7 Best Short-Term Bonds Funds to Buy in 2020

For investors with short-term saving goals, short-term bonds can be appropriate investments for your money.

They are stable and they certainly provide a higher return than a money market fund.

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However, even with the best short term bond funds, there’s also a risk of losing a percent or two in principal value if interest rates rise.

There are many options available to you, but your best option is to invest in taxable short-term bond funds, U.S. Treasury short-term bond funds and federally tax-free bond funds.

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What are short-term bonds?

Short-term bonds, or any bonds for that matter, are debts instruments that companies and the government issue. They typically mature in 1 to 3 years.

When you buy a bond, you are essentially lending money to the issuing company or government agency.

They are obligated  to pay back the full purchase price at a particular time, which is called the “maturity date.” 

Short-term bonds are low risk investments and you can have access to your money fairly quickly.

As with all bond funds, one of the risk of short term bond funds is that when interest rates rise, the prices of the bonds in the fund decrease.

But short term bond funds have a reduced risk of default, because the bond funds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

Moreover, because the term is short, you will earn less money on it than on an immediate-term or long term bond fund.

Nonetheless, they are still competitive and produce higher returns than money market funds, Certificate of Deposits (CDs), and banks savings accounts. And short-term bonds are more stable in value than stocks.

At a minimum, don’t buy a short-term bond fund if you’re saving for retirement or if you want to hold your money longer.

If you’re looking to invest your money for the long term and are still looking for safety, consider investing in Vanguard index funds. 

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Short-term bonds: why do you need to invest in them?

You should invest in short-bonds if you intend to use the money in a few years or so. However, don’t push your emergency cash into bonds. That is what a bank savings account is for.

Also, you should not put too much of your long term investment money into bonds, either. If you have a long term goal for your money, it’s best to invest in mutual funds such as Vanguard mutual funds, real estate, or your own business.

Here are some situations where you should invest in short term bonds.

  • You want to stabilize your investment portfolio. If you have other aggressive investments, you may need to balance it out with short term bond funds. The reason is because short term bonds are safer comparing to stocks.
  • Buying a house.
  • Retirement. If you’re thinking of retiring in a few years, short-term bonds are appropriate.
  • Purchasing a car.
  • You’re a conservative investor. Not all investors can stomach the risk of losing all of their money due to the market volatility. So instead of investing in stocks, which falls on the riskier end of the securities spectrum, you should invest in short term bond funds.

Best short-term bond funds to consider:

Most people prefer to buy bonds through a broker such as Vanguard or Fidelity.

If you’re looking for the best short-term bond funds to buy now, consider these options:

  • Vanguard Short-Term Treasury Index Fund Admiral Shares (VSBSX)
  • Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VMLTX)
  • The Fidelity Short Term Bond Fund (FSHBX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Share (VWSTX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund (VFSTX)
  • T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund (PRWBX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Fund (VBIRX)

Tax free short-term bonds

There are some short-term bond funds that are both state and federally tax free. But there are not too many out there.

However, the ones that are available are good investments. So, if you are in a low state bracket and in a high federal bracket, consider investing in these Vanguard bond funds.These are federally tax free bond funds:

Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VMLTX)

This Vanguard bond fund seeks to provide investors current income exempt from federal taxes. The fund invests in high-quality short-term municipal bonds.

This bond fund has a maturity of 2 years. So, if you are looking for a fund that provides modest income and is federal tax-exempt, the Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund is for you.

The fund has an expense ratio of 0.17% and a minimum investment of $3,000. This makes it one of the best short term bonds to buy.

Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Share (VWSTX)

Like the Vanguard Limited Short Term fund, this fund also provides investors with current income that is exempt from federal income taxes.

The majority of the fund invests in municipal bonds in the top three credit ratings categories. It also invests in medium grade quality bonds.

This fund too has an expense ratio of 0.17% and a minimum investment of $3,000, making it one of the best short term bond funds.

U.S Treasury Short-term Bond Funds: Vanguard Short-Term Treasury

If you’re interested in a bond fund that invests in U.S. Treasuries, then U.S.Treasury bond funds are a great choice for you. One of the best U.S.Treasury bond funds is the Vanguard Short-Term Treasury.

This bond fund seeks to track the performance of the Bloomberg Barclays US Treasury 1-3 Year Bond Index. The Vanguard Short-Term Treasury invests in fixed income securities with a maturity between 1 to 3 years.

