Category Archives: Money

Clever Ways to Pay for Travel Abroad

Traveling abroad is a wonderful way to learn more about new cultures. Unfortunately travel does not necessarily come cheap, especially if you are planning to stay for a while. We recently did a trip to Italy, and even though we saved a lot of money by negotiating our Airbnb rates, the total cost of the trip was quite expensive.

Paying for food and accommodation can become very expensive. Fortunately, paying for travel becomes a lot easier if you are willing to look at things from a new perspective.

Here are some ideas to help you make your dreams of traveling the world a reality:

Look for Part-Time Work in Agriculture

There are many farms out there that need assistance, especially when it comes to harvesting crops. They usually pay a reasonable amount and, in some cases, will also provide food and accommodation as well. If you are interested in organic farming, wwoof.net is a good place to look for opportunities.

Grape picking in France is one such opportunity and is very popular but you could choose to work on a dairy farm – just apply for the type of work that appeals to you.

Work Exchange

Hosts listed on sites like workaway.info  and helpx.net do not pay a salary but will usually pay for your food and will provide accommodation for you. In most cases, you work for around about 5 hours a day in exchange for board and lodging.

Find Work as a House/ Pet Sitter

Sites such as trustedhousesitters.com are a subscription service. People with pets looking for house sitters advertise on the site and you can apply for house sitting jobs in the area of your choice. You do not get paid but you do get free accommodation for very little in terms of work. This is a great idea for pet-lovers.

Work as an Au-Pair

Working as an au-pair can be a great way to travel. In general, you need to be between the ages of 19 and 30 to sign up with any of the agencies. You will usually work between 25 and 30 hours a week and may be expected to do some housekeeping as well as looking after children.

The advantage here is that the host family may pay for your flights as well. So you get free board and lodging, and some spending money as well.

Travel Writing

Travel writing is a great way to get extra value from your holiday. Site such as matadornetwork.com can allow you to make money from your holiday photos and experiences. Also consider contacting local travel magazines – the rates are usually better when writing for a printed publication. It can be harder to break into offline writing and you will often only be paid when the piece is published – this could be as long as 6-12 months later, depending on the editorial calendar.

Couch Surfing

With couch surfing you register on couchsurfing.com and set up your profile. You then look for other registered members in the area that you want to visit. You send a request through with the respective dates and see whether or not they can accommodate you.

You are not going to need to pay for accommodation but may be expected to help out with food or at the very least, to help with a bit of cooking. You will generally be expected to clean up after yourself as well.

The advantage of this kind of arrangement is that the host family will share what they love about their town so you get a unique perspective.

You can travel on a shoestring budget and have a ball at the same time!

Relocate Your Way to Better Opportunities

When you’re young, you want to seek out the best opportunities. For many professionals, that means relocating to a new city for better career advancement. However, you need to carefully examine the employment and financial picture in a given metro area before you know if it is right for you.

A number of cities in the United States such as Detroit, MI and Curtis, NE offer incentives for people to move there. These cities typically must combat declining populations, and the number of residents often dwindled because of very valid reasons (high crime, few jobs). This article gives you important statistics on 8 metro areas in different parts of the country that are more desirable options.

We detail four important factors in a moving decision.

  1. Rent amounts for apartments inside and outside the city center to provide you an estimate of housing costs.
  2. Metro area unemployment rates give insight in how easy it is to find a new job (The national unemployment rate was 5.8% in November of 2014 and 5.6% in December of 2014. The most up-to-date information is listed below).
  3. State income taxes rates so you know what to expect will come out of your paycheck.
  4. Where the jobs are (and aren’t). Surprising facts about the fastest growing sectors in the cities listed below.

The Stats

Atlanta, GA

  • Rent 1 Bedroom: city center $1,059; outside city center $800
  • Metro area unemployment rate: 6.5% (11/2014)
  • State income taxes: range from 1%-6%

With its world-famous airport, it is probably not surprising that the trade / transportation / utilities sector experienced the greatest growth in 2014. Atlanta’s higher than the national average unemployment rate means that many sectors experienced limited growth in 2014.

Austin, TX

  • Rent 1 Bedroom: city center $1,418.75; outside city center $838.67
  • Metro area unemployment rate: 3.9% (11/14)
  • State income taxes: None

Austin’s 3.2% growth in employment stands well above the national average. Construction, trade / transportation / utilities, and information sectors achieved strong growth.

Denver, CO

  • Rent 1 Bedroom: city center $1,300; outside city center $858
  • Metro area unemployment rate: 3.9% (11/14)
  • State income taxes: 4.63% flat rate with personal exemptions

People may think of the Midwest when it comes to manufacturing, but Denver posted a red hot 6.2% jump in employment in this sector. The construction, education & health services, and leisure & hospitality sectors all made strong gains. Be careful if you are in an information field, employment in that sector actually declined in 2014.

Washington, D.C.

  • Rent 1 Bedroom: city center $2,150; outside city center $1,413.75
  • Metro area unemployment rate: 7.3% (12/14)
  • District of Columbia income tax: range 4%-8.95%

The most famous industry, government, actually posted weak job gains. Trade / transportation / utilities and the construction sectors provided strong job growth.

Chicago, IL

  • Rent 1 Bedroom: city center $1,680.45; outside city center $1,006.50
  • Metro area unemployment rate: 5.4% (12/14)
  • State income tax: flat rate 3.75% effective 01/15 with personal exemptions

Chicago is great if you have a job. Low-skilled and high-skilled positions pay above the national average. However, don’t move there unless you have a great job offer in hand. Chicago experienced weak job growth across sectors.

