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How to Transfer Your 401(k) When Changing to a New Job: 401(k) Rollover Guide

It’s easy to forget about old 401(k) plans when changing to a new job. Some people simply forget about it because the company that manages it never reminds them. Others didn’t forget about their old account, but they’ve been putting off the rollover because it sounds hard.

Many companies don’t make the process easy for customers to roll over their 401(k) accounts from previous jobs. But it can be worth the inconvenience.

By not rolling it over, you might be losing some serious cash. That’s right—losing money, so it’s easy to miss. Here are a few key reasons to prioritize a 401(k) rollover.

3 Reasons to Transfer Your 401(k) to a New Job

There are three main reasons to rollover a 401(k):

1. To reduce fees. If the fees are too high with your previous employer’s 401(k), rolling over a 401(k) can be advantageous.
2. To maximize your money. If you aren’t happy with the investment options in your old 401(k) and your new employer accepts rollover 401(k)s, you might be able to save money while investing in a broader range of investment vehicles.
3. To streamline your investments. If you leave your 401(k) where it is, you may not think about it very often. It’s important to keep tabs on all of your investments so you can make sure they are on track and appropriate for your time horizon and goals.

You May Be Paying Hidden Fees

There are all sorts of fees that go into effect when you open a 401(k), including recordkeeping fees, maintenance fees, and fund fees. Expressed in a percentage, these fees inform the expense ratio of a plan.

Employers may cover those fees until you leave the company. Once you’re gone, that cost might shift to you without you even realizing it.

Fees matter: When you pay a fee on your 401(k), you’re not just losing the cost of the fee; you’re also losing all the compound interest that would grow along with it over time. The sooner you roll your plan over, the more you could potentially save.

You Might Be Missing Out on Better Investments

401(k) accounts grow at different rates depending on which assets you invest in. If the retirement savings plan at your new company—or an individual retirement plan (IRA)—offers a selection of stocks and bonds that better aligns with your financial goals, it might be time to initiate a rollover.

The money that’s sitting in your old 401(k) could potentially grow at a faster rate if you roll it over into a new plan or into an IRA—it’s certainly worth investigating the growth rates of each. Keep in mind that investors can lose money when investing, too, so it always makes sense to consider your personal risk tolerance when deciding how to invest your retirement accounts.

You Could Lose Track of the Account

It’s not your fault, it’s just logistics. It’s harder and more time-consuming to juggle multiple retirement accounts than it is to juggle one. Until you retire, you’ll be managing two (or more) websites, two usernames and passwords, two investment portfolios, and two growth rates for decades.

And if you leave this next job to go to a third (or a fourth, or a fifth), the 401(k) plans could pile up, creating even more tracking work for you. Plus, when you’re no longer with an employer, you might miss alerts about changes that may occur with an old retirement plan.

What to do With Your 401(k) After Getting a New Job

While it’s generally allowed to leave your account in your former employer’s plan when you switch jobs, there are other options.

•  Cash out the account. If you take this route and you’re younger than 59½ years old, you will owe taxes and might also owe early withdrawal penalties depending on how you use the money.
•  Roll over the 401(k) account. You could roll the account into your new employer’s retirement plan (if allowed) or into an IRA.

Cashing Out Early

Should you choose to cash out your 401(k), you will have to pay taxes on the money, and perhaps an additional 10% early withdrawal fee.

That said, there are some circumstances when the 10% fee is waived (but not the income tax), such as when the funds will be used for eligible education expenses, certain medical expenses, or expenses related to a first-time home purchase, among other circumstances.

Rolling Over a 401(k) to Your New Employer’s Plan

The process of rolling over a 401(k) might seem intimidating or inconvenient at first, especially if you’re moving onto your second job and this is the first time you’ll be rolling over a 401(k). In actuality, the actual process of rolling over a 401(k) isn’t too complicated once you’ve decided where your existing funds are going to go.

Advantages of Rolling Over Your 401(k)

Rolling over your 401(k) to a new plan can be advantageous to your overall financial plan. Here are a few ways this transition might be beneficial to your financial well-being.

One Place for Tax-Deferred Money

Transferring your 401(k) to your new employer’s plan can help consolidate all of your tax-deferred dollars into one account. Keeping track of and managing one account may simplify your money management efforts.

A Streamlined Investment Strategy

Not only does consolidating your previous 401(k) with your new 401(k) make money management easier, it can also streamline your investment strategies.

Financial Service Offerings

Some 401(k) plans offer financial services, such as financial advisor consultations, to help employees achieve their retirement goals. If your previous employer didn’t offer this service and your new plan does, taking advantage of this offering may help you achieve an investment plan that meets your exact goals rather than a standardized option.

