From BLS: The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.4 percent in September on a seasonally adjusted basis, after increasing 0.6 percent in August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 3.7 percent before seasonal adjustment.
Part of the reason the Fed has not hiked as much recently is that they know the growth rate of inflation is falling, but they still want to attack the labor supply because of some fear that wages might spiral out of control again. This explains the Fed’s hawkish tone after the last Fed meeting when they didn’t hike rates, giving the bond market the green light to push the 10-year yield higher.
Now, over the pat 10 days, seven Fed presidents have tried to talk the bond market down. After this report, I expect them to stick to that game plan.
Also, shelter inflation has a lot of room to move lower, and since shelter inflation is 44.4% of CPI, we have enough data to scream at the Fed: “Land the Plane, Jay! You’re done.” Once you exclude housing, the Core CPI was 0.1% monthly. This has been a trend over the past few months, which the Fed well knows.
While I don’t believe that we will see the builders finish all the rental supply under construction because construction loan rates are too high, we will still get more supply to the rental marketplace over time. That will help with the shelter inflation data, which peaked a while ago.
So, even though the headline inflation print was a tad hotter than forecast, the core inflation trend is moving along in the right direction, and that is what the Fed cares about the most. The Fed wants to keep the Fed Funds rate higher for longer. They want to ensure that core inflation returns toward 2% so they keep talking hawkish. However, the recent 10-year yield spike has forced them to try to talk the market down. Even today, the 10-year yield spiked after the report and kept heading higher, currently at 4.71%
Now that core inflation is lower than last year, the Fed doesn’t need to be talking about rate hikes anymore. Even talking hawkish with where inflation and rates are at doesn’t make sense.
Regarding the bond market, mortgage rates, and the Fed, I talked about this on the HousingWire Daily podcast this week trying to make sense of why so many Fed presidents are trying to jawbone the bond market from getting out of hand. Hopefully, with all the data about inflation and rates, it’s a good reason for the Fed to just chill, enjoy Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and let’s not play the Scrooge role now.
After teaching my “Saving and Investing 101” class at the University of Rochester yesterday, two undergraduate students ask me personal investing questions:
“How should I invest the money in my Roth IRA?”
“My portfolio is currently in 7 stocks, all tech stocks. My dad thinks I should diversify. Should I? And how do I do that?”
I bet you’ve had similar questions before. Investing is a confusing topic.
Thankfully, many personal investing questions have a similar answer. So whenever anyone asks me for specific investing advice, I go over the following ideas.
It’s About *You*
Giving personalized investing advice can only occur after understanding the investor. One idea I shared with the class yesterday is:
“If 100 college students asked me how to invest their Roth IRAs, I know this: I would eventually tell most of them that a diversified stock portfolio is an ideal place to start. They’re young with long investing timelines, and the higher risk/reward aspect of stock investing makes sense for them.
But, some of those 100 students might need completely different advice based on their unique circumstances. Telling the whole group, “Invest in stocks,” would be a disservice to some individuals. That’s why personalized investing advice should come after – not before – understanding the individual investor.”
Goals, Timelines, Risk Tolerance
How, then, do we determine the specific investing advice for individual investors? How do we “understand” or “get to know” them?
You need to understand their goals and risk tolerance.
A financial goal is a combination of an amount of money and a timeline for a specific purpose. E.g. “I need $1.5M by 2035, because that’s when I want to retire.” The amount and timeline provide concrete numbers from which we can do objective math.
Risk tolerance is a bit harder to pin down. It’s personal and emotional. To unwrap someone’s risk tolerance, it helps to ask questions about their investing past (“Have you lived through bear markets or crashes – how did it make you feel?”). Short of that, running through hypotheticals can help (“If your account dropped 30%, but you knew it would likely recover in ~3 years or less, how would you feel?”). There are also many risk tolerance quizzes and questionnaires on the internet.
The goals and timelines lead to a math-based, objective investment recommendation. Short-timelined money should be invested in low-risk, low-reward assets, and long-timelined money in high-risk, high-reward assets. This is the basis of “bucketing your money.” If (or when) your goals change, your investment allocation should change too.