This bond fund has an expense ratio of 0.07% and an initial minimum investment of $3,000. Currently, this short term bond fund has a 1-year yield of 4.51%, making it one of the best short term bond funds.

Of note, this fund is also available as an ETF, starting at the price of one share.

The Fidelity Short-Term Bond Fund (FSHBX)

The Fidelity Short Term Bond Fund is one of the best out there for those investors who want to preserve their capital. This fund was established in March of 1986 and seeks to provides investors with current income.

The fund managers invests in corporate bonds, U.S. Treasury bonds, and assets backed securities. Over the last 10 years, this bond fund has a yield of 1.98% and a 30-day yield of 1.98%. This Fidelity bond fund as an expense ratio of 0.45%. There is no minimum investment requirement.

Taxable short-term bond funds: Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund (VFSTX)

If you are not in a high tax bracket, then you should consider investing in a taxable short term bond fund. One of the best out there is the Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund.

This bond fund provides investors exposure to high and medium quality investment grade bonds, such as corporate bonds and US government bonds. This fund has an expense ratio of 0.20% and an initial minimum investment of $3,000, making it one of the best short term bond funds out there. 

T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund (PRWBX)

The T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund invests in diversified portfolio of short term investment-grade corporate, government, asset and mortgage-backed securities. This bond fund also invests in some bank mortgages and foreign securities. This fund produce a higher return than a money market fund, but less return than a long-term bond fund. The T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund has a minimum investment requirement of $2500, making it one the most favorite short term bond funds out there.

Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Fund (VBIRX)

The Vanguard Short-Term bond is a good choice for the conservative investor. It offers a low cost, diversified exposure to U.S. investment-grade bonds. This has fund has a maturity date between 1 to 5 years. Moreover, the fund invests about 70% in US government bonds and 30% in corporate bonds. The bond fund as an expense ratio of 0.07% and a minimum investment requirement of $3,000.

How to Invest in Short-Term Bonds

If you’re considering in investing in these or any of Vanguard bond funds, you need to do your due diligence.

First, think about what you need the bond fund in the first place. Is it to diversify your investment portfolio?

Are you a conservative investor who need a minimize risk at all cost? Or, do you want to invest in a short term bond fund because you need the money to use in a few years for a vacation, buying a house, or planning for a wedding?

Once, you have come up with answers to this question, the next step is to do your research about the best bond fund available to you.

Use this list to start. If it’s not enough, do your own research.

Look into how much the initial minimum investment is to buy a bond fund. Most Vanguard short term bond funds require a $3,000 minimum deposit.

Some Fidelity bond funds, however, have a 0$ minimum deposit requirement.

Next compare expense rations, performance for different funds to see if they match your investment goals. But you have to remember that past performance is not an indication of future performance.

Your final step is to open an account to buy your bond funds. If you choose Vanguard, you can do so at their website.

How do you make money with short-term bonds?

You can make money with short-term bonds the same ways you make money with a mutual fund (i.e., dividends, capital gains, and appreciation). But most of your returns in a bond fund comes from dividends.

The bottom line

In brief, short-term bonds are great investment choices if you have short term saving goals. You may be interested in buying these bonds because you expect to tap into your investment within a few years or so. Or, you want a more conservative investment portfolio.

Short term bonds produce higher yields than money market funds.

The only problem is that the share prices can fluctuate. So, if you don’t mind market volatility, you may wish to consider short-term bonds.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond short-term bonds, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
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The post 7 Best Short-Term Bonds Funds to Buy in 2020 appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

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How to Avoid a Prepayment Penalty When Paying Off a Loan

Look at you, so responsible. You received a financial windfall — stimulus check, tax refund, work bonus, inheritance, whatever — and you’re using it to pay off one of your debts years ahead of schedule.

Good for you! Except… make sure you don’t get charged a prepayment penalty.

Now wait just a minute, you say. I’m paying the money back early — early! — and my lender thanks me by charging me a fee?

Well, in some cases, yes.

A prepayment penalty is a fee lenders use to recoup the money they’ll lose when you’re no longer paying interest on the loan. That interest is how they make their money.

But you can avoid the trap — or at least a big payout if you’ve already signed the loan contract. We’ll explain.

What Is a Loan Prepayment Penalty?

A prepayment penalty is a fee lenders charge if you pay off all or part of your loan early.

Typically, a prepayment penalty only applies if you pay off the entire balance – for example, because you sold your car or are refinancing your mortgage – within a specific timeframe (usually within three years of when you accepted the loan).