Access to a Roth Option

An increasing number of employers are offering a Roth 401(k) option in addition to the traditional 401(k) option. With a Roth 401(k), the money you contribute is after-tax—it doesn’t minimize your taxable income. But when you take distributions in retirement, you won’t have to pay taxes on the withdrawal amount. As long as the account has been open for five years and you’re over 59 ½, you can receive tax-free distributions.

A Roth 401(k) option can be appealing if you feel your income in retirement will be higher than your current income. If your new employer offers this benefit and you think it will be advantageous to your financial situation, then rolling over your 401(k) to a Roth 401(k) plan may make sense.

How to Roll Over Your 401(k)

So, how do you transfer your 401(k) to a new job? If you decide to roll your funds into your new employer’s 401(k), you’ll most likely need to:

1. Contact the plan administrator to arrange the rollover. You may need to choose the types of investment you would like before you initiate the rollover. If not, you can take a lump-sum transfer and allocate the funds gradually to different investments of your choosing.
2. Complete any forms required by your employer for the rollover.
3. Request that your former plan administrator send the fund via electronic transfer or a check so you can move the funds directly to the administrator of the new plan.

It’s possible that you might have to wait until your employer’s next open enrollment period to complete the rollover, but you might consider using that time to research the plan’s investment options so you’ll be ready when the time comes.

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Rolling Over a 401(k) Into an IRA

If you choose to roll your 401(k) funds into an IRA that’s not employer-sponsored, a direct rollover is the method that takes most of the guesswork out of the transfer. This means that the funds will be taken from your previous account and rolled directly into the new account.

Doing it this way should avoid your previous lender sending you a check and resulting in any unforeseen early withdrawal tax situations.

Opening a new retirement account online is fairly straightforward, but there are some steps to opening an IRA that might be worth reviewing before you start. Once your funds are rolled over, you’ll be able to choose the investments that work for your retirement goals.

401(k) Rollover Rules

When requesting a transfer, you may either select a direct and indirect rollover. With a direct rollover, the check is made out to the financial institution (for your benefit). Because the funds are directly deposited into the new account, no taxes are withheld.

With an indirect rollover, the check is payable to you, with 20% withheld for taxes. You’ll have 60 days to roll over the funds (80% of your previous plan) into an IRA or other retirement plan. If you want to contribute the full amount of your previous plan, you can add money to bring the lump contribution back up to the balance before rollover. At that point, you’d be able to count the 20% withheld as taxes paid.

The Takeaway

There are many benefits to rolling over a 401(k) after switching jobs, including streamlining your retirement accounts and directing your money so that it suits your individual financial needs and goals. While some may view it as inconvenient, it’s actually a straightforward process whether you want to roll over a 401(k) into your new employer’s plan, or into an IRA.

Not sure which rollover strategy is right for you? SoFi Invest® offers retirement savings plan options. With a SoFi Roth or Traditional IRA, investors have access to a broad range of investment options, member services, and our robust suite of planning and investment tools.

Find out how to take control of your retirement options with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics

If you’re one of those investors with very little time to research and invest in individual stocks, it might be a good idea to look into investing in mutual funds.

Whether your goal is to save money for retirement, or for a down payment to buy a house, mutual funds are low-cost and effective way to invest your money.

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What is a mutual fund?

A mutual fund is an investment vehicle in which investors, like you ad me, pool their money together. They use the money to invest in securities such as stocks and bonds. A professional manages the funds.

In addition, mutual funds are cost efficient. They offer diversification to your portfolio. They have low minimum investment requirements.

These factors make mutual funds among the best investment vehicles to use. If you’re a beginner investor, you should consider investing in mutual funds or index funds.

Investing in the stock market in general, can be intimidating. If you are just starting out and don’t feel confident in your investing knowledge, you may value the advice of a financial advisor.

Types of mutual funds

There are different types of mutual funds. They are stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds.

Which funds you choose depends on your risk tolerance. While mutual funds in general are less risky than investing in individual stocks, some funds are riskier than others.

However, you can choose a combination of these three types of funds to diversify your portfolio.

  • Stock funds: a stock fund is a fund that invests heavily in stocks. However, that does not mean stock funds do not have other securities, i.e., bonds. It’s just that the majority of the money invested is in stocks.
  • Bond funds: if you don’t want your portfolio to fluctuate in value as stocks do, then you should consider bond funds.
  • Money market funds: money market funds are funds that you invest in if you tend to tap into your investment in the short term.
  • Sector funds. As the name suggests, sector funds are funds that invests in one particular sector or industry. For example, a fund that invests only in the health care industry is a sector fund. These mutual funds lack diversification. Therefore, you should avoid them or use them in conjunction to another mutual fund.

