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Jimmy O. Yang (Chinese: 歐陽萬成; born on June 11, 1987) is a Chinese American actor, stand-up comedian and writer best known for starring as Jian-Yang in the HBO comedy series Silicon Valley.

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Books with Impact: You Need a Budget

The “Books with Impact” series takes a deeper look at specific books that have had a profound impact on my financial, professional, and personal growth by extracting specific points of advice from those books and looking at how I’ve applied them in my life with successful results. The previous entry in this series covered Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith.

You Need a Budget was the first personal finance software package I really fell in love with. I dabbled with Microsoft Money (RIP) and Quicken when I was first turning my finances around, but it was You Need a Budget that really clicked with me when I started using a spreadsheet-based version of the software many years ago, and I still use You Need a Budget 4 (the last standalone version of the software) on occasion when trying to get a clear picture of my finances because I simply love how it handles and displays my financial information.

What drew me to the software more than anything, however, was the philosophy behind it. YNAB wasn’t just a piece of software for tracking your finances; it was designed to help you follow a rather in depth philosophy and program for improving your financial state, something that other major personal finance software packages never really had (and still don’t, for the most part). That philosophy, encapsulated in four simple rules, was the really valuable part of the whole system.

That brings me around to this book. You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham (the founder of YNAB) is basically the philosophy behind YNAB expanded with details into a short but quite powerful book, a book that I want to dig deep into because of the all-around solid personal finance philosophy and system it contains.

Let’s dive right in.

A New Way to Look at Your Money

The book starts off with an insightful criticism of the traditional form of budgeting, budgeting in which you merely list a lot of categories, come up with spending targets for each category, and then aim for those targets in those categories.

What’s wrong with it? It’s inflexible. You can’t prioritize one budget category over another. It’s inherently predictive, meaning you’re trying to guess what the future holds every time you make a spending target.

The big shift that the YNAB philosophy makes is that it focuses on spending what you have right now, rather than what you project you’ll have going forward, with a particular emphasis on how that money can get you to your goals. In other words, it chops the concept of projecting future income out of budgeting entirely.

The interesting part of this method as opposed to traditional budgeting is that it highlights the scarcity of money, as is nicely described on page 20:

[T]his feeling of scarcity is a good thing. It means you’re seeing your money for what it truly is: a finite resource – and this is a huge part of that mindset shift I talked about. It doesn’t actually matter how much money we have or don’t have. Scarcity is simply that feeling of wishing their were more. This is an important moment. The feeling of scarcity might tempt us to quit, but when we step back and embrace scarcity, we make good decisions.

I found this really interesting because it seems to fly in the face of the idea of an abundance mindset. In many aspects of life, it’s much better to have an “abundance” mindset, meaning that you perceive that the pie is infinite in size so it’s not a big deal to share with others because you’ll still have more than enough for yourself. YNAB centers around the opposite idea, at least for your finances: all you have is this little pool of money.

The argument is that, in terms of your money, the future is abundant and thus very difficult to reasonably budget. The present of your financial situation, however, is scarce – there’s only a limited amount of money and you have to make the most of it that you can.

The advantage of applying a scarcity mindset to your financial state is that it shows you that each dollar is important and everything in your life is vying for each and every dollar because there’s only so much to go around. Much of the justification for splurging comes from an abundance mindset about money – there will always be more money, so why not just spend it now on something unimportant? When you walk away from that mindset and adopt a scarcity mindset for your money, splurging becomes just another competitor alongside things that are likely more important to you.

Because you’re treating every expense and financial goal as a hungry mouth wanting to devour part of that relatively small pool of money you have right now, you have to prioritize. Which of these expenses is the most important right now? If I give $200 to this, what other possible expense has to go without money for now? You begin to feel those little frivolous nickel and dime expenses actually ripping money away from things you know are more important, and that forces you to start thinking about every dollar with seriousness.

Another interesting aspect to this perspective is that it forces you to start taking responsibility for your future now. If you want to have things in the future, you have to put money aside for them now. Taking money away from future savings goals and giving it to something else is effectively saying no to your future goals. If you want that future goal, you have to put your money where your mouth is now. There is no “someday” that will take care of it.

This leads directly into the first “rule” of the YNAB philosophy.

Rule One – Give Every Dollar a Job

It’s simple. From page 33:

Just check your bank account balance and assign a job to every dollar you own. You’re officially budgeting the moment you start doing this, and with every “job” you assign, you’re answering the question: What do I want my money to do for me?

Of course, this starts with figuring out what needs to get done with your money along with what your big goals are. What are the urgent things that have to be covered soon, like your current bills, the rent, your food needs in the next week or so, and so on? What long term things do you want to happen in your life? What fun things do you want to do in the near future – or even a little way down the road? What big bills are coming up?

You want to start with survival. What do you need to make it through the next few weeks with your basic well being intact? You need food, water, shelter, hygiene, and clothes on your back, basically. After that, move onto obligations – electricity, debt payments, garbage removal, and so on. Those are the basics. Those are the needs. Those are the things that, if you don’t handle them, your short term life gets bad quickly. It is vital to separate these things from non-essential habits that you’re treating as necessities. Coffee isn’t a necessity – it’s a non-essential habit. Non-basic foods aren’t a necessity – they’re just something you want because it’s tasty or healthy or whatever. Alcohol? Not a necessity. Filter those things out for now.

