What Is a Financial Planning Pyramid?

What Is a Financial Planning Pyramid? – SmartAsset

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Setting priorities in the process of creating a solid financial position can be challenging. The financial planning pyramid provides a visual explanation and reminder to help people make the right moves at the right time. It aims to keep people from taking inappropriate risk by gauging the relationship between risk and reward. The pyramid also takes into consideration the element of time as a person makes progress towards his or her financial goals. It is a simple way to suggest how much of a person’s assets he or she should commit to different investments and other financial products.

Deciding how to allocate your financial assets and when to do so is something a financial advisor can offer invaluable advice on. 

Levels of a Financial Planning Pyramid

There’s no single version of the financial planning pyramid. Some varieties have just a few levels and others have several. Some describe a wide variety of specific investments, asset classes and financial products and others just a handful of broad categories.

A core element of all versions of the pyramid is that the least risky financial moves are at the bottom, while the riskiest ones are at the top. The width of the pyramid at the level where a financial product appears suggests how important it is and how much of a person’s assets should be committed to it.

Here are levels of the financial planning pyramid:

Level 1 – The lowest level is the widest, which indicates its importance and where it should be in terms of priorities. It is also the least risky and, in fact, focuses on reducing financial risk. This level includes automobile, home, life, health, disability and liability insurance.

Level 2 – Once the first level is addressed, people can concern themselves with the second level. This level is focused on emergency savings. It includes money put into safe investments such as federally insured bank checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and government bonds.

Level 3 – The third level consists of savings and investment vehicles that may pay better interest rates than the very safe ones in the second level, at the cost of somewhat greater risk. They include money market accounts and high-grade municipal and corporate bonds and bond funds.

Level 4 – At the fourth level investments in equities begin to appear. These take the form of balanced mutual funds and high-grade shares of preferred stock and convertible bonds.

Level 5 – The fifth level consists of shares of blue-chip public companies as well as investments in growth-oriented mutual funds and real estate.

Level 6 – The sixth level represents investments in collectibles, speculative stocks and lower-grade bonds and mutual funds.

Level 7 – At the very top of the pyramid is a narrow wedge representing the small amount of assets that may be prudently committed to highly speculative investments. These could include commodities, over-the-counter penny stocks and the like.

Key Concepts

The main idea of the financial pyramid that the width of pyramid at a given level expresses how much a person might wisely commit to the investments in that level. That is, more of a portfolio should ordinarily be invested in blue chip common stocks than speculative penny stocks. Time is also a factor. This means people are advised take care of the risk-management tools in the first level before starting to build emergency savings or begin investing in the stock market.

Different investors have different situations, which can affect the pyramid. For instance, a person in the middle of his or her career may be more heavily invested in growth mutual funds than someone approaching retirement, who would likely emphasize safety of principal with investments in high-grade bond funds.

Some versions of the financial planning pyramid have an even lower level. This may include the creation of a financial plan. Another item sometimes included as part of the lowest level is a budget that aims to make sure a person has cash left at the end of the month to stock an emergency fund and, ultimately, invest.

While financial products at the bottom of the pyramid are lower risk than those on higher levels, there is no risk-free investment. Even government bonds may generate a negative return in terms of buying power if the return does not keep up with inflation. There is also a risk of paying insurance premiums without ever making a claim on the coverage benefits.

Bottom Line

The financial planning pyramid is a road map to help people decide where to put their emphasis today in preparing to reach their ultimate financial goals. It is a reminder of the relationship between higher risk and higher reward, and helps to ensure that people have the building blocks of a solid financial foundation in place before chasing better returns with riskier investments. While financial products at the bottom of the pyramid are lower risk than those on higher levels, there is no riskless investment. Even government bonds may generate a negative return in terms of buying power if the return does not keep up with inflation. There is also a risk of paying insurance premiums without ever making a claim on the coverage benefits.