Additional funds

  • Index funds. Index funds seek to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index. When you invest in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund, you’re essentially buying a piece of the 500 largest publicly traded US companies. Index funds don’t jump around. They stay invested in the market. 
  • Income funds: These funds focus invest primarily in corporate bonds. They also invest in some high-dividend stocks.
  • Balance funds: The portfolio of these funds have a mixed of stocks and bonds. Those funds enjoy capital growth and income dividend.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Protect Your Portfolio from the Volatile Stock Market

The advantages of mutual funds

Diversification. You’ve probably heard the popular saying “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Well, it applies to mutual funds. Mutual funds invest in stocks or bonds from dozens of companies in several industries.

Thus, your risk is spread. If a stock of a company is not doing well, a stock from another company can balance it out. While most funds are diversified, some are not.

For example, sector funds which invest in a specific industry such as real estate can be risky if that industry is not doing well.

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Professional Management.

Mutual funds are professionally managed. These fund managers are well educated and experienced. Their job is to analyze data, research companies and find the best investments for the fund.

Thus, investing in mutual funds can be a huge time saver for those who have very little time and those who lack expertise in the matter.

Cost Efficiency. The operating expenses and the cost that you pay to sell or buy a fund are cheaper than trading in individual securities on your own. For example, the best Vanguard mutual funds have operating expenses as low as 0.04%. So by keeping expenses low, these funds can help boost your returns.

Low or Reasonable Minimum Investment. The majority of mutual funds, Vanguard mutual funds, for example, have a reasonable minimum requirement. Some funds even have a minimum of $1,000 and provide a monthly investment plan where you can start with as little as $50 a month.

Related Article: 7 Secrets Smart Professionals Use to Choose Financial Advisors

The disadvantage of mutual funds.

While there are several benefits to investing in mutual funds, there are some disadvantages as well. 

Active Fund Management. Mutual funds are actively managed. That means fund mangers are always on the look out for the best securities to purchase. That also means they can easily make mistakes.

Cost/expenses. While cost and expenses of investing in individual stocks are significantly higher than mutual funds, cost of a mutual fund can nonetheless be significant.

High cost can have a negative effect on your investment return. These fees are deducted from your mutual fund’s balance every year. Other fees can apply as well. So always find a company with a low cost. 

How you make money with mutual funds.

You make money with mutual funds the same way you would with individual stocks: dividend, capital gain and appreciation.

Dividend: Dividends are cash distributions from a company to its shareholders. Some companies offer dividends; others do not. And those who do pay out dividends are not obligated to do so. And the amount of dividends can vary from year to year.

As a mutual fund investor, you may receive dividend income on a regular basis.

Mutual funds offer dividend reinvestment plans. This means that instead of receiving a cash payment, you can reinvest your dividend income into buying more shares in the fund.

Capital gain distribution: in addition to receiving dividend income from the fund, you make money with mutual funds when you make a profit by selling a stock. This is called “capital gain.”

Capital gain occurs when the fund manager sells stocks for more he bought them for. The resulting profits can be paid out to the fund’s shareholders. Just as dividend income, you have the choice to reinvest your gains in the fund.

Appreciation: If stocks in your fund have appreciated in value, the price per share of the fund will increase as well. So whether you hold your shares for a short term or long term, you stand to make a profit when the shares rise. 

Best mutual funds.

Now that you know mutual funds make excellent investments, finding the best mutual funds can be overwhelming. 

Vanguard mutual funds.

Vanguard mutual funds are the best out there, because they are relatively cheaper; they are of high quality; a professional manage them; and their operating expenses are relative low. 

Here is a list of the best Vanguard mutual funds that you should invest in:

  • Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Funds
  • Vanguard 500 Index (VFIAX)
  • Total International Stock index Fund
  • Vanguard Health Care Investor

Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund 

If you’re looking for a diversified mutual fund, this Vanguard mutual fund is for you. The Vanguard’s VTSAX provides exposure to the entire U.S. stock market which includes stocks from large, medium and small U.S companies.

The top companies include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon. In addition, the expenses are relatively (0.04%). It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000, making it one of the best vanguard stock funds out there.

Vanguard S&P 500 (VFIAX)

The Vanguard 500 Index fund may be appropriate for you if you prefer a mutual fund that focuses on U.S. equities. This fund tracks the performance of the S&P 500, which means it holds about 500 of the largest U.S. stocks.

The largest U.S. companies included in this fund are Facebook, Alphabet/Google, Apple, and Amazon. This index fund has an expense ration of 0.04% and a reasonable minimum initial investment of $3,000.