You’ll also need to consider longer-term obligations, like upcoming expenses that you know are coming. It’s time to cover a fraction of those things – and cover another fraction each time you get an influx of cash.

After that, it really comes down to your personal priorities, and that’s where you need to start thinking. What is actually a real priority in my life? The nice part about this philosophy is that it’s literally about putting your money where your mouth is. Once you’ve covered survival and obligations, the things you do with your money are up to your personal priorities, and there’s no hiding them here. What you do with your money is your true priority, regardless of what you tell yourself.

The use of each and every dollar you have is an expression of either the basic needs of your life or what your life’s priorities are. Each and every dollar has a “job,” in other words. It’s doing something for you.

My experience has been that the more in line your personal priorities are with the “job” you assign to every dollar in your life, the more peaceful you feel. It’s when you’re not taking care of something that you’re theoretically prioritizing so that you can spend money on something that has a lower priority for you that you run into financial trouble, every time. It’s all about carefully considering what your priorities are.

This does not mean having no fun. However, what it does mean is that things that you spend money that have a comparatively low return in terms of the pleasure they give you should be pretty low on the priority list, below a lot of your long term goals. It’s okay to prioritize a few pleasures that bring you a lot of joy in the short term, but you have to be discerning about it. Some things simply aren’t as big of a deal as others, and those lesser things need to fall rapidly down the priority list.

This becomes very real when you’re looking at the money sitting in your checking account right now and assigning each and every dollar in there a job. Where does each of those dollars go? Doing it well requires some real thought and introspection, and that’s the real value of this system.

Rule Two – Embrace Your True Expenses

The “true expenses” that this chapter is talking about is alluded to a little bit in the previous chapter, but this chapter brings it into focus. It’s not just about making sure the bills are covered each month, but making sure that you’re also taking care of the irregular expenses in your life.

For example, let’s say you know you have an insurance bill for $700 coming due in 7 months, and you get paid twice a month. That means you should probably put $50 out of your current pile of cash aside toward that insurance bill and then do it again every time you have a cash influx so that the insurance bill is easily paid when it comes due.

Those are your true expenses – not just the daily ones or the monthly ones, but the irregular ones that come around once every six months or once a year or whatever. In the YNAB system, those required but infrequent expenses should always be directly gobbling up a little piece of the pool of money you have right now, as well as a piece of every influx of money that comes in (like a paycheck).

There are also things that are unexpected and inevitable, like needing to replace parts on your car or having to repair appliances in your home. It can be very hard to estimate these kinds of things, but following routine maintenance on a 15,000 mile per year car is about $50 per month, and a good annual budget for unexpected home costs is about 1% of your home’s value, so you can break that down, too. Those are pieces that need to come out of the pool of cash you have.

Beyond that, this is how you plan ahead for your big life goals. What slice of the current cash you have available is going to retirement? What about college savings for your kids? Your house down payment?

This obviously requires some planning, and that’s where software can help. The YNAB software is designed to do this very naturally, and it’s why I fell in love with it years ago. You can actually do all of this on a spreadsheet, too, if you’re familiar with Excel or Google Sheets.

Rule Three – Roll with the Punches

Just as it’s impossible to micromanage every second of your time because unexpected events always happen, it’s impossible to micromanage your money because of the unexpected events life deals us. We can have the best money plan in the world, but when something like a job loss or an unexpected family illness or a hailstorm occurs, the best laid plans are torn to shreds.

Unexpected expenses can often mean changing your budget, and changing your budget can feel like failure. It can feel like you didn’t plan for everything and now all of your planning is worthless.

It’s not.

Part of the value of this type of financial planning is that, once it gets going, it becomes very possible to roll with the punches. If a sudden high priority event comes along, you simply take cash designated for lower priority events to handle it. In other words, once you’ve been doing this for a while, your budget becomes something of a living thing, capable of changing and morphing around the unexpected moments of your life.

How does this work? Let’s say you decided you wanted to buy a new television for your family for Christmas and budgeted $1,000 for it. Using the YNAB system, you decide to put aside $50 per paycheck for it starting in February. September rolls around and suddenly the unexpected happens – you have a sudden $500 expense. Guess what? You can handle it. You have the cash set aside to do so.

But what happens to that television plan? Once the urgent thing is paid for, you reprioritize. Do you want to put aside $100 per paycheck until Christmas to cover it, or are there other priorities that you should deal with first? You get to make that choice because of the freedom that YNAB offers you.

The system really centers around prioritizing your expenses, and when an urgent expense comes in with a higher priority, then you can take away money put aside for lower priority expenses (like a $1,000 television for the holidays) to handle it. The key is understanding that you’re really only worried about the pool of money that you actually have in hand and how to use every dollar most effectively. You don’t worry about the next influx of cash until it arrives.

Rule Four – Age Your Money

The real power of this system is that, over time, it moves you to a situation where you don’t need your next paycheck, and given a long enough timeframe, it moves you to a situation where you don’t need any paycheck.

