundation. This scholarship aims to support Ball State majors in telecommunications. Applicants must have between 30 and 105 semester hours, be full time and be a Ball State telecommunications major.

Augustana College Athletic Fund

This athletic fund is merely representative of the many individual college scholarships that are aimed at providing financial support to students who perform exceptionally well in a sport. This particular one, students must be enrolled at Augustana College and average at least a 3.0 GPA. Outstanding athletes will be considered to receive funding, which can vary in its amount on a case-by-case basis.

Mike Lozano Scholarship

This fund was established in 2013 by the family of Coach Lozano. The annual scholarship (students can receive $2,500) is given to an athlete from the northern 26 counties in the Texas Panhandle. A lower than usual GPA is needed (2.0) and they must be pursuing a career in education or coaching.

Foot Locker Foundation

Foot Locker, for 9 years in a row is offering a $20,000 scholarship funding opportunity for when pursuing a 4-year degree. This is a very transactional scholarship, with Foot Locker appreciating the custom of college sports in helping them grow as a company. One of the 20 winners will also receive a $5,000 in addition to the 20k, for outstanding educational achievement.

ScholarshipPoints $10,000 Scholarship

For many, the fierce competition and high expectations of educational achievement (and thereby being awarded scholarships) is all too much. ScholarshipPoints are offering a break from this pressure with their scholarship. $10,000 can be one for a lucky winner, which is merely signing up and entering. There’s no 500-word essay about your aspirations and no GPA requirements. Sheer luck and a bit of fun makes this an interesting and no-lose opportunity.

Is there a lack of funding?

This list only scratches the surface. There are tons of scholarships out there. What you may have noticed though is that these all seem to be private foundations. Nothing wrong with that, transactional (or sheer charitable) private work is one of the great shining lights of society. 

It is, however, a concern surrounding the lack of US government funding though. There’s always room for debate around equality and “socialist funding”, but one thing that is usually commonly accepted is the phrase “equality of opportunity”. So long as everyone has the chance to succeed. Only, they don’t, because college is extremely expensive. The US government needs to really keep up with the increasing amount of college students, and the increasing importance of acquiring a degree in this future “intelligence economy”, where programming, math, and critical thinking will become even more relied upon.

Funding education is the ultimate supply-side policy. It’s not the policy that wins you elections, and it doesn’t fit results quick enough to fit within the 4-year term results paradigm, but it is necessary for the future economy of the US.

How To Save Up For Retirement Without Breaking Your Head

Save Up For Retirement

The best time to start saving for retirement is now. However old you are, waiting is unnecessary. Even if you’re in-between jobs, putting a few dollars aside keeps the habit going and all adds to that 8th wonder of the world: compounding interest

However, getting started is difficult. Talk of allowances, annuities, inflation, maxing out 401Ks and diversifying your portfolio is a certified way of putting you off even beginning. The issue is that whilst these are things you want to become familiar with in order to prevent mistakes and optimize your retirement plan, they are not prerequisites to starting. That is the misconception, that only the sort of people that already know this stuff are those who can invest from a young age.

The jargon is certainly a barrier, but it can be overcome. Here are some of the most basic concepts you should know and some ways to invest as, say, a broke student. 

Easy, functional options for retirement saving

Automation is key

First thing’s first, pensions are at the core of retirement savings. Pensions offer the ability to have annual income until death, no matter how long you live, once you reach the agreed age of retirement. They can also be great ways to pay less tax and can be taken out early in a lump sum.

So, paying into a retirement plan is a clear necessity. If you’re employed, you can pay into a 401k (a pension pot, essentially) directly out of your pay. This means there’s no chance of spending the money first. Automated retirement contributions such as this are at the core of lazy retirement planning – nothing can go wrong and you can forget all about it. It removes the temptation – the choice – to spend it elsewhere.

Being self-employed or a non-working student makes this a little more difficult. However, you can still set up direct debits/standing orders into a 401k yourself and let money drip out of your account each month.

Another great tool is Robo-advisors. These are essentially companies (websites) that let you contribute monthly (or just a one-off) and they invest for you. They claim to be AI investors with an intelligent bespoke algorithm. They’re not. They’re nothing special. They invest in a mixture of bonds and index trackers that follow a few markets and they take around 0.5% as a cut. 

But reading up about Vanguard, making an account and doing the same with a few others doesn’t sound appealing. Robo-advisors are actually a great resource to get you started. You can let them take out fixed, monthly contributions from your account and you may end up getting a 6% return if the western economy does reasonably well that year. 

Annual returns can vary widely, from potentially losing money to getting over 10%, but considering they’re longer-term than one-year investments, they’re a safe bet with decent returns. Very few can beat the market, let alone when getting started so investing in the market itself (or a tracker that mirrors the market) is a great place to start.