In some cases, a prepayment penalty could apply if you pay off a large amount of your loan all at once.

Prepayment penalties do not normally apply if you pay extra principal in small chunks at a time, but it’s always a good idea to double check with the lender and your loan agreement.

What Loans Have Prepayment Penalties?

Most loans do not include a prepayment penalty. They are typically applied to larger loans, like mortgages and sometimes auto loans — although personal loans can also include this sneaky fee.

Credit unions and banks are your best options for avoiding loans that include prepayment penalties, according to Charles Gallagher, a consumer law attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Unfortunately, if you have bad credit and can’t get a loan from traditional lenders, private loan alternatives are the most likely to include the prepayment penalty.

Pro Tip

If your loan includes a prepayment penalty, the contract should state the time period when it may be imposed, the maximum penalty and the lender’s contact information.

”The more opportunistic and less fair lenders would be the ones who would probably be assessing [prepayment penalties] as part of their loan terms,” he said, “I wouldn’t say loan sharking… but you have to search down the list for a less preferable lender.”

Prepayment Penalties for Mortgages

Although you’ll find prepayment penalties in auto and personal loans, a more common place to find them is in home loans. Why? Because a lender who agrees to a 30-year mortgage term is banking on earning years worth of interest to make money off the amount it’s loaning you.

That prepayment penalty can apply if you want to pay off your loan early, sell your house or even refinance, depending on the terms of your mortgage.

However, if there is a prepayment penalty in the contract for a more recent mortgage, there are rules about how long it can be in effect and how much you can owe.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ruled that for mortgages made after Jan. 10, 2014, the maximum prepayment penalty a lender can charge is 2% of the loan balance. And prepayment penalties are only allowed in mortgages if all of the following are true:

  1. The loan has a fixed interest rate.
  2. The loan is considered a “qualified mortgage” (meaning it can’t have features like negative amortization or interest-only payments).
  3. The loan’s annual percentage rate can’t be higher than the Average Prime Offer Rate (also known as a higher-priced mortgage).

So suppose you bought a house last year and then wanted to sell your home. If your mortgage meets all of the above criteria and has a prepayment penalty clause in the mortgage contract, you could end up paying a penalty of 2% on the remaining balance — for a loan you still owe $200,000 on, that comes out to an extra $4,000.

Prepayment penalties apply for only the first few years of a mortgage — the CFPB’s rule allows for a maximum of three years. But again, check your mortgage agreement for your exact terms.

The prepayment penalty won’t apply to FHA, VA or USDA loans but can apply to conventional mortgages — although the penalty is much less common than it was before the CFPB’s ruling.

“It’s more of private loans — loans for people who’ve maybe had some struggles and can’t qualify for a Fannie or Freddie loan,” Gallagher said. “That block of lending is the one going to be most hit by this.”

How to Find Out If a Loan Will Have a Prepayment Penalty

The best way to avoid a prepayment penalty is to read your contract — or better yet, have a professional (like an attorney or CPA) who understands the terminology, review it.

“You should read the entirety of the loan, as painful as that sounds, because lenders may try to hide it,” Gallagher said. “Generally, it would be under repayment terms or the language that deals with the payoff of the loan or selling your house.”

Gallagher rattled off a list of alternative terms a lender could use in the contract, including:

  • Sale before a certain timeframe.
  • Refinance before a term.
  • Prepayment prior to maturity.

“They avoid using the word ‘penalty,’ obviously, because that would give a reader of the note, mortgage or the loan some alarm,” he said.

If you’re negotiating the terms — as say, with an auto loan — don’t let a salesperson try to pressure you into signing a contract without agreeing to a simple interest contract with no prepayment penalty. Better yet, start by applying for a pre-approved auto loan so you can get a pro to review any contracts before you sign.

Pro Tip

Do you have less-than-sterling credit? Watch out for pre-computed loans, in which interest is front-loaded, ensuring the lender collects more in interest no matter how quickly you pay off the loan.

If your lender presents you with a contract that includes a prepayment penalty, request a loan that does not include a prepayment penalty. The new contract may have other terms that make that loan less advantageous (like a higher interest rate), but you’ll at least be able to compare your options.

How Can You Find Out if Your Current Loan Has a Prepayment Penalty?

If a loan has a prepayment penalty, the servicer must include information about the penalty on either your monthly statement or in your loan coupon book (the slips of paper you send with your payment every month).

