Are you suited to real estate investing?

Published 7/29/14

Are you suited to real estate investing? By Peter Andrew

The last time I wrote about investing in real estate, I told you I was building up the courage to buy a nearby house to rent out to vacationers. Well, guess what? I didn't. I didn't buy it because I didn't build up the courage.

Every time I tried to picture happy families returning year after year to joyfully hand me a significant proportion of their disposable incomes, the only mental images I could actually conjure were of unpaid bills, foreclosure notices and someone changing the locks on my vacation home.

This glass-half-smashed-into-a-million-pieces mentality may well be the reason I'm not rich. You have to speculate to accumulate, and all investments involve some sort of risk. Turns out, I'm risk-averse, so the tiny puddle of money that might have been the down payment on my vacation rental remains in an online savings account.

Recognize your weaknesses

Actually, it may be less a question of risk-aversion than realism. In the late 1990s, my parents came to visit me in London where I was then living. We went to Columbia Road market one Sunday morning, which combined flowers and plants with exotic foods and antiques.

My mom and dad strolled with me down the center of the road as my partner raced around the stalls, buying armfuls of cut flowers, a triumph of 19th-century taxidermy in the form of a turtle (see the photo on the right), miscellaneous bric-a-brac, and quantities of obscure Asian foodstuffs. Within 30 minutes, the bill was well over $350.

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Opening a new bank account? Ask these 5 questions

Published 7/18/14

Opening a new bank account? Ask these 5 questions By Holly Johnson

A few months ago, I did something that I hadn't done in almost 15 years: I opened a new checking account.

It was a slightly scary thing to do, mainly because I had gotten so comfortable with my old account and how it worked. On the other hand, it was definitely time for a change. Because we moved, our old bank was no longer in a convenient location for us. Even worse, our "new" local branch had severely limited hours to the point where it seemed like they were never open. I hated the thought of filling out a bunch of paperwork and closing our old account, but I knew it was for the best.

When it came to opening a new account, I felt like quite the novice. However, after doing an adequate amount of research and exploring my options, I quickly found my footing. But that was only after I compiled a list of questions I needed to answer before committing to opening a new account with a specific bank. Here are the five questions I thought were most important to answer, and why.

1. Will my new bank be convenient?

Modern banking is all about convenience, and my personal banking needs are a reflection of that. When it came to choosing a new bank to do business with, I needed to know that my new banking relationship would be a convenient one.

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3 cheap summer exercise solutions

Published 7/9/14

3 cheap summer exercise solutions By Justin Boyle

Does it surprise anyone to learn that demand for personal trainers goes up in the summer? A friend of mine who moonlights as a trainer tells me that the only time of year when he's busier is January, at the height of New Year's resolution season.

Personal training, gym memberships, unlimited yoga passes and the like are all fine ways to get in shape for the sleeveless days of summer, but what if you're looking to work out without adding a new line to your budget? Check out these three ways to get fit without breaking the bank.

1. The new old-fashioned way

It might be odd to hear that an idea from your junior high gym class has turned into a major exercise trend, but that's exactly what's happened in the last few years. Calisthenic exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, dips and sit-ups are a big part of interval training, which can burn fat and build muscle at a surprising pace.

Another great thing about calisthenic exercise is the number of inventive exercises, training tips and routines you can find for free on the Web. If you want to add some extra resistance, plastic jugs that hold one U.S. gallon can be filled with water (about 8 pounds), play sand (about 13 pounds) or both (about 16 pounds) for DIY dumbbells on the cheap.

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3 simple steps for building financial independence

Published 7/3/14

3 simple steps for building financial independence By Georgie Miller

Every July 4, people celebrate our nation's independence by going camping, watching a fireworks display or grilling some burgers. Sounds like fun! Less fun, however, is living a life shackled to your debt. If you're interested in achieving financial independence, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Take a serious look at your spending

Before you can create a meaningful budget, you have to know where your money is going. How much are your monthly bills? When are they due? You may want to note which bills are optional (like cable or a gym membership) and which are not (like your mortgage or your student loan payments).

In addition to gathering information about your bills, it's also important to track your discretionary spending.

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A novice's guide to the stock market

Published 6/27/14

A novice's guide to the stock market By Peter Andrew

I did it. I finally did it! Last fall, very late in life for such things, I finally lost my stock market virginity. I'm now the proud owner of shares in not one but two companies. And things are going really well. I invested $3,900 back then, and my holdings are now worth $4,900. On the night after Warren Buffet sees this article -- and who could doubt he will? -- sleep may well elude him.

Cash currently king

Of course, I'm more than pleased with how my investment has grown. And you might assume that those who have deposits today in savings accounts would be green with envy. But no. Many people make an informed choice to keep their money in cash (sometimes literally, but usually in bank accounts) rather than invest it in equities, stocks and shares. By the way, although there are distinctions in the meanings of those three words, there are also large overlaps, and for our purposes today we can use them interchangeably.

In May, the State Street Center for Applied Research found that 36 percent of Americans' assets were held in cash. Extraordinarily, that was up from 26 percent in 2012, just two years earlier. And this rise -- which occurred across all age groups and wealth levels -- was in spite of the fact that, by the end of 2013, all the three main U.S. stock indices were up at least 26 percent from the start of that year. So what is it that makes so many settle for one-twentieth the return, which is common among even the most generous high-interest savings accounts? You can sum it up in a word: fear.

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5 everyday ways parents can save money

Published 6/16/14

5 everyday ways parents can save money By Holly Johnson

According to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year, the average cost to raise a child born in 2013 to age 18 is expected to be $241,080. Government number-crunchers examined weighty expenses such as groceries, transportation, shelter, day care, health care and education to reach this frightening figure.

The cost of raising children is definitely something to think about before you have kids. Your kids will need necessities like food, shelter, health care and education, and some of these expenses may be hard to skimp on without losing something in return. However, it is extremely easy to save on other everyday needs your children will have. Here are a few ways to do it.

1. Stick to secondhand

Thanks to garage sales and the magic of the Internet, you can find all kinds of used kid's stuff for pennies on the dollar.

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