Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What’s On Your Phone? - My List of Financial Apps


I try not to clutter up my phone with a ton of apps. In the past I’ve rotated through several financial apps but most of them were eventually deleted because I found that I didn’t use them and they were just taking up space on my phone. So, while this app list might not be very long, you can be assured that they are good ones that I consistently rely on. Also note that these are all free apps, I’ve never paid for an app and don’t plan on it in the future, so I’m not trying to sell you anything.


1.       Personal Capital” – I use this app first thing when I get to work every morning. It is so convenient to be able to open an app, type in a PIN, and have instant access to see all of the movements that have been happening on all of our accounts. Since I track our net worth daily, I rely on the front page of Personal Capital for all of my account balances. If there has been and changes in my savings, checking, or credit card balances I can click on that account and see the detailed history behind it to verify that I know what each purchase was for and that there aren’t any surprises or fraudulent activities. This habit has actually allowed me to catch a fraudulent credit card charge just a few hours after it was made and before it had left the pending status. And if you don’t have a Personal Capital account I strongly suggest getting one, it’s free, safe, and an absolute personal finance game changer.


2.       “Real Time Stocks Track & Alert” – There are several free apps out there that will give you real time access to the movements in the stock market. I stumbled upon this one after only trying out a few and it has stuck. I know that it offers a lot more functions than I care to use but I haven’t bothered digging into it too much yet, maybe someday. What I like about this app – it makes it so simple to save a few of the stocks that I care about the most and quickly monitor how they are doing throughout the day. By selecting the stock I can dig a bit deeper into its past performance and even see the discussions that others are having about it that often give better insight for why it is performing the way it is that day.  


3.       My credit card provider – I have this app so that I can monitor credit card activity, pay my monthly bill (on time and in full as soon as it’s posted so that I never have to worry about interest fees), and use their credit monitor feature. They provide me with a free weekly update of my TransUnion score so I make sure to keep an eye on this number every Monday morning. I would strongly suggest having your credit card provider’s app, whoever it may be.

4.       My bank – If your bank has an app please download it. I have two banks. One is a large nationwide bank that we’ve used for years and do the majority of our banking through. But their closest physical location is almost 2 hours away from where we now live so I have to do all of my banking online. So having their app makes banking so much quicker and easier, and it’s the only way I could deposit checks with them. Our other bank is a local credit union that holds our mortgage and I hate that they don’t have an app and make me log into their website to see my balances (and they don’t sync to personal capital) and call or stop in to make any transfers/mortgage payments.


5.       Vanguard – I use this one since all of my taxable investing is done at Vanguard. The main features that I use on the app is to buy shares of my mutual funds on the 1st of each month and see what my performance rates have been for each of my funds periodically.


6.       Fidelity – I have this one since my 401(k) is administered by Fidelity. I actually don’t use it very often but keep it around since it’s easier than logging in online if I do need to see something in my 401(k) or HSA accounts.


7.       GasBuddy – I use this often to see where the cheapest gas is. Since my gas gauge and odometer don’t work in my car I have no way of knowing how much gas I have at any given time. So my solution is to only really drive it to work and back and fill up on my way home every Friday. I’ve found that in a week I use about ¾ of a tank so it’s never been a problem to do this. I have to commute about 25 miles so the gas prices often differ widely along the way. So to make sure that I know which gas station I should be going to I always check Gas Buddy before leaving work on Friday. I can pull up a map and easily see the current prices all along my route home. There is no way to quantify how much this app has saved me but I would guess that it easily saves my an average of $0.75 per tank – so roughly $40 per year?


8.       OverDrive – Ok, so it’s not a financial app. But it has saved me a lot and helped my finances out since I use it to listen to finance (and other) books while I’m at work, in the car, or out running. It’s so nice to have access to all this information without ever having to pay for it.