Tips for Investing

  • If making and implementing a financial plan seems like a complicated challenge, consider working with an experienced financial advisor. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Once you’ve decided to start investing your money, you’ll have to decide on an asset allocation that’s appropriate for your goals, age and risk tolerance. And unless you invest in a target date fund that automatically adjusts that asset allocation, you’ll have to rebalance your assets over the course of your investing time frame. That’s where a free, easy to use asset allocation calculator can be extremely helpful.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Gajus, ©iStock.com/FG Trade, ©iStock.com/howtogoto

Mark Henricks Mark Henricks has reported on personal finance, investing, retirement, entrepreneurship and other topics for more than 30 years. His freelance byline has appeared on CNBC.com and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and other leading publications. Mark has written books including, “Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You A Life.” His favorite reporting is the kind that helps ordinary people increase their personal wealth and life satisfaction. A graduate of the University of Texas journalism program, he lives in Austin, Texas. In his spare time he enjoys reading, volunteering, performing in an acoustic music duo, whitewater kayaking, wilderness backpacking and competing in triathlons.
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How Your Debt-to-Income Ratio Affects Your Credit Score

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A debt to income ratio (DTI) is a basic calculation that lenders use to determine whether or not a borrower is capable of meeting their monthly debt payments. It’s a great way to evaluate someone’s financial health and can benefit the borrower as much as the lender.

We have already covered this topic extensively in our Debt-to-Income Ratio Calculator page, but in this guide, we’ll see how this calculation directly affects your credit score and how it is used by mortgage lenders, loan companies, and credit card providers.

What Data do You Need to Calculate Your Debt to Income Ratio?

Your debt-to-income ratio compares your monthly income to your monthly debt and is used to determine whether or not you can afford current and future payments. Along with your credit utilization score, it’s a great indicator of financial health.

To calculate this score, simply add-up your gross income and then compare this to your monthly debt payments. The percentage you arrive at is your debt to income ratio. 

If, for example, your monthly debt payments include $500 on credit card debt; $250 on loans; $1,000 on a mortgage, and $250 on other recurring monthly debt, then your total monthly debt is $2,000. If your monthly income spans $5,000 on wages and $1,000 on investments, then your gross income is $6,000.

Once you have those figures, then simply divide your monthly debt by your total monthly income and represent this as a percentage. In this case, that gives us 33%, as $2,000 (monthly debt) is 33% of $6,000 (monthly income).

How Your Debt-to-Income Ratio Affects Your Credit Score

While there are some similarities between your debt-to-income ratio and credit utilization score, there is one major difference: Your debt-to-income ratio won’t directly affect your credit score while your credit utilization score will. 

It’s more of an affordability thing. Your DTI’s purpose is to tell mortgage lenders whether you can meet monthly payments or whether your other debt obligations will get in the way. Because, as discussed in our guide, Minimum Credit Score for Buying a House, foreclosure is incredibly costly for the bank and they will do everything they can to avoid it.

Your debt-to-income ratio will also be considered by credit card companies and other lenders, but its main purpose is to determine whether your monthly debt payments will get in the way of your mortgage payments.

Why is it Important?

If your DTI doesn’t impact your credit score like credit utilization, what purpose does it serve?

Well, for one thing, it tells lenders how likely certain financial obligations are to get in the way of your monthly debt payment or mortgage payment. This is something that your credit utilization doesn’t consider as it looks only at your total debt and available credit and doesn’t factor your monthly income into the equation.

Your DTI, therefore, helps lenders to see the whole picture. It can also be used by the borrower to assess their financial situation.

Strategies for Improving Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

If your DTI creeps above 43% you will be refused a Qualified Mortgage and may struggle to get any sizeable loan with a low-interest rate. This is true even if you have a respectable credit score. However, fixing your DTI will greatly improve your financial situation and make it considerably easier to acquire a mortgage and loan in the future.

Here are a few ways you can improve this ratio:

Understand Your Debt

Your first step to improving your debt-to-income ratio is to better understand your financial situation. Calculate your score and then analyze all your debts, income, and additional expenditures, understanding how big your monthly payments are and how deep in the red you are.

You may be surprised to learn that you’re spending a lot of money on frivolous items, that you’re paying excessive amounts of interest or penalties, and that you’re not earning as much as you thought you were. All this information can help you to comprehend your financial situation and prepare you for a mortgage.