You can also ask your lender about the terms regarding your penalty by calling the number on your monthly billing statement or read the documents you signed when you closed the loan — look for the same terms mentioned above.

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What to Do if You’re Stuck in a Loan With Prepayment Penalty

If you do discover that your loan includes a prepayment penalty, you still have some options.

First, check your contract.

If you’ll incur a fee for paying off your loan early within the first few years, consider holding onto the money until the penalty period expires.

Pro Tip

If you don’t have a loan with a prepayment penalty, contact your lender before sending additional money to ensure your payment is going toward principal — not interest or fees.

Additionally, although you may get socked with a penalty for paying off the loan balance early, it’s likely you can still make extra payments toward the balance. Review your contract or ask your lender what amount will trigger the penalty, Gallagher said.

If you’re paying off multiple types of debt, consider paying off the accounts that do not trigger prepayment penalties — credit cards and federal student loans don’t charge prepayment penalties.

By using techniques like the debt avalanche, debt snowball and debt lasso methods, you can tackle your other debts while giving yourself time to let a prepayment penalty period expire.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Every State

Note: This article has been updated to reflect the new programs and provisions in the second stimulus package.

For the first time nationally, independent contractors and gig workers can receive unemployment benefits — through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Millions of Americans have relied on this program since it was created by the first stimulus package in March 2020.

Depending on your state, PUA effectively expired on Dec. 26 or 27. At the 11th hour, lawmakers rallied to pass a second stimulus package, extending the program for 11 weeks. However, some states had to pause making PUA payments as they implemented the new rules.

The Penny Hoarder looked at the application process in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. when the program was first created. We compiled the information into an interactive map that shows you how to file in each state, then updated the information based on new provisions laid out in the second stimulus package.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

What Is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

  • How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA
  • A 50-State Interactive Map to Help You Apply for PUA
  • Documents Needed to File for PUA
  • This $300 boost is known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

    [Back to top ↑]

    How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA

    Initially, the CARES Act authorized PUA payments for a maximum of 39 weeks. The second stimulus package extended PUA to 50 weeks total — or 11 extra weeks.

    PUA now sunsets on March 14, 2021, unless extended by Congress and the Biden administration. Those who haven’t exhausted their PUA benefits as of March 14, 2021, may continue receiving benefits until April 5, 2021.

    One new and notable limitation: PUA used to be available retroactively as far back as January 2020. The new stimulus law tightens the window for retroactive PUA payments to Dec. 1, 2020, through March 14, 2021.

    All PUA recipients should be expecting to file more paperwork, too. To curb fraud, the second stimulus deal forces current and new PUA recipients to submit documents related to employment or self-employment, according to the DOL.

    The exact documents needed will be determined by your state agency, which is required to notify you. The deadline to file those documents is March 27, 2021. Defer to your state’s deadline if different.

    [Back to top ↑]

    How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, State by State

    Our interactive map includes PUA filing instructions for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

    Based on The Penny Hoarder’s analysis, 35 states and D.C. process PUA applicants using the same application for general unemployment. Only 15 states have separate PUA applications.

    Here’s how we broke it down on the map.

    General Unemployment

    To determine PUA eligibility, most states funnel applicants through the Unemployment Insurance system first. Those states require you to file two applications: state unemployment first, then PUA.

    In such states, you must get denied Unemployment Insurance (UI) before applying for PUA. Only a handful of states have one streamlined, general unemployment application that determines your eligibility for both PUA or regular benefits.

    For simplicity — and because in both instances your first step is filing a general unemployment claim — both methods are categorized as “general unemployment (UI)” on the map, in dark  blue.

    To see if you need to file two applications or one streamlined version, click your state on the map for specific filing instructions.

    PUA

    States marked in light blue have a PUA application separate from the regular Unemployment Insurance system. If you are a resident of one of these states, you can file for PUA directly so long as you meet the eligibility criteria.

    [Back to top ↑]

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    Documents Needed to File for PUA

    If you’re ready to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, you’ll need to gather several types of identification- and income-related documents.

    Your state may require a few additional documents, but here’s an overview:

    • State-issued ID card.
    • Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number.
    • Mailing and residential address (if different).
    • Bank account information for direct deposit, otherwise your benefits will arrive via a prepaid debit card or check.
    • Tax return: Form 1040, Schedule C, F and/or SE.
    • As many income statements as possible: bank receipts with deposit information, 1099 forms, W-2s, paycheck stubs, income summaries and business ledgers.