9.       OfferUp – I’ve tried using Craigslist to sell stuff but I can’t stand all the hoops you have to jump through to list something on it. While OfferUp doesn’t get near the amount of traffic that Craigslist does, I use it because it is so easy to list something on it. And, while Craigslist posts expire and thus require constant maintenance if something doesn’t sell quickly, OfferUp posts stay up until you remove the post. There are some things that I get contacted about here and there that I put up for sell several months ago and haven’t had to do any post maintenance. Contacting people to ask questions and make offers on their goods is all done inside the app and very easy. I’ve made $90 off it so far but don’t really put any effort into it.


10.   LinkedIn – I really don’t like social media, but in the professional world we live in LinkedIn is a must unfortunately. I actually don’t use this app very often but keep it because I would never know about and LinkedIn notifications or messages without it since I never think to actually log in online. Now that I’ve started looking for a new job once again I try to open up the app at least once a week just to explore and connect with people that might be able to aide me in finding new employment. 

11.   Digit – I actually deleted this one this week since I closed my account after they released their news that they are going to start charging a monthly fee L. But for a year they lived on my home screen and I interacted with them regularly so I thought that I might as well mention them.  



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Thank you so much for reading and your help in acknowledging our efforts. If you have benefited in anyway by this article could you please help show your appreciation by and support by taking a few minutes to do some of the following ideas:
-          Leave your insights and suggestions as a comment below.
-          Think of at least 1 friend that you think could benefit from this article and refer them to it.
-          Help provide financial support for our efforts by clicking on any of the advertisements on the site. Note that this is a free way for you to help provide us with funding to keep bringing you content.
-          Check out another article here.
-          Sign up to get new blog posts in your email here.
You are appreciated,

                Roy Largo
        Band Of Savers Founder

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How to Negotiate a Higher Salary


Like many of you out there, I have been a bit dissatisfied with my current employer recently. So, with my full vesting date quickly approaching I have officially begun my job hunt again. However, one of the scariest parts – ok, let’s admit it, basically everything associated with a job change is scary; but still, the negotiation portion of accepting a job offer terrifies me. When I started at my current job I felt like the employer held basically all of the cards at the negotiation table and I came in with hardly anything. And as a result felt like I just had to accept their offer and move on. And over the past 3 years not much has changed, due to the culture here, I still don’t hold many cards and have felt like I have to just accept their “generosity” each raise cycle and move on. This last year I finally spoke up about how unfair the raise amount seemed to me and was blown off with a “too bad, nothing you can do about it” type of response.

But there is something that I can do about it. I can find myself a better option and walk out on them, right? So, in an attempt to make sure that I don’t find myself in a similar situation of feeling like I’ve been cheated at my next job I’ve begun to do my homework and learn some of the tricks of negotiation so that when I sit down with the pros I at least have a fighting chance.

I’ve started by listening to a few books about negotiation. One in particular has been a game changer for me so I wanted to share with you my notes that I’ve taken about salary negotiations. Please notice that these are just the notes that I’ve taken, not a full book review. Some of the bullet points might not make a ton of sense to you since I was trying to just quickly write down reminders, so I’ll refer you to the book for more detailed info because this is just a starting point for these concepts. Hope they help.

The book is called “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” by Chris Voss. The whole book is pretty good but the parts that these notes came from can be found in chapters 6 and beyond, where he discusses salary negotiation techniques.