Vanguard Total International Stock Market

You should consider the Vanguard International Stock Market fund of you prefer a mutual fund that invests in foreign stocks.

This international stock fund exposes its shareholders to over 6,000 non-U.S. stocks from several countries in both developed markets and emerging markets. The minimum investment is also $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.11%.

Vanguard Health Care Investor

Sector funds are not usually a good idea, because the lack diversification. Sector funds are funds that invest in a specific industry like real estate or health care. However, if you want a fund to complement your portfolio, the Vanguard Health Care Investor is a good choice.

This Vanguard mutual fund offers investors exposure to U.S. and foreign equities focusing in the health care industry. The expense ration is a little bit higher, 0.34%. However, the minimum initial investment is $3,000, making it one of the cheapest Vanguard mutual funds.

Bottom Line

Mutual funds are great options for beginner investors or investors who have little time to research and invest in individual stocks. When you buy into these low cost investments, you’re essentially buying shares from companies.

Your money are pooled together with those of other investors. If you intend to invest in low cost investment funds, you must know which ones are the best. When it comes to saving money on fees and getting a good return on your investment, Vanguard mutual funds are among the best funds out there.

They provide professional management, diversity, low cost, income and price appreciation.

What’s Next: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard mutual funds to invest, 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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How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income

Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to become a freelancer.

I recently had the chance to interview Ben Taylor. Ben has been freelancing since 2004, and he has worked for dozens of companies.

Yes, this is a career path that you can learn!

As Ben will tell you in the interview below, a freelancer can be anything. You can be a freelance designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, writer, and more.

If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to become a freelancer may be something that you want to look into.

In this interview, you will learn:

  • What a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.
  • How much a new freelancer should expect to earn
  • How a person can find their first freelancing job
  • The steps needed to take to make money as a freelancer

And much more!

He also has an informative course called Freelance Kickstarter. This course takes you through the step by step process of creating your own freelance business.

Check out the interview below for more information.

How to become a freelancer.

 

1. Please give us a background on yourself and how you started as a freelancer.

I’m Ben, and I live by the sea in England with my wife and two young sons.

I started a career in tech back in 1998, and by 2004 was Head of IT for a government department. It didn’t take long for me to tire of company politics, and the endless meetings that were more about displays of ego than really getting anything done.

I came from an entrepreneurial family and my parents both had businesses rather than jobs. The businesses weren’t always successful, and there were definitely periods of “feast and famine.” However, I was well used to that and I think that branching out on my own was something I was destined to do.

My move into freelancing splits into a couple of clear phases:

Initially, in 2004, I quit my IT job, walking away from business class travel and a gold-plated pension with nothing more than a vague plan to begin to work as a freelancer!

I started to provide IT support and consultancy to both businesses and individuals. I do actually still do some of that work for a select group of long-term clients, but by 2009 I had managed to burn myself out with it. The business was going well, but I was working ridiculously long days and every holiday I tried to take was interrupted by constant phone calls and emails.

So phase two began when I sold off most of my client-base and moved to Portugal! That’s when I really started to broaden my freelance horizons. I had to start from scratch, with an unclear intention to start writing for a living, and no real plan for how to do it.

I did lots of things, including wasting a LOT of time down fruitless blind alleys. I wrote for content mills, started blogs, found clients on freelance job boards, and – slowly and steadily – started to build my income back up. The difference was that I was doing it all completely on my terms with work I really enjoyed. 

I was also living in a dream destination whilst doing it.

 

2. Can you explain what exactly a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.?

This seems like a basic question, but it’s very worthwhile. There’s a considerable difference between freelancing and remote working that not everybody appreciates.

First off, a freelancer can be anything. For some reason many people immediately think of writing when they think about freelancing. But you can be a freelancer designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, and dozens of other things.

It’s also worth noting you don’t only have to be one of those things. I AM a freelancer writer, but I also still dabble in IT consultancy, run my own blogs, provide coaching, and even build websites for people (if they ask nicely and the price is right!)

Regardless of what you do as a freelancer, the important thing to realise is that you are running your own business. The big plus of this is that you are in total charge. But the big negative is that you don’t have any of the safety nets you have if you are employed by a single company. This means you’re responsible for everything from your own insurance and healthcare to your own technical support!

Freelancers typically work for several different clients. There are myriad places to find those clients. It’s quite common for freelancers to find clients within their existing professional networks, and not at all unusual for ex-employers to be among them. Then there are freelance job boards like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, which provide an endless stream of new opportunities.