Seattle, WA

  • Rent 1 Bedroom: city center $1,634.98; outside city center $1,230.77
  • Metro area unemployment rate: 5.1% (11/14)
  • State income tax: None

Seattle might be famous for Microsoft, but the construction sector grew at a blistering 11.6%. The fields of leisure & hospitality and business & professional services had healthy growth too.

San Francisco, CA

  • Rent 1 Bedroom: $2,843.64 (city center); $2,018.36 (outside city center)
  • Metro area unemployment rate: 5.0% (11/14)
  • State income taxes: progressive tax rates from 1% (lowest bracket) to 12.3% (highest bracket)

Like Austin, San Francisco area employment grew by 3.2% in 2014. Growth was broad-based with construction (7.9%) and the information (tech) sector (4.7%) posting the largest job growth. Business & professional services and leisure & hospitality sectors were also strong gainers.

New York City, NY

  • Rent 1 Bedroom: $2,771.44 (city center); $1,739.71 (outside city center)
  • Metro area unemployment rate: 5.8% (11/14)
  • State income taxes: 4.0% (lowest bracket); 8.82% (highest bracket)

It might be famous for Wall Street, but the financial activities employment grew a meager .9%. The information, construction, and manufacturing sectors actually saw employment declines. The job growth was in business & professional services, education & health services, and the leisure & hospitality sectors in the nation’s biggest metro area.

Know If You’re Getting a Good Deal

After reviewing the statistics, you might wonder “How do I know if I’m getting more for my money with a move?” To give you more information on cost of living differences in the U.S., here is a simple guide. According to the cost of living calculator at Numbeo.com, to enjoy the same standard of living as someone in Los Angeles, CA making $4,600/month, you must make…

$3,799.70/month in Atlanta, GA

$4,297.16/month in Austin, TX

$4,279.76/month in Denver, CO

$5,711.64/month in Washington, D.C.

$4,661.50/month in Chicago, IL

$5,159.74/month in Seattle, WA

$6,428.04/month in San Francisco, CA

$6,715.17/month in New York, New York

A Life Choice for You

With their strong employment pictures and relatively low cost of living, Austin and Denver stand out as great options. San Francisco’s growth in many fields needs to be balanced with its high cost of living. There are, of course, other factors to consider for relocation.

The physical climate varies dramatically across the country, and if activities like speed skating and building snowmen are for you, then Chicago is obviously preferable to Atlanta. Each city also has its own culture, and sometimes a person just feels more at home in one city than another. Keep in mind, there is a real cost for that feeling in New York City and Washington, D.C.

At the end of the day, this important life choice is up to you. Always remember, while money is not the only thing, it isn’t a trivial consideration either.

Millennials Aren’t So Bad with Money After All

It seems like every other day you read an article bashing millennials. Entitled, lazy, and clueless are just a few of the pejoratives lazy journalists use to describe young Americans. However, this 21st century version of the old, “kids these days” refrain misses an important point. On the topic of money, there is definitely positive news.

Saving Early for Retirement

When it comes to retirement savings, millennials are off to a great start. A study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that Millennials started saving in a 401(K) or IRA account at an average age of 22. This fact means that Millennials are off to a much earlier start than Gen Xers (27) or Baby Boomers (35), and they are more likely to reap the benefits of growth.

There is a theory as to why Millennials are such eager beavers with retirement savings. Younger Americans have both read about and seen the disappearance of traditional pension plans. Millennials are more concerned than people in other age groups that Social Security will not be there to meet their financial needs. No wonder the Transamerica study found that 66% of millennials expect their retirement income to come from self-funded sources. They have been paying attention.

Credit Card Debt

Millennials are also shying away from credit cards. A Bankrate.com study found that the majority of Millennials carried no credit cards and only 8% of Millennials had more than one card. When you consider that the average fixed rate on a credit card is 13.02% and the average variable rate is 15.7%, it makes sense to be averse to this kind of debt.

Credit cards are beneficial for building your credit score if you pay them off on-time, every month. If you don’t think you can manage credit cards well, you are better off using prepaid debit cards. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your financial management limits.

The One Dark Spot

There is one dark cloud in this picture- student loan debt. The stories about fast-growing student debt are true. The Project on Student Debt found that graduates of nonprofit (public or private) universities had an average of $28,400 in debt upon graduation. That amount equates to the cost of a new car.

There are steps people can take to limit this type of debt. In many states, students can take general education courses at a local community college and then transfer the credits toward a degree at a four year university. You can also investigate programs where loans are forgiven in exchange for public service. Also, you hope that parents, students, and taxpayers (in the case of public universities) come together to make sure that universities are run in the most efficient manner possible.

Don’t Let Stereotypes Fool You

The stereotype of flailing millennials is not only insulting, it is just wrong. In addition to good news on retirement savings and limiting consumer debt, FICO found that the number of Americans 18-29 with excellent credit scores (760+) has gone up since the end of the Great Recession. Many young people are clearly on the right path with their money.

Bad information about millennials can also lead to costly business mistakes. The retirement study cited earlier found that 90% of millennials view retirement benefits such as a 401(k) as an important consideration for whether or not to accept a new position. If an employer offers no or meager retirement benefits, that company risks losing out on talent.

Your 40-something co-workers and aunts laugh at the negative press millennials receive and remember when they read these same stereotypes about themselves. Just remember, money is no laughing matter. If you’re saving for the future and limiting debt, keep up those great habits.