It’s actually quite simple. All you really have to do is over prepare a little for each of those expenses you know are coming so that eventually you’re covering next month’s rent out of this month’s pool of cash because the next rent payment is already covered. Then you’re covering two months in advance, then three.

Let’s say that you’re paid twice a month and your rent is $1,000 a month. If you say that out of every incoming pool of cash, you set aside $600 for rent, you will have next month’s rent covered at the end of the month with $200 left over. Do that again next month and there’s $400 left over. Three months later and you actually have a full month of rent already in the can in advance and you can start preparing for subsequent months.

Mecham refers to this as “aging your money.” You’re effectively using money you brought in two or three months ago to pay your rent now.

If you do that for every bill, a lot of good things start to happen.

For one, you can survive for a while without any influxes of cash. You roll right through a job change without skipping a beat. You get fired? No problem, as long as you can find a job in the next month or two. You have a sudden life emergency? No problem – you can just nibble a bit from the money you have put aside for rent two months from now.

For another, you can start feeling confident investing for really long term stuff. If you have two months of rent checks already covered, you can tone down your $600 twice a month put aside for rent down to $550 or $525, then apply that $50 or $75 twice a month to, say, retirement savings or an extra payment toward paying off a student loan. Think of it this way: you have the money set aside to cover all of your survival needs and obligations for the next two months, so you can start working on covering a month’s worth of survival needs and obligations for yourself when you’re old by contributing to retirement savings. It’s the same thing, just very long term.

For yet another, your money starts to earn money for itself as it is aging. When you only age it for a month or two in savings, it only earns a little bit of interest, but when you age money for 30 years in a retirement account, it earns a ton of return on your money.

For yet another, the more you age your money, the larger your pool of money that you have available to make decisions with. Remember, the YNAB philosophy orients itself around making decisions regarding only the money you have in hand. Thus, the more money you have on hand, the richer your decision making palette and the easier it seems to make room for big long term goals.

So, how do you get there? The book suggests setting a simple goal (page 110):

Set a goal to save what you spend in a typical month. When you hit your goal, budget out the new month with that money. Now your next paycheck can go to the following month. Your money is officially thirty days old.

And how do you get there?

Embrace the sprint. Go on a no-spending spree for as long as you can. Also hustle to bring in extra cash in creative (and legal) ways. Anything you save or earn goes straight to your savings for the next month.

The more you age your money, the better. It not only gives you breathing room, but it also grows your money.

The rest of the book consists of a series of short chapters talking about specific applications of these four rules to specific life situations.

Budgeting as a Couple

Here, Mecham essentially reiterates the core advice that almost everyone gives for couples dealing with money issues, because it’s hands-down the best advice and the one thing that works: communicate. You’ve got to talk about your money situation together, openly, with minimal emotion, and with a genuine intent to put you both in the best life possible.

The main focus of the chapter is on the idea of a monthly “money date,” where you sit down with your partner and fully go through your finances and budget, setting priorities together for the next month. Together is important here; there’s almost no better way for this to fall apart than for one partner to just dictate the financial rules to the other one.

One important part of “couples budgeting” is to recognize that you both need a bit of personal fun money. There has to be some breathing room in the budget for each of you to pursue your own interests or else there will be backlash against the whole idea, especially from the person less committed to the concept, so this should be a fairly high priority item. Now, if that person decides to use that personal fun money of theirs buying soft drinks at the convenience store, that’s their call.

Slaying Debt, Whatever Your Situation

How does debt repayment work into all of this?

First of all, accruing more debt should be pretty much entirely off the table if you’re using this philosophy. That includes credit card debt. The only time you might consider debt once you get this whole strategy rolling is something like a home loan or possibly a student loan, but consumer debt should be almost entirely avoided because you’re planning ahead for expenses now and sticking with just the pool of money you actually have in hand for your spending.

As for repayment of the debt you already have, the best strategy is to treat your basic payment as an obligation and treat an extra payment as a fairly high priority but non-essential item that you want to throw some money to each time money comes into your accounts. So, you make sure your minimum is covered, and then you put some significant priority to allotting some cash for an extra payment on that debt.

Teaching Your Kids to Budget

Mecham advocates giving children an allowance and using that as a basis for teaching basic money management skills when they reach middle and upper elementary and middle school. He advocates giving them one or two required commitments for portions of their allowance and then complete freedom in terms of the rest of it.

The one or two required commitments for a portion of their allowance – things like saving for college or giving to charity – are basically a microcosm of YNAB. If you talk about the philosophy behind this a little and then talk about how they can use the idea to take a portion of their weekly allowance and put it aside for bigger goals (like, say, a new game for their Nintendo Switch or a bunch of new canvases for painting), they’ll often come around to it on their own.

Even better, if you establish this kind of pattern early on in their life, they’re more likely to draw on that type of thinking later in life to build their own path to financial independence from you and financial success on their own.

When You Feel Like Quitting

This last section discusses a lot of reasons why people quit budgeting: they don’t leave themselves any breathing room, they set unrealistically low spending targets for things like household supplies or food, they assume that they can rapidly and permanently change a lot of their routines and habits, they demand too much too soon, and so on.