 

3. How much should a new/beginner freelancer expect to earn?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer! I can think of one freelancer I coached who’s in a very specific writing niche. He went onto Upwork with an initial rate of $100 per hour and found lots of work. I started out in IT consultancy charging a similar rate and was quickly earning more than I did in my full-time job.   

However, at the other end of the scale there are people with limited experience or specialist skills who will need to pay their dues. This means building the foundations of a freelance career by proving yourself and taking low paying jobs to build up examples of work and positive feedback. My move into writing was much more like this!

I think “job replacement income” is a useful target for new freelancers to keep in mind. That can vary vastly from individual to individual. Obviously replacing and exceeding a corporate-level income takes much more than freelancing as an alternative to a part-time, entry-level job. That said, people with senior-level experience command much higher freelance rates.

Related content: 20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs

 

4. What do you like about being a freelancer?

Not having a boss!

The difference in lifestyle is massive when you work for yourself. This is always brought home to me when I’m making plans with friends and family, and people say “I’ll see if I can get the time off.”

This makes me shudder, because it’s SO alien to me now. The example I always use is that I never have to ask anybody before I can tell my children I’ll be at their sports day or nativity play.

When you have what I call a “traditional job,” you DO have the security of healthcare, and perhaps things like holiday and sick pay. But you give up a tremendous amount of freedom in return. Freelancing is profoundly different, and it’s rare to find people who’ve given it a go that would ever choose to go back to full-time employment.

So that’s a huge thing for me, but there are other huge benefits too. I love the fact I can pivot into different things, which always allows me to keep things fresh.

About four times a year I reassess my priorities and lay out new goals for the short, medium and long term. They might involve starting a new blog, writing another book, learning a new marketable skill. For somebody like me who relishes variety, I love having total control of this.

 

5. How can a person find their first freelancing job?

There are SO many ways to find freelance jobs. I have an article listing 50 different options!

However, they broadly split into two categories that I call “real world” and “online world.”

It’s always worth starting out by thinking of your real life networks. As I’ve said, many freelancers do their first self-employed work for people who already know them. I’d advise people to think about any contacts who’ve already seen the kind of work they’re capable of. These are “warm leads” that are well worth perusing.

It makes sense to think about personal contacts as well as business contacts, too. Plenty of freelancers find clients who are their “wife’s best friend’s brother” or something like that!

Remaining in the “real world,” there are also options like local business groups and networking events – although they are obviously far less accessible at the present time.

Moving to the online world, the freelance job boards are the place to be. They can be intimidating places initially, and it’s crucial to learn how to use them and how to avoid scammers and low paying clients. But there are plenty of great clients out there, including many household name companies who use those boards to hire freelancers.

Often, a quick one-off $50 job can evolve into a long and lucrative client relationship. My wife and I both have clients who we first met on the freelance boards years ago. We still work with them now.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to where to find the first client, but there are options for everybody.

 

setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

6. How does a freelancer decide what to set their rates at?

This is a question I’m asked a LOT! The answer leads to lots more questions, and I think many of my readers are disappointed when I don’t just give them an answer of “$x per hour” or “$x per article!”

It’s a subject I cover in my Freelance Kickstarter course, and I’m happy to share a slide from that particular lesson here. The factors to consider include tangible things like the “market rates” for specific types of work, and how each client’s geographical location could impact how much they expect to pay.

But there’s much more to consider beyond that: How much does the gig align with your long-term goals? Will the job produce a great example of work that will help you win more clients in the future? Is this a job that could lead to on-going, long-term work?

I guess a simpler answer is that your rate needs to be fair and competitive, and sufficient to make it worth your while to do the job. However, the rate for each job really needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The reality is that there are millions of freelancers out there charging vastly different rates, often for very similar services. There’s a bit of an art to working out where you sit on the pricing spectrum, but it’s an art you can learn, and it gets easier with experience.

 

7. What steps does a person need to take to make money as a freelancer?

The first and most important is working out what it is you actually want to do. That may seem obvious, but my inbox is full of emails from people asking what they should do, without telling me what they’re capable of and what kind of work would make them happy.

I will attempt to lay it out in a fairly simple series of steps:

  1. Work out what skills you have and what market there is for them.
  2. Look at who else is providing those services, what they charge, and what you can provide that will make you stand out and appeal to clients.
  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and experience, and work to fill them. This could mean doing some training, or doing some voluntary jobs to bulk out your portfolio.
  4. Establish a personal brand. This isn’t as big a deal as it sounds, but does mean having a solid resumé and LinkedIn profile, and sometimes some other ways to demonstrate your expertise.
  5. Learn how the freelance job boards work. Even if you have a rich personal network to draw on, it’s wise to understand the wider world of freelancing.
  6. Put yourself out there, and start pitching and applying for things.
  7. Make sure you provide perfect work and delight your clients, so that they want to work with you again and recommend you to others.