Risk tolerance adds a subjective, psychology-based aspect to an investment recommendation. Perhaps the math alone points an investor toward an 80% stock, 10% bond, 10% alternatives portfolio. But if they’re incredibly risk averse, that 80% stock allocation will turn their brain to mush when a bear market hits. (Not if a bear market hits; when.) A more conservative allocation would help their mental health.
How conservative? It’s impossible for me to say. It depends (!!!) on the person. There’s a balance between the math (can you hit your goals on time?) and the psychology (will you be able to sleep along the way?).
The crux of investing is not creating a Scrooge McDuck pile of gold.
Instead, investing is about maximizing the odds of achieving your financial goals while minimizing your sleepless nights.
Back to the Students…
How should the first student invest her Roth IRA?
Assuming her Roth IRA money is purely for retirement**, I think an 80-100% diversified stock allocation makes sense. A total market index fund would be a good choice.
**Most IRAs are. Withdrawals before age 59.5 are penalized. They are retirement accounts.
How should the second student diversify away from her 7 tech stocks?
This one is more nuanced. First, the money is not in an IRA. It might have a short-term timeline associated with it. She and I discussed this. The money is all long-term.
From there, the same idea of an 80-100% diversified stock allocation makes sense.
But! This student might enjoy the fact that she owns those 7 tech stocks. Similarly, I enjoy the fact that I own Berkshire Hathaway – it’s the only non-fund investment I own, the only single stock.
If her stock ownership is important to her, I think it’s reasonable for her to keep <10% of her portfolio in those 7 stocks. The remaining >90% of her investable assets should be diversified.
Different people. Different situations. Different advice.
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Have you ever wondered what a 9-figure amount looks like? It’s a sum of money too big to ignore, with a whopping total of 100 million to less than 1 billion. Discover more about this colossal figure and the wealth it represents
When we mention nine-figure sums, we’re talking about a truly astronomical level of wealth. To put it in perspective, nine figures represent anything from $100,000,000 all the way up to $999,999,999.
This figure surpasses the GDP of several small nations. For instance, Samoa reported a GDP of approximately 843.8 million USD in 2021.
Or consider that according to Investopedia, 7-figure wealth is what puts you among the top 0.1% of the wealthiest people on the planet. This means that having nine figures puts someone at an even more elite level, one whose luxury extends far beyond mere financial freedom.
Only a small fraction of individuals or companies globally can boast such immense wealth. However, it is not an unattainable goal. Let’s take a look at some of the strategies you can employ to accumulate substantial wealth while also examining the lifestyles and pursuits of those who have successfully achieved it.
How Much Is a 9-figure Salary?
Table of Contents
A nine-figure income signifies any earnings that flaunt nine digits, starting from $100,000,000 and soaring upwards. To put it into words, we’re discussing one hundred million dollars.
Quite a mind-boggling figure, isn’t it?
It’s like being handed the keys to a kingdom of unimaginable wealth. But remember, this is a sphere occupied by only a select few worldwide.
Their playgrounds? Often, you’ll find them in the tech sector, inheriting vast wealth or expanding an already thriving family business.
Now, let’s delve a bit deeper, shall we?
When we speak of nine figures, are we referring to the lower end close to one hundred million, the middle ground around 550,000,000, or the staggering high end nearing 999,999,999?
So, the next time you find yourself daydreaming about a nine-figure salary, remember this: It’s not just a number; it’s a lifestyle, a testament to extraordinary achievements, and a beacon of exceptional success.
And who knows? With the right mix of passion, dedication, and a sprinkle of luck, you might just find yourself joining this elite club.
After all, isn’t the sky the limit when it comes to chasing our dreams?
Examples of People Who Earn 9-Figure Incomes
Cristiano Ronaldo: A Sports Icon – With an astonishing income of $105,000,000, this celebrated athlete is not just a football superstar but also a nine-figure earner.
Safra A. Catz: Leading Oracle – As the CEO of Oracle, Safra A. Catz’s leadership prowess is reflected in her staggering earnings of $108,200,000.
David Zaslav: The Discovery Dynamo – Captaining Discovery as its CEO, David Zaslav, commands a whopping $129,500,000.
Nikesh Arora: The Palo Alto Networks Powerhouse – As the CEO of Palo Alto Networks, Nikesh Arora’s genius is rewarded with a hefty paycheck of $125,000,000.