The key to sticking with a financial change, no matter what it is, is to accept that things won’t always go perfectly and it’s okay to be imperfect. What you’re looking for more than anything is to be a little better today than you were yesterday and to gradually move towards where you want to be while recognizing that steps backward are normal and aren’t a terrible sign of failure.

If you feel like quitting or feel like a failure, look at the progress you’ve made so far and feel good about it, then refactor your plans. What parts work well? Keep those. Which parts don’t work well? Ditch them or try new versions of them. No one has a perfect plan the first time they try.

A Brief Note About the Software

Although my focus here was writing about the book You Need a Budget, I felt it appropriate to make some references to the software package You Need a Budget a few times, and rather than reiterating my thoughts on the software package, I thought I’d summarize my thoughts in one place near the end.

Several years ago, YNAB version 4 was hands down my favorite piece of personal finance software. In fact, I still use that exact version at home because of how well it embodies the philosophy spelled out in this book, a philosophy I strongly agree with in most ways.

However, several years ago, YNAB chose to discontinue their standalone version 4 software and instead moved to a subscription-based software package. While I have no objection to the concept of software as service, I didn’t migrate to the subscription based version because, well, I still use my old version 4 software. I did do a trial of the subscription-based version, but I was pretty happy with my old software for a number of reasons (it does what I want, for one, and it also keeps all of my data local rather than in the cloud) and I’ll stick with it as long as it still runs.

So, if it seemed like I often stopped short of a full-throated endorsement of the software in its current form, that’s why. I don’t actually use the current form. Having said that, the current form of the software is a really well executed embodiment of the principles described in that book and cloud software is mature enough that I would feel safe putting information into the software that didn’t directly reveal my identity. It is the best budgeting software around today.

Final Thoughts

This book is a great readable explanation of the You Need a Budget philosophy and how to apply it to one’s own finances. This philosophy – and the accompanying software – was a vital part of my own financial turnaround, particularly during the period when we were finishing up paying off our consumer debt and considering buying a home and then figuring out how to handle expenses with multiple children. I still use the principles of the system, and I still occasionally use the software, though much of our financial organization is automated at this point. (In fact, the automation itself is a lot like You Need a Budget, as the automation just moves a lot of our income off to various pools and accounts for specific purposes.)

If you know of someone just trying to get a grip on managing their own money and getting a little ahead of the paycheck to paycheck life while building a foundation of money principles that can really grow with them as they get more and more ahead financially, this is a great book for them. The material might seem overly straightforward for someone who is already in a great financial place, but roughly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and quite a few of them want a path out of that life, and this book’s a great starting point for them.

The post Books with Impact: You Need a Budget appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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To Rollover Or Not To Rollover? How To Know When It’s Time To Roll Your 401(k) Into An IRA

There’s a lot to think about before deciding to rollover your 401(k) into an IRA. Often times an IRA is the better choice.There’s a lot to think about before deciding to rollover your 401(k) into an IRA. Often times an IRA is the better choice.

The post To Rollover Or Not To Rollover? How To Know When It’s Time To Roll Your 401(k) Into An IRA appeared first on Money Under 30.

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Colin Egglesfield (born February 9, 1973) is an American actor. He is known for his roles as Josh Madden in the long-running soap opera All My Children, Auggie Kirkpatrick on The CW’s short-lived drama series Melrose Place, and Evan Parks on The Client List.

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Playing with fire: Words of wisdom from Vicki Robin

During my recent two-week break from blogging, I wasn’t just focusing on my mental health. I did a couple of television interviews. I continued to hammer out details for a potential major project (details soon, I think). And last Monday, I drove to Seattle to attend a screening of Playing with FIRE, the new film about financial independence and early retirement.

I was impressed with the turnout. I thought that maybe 100 people would show up. But the local Choose FI group stepped up their game. The theater — which reportedly contained 278 seats — was packed with an enthusiastic audience.

Although I’ve seen the film before, this was my first chance to view it on the big screen. I thought it looked great! (Even the parts with me.)

And again, I was impressed how the movie, which is ostensibly the story of Scott Rieckens’ journey of discovery, really belongs to his wife, Taylor, who has to overcome her skepticism (and fear) in order to adopt a leaner lifestyle.

After the screening, I participated in a Q&A panel alongside Scott, Taylor, and Vicki Robin, who is one of my personal heroes. I was so interested in what Vicki had to say, in fact, that I whipped out my laptop to take notes!

What follows are some of Vicki’s thoughts — and my responses now that I’ve had time to think about what she said. Most of this is from the Q&A panel. Some of it comes from a conversation earlier in the evening.

Taking Notes

What Is Money For?

One audience member asked if we believed that these concepts would ever become mainstream, if average folks would ever embrace the ideas of financial indepence and early retirement. Will the movement pick up steam? Or has it run its course?

I’m on record having said that I think we’re at (or near) “peak FIRE”. I won’t say that the FIRE movement is a fad, but it’s certainly faddish. It’s a product of the incredible economic prosperity we’ve enjoyed during the past decade — the longest economic expansion in this country’s history! — and the rise to prominence of a few vocal proponents of early retirement.