Repeating and refining these steps is the essence of becoming a successful freelancer.

 

8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?

Freelancing is generally a low-cost venture, but that’s not to say it’s free. Depending on what you do, you may need specialist equipment and / or software. And if you’re switching from an employed position, you may have to buy things like this yourself for the first time.

A good computer is a must, as it’s often the key tool of your trade. You may also need to budget for things like insurance, possibly including healthcare cover if you are somewhere like the US where this isn’t covered by tax payments.

When it comes to monthly costs, the main things I pay for include software subscriptions and insurance policies. Thankfully these tend to build over time and no individual thing is particularly expensive. You can start out as an online freelancer without even having a personal website, and add things like that once you gain some momentum.

I also recommend budgeting for ongoing training and learning. Thankfully there are all kinds of ways to learn online inexpensively. Companies have training budgets, but when you’re a freelancer, keeping your skills on point is on you.

 

9. What kind of training is needed to become a freelancer?

I’d say the training splits into two: learning about freelancing itself, and building skills around the specific work you want to do.

Courses like my own Freelance Kickstarter cover the first part. Freelancing is a skill in itself, and we’ve covered some of the important areas in this interview already. Stuff like setting rates isn’t immediately obvious, so learning from those who have been there and done it already is very valuable.

When it comes to skills-specific training it depends what work you’re doing. Let’s say somebody wanted to work as a freelance social media manager. Not that long ago it would have been all about Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays Pinterest is a much bigger deal for many people, and TikTok is emerging as the latest trend.

So as that freelancer, you need to decide what you’re going to focus on. Do you want to be the “go-to guru” for TikTok, or be more of a generalist with social media in general?

It’s wonderful to have the choice.

 

10. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a freelancer?

I have many!

The one I repeat over and over is that you have to eventually go for it and make the jump. I see a lot of people who never get past the “thinking about it” phase. Meanwhile the go-getters have taken the leap of faith and started to build success.

Moving to freelancing is one of those things where there may never be a perfect time to do it. Those who keep waiting for that time to arrive can easily find themselves looking back ten years later with the same commute and the same job.

Another thing I’m like a broken record about is the importance of “paying your dues.” There are often plenty of less-than-ideal gigs to finish successfully before you arrive at the amazing ones.

I wrote about some really dull topics in my early days of freelance writing, for example. But I had to wade through that stuff to build my reputation. It all felt thoroughly worth it a few years later when I was being well paid for travel articles and restaurant reviews!

You learn something from every job along the way: How to handle clients, renegotiate rates, refine your skills, and get work done more efficiently so that you’re boosting the value of your time. Freelancing isn’t supposed to be easy but it’s almost always challenging, interesting and rewarding.

And let’s face it, many people don’t feel that way about their jobs.

 

11. What can a person learn from your course? Can you tell us about some of the people who have successfully taken your course?

OK, so Freelance Kickstarter expands on all of the topics I’ve touched on here, and many others. It’s intended to remove confusion, and that feeling of overwhelm that often descends when researching this stuff online. It helps new freelancers make a clear plan for getting started. As the strapline goes, the idea is that people “stop wasting time, and start making money!”

I never intended to create a course, but after running the HomeWorkingClub website for several years, it became clear there was a space for something like this. I make it very clear that it’s not some kind of “get rich quick” scheme.

To be brutally honest, I don’t want students who are looking for shortcuts. There is real hard work involved in being a successful freelancer, but it’s a more than viable option for those willing to do what’s required.

The course starts with the basics of working out what you can do and want to do, and presents LOTS of different options. It then moves on to auditing your skills and experience, building your brand, and working out your own personal goals. I particularly like that section because it helps people learn the exact process I use myself every few months to keep things moving forward.

The next lessons cover finding clients, and there’s a big module on learning how to use freelance job boards like Upwork. Once people have completed this, they will know how to uncover the good and genuine jobs, and how to side-step the time-drains and scams.

Students also learn about setting rates, and all the other practicalities of running a freelance business, from getting the tech right to taking undisturbed holidays! We also cover side gigs, and long-term slow-burn projects like blogs and self-published books.

I provide personal support on the course, and people can ask me all the questions they need as they go along. There are also regular exclusive podcasts with extra advice and news of industry developments and new opportunities.

In terms of people who have already taken the course, I recently published a case study from a lady called Lyn. She now has “more work than she can handle” as a freelance writer working via Upwork. Two things that have particularly pleased me about her situation is that she’s cherry-picking projects that interest her, and that she’s been able to do exactly what I suggest in increasing her rates as she builds experience and reputation.