    Income statements and related documents are crucial to proving how and when the coronavirus affected your earnings. For freelancers and independent contractors, it may be difficult to compile everything. Include as much as possible.

    [Back to top ↑]

    Pro Tip

    Depending on which gig app you use and how much you earned, you may not have received any 1099 income forms in the mail. In that case, log on to the app and download your income statements.

    Expect Delays

    Due to new rules outlined in the second stimulus package, state labor departments are once again scrambling. Hiccups should be expected while applying for, asking about or submitting documents related to PUA. Many gig workers and independent contractors warn of website crashes, unavailable customer service, confusing questionnaires and more.

    Perseverance is key.

    Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

    Source: thepennyhoarder.com

    New PUA Rules: Don’t Miss These Unemployment Deadlines

    The second stimulus package is tightening the rules for millions of gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed workers receiving unemployment aid.

    On Dec. 27, the $900 billion stimulus package extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a critical benefits program for folks who don’t typically qualify for regular unemployment aid. The deal lengthened PUA benefits for at least 11 weeks, but it also created new filing rules that affect current recipients and new applicants alike.

    Chief among the new rules: You will need to submit income documentation to your state’s unemployment agency if you are a gig worker or self-employed worker — or risk losing future benefits and having to return any benefits collected after Dec. 27.

    “I think they are a real pain,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, regarding the new PUA filing rules. “Not just for recipients, but for state agencies to collect. Every burden we add to state agencies slows benefit processing for everyone.”

    The new requirements are intended to combat fraud. According to the Department of Labor, more than 7.4 million people are relying on PUA and are subject to the changes.

    New Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Rules and Deadlines

    The new deadlines established by the second stimulus package are different for current PUA recipients and new applicants.

    As a current PUA recipient, you have until March 27 to submit income-related documents to prove your PUA eligibility. If you apply for PUA before Jan. 31, you also have until March 27.

    If you apply for PUA Jan. 31 or later, you will have 21 days from the date of your application to submit income-related documents.

    Need to apply? Our 50-state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance filing guide includes an interactive map and the latest information from the second stimulus deal.

    The Department of Labor requires each state to notify you of your state-specific rules. Your state may have different deadlines. In that case, refer to your state’s instructions. The DOL is also leaving it to each state to determine exactly what documents are required to prove your eligibility.

    Here are some examples of documents your state may ask you to file:

    • Tax forms such as 1099s and W-2s.
    • Ledgers, recent pay stubs and earnings statements from gig apps.
    • Recent bank statements showing direct deposits.

    If you’re self-employed, you may be required to submit:

    • Federal or state income tax documents.
    • A business license.
    • A 1040 tax form along with a Schedule C, F, SE or K.
    • Additional records that prove you’re self employed, such as utility bills, rental agreements or checks.

    If you’re qualifying for PUA because you were about to start a job but the offer was rescinded due to COVID-19 related reasons, you may be asked to submit an offer letter, details about the employer and other information related to the job to verify your claim.

    Another new rule is that you will have to self-certify that you meet one or more of the following PUA eligibility requirements on a weekly basis:

    • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms and are seeking diagnosis.
    • A member of your household has COVID-19.
    • You are taking care of someone with COVID-19.
    • You are caring for a child or other household member who can’t attend school or work because it is closed due to the pandemic.
    • You are quarantined by order of a doctor or health official.
    • You were scheduled to start employment and don’t have a job or can’t reach your workplace as a result of the pandemic.
    • You have become the breadwinner for a household because the head of household died due to COVID-19.
    • You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
    • Your workplace is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

    Self-certification means that you swear the reason(s) you are on PUA is or are true at the risk of perjury. Previously, PUA applicants had to self-certify only once at the time of their initial application.

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    Evermore says that since current PUA recipients weren’t asked to submit all this information when they were first approved, they might no longer have access to the requested documents.

    “People who were told they don’t need documentation may have lost it, and this will create panic resulting in more stress on people who have already had an unimaginably bad year,” she said.

    The good news, Evermore says, is that states have leniency to waive some of these requirements if you can demonstrate “good cause” for not being able to submit the requested documents. What’s considered “good cause” is also determined on a state-by-state basis.

    “People who got approved for benefits in the past won’t necessarily get cut off from benefits simply because they are unable to produce the requested documentation,” Evermore said. “Just follow all of the agency’s instructions carefully.”

    Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

    Source: thepennyhoarder.com

    9 Things I Love and Have Learned After 9 Years Of Blogging

    I still remember the month I started my blog. I don’t really remember the exact first day, but I remember the first month and how excited I was.