I think there will always be some sort of financial independence movement, but the current size and momentum is unique. And it won’t last.

I didn’t say any of this on Monday night. But Vicki did.

“Every generation in America has had some version of this,” she said, “from the Puritans to the Transcendentalists to today. They realize that money and the story of capitalism isn’t the whole story of life.”

She specifically cited Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Edward Bok, the long-time editor of Ladies’ Home Journal.

Playing with FIRE screening

As she has many times in the past, Vicki lamented the fact that today’s iteration of financial independence seems to be less altruistic and more selfish. People are more motivated by personal gain. She’s all in favor of lifestyle design, but she wishes more people would pursue “lifestyle design with the world in mind”.

“The whole focus is on money,” she said. “But money is a tiny, meaningless part of your life. It’s just there for support. Yet it ends up occupying so much space in our minds. It’s problematic.”

I don’t want to put words into her mouth, but she seems to believe (as I do) that financial independence should be a side effect of a life well-lived, a byproduct of pursuing meaning. Wealth shouldn’t be your primary aim.

“This generation is aspirational at the level of money but not at the level of service,” she said. “There’s certainly an element of Stoicism from people like Mr. Money Mustache, but because the focus is so much on money and materialism, it makes it tough when people hit their ‘FI number’. They don’t know what to do next.”

When she and Joe Dominguez originally taught the “Your Money or Your Life” course, the people they served were on a spiritual journey. A lot of them wanted to go back to the land. That’s not how it is today.

This is a product of generational differences, of course. When Vicki and Joe were spreading the word in the seventies and eighties, our world was different. Now, forty years later, we’re even more immersed in technology and marketing and consumerism. But maybe that’s why her message continues to resonate with so many people?

“The whole point of this economy is to hook you up to a milking machine,” Vicki complained. Throughout the evening, she likened our consumer culture to The Matrix. She wants to help people escape the Matrix — and so do I.

For further reading on Vicki’s thoughts about the purpose of money, check out my March write-up of the talk she gave in Portland.

The Levels of Financial Independence

Vicki does appreciate how willing the modern FIRE folks are to discuss personal finance. She’s attended Camp Mustache and an FI Chautauqua. (She’ll attend another one in Ecuador this fall.) She’s impressed by the folks who attend these events.

“They’re good at social learning,” she said. “They like to get together and talk about this stuff, to talk about money. As a result, everybody gets better and better with money. Most people don’t talk about money, so they never improve.”

At one point, Vicki shared what she calls her “levels of financial independence”. “Each level gives you a degree of freedom,” she said.

  • At the first level, you “liberate your mind from the thrall of consumer culture”. You develop the capacity to know for yourself how much is enough for you. This is the level of consumer resistance.
  • The second level is getting out of debt, which frees you from financial chains and allows you to make more purposeful decisions.
  • At the third level, you have six months of savings in the bank, which gives you even greater freedom.
  • At the fourth level, you begin to develop useful skills. You learn that you can do things for yourself. You can do things for others. You can use these skills to make money, but you can also use them so that you don’t need money. “The less hooked in you are to money, the more independent you are,” she said. She wants people to become broadly educated and broadly skilled.
  • At the fifth level, you develop your social networks. You connect with people to create a “sharing economy”. At this point, I interrupted her. “Do you mean social capital?” I asked. “I like to call it belonging,” Vicki said.
  • At the sixth level, you’ve developed enough savings that you can invest your money and it throws off enough income for you to live.

These levels remind me, obviously, of my own stages of financial freedom, which I share from time to time at Get Rich Slowly. These started in 2009 as three (then four) discrete stages. Over time, my list has evolved.

[The Stages of Financial Freedom]

Apparently, I need to update that graphic. It’s still branded for Money Boss!

Toward the end of the Q&A, I got riled up. I went off the rails about people who complain that those who work in retirement aren’t retired. (“Bullshit!” I said, because it is.) Mostly though, I listened with everyone else as Vicki share what she’s learned during her 30+ years of experience in this movement.

It’s not every day you get to sit next to one of your heroes and take notes. I’m glad I did.

The post Playing with fire: Words of wisdom from Vicki Robin appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

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A money market account (MMA) or money market deposit account (MMDA) is a deposit account that pays interest based on current interest rates in the money markets. The interest rates paid are generally higher than those of savings accounts and transaction accounts; however, some banks will require higher minimum balances in money market accounts to avoid monthly fees and to earn interest.
Money market accounts should not be confused with money market funds, which are mutual funds that invest in money market securities.

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13 Blogging Mistakes Most Beginner Bloggers Make

Sometimes, when I tell people that I blog for a living, they flatten their noses. “That’s so easy, ” they say. “You get a paycheck for sitting on the internet all day and author. A ape could do your work! “

That’s when I reel my eyes. See, beings are immediate to regard blogging as a no-brainer job. But when they actually sit down to write their first couple of affixes, it punches them: This is way harder than I fantasized. Like any person starting a new job, they mess events up.

That’s okay — it happens to pretty much every new blogger. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid these roadblocks if you know they’re coming.

So for all of you beginner bloggers out there who are looking to get up-to-speed abruptly, keep on reading. Below are 12 common misconceptions most beginners make and some tips on how to avoid them.