I’ve also had great feedback from people at a much earlier stage. I’ve kept the course price low so that people can use it to help decide if freelancing is for them – just dipping their toes in for the first time.

As one student said, the course is “ideal if you are considering going freelance and don’t know where or when to start, or even if freelancing is for you.”

Several of the testimonials so far have aligned perfectly with the original objective, which was – essentially – to help people see the wood for the trees in an environment than can seem very daunting to begin with.

I set out to create the course I wish I’d had! I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in over 16 years of freelancing. The people taking Freelance Kickstarter should hopefully be able to avoid the same ones!

Click here to learn more about Freelance Kickstarter.

 Are you interested in learning how to become a freelancer?

The post How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

The 2021 Monkey Dartboard Investing Invitational

We’re going to run a stock-picking competition in 2021. You can follow along. I’ve asked my patrons to make their stock picks. And I’m putting my real money on the line. Welcome to the 2021 Monkey Dartboard Investing Invitational.

P.S. If you’re looking for a 2021 New Year’s resolution, I’d suggest you try out the 2021 Savings Goal Calculator. It’ll help you calculate how much money you should aim to save in the coming year.

Monkeys and a Dartboard

This story starts in Burton Malkiel’s seminal work A Random Walk Down Wall Street. In that book, Malkiel writes:

A blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts.

-Burton Malkiel

Surely Malkiel is bananas…right? Dartboard investing sounds…well it sounds dumb!

Actually, Malkiel’s bold statement was based on academic market research. Malkiel found that picking winning stocks is extremely difficult, even for experts. The question of “luck vs. skill” in the stock market has been answered. Consistent positive results—the result of skill—rarely occur. It’s mostly luck. And that means random monkeys can compete with seasoned “experts.”

If a few monkey throw a few darts, they’ll create a semi-diverse portfolio. That’s what we’ll be doing today.

But we could go a step further and take the monkey business infinite. With enough monkeys throwing enough darts, your portfolio would begin to look like a balanced distribution of the entire stock market. Ah-ha! We have a name for that concept. It’s an index fund. And that’s exclusively what I utilize in my personal investments.

That’s right. I don’t pick my own stocks. I don’t let another person pick my stocks. I let a million monkeys pick my stocks via dartboard investing. Why? Because the math predicts it’ll work, and history has proven those predictions true.

Sounds crazy, I know. Here’s how it worked out in 2020.

But if everyone invested in index funds, surely that’d lead to problems?!

Some investors argue that index funds are causing an asset bubble. Let’s dig into some quick details.

An efficient market, they claim, needs intelligent investors making informed decisions. Index funds, however, are “stupid.” An index fund does not make decisions for itself, but rather purchases stocks based on what everyone else in the market is doing. It’s just monkeys following the crowd. Dartboard investing misses obvious opportunities and therefore is inefficient. This is a reasonable argument.

Another index fund bubble argument points out that the stock market is like a “big theater with a small door.” Small trouble can lead to big panic. When baby boomers begin sell their stocks to fund their retirements, it could cause a mad dash for the exit door. “Sell stocks now, or else they’ll tank even further in price.” The prices will drop and drop and drop. Thus, they claim, the bubble will pop.

My two cents: the index fund bubble arguments are hogwash.

Asking My Patrons to Throw Darts

Let’s get back to today’s monkey business.

I reached out to the wonderful Best Interest patrons to help me with this year-long experiment. I asked them to give me a number 1 through 1000. Little did they know, their numbers would dictate which stocks I bought in this experiment.

The Russell 3000 is a stock market index, similar to the S&P 500 or Dow Jones. The Russell 3000 contains 3000 American stocks. It attempts to benchmark, or track, the entire U.S. stock market. Each patron’s chosen “dart” would hit three of these Russell 3000 stocks to add to my portfolio.

So let’s take a look at patron Craig, who picked 501. Great choice, Craig. Because of that pick, I’m going to include stock #501, #1501, and #2501 from the Russell 3000 in my portfolio. As of this writing, those stocks are:

  • 501: RPM International, an American multinational company with subsidiaries that manufacture and market high-performance specialty coatings, sealants and building materials
  • 1501: Zentalis Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing clinically differentiated, novel small molecule therapeutics that target fundamental biological pathways in cancer.
  • 2501: Preferred Apartment Communities, is a Maryland-based REIT corporation that acquires and operates multifamily properties in select targeted markets throughout the United States.

And then I’ll do the same for all the other patrons. We’ll have 33 total darts thrown onto our dartboard investing portfolio. This Google Sheet breaks down the portfolio and will be used to track the portfolio’s performance over the next year.