    In August of 2011, I started Making Sense of Cents.

    That was exactly 9 years ago!

    Back then, I had no idea what I was doing, and I also had no goals for my blog.

    I didn’t even really know what a blog was, or that they could make money.

    I also didn’t even like to write at that time!

    In the past 9 years, so much has changed for me.

    It’s crazy to think that I started my blog nine years ago, especially when I consider all of the amazing things it has done for my life.

    It was something I started and worked on in addition to my full-time day job as a financial analyst, and around two years after I started this blog, I quit my day job to blog full-time.

    Some numbers on Making Sense of Cents:

    • My first blog post was published on August 10, 2011. You can read it here.
    • I have published 1,878 articles here on Making Sense of Cents. That number was higher about a month ago, but I recently deleted several hundred articles that I thought weren’t good enough.
    • I have 70,816 comments on my blog posts.
    • I’ve personally replied to 21,080 comments.
    • It took me 6 months to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents.

    First, a little backstory on how I began.

    You may have heard this from me before, but the funny thing is that I created my blog on a whim after reading about a personal finance website in a magazine. It started as a hobby to track my own personal finance progress, and I honestly didn’t even know that people could make money blogging!

    I knew NOTHING about running a website.

    At that time, I was working as an analyst at an investment banking and valuation firm. I chugged along working the 8-5, Monday through Friday grind and didn’t see myself having an enjoyable future there. I had a stressful job filled with lots of deadlines and responsibilities that just didn’t interest me. Yes, I know this is the norm for some people, but I just couldn’t imagine myself living like that for 40+ years.

    Blogging was an outlet for my stressful day job, and my interest quickly grew, even though it was just a hobby. It gave me space to write about my personal finance situation, have a support group, to keep track of how I was doing, and more. I did not create Making Sense of Cents with the intention of earning an income, but after only six months, I began to make money blogging.

    A friend I met through the blogging community connected me with an advertiser, and I earned $100 from that advertisement deal.

    That one deal sparked my interest in taking my blog more seriously and learning how to make even more money blogging.

    I now earn a great living from my blog, and it all started on a whim, not even knowing that blogs could make money.

    Blogging completely changed my life for the better, and I urge anyone who is interested to learn how to start a blog as well.

    Blogging has allowed me to take control of my finances and earn more money. It means I can work from home, travel whenever I want, have a flexible schedule, and more!

    Related content:

    • How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog
    • Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!
    • How To Start a Blog Free Course
    • Should I Start A Blog? Here Are The Top Reasons You Will Love Blogging
    • What is a blog post?

    And, all of this happened because I started some random blog nine years ago.

    I made so many mistakes, and I still make mistakes today. But, I continue to learn and improve, which has shaped this blog into what it is today.

    I was so afraid to quit my job when I did, especially for a blog.

    So many people thought I was absolutely crazy and making the worst decision of my life. Especially since my husband quit his job at the same time!

    Today, I want to talk about the the 9 things that I love and have learned about blogging over the years. I feel like what I enjoy about blogging as well as what I’ve learned go hand in hand.

    Oh yeah, if you haven’t yet – please follow me on Instagram.

    Here’s what I love and have learned about blogging.

     

    1. I love being my own boss.

    When I first started my blog and realized I could make an income from it, I quickly learned how much I love being my own boss.

    I love being in complete control of what I do, and becoming self-employed may allow you to feel that way as well. I enjoy deciding what I will do each day, creating my own schedule, determining my business goals, handling everything behind the scenes, and more.

    I actually have a rule in my life/business where I don’t do anything unless I want to. While I still say yes to many amazing opportunities, I’m not doing anything that feels like a total drag or is against my beliefs. This has really helped improve my work-life balance, which is great because being able to choose how you earn a living amounts to making sure you love everything you do.

    I honestly love each and every service I provide – writing online, promoting, networking, interacting with readers, and more.

    Running an online business (and being your own boss) may not be for everyone, but it’s something I enjoy.

     

    2. A flexible schedule is one of my most favorite things.

    One of the best things about working for yourself and being a blogger is that you can have a flexible schedule.

    I can work as far ahead as I want to, I can create my own work schedule, and more.

    I love being able to work for a few hours in the morning, do something fun during the day (such as a hike), and then work later at night when I have nothing planned. I can also schedule appointments during the day and it’s really no big deal.

    I can work at night, in the morning, on the weekends – I can work whenever.