Emergency fund

No matter how keen you are to start saving for retirement, you must keep some of your assets liquid. This means not tying up your savings in bonds that you can’t sell quickly, or savings accounts that you can’t access for 5 years.

Yes, these usually offer better returns. But always keep a month or two worth of expenses as either cash or easily accessed deposits. This is vital to giving you a safety net throughout your journey to retirement.

Learn frugality

The importance of whether your investments return 4% per year or 6% per year pales in comparison to being able to save more. Learning how to save on a small scale in everyday situations is what will lead to long-term results. For example, cycling to college instead of driving, learning to cook, not buying coffee at lunchtime.

Increasing your savings rate (% you save in relation to income) from 5% to 25% isn’t all that hard, but it could be the difference between saving $100 per month and $500. That’s around $100k more in savings over 20 years – but it would be more than that of course because you will have gained more from compounding interest too!

Frugality can become a subconscious mindset that will prepare you for retirement, where you won’t have enough money to be splashing out on eating out every day and such (compared to your working pre-children life).

Understanding tax relief

The government understands the necessity of having money at an old age, and how difficult this is when you cannot work. However, they also understand how expensive paying pensions are. To promote our efforts and focus on private pensions, there are tax advantages to saving for many of them.

The specific reliefs will depend on which country you’re in, but generally, there is tax relief on private pensions and many ISA savings accounts. This means you can reduce your taxable earnings in the now, by saving for the future.

When the future comes around and you want to receive your pension, there will likely be tax relief wherever you are. In the UK, 25% of your pension will be tax-free. It doesn’t matter whether you take it out in a lump sum or as annuity payments, the first 25% will be tax-free. Of course, if you’re properly retired and have not just taken your pension early, it’s unlikely that you will be earning enough to pay tax anyway, as there is a personal allowance of £12,500 (in the UK). This means you may end up never paying a penny tax on your pension. Compare this to the tax you would have paid if you didn’t save it throughout your life – you will have likely saved tens of thousands in tax. Saving for retirement is a marathon and reducing tax is just as important as making more returns on investments.

Using Black Friday and Cyber Monday to Save Money on Christmas Gifts

Black Friday can be as controversial a topic as what meat you’re going to eat for Christmas dinner. With viral clips of fighting over in-store goods and others claiming its all a scam, you can quite easily be put off by it all. 

The rule of thumb is to only scan Black Friday sales for things you already want to buy, instead of putting yourself in the vulnerable position of letting sales sweep you off your feet.

Christmas is approaching and you’re going to need to buy some gifts regardless. Black Friday is actually very well placed in that respect, as it gives you time to have another pay-day before the actual day of Christmas and your quite possibly expensive and boozy New Years’ Eve.

So, rather than postponing the inevitable hand-over of cash until you’re passing by a garage on Christmas eve, browsing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales can really reduce your Christmas spending. You have to go about it in a sensible, prepared way, however.

Planning

The first thing to do is plan the number of presents you’re going to need to buy. This means writing down the name of everyone that you’re intending to buy a gift for. It may also be wise to roughly write down how much you’re willing to spend for each name, too. This will help prevent impulse buys and blowing your budget on just a couple of people. You may also want to discuss this with others too – asking if you’re both planning on buying each other a present, in order to avoid the phrase “I thought we weren’t doing presents this year?” which leaves both parties embarrassed on the day.

Research

When you’ve figured out the list and budget, you can begin to look into gifts for each person. This comes before Black Friday, so you’re not left with finding and buying presents for everyone over a single weekend. Anyway, you’ll find that sales start from the week leading up to Black Friday in many stores (Amazon being one).

You can make good use of Chrome extensions such as Savelist and Shoptagr which will create a list of items that you’re interested in – and the latter will even notify you of price drops. Hopefully, the week leading up to Black Friday is enough to create a list that includes possible gifts for everyone. Another good option is to use comparison sites and select the vendor with the best prices. The last place for good and cheap products it’s well known eBay.

Timing

Timing is the next thing. You don’t want to just buy an item because it’s on a general sale, as it may drop further on the day of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Equally, you don’t want to miss out on a potentially good deal by getting greedy.

You can deal with this in two main ways. Firstly, scan for dates and stock count. Sites such as Amazon often state how long you have until the deal runs out and goes up in price, and many sites also will tell you “only 5 remain”, although they may be lying depending on the company.

The second thing to do is to find the same deal on other sites. If you have only one option on a good price for a product on a certain website, then this may not be worth the risk of waiting. However, if you have three separate sites, it would be unlikely that they end their deal/run out of stock at the same time. Thus, if you have options, you can afford to wait. Once they get ruled out and one is left, it may be the time to strike.

5 Great presents on sale

RUNMUS Gaming headset

The RUNMUS gaming headset is suited to PC, Xbox One and PS4 users, and benefits from 7.1 surround sound for an enhanced gaming experience. Finding a highly rated gaming headset (4.6/5 from 10.279 reviews on Amazon) in this price range is a great bargain.