Target the Highest Bill-to-Balance Debts

Compare all monthly debt payments against the size of their respective balances and write down a percentage for each. If, for example, Debt 1 costs you $100 a month on a $1,000 balance while Debt 2 costs $50 on the same balance, then Debt 1 is 10% and Debt 2 is 5%.

Your next step is to focus all your expendable income on the debt with the highest percentage. Once you get that out of the way then your situation should improve significantly.

Make More Money

It’s always easier said than done but earning more money will improve your income ratio considerably. You can negotiate a pay increase with your employer or take on additional part-time freelance work. Your debt-to-income ratio will drop for every additional dollar that you earn, so if they refuse a significant increase then push for a smaller one.

We’re living in a gig economy and it has never been easier for skilled workers with a little time and talent to make some money on the side. You can write, draw or perform administration work, earning anywhere from $10 to $100 an hour depending on your level of skill and experience. Don’t worry if you don’t have much of either to speak off—there are multiple jobs available for anyone willing to put the hours in.

Renegotiate your Debt

Lenders are always happy to renegotiate debts. You can improve credit limits, reduce interest rates, decrease monthly debt payments, and more. It doesn’t hurt to ask and if they believe that it’ll reduce the odds of a default, they’ll be happy to accept.

Your main goal is to lower monthly payments but remember that this could be done at the expense of a longer long-term and an increased balance. Don’t get tempted by the first offer they wave in front of you and always run the necessary calculations before accepting.

Use a Balance Transfer Credit Card

A balance transfer credit card allows you to move all credit card debt onto a card with a 0% introductory interest rate. You may get an increased credit limit and some additional perks as well, but you need to focus on clearing your debts during this introductory period as the APR may be higher than usual when it ends.

If you pay less interest, your monthly outgoings drop significantly and your DTI will improve as a result.

Re-Think Your Investments

Your monthly income includes all money you earn from investments so it’s good to have these. However, you may be better off cashing those investments in and using the money to clear some of your debts. Unless you have your money invested in a burgeoning tech firm generating massive turnover, your debts will always cost you more than your investments will save.

As an example, let’s imagine that you’re getting a guaranteed return of 5% a year on investments of $5,000. That’s $250 a year and after 5 years it will hit just under $6,400 with compound interest for a total gain of $1,400. If you run the same calculation on a credit card debt of $5,000 with a low APR of 16% and a payoff period of 5 years, it’ll cost you over $2,200 in interest before fees and penalties.

The monthly income from this investment will also be significantly lower than the monthly interest payment, so not only will you save $800 during the lifetime of the debt, but you’ll reduce your DTI as well.

By the same token, you should also reconsider your savings.

Cash Your Savings

Unless you’re getting a very high rate, there’s a good chance that your debt is costing you more than your savings are earning. If these savings are tucked away for a child’s education, then keep them there, but if the goal is to pay for a holiday or another major and unnecessary expense, consider cashing them in and using the money to clear your debts.

If you’re not convinced, run some calculations, looking at how much those savings are earning you compared to how much your debts are costing you. The picture this paints should be pretty clear.

Summary: The Importance of Your DTI

As discussed already, your debt-to-income ratio not only helps mortgage lenders determine your level of risk, it can also help you understand your financial situation. It’s a number that all borrowers should learn, alongside their credit score and their credit utilization score, and one that can play an integral role in helping you to rebuild your finances and prepare for a mortgage, a consolidation loan, or even just a simpler and less stressful future.

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How to Make the Leap From Side Hustle to Full-Time Dream Job

Learn real tips from real side hustlers who are now thriving full time.

For Michelle Schroeder-Gardner it all began with a blog. When she started Making Sense of Cents in 2011, a chronicle of her journey paying off $38,000 in student loans, it was a fun way to make money on the side while maintaining her full-time job as a financial analyst. Fast forward two years and she’s left her day job to focus on the blog exclusively. Fast forward another five years and she’s earning more than $1 million annually from her site.

If you too are looking to turn your side hustle into a full-time job, experiences like Schroeder-Gardner’s prove that just about anything is possible. And you’re not alone. Nation1099, an online resource for freelancers, published a 2018 report to summarize data from various career studies and concluded that approximately 11 percent of the working adult population in the U.S. is working primarily as full-time independent contractors in the gig economy. Gig workers, also known as on-demand workers, function with a non-standard work arrangement and without a long-term employment contract.