What is a blog?

Simply applied, a blog is a tool that can help develop an online spirit, allure causes, and engage with an audience. It’s often a series of editorial content centered around a primary topic that displays manufacture knowledge — for instance, a catering companionship might book blog posts like “The 11 Best Appetizers to Serve to a Crowd” or “Stress-Free Dinner Parties: Recipes that are Prepared Ahead of Time”.

Blogs can help drive traffic to your website, proselytize that traffic into leads, establish jurisdiction in your industry, and ultimately grow your business. In fact, bands are 13x more likely to see positive ROI by prioritizing blogging.

Most of a blog’s traffic is driven organically — in other words, consumers will search for something on a search engine and click on your blog if it accords their intended topic. However, there are a lot of organizations competing for your audience’s attention, so it’s important to avoid common blog mistakes to stand out.

Blogging Tips for Beginners

Create blog uprights that complies with your large company objectives.

Write like you talk.

Show your temperament; don’t tell it.

Make your point again and again.

Start with a very specific driving claim.

Use a specific post type, create an outline, and use headers.

Use data and research to back up the claims you start in your affixes.

When attracting from others’ hypothesis, cite them.

Take 30 minutes to revise your post.

At a certain point, exactly publish it.

Blog consistently with the help of an editorial calendar.

Focus on the long-term benefits of organic congestion.

Add a subscription CTA to your blog and set up an email newsletter.

1. Create blog announces that complies with your bigger companionship aims. Mistake: You think of theories that merely interest you.

As much as you might read and re-read your blog uprights after you publish them, you’re not the only reader, or the planned reader.

When you start blogging, theories will come to you at random days — in the shower, on a flow, while on the phone with your momma. While the ideas may come at random instants, the ideas themselves should never be random. Time because it’s a good feeling in general — or something that interests you personally — doesn’t mean it’s a good impression for your company.

Solution: Align your blog poles with fellowship proliferation purposes.

The reason you’re blogging is to solve problems for your gathering and, ultimately, to grow your business. So, all of your blog upright themes should help serve those expansion points. They should have natural tie-ins to issues in your industry and address specific questions and concerns your expectations have.

Need help figuring out what those goals are and how to address them? Chat with your overseer about the larger company points, and then schedule a meet with person on the sales team to hear what questions they get asked most often. After both converges, you should know which destinations you need to achieve and have some intuitions on how to achieve them.

2. Write like you talk. Mistake: Your writing is too stiff.

Writing a blog berth is much different than writing a term paper. But when bloggers first is the beginning, they are generally only have experience with the latter. The trouble? The wording of writing this report from a term paper is not the vogue of writing parties experience reading.

Let’s be honest: Most of the people who see your post aren’t going to read the whole thing. If you want to keep them interested, you have to compel them to keep reading by writing in a mode that’s effortless to read.

Solution: Try to write blogs that feel affable.

It’s okay to be more conversational in your writing — in fact, we encourage it. The more friendly your writing is, the more parties will enjoy reading it. People want to feel like they’re doing business with real parties , not robots.

So loosen up your writing. Throw in reductions. Be disposed of the lingo. Make a pun or two. That’s how real people talk — and that’s what real parties like to read.

3. Show your personality; don’t tell it. Mistake: You suppose beings are concerned about you as a novelist.

It chimes coarse, but it’s the truth: When parties first start out blogging, they think that their audience will be inherently interested in their narrations and their interests … but that’s not the case. It’s no knock against them as a person — it’s precisely that when you’re new , no one is interested in you and your experiences. Beings help highway more about what you can educate them.

Solution: Infuse your temperament without eclipsing the topic.

Even though parties don’t actually care that it’s you that’s making the post, you can infuse parts of your temperament in your “ve written” acquire them feel more comfy with you. How you do that is entirely up to you. Some beings like to crack jokes, some are happy to realise pop culture citations, and others have a way with vivid descriptions.

HubSpot’s Director of Content Corey Wainwright is particularly good at this. Here’s an example from the introduction of one of her berths 😛 TAGEND

show-personality-in-blog-post.png

To infuse personality into your own writing, try looking for ways to relate to your books on the topic you’re writing about — then write in the first person as if you’re hanging out with them and chitchatting about it. Make your tone personal, approachable, and committing, just like you would in a face-to-face conversation.

4. Make your point again and again. Mistake: You rambles.

Although you are encouraged to let your own personality shine through in your writing, don’t abuse the privilege. It’s one thing to be yourself in the topic you’re cap, but it’s another thing to bring up too many personal experiences that hide the spot you’re trying to make.

Don’t digress into these personal anecdotes and analogies too much — your books aren’t sitting in front of you, which means you can’t guarantee that you have their undivided notice. They can( and will) jump from your section if they lose fortitude.

Solution: Repeatedly assert your justification.

To prevent your writing from losing its audience, restate your point in every area of the section. The best blog posts is under an obligation an overarching send and then deliver it gradually, conveying it multiple times in small-minded lanes from beginning to end.

If you’re writing about how much spray a potted plant needs, for example, don’t spend three paragraphs telling a story of how you came home to a dead fern after returning from a two-week vacation. This storey offers real evidence of your point, but what is your point? Certain weeds can’t go without water for more than 14 daylights. That’s one possible stage, and it should be stated upfront.