Roger Federer: Tennis Titan – This globally recognized athlete proves that sports can indeed yield nine-figure incomes, as evidenced by his impressive earnings of $106,300,000.
Case Study: What Does A 9-Figure Earning Look Like?
Understanding the intricacies of nine-figure earnings can be a complex undertaking due to the lack of universally defined parameters. For the context of this case study, we will consider an annual income of at least $432K as the lower limit for this category. It is worth noting that any figure below this threshold would classify one into the realm of billionaires.
Renowned business magnates such as Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg exemplify this earnings bracket, with annual incomes reported around $51M and marginally less than $50M, respectively.
Reaching the stature of a nine-figure income earner typically necessitates either a substantial inheritance or proprietorship of a prosperous company with diverse revenue channels. The case of Elon Musk serves as a prime example, with his considerable income derived from two distinct sources – Tesla and SpaceX.
Aspiring for this scale of income undoubtedly sets a high bar. However, with the appropriate strategy and relentless determination, it is not beyond reach. Be prepared to tread a path akin to those who have already achieved this feat.
What Is the Potential Monthly, Weekly, Daily, or Hourly Income in the 9-Figure Range?
How Much Is 9 Figures Monthly?
To figure out the monthly income from a massive annual salary, just divide the yearly amount by 12. Keep in mind that this will give you a range of values. But if you want to earn a nine-figure salary, the smallest monthly income would be $8,333,333.33.
$100,000,000 per year / 12 months
= $8,333,333.33 per month
This question might take a different perspective if you’re raking in 9 figures every month. That means your annual income would be at least $1,200,000,000 or even more.
How Much Is 9 Figures a Week?
If we were to divide the 9-figure annual salary by 52 weeks, we’d be looking at a minimum weekly income that could make anyone’s head spin – a cool $1,923,076.9! 💸💼.
$100,000,000 per year / 52 weeks
= $1,923,076.9 per week
While you’re at it, if you manage to rake in a solid 9-figure sum every week, your annual income will soar to a minimum of £52,000,000,00 or maybe even more.
How Much Is 9 Figures a Day?
Want to know how much you can earn daily from a nine-figure income? Just divide it by 365! If you make money every day, your minimum daily earnings would be $273,972.6. That’s your ticket to the nine-figure club!
Here’s the breakdown:
$100,000,000 per year / 365 days
= $273,972.6 per day
Now, let’s say you take weekends and U.S. holidays off. In that case, you’d need to earn around $381,679.3 per day to make $100,000,000 per year. It’s a good goal to aim for if you want that nine-figure salary without burning yourself out.
How Much Is 9 Figures an Hour?
If you’re seeking a nine-figure income from hourly wages, the calculations are slightly different. Just divide your per day salary by 8 hours, and voilà! The minimum number is $47,709.90per hour. This calculation is based on working days – usually 262 days per year in the US.
How Much Is 9 Figures After Taxes?
Achieving a 9-figure income is quite an extraordinary feat, one that is typically reserved for the most successful entrepreneurs, athletes, and entertainers in our society. It’s almost impossible to reach that level through a single salary alone.
Instead, individuals in this income bracket often have multiple income streams, such as investments, business ventures, and other revenue-generating activities.
Calculating the exact tax on a 9-figure income can be a challenging endeavor. Taxes can vary greatly depending on many factors, including location, type of income, applicable deductions, and more. However, it’s safe to say that anyone earning in the 9-figure range will face a significant tax bill.
What Is the Pathway To Achieving a 9-Figures Income?
If you are in pursuit of a 9-figure income, it is essential to have an understanding of the components that fuel this elusive status. What sets apart these high-net-worth individuals from the rest is their capacity to create multiple streams of passive income and capitalize on them.
Here are some tips to help you achieve this milestone:
Acquire Valuable Skills and Experience
The first step towards achieving a 9-figure income is building a solid foundation of high income skills and experience in a high-value field. This could be anything from technology and finance to entertainment and sports. The key is to become exceptionally good at what you do, often necessitating years of dedication, learning, and practical application.
Build or Join a High-Growth Venture
Next, it’s super important to either build or get involved in a high-growth venture. This could mean starting a business with a game-changing idea or joining a rapidly expanding company in a leadership position. The aim here is to use your unique skills and experiences to create substantial value and wealth, which could potentially lead to a massive income if the venture becomes incredibly successful.