Some, like Schroeder-Gardner, have ditched a traditional lifestyle and are working while on the go and whenever they’re most productive (she travels around the world in an RV and sailboat and writes when motivation strikes). Others are logging full-time hours at home or in a coworking office space.

With a thriving gig economy, it could be the right time to turn your side hustle into a full-time job.

Although figuring out how to turn your side hustle into your dream job requires hard work, with patience and persistence, you can succeed.

Learn from the experts themselves and consider these steps for turning your side hustle into a successful business:

Educate yourself

The first step for turning your side hustle into a successful business is building the right skill set so you can stand out in your field. Research industry best practices and in-demand skills, speak to successful professionals and read about others who’ve made the leap from side hustle to full-time job.

The first steps for turning your side hustle into a successful business are doing your research and developing skills to make yourself stand out.

When Jill DeConti, founder of the blog The Luxe Travelers, decided to leave her finance job to devote all of her time to her side hustle as a travel blogger, she knew that knowledge would be instrumental to her success.

“I began researching, reading books, soaking in knowledge,” DeConti says, adding that she also focused on learning marketing best practices and how to generate revenue from her blog.

Reading about the steps for turning your side hustle into a successful business proved useful to DeConti not just for the practical tips she gleaned, but for motivation as well.

“This made me realize that my dreams were actually possible,” she says, “and made me feel less alone in pursuing them.”

“Even though I was earning a good income from my side gig before I turned it into my full-time career, I was terrified to leave my day job.”

– Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, founder of the blog Making Sense of Cents

Take baby steps

Schroeder-Gardner says one of the most challenging parts of turning your side hustle into a full-time job is building a business framework and believing in it.

“Even though I was earning a good income from my side gig before I turned it into my full-time career,” she says, “I was terrified to leave my day job.”

Growing her gig on the side to make sure that it actually worked—and would generate income—helped her gain confidence while she still had the security of her day job’s salary. When she was ready to make her side hustle full time, she knew the framework for a blog that could make money from affiliate marketing was already in place.

“I knew it was time when I was earning enough from my blog to live off of,” Schroeder-Gardner says. “I was earning around $5,000 to $10,000 a month from my side hustle at that time.”

Build an emergency fund

If you’re thinking about how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, be prepared for business—and earnings—to not go exactly as planned.

“Build an emergency fund,” Schroeder-Gardner says. “This way, when you turn your side gig into your dream job, you’ll have money set aside in case you have a not-so-good month.”

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You could also dip into your emergency fund to help manage daily expenses and pay your bills while you turn your side hustle into a full-time job. It may also come in handy if you need to finance upfront business costs (new equipment or office supplies, anyone?).

Outside of work, an emergency fund can provide a cushion for other expenses that may not be baked into your budget (think a trip to the doctor’s office or a home repair that came out of nowhere).

As you work on creating an emergency fund as a step for turning your side hustle into a successful business, note that most experts agree that it should include at least six months to a year of expenses.

If you're wondering how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, you'll need an emergency fund to help protect yourself financially.

Invest extra time upfront

You may find that it takes a lot of time to turn your side hustle into a full-time job. There’s networking, promoting your business and accepting new opportunities to build your portfolio—and that’s likely on top of your already packed schedule.

If you’re wondering how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, you may need to carve out time after regular working hours. That was the case for DeConti, whose day job kept her occupied from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In order to get her name out there as she built her travel blog, she looked for freelance social media jobs and worked on her own blog “after work and late into the night and on weekends,” she says.

Putting in the time upfront really paid off. These days DeConti can make her own schedule and work remotely, which is key for someone who has made a career out of her passion for travel.

“I’ve been able to travel to Bali for an extended period of time, spend a month traveling around the Greek islands, swim in the cenotes in Mexico, chase waterfalls around Iceland, eat the best pizza I’ve ever had in Italy, take a camper van around beautiful New Zealand,” she says. “As long as I have my laptop with me, I’m good to go.”

Join the side hustlers who have gone full time

If you’re contemplating how to turn your side hustle into your dream job, take comfort in knowing that you’re in good company. Others are now living their dreams, and you can too with some careful planning and confidence.