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1.       When discussing salary
a.       Anchor their emotions for a loss – allow them to think that the worst news is on the way then play your offer as the alternative offer to the loss
b.       Let them go first – you don’t want to inadvertently offer something that is below their standard offer and you want them to show their hand first
c.       Offer a range – studies show that those who come in with an acceptable range of values get more than those who just offer a single number
                                                              i.      i.e. “Similar positions in are typically offer between $130,000 to $170,000.”
                                                             ii.     If you’re hoping for $130,000 but their cap was $125,000 they might be enticed to jump at the $130,000 because its much less than the $170,000 on your range 
                                                           iii.     If you have to go first, make it a bold range and be prepared to happily accept the lowest value in the range.
d.       Pivot to non-monetary terms -  offer things that are cheap to you but valuable to them, or ask for things that are cheap to them but valuable to you
e.       When you do talk numbers – Use odd numbers
                                                              i.      If the number ends in 0’s it is seem as movable but if it ends in obscure numbers it appears to have backing and more solid
1.       i.e. offering $74,897 instead of $75,000. If they hear $75,000 they will be more likely to continue to negotiate and get you to come down but will see $74,897 as your lowest possible option
f.        Surprise them with a gift – after making a bold offer and being rejected come up with a seemingly obscure gift – it will make them feel indebted to you and like they need to reciprocate the generosity
2.       How to negotiate a better salary
a.       Be pleasantly persistent
                                                              i.      i.e. an extra week of vacation, with a smile and justification – often they can’t give it so they will counter with a salary increase instead
b.       “Salary terms without success terms is Russian Roulette. Once you’ve negotiated a salary make sure to define ‘success’ for your position as well as metrics for your next raise that’s meaningful for you but free for your boss.” “Gets you a planned raise and, by defining your success in relation to your bosses supervision and leads to the next point.”
c.       Spark their interest in your success and gain an unofficial mentor.
                                                              i.      “Sell yourself as more than a body for the job. Sell yourself and your success as a way they can validate their own intelligence and broadcast it to the rest of the company. Convince them you’re an ambassador for their importance so they’ll have a stake in your success.
1.       Ask: “What does it take to be successful here?” – verbatim
a.       They will then want to follow your career to see if you will take their advice
3.       Remember
a.       All negotiations are driven by a complex system of underground needs, not just what would appear on the surface. Understand those needs.
b.       Don’t compromise, splitting the difference ends in a bad deal for both parties
                                                              i.      Story of the man who ended up wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe
c.       Approaching deadlines cause people to rush and impulsively make bad decisions
d.       “Fair” put the other side on the defensive and gains you concessions, emotionally charged word
e.       You can bend their reality by emotionally anchoring their starting point
f.        People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realize a gain. Make sure they see there is something to lose by inaction.
4.       Understand what type of a negotiator you and your counterpart are and learn to play to your strengths – not replace them
a.       Analyst 
                                                              i.      Methodical and diligent, not in a big rush, wants to minimize mistakes.
                                                             ii.     Moto is “As much time as it takes to get it right”
                                                           iii.     Prefers to work alone and rarely shows emotion
                                                           iv.     Often speaks in a way that is distant and cold which puts people off
                                                             v.     Hates surprises
                                                           vi.     Hypersensitive to reciprocity
                                                          vii.     Skeptical by nature, apologies hold little value to them
                                                        viii.     If this is you – smile when you speak, don’t cut yourself off from your counterpart
b.       Accommodator
                                                              i.      Most important thing is the time spent building the relationship
                                                             ii.     If they’re communicating they’re happy
                                                           iii.     Love the win-win outcome
                                                           iv.     Want to remain friends regardless of the outcome
                                                             v.     Easy to talk to, has a pleasant voice
                                                           vi.     Poor time managers
                                                          vii.     Often the first to begin the reciprocity cycle
                                                        viii.     Approach to preparation can be lacking
                                                           ix.      Fears conflict
c.       Assertive
                                                              i.      Believes time is money, “Every wasted minute is a wasted dollar.”
                                                             ii.     Self-image is linked to how much they can get done in a period of time
                                                           iii.     Would rather get to a good solution quick than the perfect solution if it takes more time
                                                           iv.     Wants to win above everything else
                                                             v.     Aggressive communication style and doesn’t worry about any future interactions
                                                           vi.     Wants to be heard first.
                                                          vii.     Tells rather than asks
                                                        viii.     When working with one of these:
1.       Listen to show them you understand their views
2.       Use mirror phrases, calibrated questions, labels, and summaries
3.       Push them to say “That’s right!”
                                                           ix.      They want to give an inch and take a mile when reciprocating – deserve mentality
5.       Overcoming fear and learning to get what you want out of life
a.       People generally fear conflict so they will try to avoid it. “People in close relationships often avoid making their own interests known and instead compromise across the board to avoid seeming greedy or self-interested. They fold, they grow bitter, and they grow apart”. “Everyone hates negotiation at first.” Our natural impulse is to chicken out and run. It’s not the other person that scares us – it’s conflict itself. If you’re going to be great at anything you’re going to have to overcome that fear.
                                                              i.      “Don’t avoid honest, clear conflict. It will get you the best car price, the highest salary, and the biggest donation.”
                                                             ii.     Be honest about what you want and what you can, and cannot, do
6.       Tips for uncovering the Black Swans = The Unknown Unknowns
a.       Let the knows guide you but not blind you
b.       Black Swans are leverage multipliers
c.       Work to understand your counterparts guiding principles (religion)
                                                              i.      Dig into their world views
d.       Review everything you hear from your counterparts
e.       Exploit their similarities with you to show that you share common ground
f.        When someone seems irrational and crazy, they most likely aren’t. Search for motives
g.       Get face time with your counterpart. Watch for facial cues at the beginning and the end of the encounter or when something out of line is said
7.       Other great tips and quotes
a.       “Failures plant the seeds of future success.”
b.      Use lots of open-ended questions
c.       You want to guide them into coming up with the solution you want
d.       “Hope is not a strategy.”
e.       “I’ll try” really means “I plan to fail”
f.        Often ask them “How am I supposed to do that?” after they make an offer
g.       “Why…” questions make people feel uncomfortable and get defensive
                                                              i.      Unless you’re asking questions like, “Why would you want to hire me over your other candidates?”
1.       Forces them to work for you instead of against you
h.       “When the pressure is on you don’t rise to the occasion, you fall to your highest level of preparation.” – Be prepared
i.         Keep them talking until you can identify and use their Black Swans
                                                              i.      Hidden motives for their actions that they don’t want you to know. Events or actions that sit outside our rational expectations of what can happen
                                                             ii.     The Unknown Unknowns
1.       Everyone has at least 3 that you need to look for – not easy to find
j.        Find clever ways to say “No” without actually saying the word no.