Price: $26.95 (reduced from $42.99) at Amazon

TCL 55” 4K TV

If you’re looking to spend big on a present this year for someone (or perhaps… a present for yourself?) then 4K TVs are getting cheaper by the day. The TCL 55” however is quite possible the first 55” TV I’ve seen for under 400 bucks that’s 4K. With 4* reviews, it looks like a great Black Friday coup.

Price: $399.99 (reduced from $699.99) at Amazon

Fitbit

It’s not called Cyber Monday for no reason! The Fitbit is next on the list, as you’re sure to pick a version up cheap over the weekend. These a great present as they mix utility technology with health benefits. Whilst there are many versions that will no doubt see a price drop, the Fitbit Versa 2 is first on sale at Amazon.

Price: $148.99 (reduced from $199.95) at Amazon

DAYBETTER LED strips 10m 

Colorful LED lights are that product that you never think about buying for yourself, but when you see someone else’s, you can’t help wonder why you haven’t got around to getting any yet. They can transform a room and add an incredible ambiance. At 10m long, these LED lights are sure to fill up a medium to a large bedroom.

Price: $19.74 (reduced from $28.99) at Amazon

Magilano SKYJO 

SKYJO is the self-proclaimed “ultimate card game for kids” – and it really is a lot of fun even for adults. Christmas is a time for socializing with family, so it’s good to have some non-tech gifts that you can play over the dinner table too. Whilst the deal appears to be coming to an end soon, it’s likely to see the same deal pop up elsewhere this weekend.

Price: $7.49 (reduced from $19.95) at Amazon

How to Eat Healthy in College – Eat a Prepared Meal Kit!

Prepared Meal Kit

Having a healthy balanced diet is the most important lifestyle choice you can focus on – even more so than exercising. No amount of exercise will help you lose weight for example, if you’re consuming even more calories through pizza. What diet and food choices to pick can be confusing, though. There are a plethora of vegan documentaries telling us about the hormone levels in milk, and an equal amount of rebuttals from meat-eaters. 

At this point, these choices are somewhat personal preference still. What we can agree on, is that highly processed foods leads to cancer and early death. No amount of vitamin tablets and hours accumulated on the elliptical is going to offset buying pre-made, highly processed food. Getting enough fruit and vegetables and a wide variety of them, along with enough protein (be it nuts or non-battery farmed chicken) and healthy fats is perhaps the simplest way to look at things. 

How do we achieve this at college though? It is so much effort to cook everyday. Its not just the cooking either, but to eat fresh means to buy perishable foods. These go out of date within a few days, and you’re back down the shops again.

As a result, college students often turn to pre-made meals from the shops. They’re easy to make, and are often actually cheaper than cooking yourself. The allure is real. It’s just unfortunate that they’re highly processed, and are the number 1 type of food that needs to be avoided.

The solution to this, and fast becoming a trend realised by students all the way to large families, is to meal prep. Combing the healthiness of fresh cooking with the laziness of pre-prepared meals is the genius of meal prepping.

Reasons to meal prep

Easy on the wallet

The money we can save by meal prepping can be compared to how a large manufacturer saves money by expanding their output – bulk buying ingredients in larger quantities will lead to cheaper prices per lb/kg. Just hope you have enough freezer space.

We are very often told not to be persuaded by the “3 for $5” pseudo sales but the reality is, it is cheaper per unit than buying just 1. These allure you to buying more than you need, but with meal prepping, the more the merrier. Ultimately, we can make better use of the sales through meal prepping. We also waste less on impulse buys, because meal prepping forces us to plan better, so we tend to stick to it and buy less snacks. Not only this, but sticking to the shopping list and cooking with more attention on the ingredients will result in less waste, which is better for both the environment and the current account.

Time and effort 

Through deferred gratification, meal prepping means we spend some extra time now so we can reap future benefits. 

Very often we find ourselves on Sundays with lots of free time and energy, but none of that on weekdays after work. Meal prepping is a great way to exploit that, giving us a ritual activity to do on the weekend (and it still may only take 2 hours or less), and be able to lazily stumble home from work and chuck our planned hard work in the microwave for 3 minutes. It’s very rewarding! 

Additionally, if large cooking sessions isn’t ideal, then merely doubling up on portions when cooking a regular meal is a great way to feed you for tomorrow, with no real extra time spent (triple it?). 

Health 

No more carcinogenic, high sugar, salty, processed insoluble ready meals! 

It literally applies to all of us, that when we cook ourselves, our meals become more healthy than when we purchase pre-packaged meals. Even if it was the same meal with the same ingredients, buying the meat from the butchers and the vegetables from a market is a far more sustainably healthy way of making the same meal. It will undoubtedly taste better, too.