So, what are you waiting for?

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Will Credit Inquiries Hurt Your Credit Score?

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4 Side Hustles You Can Do While Working Full Time

From selling unwanted items online to launching a blog, there are side hustles you can start today.

A side hustle may just sound like extra work. Like coming home from your 9-to-5 job only to work another one (goodbye, free time). But a side hustle that generates income beyond your primary job doesn’t have to be a drain on your energy or time.

It’s easier than ever to find ways to make money on the side of your day job. As the side hustlers below show, it can be as easy as digging out forgotten treasures from the back of your closet.

Whether you’re looking to leverage a side gig to more quickly build wealth, or you’ve set out to increase your emergency fund or save for a specific financial goal, consider these four side hustles you can start today:

1. Sell unwanted items online

If you’re considering ways to make money side hustling, look no further than your own home. Chances are you have items lying around that you don’t actually use—books, toys, kitchen gadgets, exercise equipment, tech accessories, you name it—that sounded like a good idea at one point but are now just collecting dust. Selling unwanted items online is one of the easiest side hustles you can do while working full time.

Selling things you no longer want or need is a great side hustle you can start today.

“You can really sell anything on Craigslist and Kijiji. If it’s still in decent shape, there’s a buyer out there for items you’re no longer using,” says Tom Drake, founder of MapleMoney and no stranger to selling items online in his spare time.

Drake and his wife declutter their home and sell unwanted items online as often as they can. A recent focus was video games: Drake says he sold about $2,000 worth of video games that were sitting in his garage for over a decade. Based on his calculations, he expects to sell about $10,000 worth of unwanted items in 2018.

If you’re thinking about posting items online as a way to make money on the side, Drake says it’s easy to start. Listing items doesn’t take long, though he suggests taking a decent photo and writing a detailed description to make the item easier to find in search results and more likely to sell in a timely fashion.

PriceCharting, which documents prices for every video game ever made, to check value.

Outside of video games, Drake says you can find clothing at thrift stores, then list it for 30 to 50 percent off retail price to make a sale. For collectible items like coins, you can Google the item and add the term “price guide” to the search query. This type of information could come in handy as you build out your pricing structure. Don’t forget to explore e-commerce sites to gauge market rates for items.

3. Start an online store

Briana Ford is a search engine marketing campaign manager for a marketing company based in Dallas. Her way to make money side hustling is through three stores she runs on Shopify, an online e-commerce platform. She generates about $1,000 to $3,000 in total revenue each month.

Her stores Ciao Toots and Karma Outfitters sell phone covers and graphic tees, respectively. Her most popular store, PinLivingColor, sells ’90s memorabilia. She creates the designs through Printful, a printing service through Shopify, and uploads the photos to her store. When someone buys, say, a cell phone case, Printful prints the design on a case and sends it off to the customer. She took a weekend each to start her stores.

“We live in a day and age where you can literally have an idea in the morning and have your business launched in the evening. There is an audience and a customer for almost anything,” she says.

She also helps fellow African Americans start their own stores as a consultant via Startup Noire.

4. Launch a blog

Eric Rosenberg, founder of Personal Profitability, has tried side hustles from web coding to organizing flash mobs. He found a winning side hustle you can do while working full time with his blog.

Blogging is a great way to make money on the side.

“Personal Profitability led to freelance opportunities and eventually a full-time job. But it all started with weekends and evenings,” Rosenberg says.

He has tracked his online earnings publicly since 2012, when the blog earned him about $700 a month. In 2017 he had a six-figure business. Most of his income comes from writing services and website support, with some affiliate income, Rosenberg says.

Blogging is one of the side hustles you can start today, and it doesn’t necessarily cost much to get up and running. However, as the online income reports on Rosenberg’s blog show, it does require patience to make it really pay off.

Ways to make money side hustling: The possibilities are endless

These are just a few of the possibilities available to you as you explore ways to make money on the side of your primary career. As you compare the various side hustles you can start today, consider activities, skills or experiences that you’re passionate about. Enjoying and finding value in your side hustle may make the extra income and increased earning potential even more rewarding.