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Thank you so much for reading and your help in acknowledging our efforts. If you have benefited in anyway by this article could you please help show your appreciation by and support by taking a few minutes to do some of the following ideas:
-          Leave your insights and suggestions as a comment below.
-          Think of at least 1 friend that you think could benefit from this article and refer them to it.
-          Help provide financial support for our efforts by clicking on any of the advertisements on the site. Note that this is a free way for you to help provide us with funding to keep bringing you content.
-          Check out another article here.
-          Sign up to get new blog posts in your email here.
You are appreciated,

                Roy Largo
        Band Of Savers Founder

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Growing Your Nest Egg: Cash or Investments?


I hope you are prepared for a great guest contribution about … oops, I almost pulled a spoiler alert and gave it away. Instead I’m going to let you have the joy of reading what Steph has prepared for us to find out for yourself. Hope you enjoy and get some useful insights out of it!


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Preparing for the future is one of the biggest things you’ll ever do. It usually takes decades to get your portfolio in the shape you want it, so to eek out the absolute maximum returns from your savings, it’s essential to invest them wisely. There are lots of options open to you: cash holdings, investing in individual companies like Apple or Google, investing in stock markets like the NASDAQ index as a whole, buying up property, purchasing high-value collectibles, and so on.

The two most common options are to save hard cash and to invest in the stock markets. Both come with their upsides and downsides, so you need to work out which is the most suitable for you.