5. Start with a very specific labouring claim. Mistake: Your topics are too broad.

When people start blogging, they generally want to write on really big topics like 😛 TAGEND

“How to Do Social Media Marketing”

“Business Best Practices”

“How to Make Money on the Internet”

Topics like these are far too wide-ranging. Because there are so many details and subtleties in these topics, it’s really hard to do a good job reacting them. Plus, more specific topics tend to attract smaller, more targeted audiences, which tend to be higher quality and more likely to convert into leads and customers.

So, to get the most short-term and long-term benefits of blogging, you’ll need to get practice more specific.

Solution: Begin with a clearly defined, concise theme.

Nailing genuinely specific blog topics is crucial to knocking your first few announces out of the park. Let us help you brainstorm with our Blog Ideas Generator. This tool allows you to enter basic terms you know you want to cover, and then makes five samples blog deeds that work for business blogs.

Keep in mind that a labor deed isn’t final — it’s merely a concrete direction you can use to keep your writing on track. Once you hammer this stage of the ideation process, it’s much easier to write your blog posts.

6. Use a specific post type, create an outline, and use headers. Mistake: Your writing is a brain dump.

Sometimes when I get a great idea I’m stimulated about, it’s really persuasion to exactly sit down and make it flow out of me. But what I get is usually a sub-par blog post.

Why? The stream-of-consciousness style of writing isn’t truly a good wording for blog berths. Most beings are going to scan your blog affixes , not read them, so it needs to be organized really well for that to happen.

Solution: Structure your blog with a template, synopsi, and section headers.

The first thing you should do is choose what type of blog post you’re going to write. Is it a how-to post? A list-based post? A curated collecting upright? A SlideShare presentation? For assistant on this, download our free templates for the purpose of establishing five different types of blog berths. Once you have a template down, it’ll be easier to write your outline.

Writing an outline makes a big difference. If you put in the time up front to organize your thoughts and create a logical overflow in your berth, the remainder becomes easy — you’re mostly really replenishing in the blanks.

To write a blog post outline, first come up with a index of the top takeaways you miss your books to get from your affix. Then, break up those takeaways into larger section headers. When you put in a section header every few paragraphs, your blog post becomes easier and more enjoyable to read.( And plus, header text with keywords is beneficial for SEO .) When you eventually get to writing, all you’ll have to do is fill in those sections.

7. Use data and research to back up the claims you start in your affixes. Mistake: You don’t use data as evidence.

Let’s say I’m writing a blog post about why businesses should consider using Instagram for market. When I’m establishing that assertion, which is more convincing?

“It seems like more parties are working Instagram nowadays.”

“Instagram’s customer locate is growing far faster than social network usage in general in the U.S. Instagram will grow 15.1% this year, compared against precisely 3.1% growing for the social network sector as a whole.”

The second, of course. Polemics and claims are much more compelling when in data and research. As purveyors, we don’t simply have to convince people to be on our slope about an issue — we need to convince them to take action. Data-driven content catches people’s attention in a way that fluffy controversies do not.

Solution: Use data to support your arguings.

In any good story, you’ll offer a primary assertion, establish proof, and then end with a takeaway for the audience. You can use data in blog uprights to introduce your main argument and appearance why it’s relevant to your books, or as proof of it throughout the body of the post.

Some great locates to find impelling data include 😛 TAGEND

HubSpot Research

Pew Research Center

MarketingSherpa

HubSpot’s State of Inbound report

8. When sucking from others’ impressions, cite them. Mistake: Your content borderlines on piracy.

Plagiarism didn’t work in school, and it certainly doesn’t work on your company’s blog. But for some reason, numerous amateur bloggers think they can get away with the old copy-and-paste technique.

You can’t. Editors and books can usually tell when something’s been mimicked from somewhere else. Your enunciate suddenly doesn’t sound like you, or maybe there are a few paroles in there that are incorrectly worked. It just sounds … off.

Plus, if you get caught stealing other people’s content, you could get your site penalise by Google — which could be a big blow to your companionship blog’s organic growth.

Solution: Give ascribe where credit is due.

Instead, take a few minutes to understand how to quote other people’s content in your blog berths. It’s not super complicated, but it’s an essential thing to learn when you’re firstly starting out.

9. Take 30 hours to revise your announce. Mistake: You think you’re done once the writing’s done.

Most people perform the errors of not revising their writing. It resounded so flowing in their heading when they were writing that it must be great to read … right?

Nope — it still needs editing. And maybe a lot of it.

Solution: You’ll never regret time spent proofreading.

Everyone needs to edit their writing — even the most experienced novelists. Most periods, our first drafts aren’t all that great. So make the time you need to shape up your post. Fix typos, run-on convicts, and accidental its/ it’s misstep. Make sure your story spurts just as well as it did in your outline.

To help you remember all the little things to check before publishing, check out our checklist for editing and proofreading a blog post.

10. At a certain point, time publish it. Mistake: You was seeking to make every pole perfect.

I hate to break it to you, but your blog pole is never going to be perfect. Ever.