Source: discover.com

How 4 Moms are Gaining Financial Security Through Side Hustles

While the traditional 9-5 office model is slow to adapt to the needs of modern parents, some moms and dads are taking matters into their own hands. They are looking at ways to earn extra income while having flexibility in their schedules, including finding a side hustle.

Whether it’s for a specific financial goal like paying off debt or saving up for something big, this extra income has been instrumental in building up financial security for their families.

Motherhood and Money: Making It Work

You can make this year your financial best by finding ways to earn more and work it around your schedule.

If you’re thinking about making the leap into entrepreneurship, but are unsure where and how to start, here are four moms who have transformed their family’s finances through their work.

Lesson #1: Diversify your income

Sandy Smith has been creating businesses to reach not only her family’s financial goals but also help others.

Besides running the popular blog, Yes, I am Cheap, she’s branched out into selling online with Amazon drop shipping and has online courses.

Last year she also launched the Elevate conference, which is dedicated to promoting and highlighting personal finance experts of color.

All these income streams give her a cushion should one of them dip or fade out.

How about you -if your hours at work were cut or you’re laid off, do you have an income stream to absorb at least some of the blow? Even if you earn a few extra hundred dollars a month, that money can be tucked away to fill up your emergency fund.

Lesson #2: Give yourself runaway before switching into a full-time entrepreneur

Side hustles can not only be a source of income you can use for goals like paying down debt and saving up for a house. As you grow your client list, you may find that it would make sense to pivot it into your primary source of income.

Another awesome momprenuer is My Debt Epiphany’s Chonce Maddox. In 2015, Chonce started side hustling so she could pay off debt, including a high-interest car note.

She kept building that income until she reached the point where she was able quit her day job.

One of the best ways you can transition into self-employment is by building up a buffer with savings. That way you’ll know you have enough to pay your bills and will feel comfortable with your new business income until it increases.

You can use Mint’s goal feature to set up a ‘freedom fund’ and track your savings and progress quickly and easily.

Lesson #3: Designing Work Around Family and Circumstances

As a military spouse, Jen Hemphillhas had to carve out a flexible career that could also be remote.

After seeing a need in her community, she became an Accredited Financial Counselor and began serving women and empowering them with their money.

Cat Alford is another woman who built her business around her family. She became a freelance writer after having twins, allowing her to have time with them and earn income.

Working around the family isn’t usually easy, but many parents feel it’s worth it.

How do you find the right side hustle or work for your circumstances?

Fulfilling a need, having a market, and having a talent and/or skill is where you can build a business.

Where do you see a need around you? What talents and skills do you have to offer? How much time can you sustainably devote to it weekly?

Spending time upfront analyzing yourself and circumstances can assist you in finding the best path forward.

Lesson #4: Dump your debt and free up more options

Sandy’s original purpose with earning extra money on the side was to pay off. With her site, Yes I am Cheap, she funneled that money to pay off over $50,000 of debt!

If you’re getting a tax refund this year, think about setting aside a portion to pay down debt.

This can help your monthly cash flow going forward, giving you some more breathing room in your budget.

Lesson #5: Seek passive ways to earn income

Trading time for money (like becoming a Lyft driver or freelance writer) is a common way to earn money, but it’s not the only way.

Sandy Smith earned income through her mugs. She designed them, but she outsourced much of it and sold on them amazon.

Cat Alford took her skills as a freelance writer and created a course to help others start their online careers.

It definitely takes work to initially create and set up these businesses, but after you’ll have a passive income stream.

This can be an opportunity for you, as well.

As you work your side hustle, look for other services or products you can offer that’s less time-intensive. For example, if you’re a bookkeeper, you can create a guide or a short course for other DIY entrepreneurs.

Having a passive source of income can allow you to grow your bottom line without increasing the hours you work.

Stay on Top of Your Money

No matter what side hustle you’re looking at, I hope these stories encourage you to get started on your dreams!

As a reminder, please make sure that you keep track of the money you’re receiving because it does count as income, and down the line you will need to report and pay taxes on it.

Want to make it easy on yourself? Use software like Quickbooks so you can quickly see how you’re doing and adequately set aside money for your estimated taxes.

I’d love to hear from you -what side hustle would you like to start? What’s your goal for the money earned?
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