Here are some of the arguments on each side:


Benefits of Saving Cash

Cash is, for many people, the safest bet. Firstly, cash isn’t vulnerable to market fluctuations and political upsets; in the event of a financial crash similar to that of 2008, for example, you won’t lose any money unless the institution holding it for you goes under. In any case, you’ll usually be covered by insurance even if this happens; in the UK, for example, deposits of up to £75,000 are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme [Editor’s note: $250,000 in the US under FDIC]. The same can’t be said for other kinds of investments like shares or luxury items.

Liquid funds are also accessible immediately. That means if you need to spread them around, or withdraw some in the event of an emergency, you can do so, giving you that peace of mind that doesn’t come from other kinds of investments.

There’s also the obvious, but valid point that you don’t need any financial expertise to save cash. Unlike other types of investments, there are no complex financial instruments to get to grips with before you know you’ve made the right call.


Downsides of Saving Cash

Interest rates are at historic lows right now. The Bank of England’s base interest rate remains a meagre 0.25%, and looks highly unlikely to change any time soon. Americans are faring slightly better; the Federal Reserve currently sets the rate at 0.75% amid rumors of an imminent increase. Unfortunately, average rates for consumers rarely surpass 1% or so - hardly a generous return on even a sizable nest egg. The low risk that comes with saving cash rather than making investments translates into much more modest returns than higher risk strategies like stocks.

If you’re saving for the long term, there’s also the possibility you’ll be hit by rising inflation if you keep your funds in cash. The global inflation rate currently stands at 2.78% per year - which is a lot of money over the long term.

If, for example, you were saving for a deposit on a property and planning to buy in ten years, you could find that the buying power of your money has been significantly lessened over the course of those ten years, delaying the point at which you can make the purchase.


Benefits of Investing on the Stock Market

The most obvious reason to put your nest egg into shares is the scale of the potential reward; some studies have shown that a modest investment on the stock market, made thirty years ago, would likely now be worth more than ten times its original value. That return does, however, assume all dividends paid were reinvested.

London’s FTSE 100 index, for example, has steadily climbed to almost five times its value in 1987, having bounced back from the 2008 financial crash. The S&P 500, which tracks the USA’s 500 biggest firms, is now worth almost ten times what it was twenty years ago. In Australia, meanwhile, the ASX stock exchange has seen a similar performance.

Cash savings simply don’t bring in those kinds of returns.

Your money can grow even more if you put it into an investment fund. BlackRock, for example, operates globally and will work with your financial adviser to put your capital into an investment portfolio that suits you, returning dividends regularly.


Downsides of Investing on the Stock Market

As a stock market investor you’re usually subject to a number of fees. They could take the form of commissions charged by your broker each time you buy or sell, or an annual fee based on the value of your portfolio. It’s almost always necessary to hire a broker or investment firm, particularly if you’re new to stock market trading, as it can be hugely complex - but once you gain a little experience you can begin to take on some of the responsibilities yourself. [Editor’s note: Vanguard is a great option for eliminating most of these fees]

The stock market is also, of course, subject to lots of volatility. Events unforeseen by investors, like an oil price plunge or a corporate scandal, can instantly wipe billions off the value of a global corporation - meaning you could immediately and irreversibly lose much or even all of your funds.

The Bottom Line

Any independent financial advisor will tell you that the most consistently strong returns come from maintaining a balanced portfolio. It’s therefore wise to opt for both cash savings and stock market investments, leaning more towards one or the other depending on the amount of risk you’re prepared to take on.



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Thank you Steph. And thank you all so much for reading and your help in acknowledging our efforts. If you have benefited in anyway by this article could you please help show your appreciation by and support by taking a few minutes to do some of the following ideas:
-          Leave your insights and suggestions as a comment below.
-          Think of at least 1 friend that you think could benefit from this article and refer them to it.
-          Help provide financial support for our efforts by clicking on any of the advertisements on the site. Note that this is a free way for you to help provide us with funding to keep bringing you content.
-          Check out another article here.
-          Sign up to get new blog posts in your email here.
You are appreciated,

                Roy Largo
        Band Of Savers Founder