    But, this can also be something to be careful with as well, as it can be difficult to have a good work-life balance.

     

    3. Location independence is AMAZING.

    Being location independent for so many years has been great.

    I love being able to work from wherever I am, and it’s allowed me some of the best experiences I’ve had, like living in an RV and now on a sailboat. All I need is an internet connection and my laptop.

    The only problem with being location independent is that it can be hard to separate work from the rest of your life. You may find yourself working all the time, no matter where you are, and while that may seem great, being able to take a true vacation can be a hard task.

    However, I’m not going to complain because the work-life balance I’m rocking right now is great.

     

    4. Remember, success takes time!

    Many bloggers quit just a few months in.

    In fact, the statistic that I’ve always heard is that the average blogger quits just 6 months in.

    I completely understand – starting a blog can be super overwhelming!

    But, good things don’t come easy. If blogging was easy, then everyone would be doing it.

    It took me 6 months for me to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents. If I would have quit at that time, I would have missed out on so many great things!

    Remember, success takes time!

     

    5. Don’t write when you feel forced.

    One thing I have definitely learned about myself over the years is that I write best when I’m not forced – i.e. when I’m on a deadline.

    Instead, I always try to write content ahead of time.

    I used to write content for Monday on the night before (Sunday!), and I found that to be super stressful. Even a week in advance was too stressful for me.

    I like to be at least a month ahead, as then I can truly write when I feel inspired and happy to write.

     

    6. Get ready to learn.

    Pretty much everything about having a blog is a learning process.

    Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme, and anyone who tells you that it is (or acts like it is) is lying.

    Blogging is not easy.

    And, you won’t make $100,000 your first month blogging.

    Blogging can be a lot of work, and there is always something to learn. Something is always changing in the blogging world, which means you will need to continue to learn and adapt to the technology around you. This includes learning about social media platforms, running a website, growing your platform, writing high-quality content, and more.

    This is something that I love about blogging – it’s never stale and there’s always a new challenge.

     

    7. Stop seeing other bloggers as competition.

    Okay, so this isn’t exactly something that I’ve learned, but I want everyone else to learn!

    I have always had this mindset – that there is plenty of room for everyone in the blogging world. However, not everyone feels the same.

    So many bloggers see other bloggers as enemies or competition, and this is a huge mistake.

    I mostly see this in newer bloggers, and this can really hold them back.

    Networking is very important if you want to create a successful blog. Bloggers should be open to making blogging friends, attending blog conferences, sharing other blogs’ content with their readers, and more.

    Networking can help you enjoy blogging more, learn new things about blogging, learn how to make money blogging, make great connections, and more. If you want to make money blogging, then you will want to network with others! After all, networking is the reason why I learned how to make money blogging in the first place!

    The key is to be genuine and to give more than you take, which are the two main things I always tell people when it comes to networking. I receive so many emails every day from people who clearly aren’t genuine, and it’s very easy to see.

    I’ve made great friends who are bloggers and influencers, and it’s truly a great community to be in.

     

    8. You don’t need previous experience to be successful.

    To become a blogger, you don’t need any previous experience. You don’t need to be a computer wizard, understand social media, or anything else.

    These are all things that you can learn as you go.

    Nearly every single blogger was brand new at some point, and they had no idea what they were doing.

    I’m proof of that because I didn’t even know that blogs existed when I started Making Sense of Cents, and I definitely didn’t know that bloggers could make money. I learned how to create a blog from the bottom up and have worked my way to where I am today. It’s not always easy, but it’s been rewarding!

    With blogging, you’ll have a lot to learn, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s challenging, but in a good way.

     

    9. You can make a living blogging.

    This is probably one of the best things that I’ve learned since I first started my blog.

    You can actually make a living blogging!

    No, not every single person will become a successful blogger (it’s NOT a get-rich-quick scheme), but I know many successful bloggers who started in a similar way as I did – blogging as a hobby and it just grew from there.

    For me, I have earned a high income with my blog, and I have enough saved to retire whenever I would like. I am still working on my blog, though, as I enjoy what I do.

     

    What’s next?

    I’ve never really been much of a planner, so I don’t want to commit to anything HUGE haha.

    But, for Making Sense of Cents, I do have some plans. I am working towards improving traffic and readership, and coming up with more and more high-quality content.

    I am so grateful to all of you readers, and I want to continue to help you all out by writing high-quality content.

    That is really my only goal for now!