Link: The 2021 Monkey Dartboard Investing Invitational Google Sheet Tracker

How Will We Rate the Portfolio’s Performance?

There are a few ways we can consider evaluating this portfolio’s 2021 performance.

The first way is to compare it against the market in general—will our random picks outperform the market as a whole? Will they perform better than the S&P500? Better than the totality of the Russell 3000?

The second comparison is against some “expert” hand-picked mutual funds. For example, here are the first five “alpha mutual funds” I found via a Google search. (“Alpha” in this context refers to fund performance that is uncorrelated to general market performance. These mutual funds are trying to beat the market, not just mimic the market the way an index fund would.)

Below are the mutual fund ticker symbols, their net asset values, and their expense ratios. We’ll track these over time in the Google Sheet for comparison.

  • NEXTX, NAV = $44.53, Exp = 1.34%
  • ATRFX, NAV = $8.98, Exp = 3.02%
  • ALFAX, NAV = $26.32, Exp = 1.53%
  • IQDAX, NAV = $12.45, Exp = 2.46%
  • TTDAX, NAV = $13.04, Exp = 1.31%

The goal of these funds is to outperform the rest of the market. At the very least, they ought to beat the Best Interest monkeys patrons, right? Time will tell.

Small Cap vs. Large Cap

Of the 33 stocks in our portfolio, 6 of them are considering “large-cap,” having a total market capitalization (e.g. total value of all their stock shares) of $10 billion or higher. Another 13 are “mid-cap,” with a market cap between $2 billion and $10 billion. The remaining 14 are “small-cap,” with market caps less than $2 billion.

That means about 80% of our portfolio is associated with small-cap and mid-cap stocks. Historical precedent suggests that these small businesses tend to be higher risk/higher reward investments when compared against large-cap stocks. But in this short 1-year context, I’m not sure that’ll matter. In one given year, the large-cap vs. small-cap preference is a 50-50 coin flip.

Updating My Favorite Performance Chart For 2019

The Proudest Monkey

At the end of 2021, I bet that one of the Best Interest patrons will see that their three stocks performed significantly better than average, while another patron will drastically underperform the field.

It will be tempting to ask, “Is one of those patrons more skilled than the others?”

Of course, the answer is no. We already know that. These were random choices that the patrons weren’t even aware they were making.

While the real stock market isn’t quite as random, it is still closer to pure randomness than it is to pure skill. It’s better to be lazy than to hope that you’re skilled, and an MIT study backs up that idea.

Learn Through Practice

Nothing teaches a lesson like having skin in the game. If choosing stocks makes you nervous, my hope is that this fun year-long exercise will help you learn that (despite not having skin in the game yourself). I have $1650 in this game, and it’ll be fun to see what happens to that money!

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox. That’s how you can get future updates throughout this year 🙂

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

Source: bestinterest.blog

The Motley Fool Review: Is Their Stock Advisor Program Legit?

This page may include affiliate links. Please see the disclosure page for more information. As you increase your interest in building wealth and investing, you might be looking to take your knowledge to the next level. And as you consistently work on your investing strategy and expand your interests, there will be more to understand and manage….

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The Motley Fool Review: Is Their Stock Advisor Program Legit? was first posted on May 27, 2020 at 6:00 am.
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What Is a SEP IRA and How Does It Work?

SEP IRA stands for Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account. (Many people mistakenly think “SEP” stands for “Self-Employed”.) It’s a retirement plan that an employer or self-employed individuals can establish. This account is primarily for…

The post What Is a SEP IRA and How Does It Work? appeared first on Crediful.

Source: crediful.com

Traditional And Roth IRA Contribution Limits Announced

The contribution limits for the Roth IRA and Traditional IRA were just announced. Here’s what IRS limits are for the upcoming year.

The post Traditional And Roth IRA Contribution Limits Announced appeared first on Bible Money Matters and was written by Peter Anderson. Copyright © Bible Money Matters – please visit biblemoneymatters.com for more great content.

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Best Stock Research Tools

Investing is an important part of everyone’s financial life. Here are the best tools to research stocks so you can grow your portfolio over the long term.

The post Best Stock Research Tools appeared first on The Dough Roller.

Source: doughroller.net

How To Buy Stocks As Gifts (And Why They’re The Perfect Present)

This holiday season, don’t give a traditional gift. Instead, learn how to buy stocks as gifts and reward your recipients financially.This holiday season, don’t give a traditional gift. Instead, learn how to buy stocks as gifts and reward your recipients financially.

The post How To Buy Stocks As Gifts (And Why They’re The Perfect Present) appeared first on Money Under 30.

Source: moneyunder30.com