There will always be more events you can do to prepare your announces better. More idols. Better phrasing. Wittier jokes. The best scribes I know, know when to stop obsessing and just reached “publish.”

Solution: Better to publish and modernize than shelve for purity.

There’s a quality at which there are diminishing returns for getting closer to “perfect” — and you’re truly never going to reach “perfect” anyway. So while you don’t want to publish a berth filled with factual mistakes and grammatical wrongdoings, it’s not the end of the world if a typo slips through. It most probably won’t affect how many views and causes it wreaks in.

Plus, if you( or your readers) find the mistake, all of you have to do is update the affix. No biggie. So give yourself a interrupt once and a while — perfect is the enemy of done.

11. Blog routinely with the help of an editorial calendar. Mistake: You don’t blog regularly.

By now, you’ve probably heard that the more often you blog, the more traffic you’ll get to your website — and the more readers and heads you’ll generate from your posts. But as important as publication is, it’s actually more important that you’re blogging frequently when you’re just getting started. If you write five posts in one week and then exclusively one or two in the next few weeks, it’ll be hard to form a consistent attire. And divergence “wouldve been” muddle your subscribers.

Instead, it’s the companies that make a commitment to regularly publishing quality content to their blogs that tend to collect the biggest compensations in terms of website traffic and leadings — and those results continue to pay out over time.

To help establish consistency, you’ll need a more concrete planning strategy.

Solution: Schedule and publish blogs routinely.

Use it to get into the habit of planning your blog affix topics ahead of time, publishing frequently, and even scheduling posts in advance if you’re finding yourself having a particularly fertile week.

Here at HubSpot, we typically use good ol’ Google Calendar as our blog editorial schedule, which you can learn how to set up step-by-step here. Or, you can click here to download our free editorial docket templates for Excel, Google Membrane, and Google Calendar, along with teaches on how to set them up.

12. Focus on the long-term benefits of organic freight. Mistake: You centre your analytics on immediate transaction.

Both beginner bloggers and advanced bloggers are guilty of this blogging misstep. If you converge your analysis on immediate traffic( traffic from email customers, RSS feeds, and social shares ), then it’s going to be hard to prove the enduring value of your blog. After all, the half-life for those roots is very brief — typically a day or two.

When purveyors who are just starting their business blogs see that their blog uprights aren’t generating any new freight after a few days, many of them get annoyed. They belief their blog is failing, and they end up abandoning it prematurely.

Solution: The ROI of your blog is the aggregation of organic traffic over term.

Instead of are concentrated on the rapid deterioration of short-term traffic, focus instead on the cumulative possible of organic traffic. Over time, returned sufficient time, the traffic from date three and beyond of a single blog affix will eclipse that large-hearted spike on epoches one and two thanks to being found on search engine answers sheets through organic research. You just have to give it a while.

To help drive this long-term traffic, make sure you’re writing blog poles that have durable relevant on a consistent basis. These announces are called “evergreen” blog affixes: They’re relevant year after year with little or no upkeep, valuable, and high quality.

Over time, as you record more evergreen material and construct pursuing official, those poles will end up being responsible for a large percentage of your blog traffic. It all starts with a insignificant displacement in perspective from daily transaction to cumulative traffic so you can reframe the acces you deemed your blog and its ROI entirely.

13. Add a due CTA to your blog and set up an email newsletter. Mistake: You aren’t growing customers.

Once you start blogging, it’s easy to forget that blogging isn’t just about getting brand-new visitors to your blog. One of the biggest benefits of blogging is that it helps you steadily proliferate an email roll of readers you can share your new material with. Each age you publish a brand-new blog announce, your subscribers will give you that initial surge of traffic — which, in turn, will spur those posts’ long-term success.

The key to get substantial business ensues( traffic, induces, and eventually patrons) all starts with developing customers.

Solution: How to set up a subscription CTA and email newsletter:

First, use your email commerce implement to be established a welcome email for brand-new customers, as well as a regular email that draws in your most recent blog berths.( HubSpot customers: You can use HubSpot’s email tool to easily set up these regular email casts, as well as set up a welcome email for new subscribers .)

Next, add due CTAs to your blog( and elsewhere, like the footer of your website) to make it easy for people to opt in. These CTAs should be simple, one-field email opt-in constitutes near the priorities in your blog, above the crimp. As for where to apply these CTAs, we normally residence our blog CTAs at the bottom of our blog uprights or contribute a slide-in, which you can learn how to do abusing a free tool called Leadin now.

You can also create a dedicated mooring page for readers that you can direct beings to via other paths such as social media, other sheets on your website, PPC, or email.( For a index of more simple ways to attract customers, read this blog post; for well advanced themes, read this one .)

Don’t worry if you read through this list and are now thinking to yourself, Well this is awkward … I’ve formed literally every single one of these blunders. Remember: I exploited the word “common” to describe these blunders for a reasonablenes. The more you blog, the better you’ll get at it — and you’ll reap the benefits in terms of traffic and guides in the process.

We hope you’ll use this list of mistakes as fuel for the fuel to strengthen further your blogging game. After all, the benefits of keeping up a healthful business blog will be well worth the time and effort.

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