    If there’s anything you’d like me to write about on Making Sense of Cents, please send me an email at michelle@makingsenseofcents.com or leave a comment below.

    Thank you for being a reader!

     

    There’s a ton of valuable free resources.

    I know I’ll be asked this, so I am going to include this here.

    One of the great things about starting a blog is that there are a ton of FREE blogging resources out there that can help you get started.

    In fact, I didn’t spend any money in the beginning in order to learn how to blog – instead, I signed up for a ton of free webinars, free email courses, and more.

    1. First, if you don’t have a blog, then I recommend starting off with my free blogging course How To Start A Blog FREE Course.
    2. Affiliate Marketing Cheat Sheet – With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.
    3. The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training)– Improve your SEO knowledge in just 60 minutes with this FREE 6-day video training.
    4. The Free Blogging Planner – The Blogging Planner is a free workbook that I created just for you! In this free workbook, you’ll receive printables for starting your blog, creating a blog post, a daily/weekly blog planner, goals, and more.

    Do you have any questions for me? Are you interested in starting your own business?

    The post 9 Things I Love and Have Learned After 9 Years Of Blogging appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

    Source: makingsenseofcents.com

    RV Renovation Ideas For Our New (to us) Fifth Wheel!

    We are renovating a fifth wheel RV! I’ve been obsessed with RV living and RV renovations since we saw Jill and Eric’s RV renovation last spring. We aren’t ready to move into one but we thought it would be a…

    The post RV Renovation Ideas For Our New (to us) Fifth Wheel! appeared first on Modern Frugality.

    Source: modernfrugality.com

    How to Build a Photo Scanning and Digitizing Side Gig

    As simple as it sounds — and actually is — most people are overwhelmed by the thought of taking hundreds or even thousands of photos and organizing them into searchable, digital files.

    Then there are the videos filmed on various versions of clunky cameras over the decades.

    Perhaps the most daunting version of unorganized photographic memories are slides. Once the butt of so many jokes about boring dinner parties, now they are covered in dust with no hope of ever seeing the light of a projector again.

    Well, anyone armed with a $229 scanner and a computer can make searchable digital files of photos and slides. To turn videos into digital files, it takes the original camera they were filmed with or a VCR, an $87 adapter and a computer.

    Here’s how to make photo scanning and digitizing your new side hustle.

    Five years ago, professional photo curator Sabrina Hughes decided she could make a business out of helping people organize their photos, videos and slides. Her company, PhotoXO, has a compelling slogan: “Show your photos the love they deserve.”

    Her years as a photographer, plus a graduate degree in art history and experience as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla., combine to make her an astute photo archivist. But all of this expertise and experience is not required.

    “There’s a certain point when I’m not doing anything you can’t figure out on your own,” she said. “A college student or really anyone could do this to make extra money.”

    Hughes offers a self-paced online class called Disaster to Done for $297, which includes lifetime access to course materials. But she’s also sharing her tips with The Penny Hoarder.

    Get the Right Equipment

    • Scanner. There are hundreds of scanners out there, but she prefers the Epson v600, which sells for $229.
    • Video adapter. Hughes uses the Elgato Video Capture for digitizing VHS tapes. It can be bought online for $87.
    • Storage. “When I first started out, I was giving everything back on hard drives,” Hughes said. “I was trying to get away from DVDs, since most computers don’t even play those anymore.” She then offered flash drives filled with the photos. Though they are also becoming less common, this is still probably the best tool for beginners. Hughes now uploads everything to her website, which offers permanent storage.
    • Software. Hughes uses Adobe Lightroom ($119), which enables her to label photos so they can be searched and has photo editing functions. Software isn’t required to organize unlabeled photos into folders, however.
    A stack of old black and white photographs sits on a person's desk.

    Develop and Perfect Your Process

    The first step to starting your photo scanning business is setting aside a space in your home. It can be as small as a corner of your bedroom or a desktop if an actual office or spare room isn’t possible.

    Next, create a storage system for clients’ photos and video tapes while your work is in progress. Of course clear boxes that stack are great, but they come with a cost. Cardboard shipping boxes work just as well. Place white adhesive labels on the ends with the name of the client and the date the work started. You can place new labels over these when one project is done and the next client’s photos go into the boxes.

    To digitize photos and slides, scan each one with the scanner to upload it to your computer. Make files for certain years or topics such as “1970s beach trips” or “kids’ birthday parties.” Drag and drop the photos into the appropriate file.

    Passive Income Strategies

    Theodora