Invest Wisely and Diversify Your Income Streams
Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Investing in the stock market, real estate, bonds, and other alternative investments is another way to generate a 9-figure income. It’s important to diversify your portfolio across multiple strategies so that you’re not overly exposed to any one asset class.
Let’s give you an example.
If you’re already running a successful business, consider investing in cryptocurrency or another digital asset class to increase your income streams. This could provide an additional source of passive income that can help solidify your journey to a 9-figure salary.
Equities and Derivatives Trading
The stock market is an incredibly powerful tool that can help you to achieve a 9-figure income. Through equity and derivatives trading, you can tap into the world’s most lucrative markets and make substantial returns on your investments in a short amount of time.
Learning how to navigate this complex ecosystem of risk and reward requires patience, dedication, and a lot of practice. Start by investing in the stock market or trading on a simulated platform to get comfortable with the process before taking it to the next level.
Leverage Networks and Opportunities
Networking is a critical component of achieving a 9-figure income. By cultivating meaningful relationships with influential people in your industry, you can open doors to opportunities that might otherwise remain closed. These could include partnerships, investments, or high-profile job offers that can significantly boost your income.
Jobs That Pay 9 Figures
Earning a nine-figure salary is an incredibly rare achievement reserved for the top echelons of various lucrative industries. Here are some of the highest-paying jobs and industries that can bring in nine-figure salaries.
Tech Company Bosses
Tech company bosses, particularly those at the helm of companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla, are among the highest earners globally. Their compensation often comes in the form of stock options, which can value in the hundreds of millions or even billions when their companies perform well.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla ($242.4 billion)
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon ($151.5 billion)
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook ($103.4 billion)
In the world of professional sports, athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and LeBron James have managed to secure contracts and endorsement deals that push their annual incomes into the nine-figure realm. These athletes excel in their respective sports and have built strong personal brands, attracting lucrative sponsorship deals.
According to reports, these athletes earned more than $100 million in a single year:
Hollywood is no stranger to nine-figure earners. Actors like Dwayne Johnson and Robert Downey Jr., thanks to their roles in blockbuster franchises, command massive salaries. Additionally, they earn significantly from endorsements, producing roles, and profit participation deals.
Media stars, especially those with a strong presence on digital platforms, can earn nine figures. For instance, YouTubers and influencers with millions of followers can generate substantial income from ad revenue, brand partnerships, and merchandise sales.
Hedge Funds & Investment Bankers
Investment bankers and hedge fund managers are some of the highest earners in the financial sector due to their expertise. Some notable examples include:
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates ($19.1 billion)
David Tepper, hedge fund manager ($18.5 billion)
Carl Icahn, founder of Icahn Enterprises ($10.1 billion)
The music industry has always been a lucrative field for successful artists. Pop superstars like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé have made fortunes from their music sales, concert tours, and endorsement deals. These musicians not only create hit songs but also build powerful brands that amplify their earnings.
Entertainment (actors, singers, dancers, etc.)
Performers in the entertainment industry, including actors, singers, and dancers, can achieve nine-figure incomes. Successful film actors can earn millions per movie while top-charting musicians make a significant portion of their income from touring. Broadway performers and dancers in high-demand shows can also command high salaries.
Top-notch Business Owners
Business owners, especially those who own large corporations or successful startups, can earn nine figures. This income comes from their business profits and, in some cases, from selling their businesses. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have made billions from their ventures.
These careers represent the pinnacle of earning potential in their respective fields. However, it’s essential to note that reaching this income level requires exceptional talent, hard work, and often a good dose of luck.
Are 9-Figures Rich?
When we talk about money, figures, and digits start dancing in our heads. Six figures? That’s quite impressive. Seven figures? Now you’re playing with the big boys. But when we leap into the world of nine-figure incomes, we’re talking about a whole different ball game. It’s like comparing a kiddie pool to the Pacific Ocean!
A nine-figure income means someone is raking in between $100,000,000 and $999,999,999 annually. That’s right. There are more zeros in that figure than in a beginner’s Sudoku puzzle! This income bracket places individuals among the financial titans of the world. To put it plainly, if you’re earning nine figures, you’re not just rich—you’re Scrooge McDuck swimming in a vault of gold-level wealth.
But let’s be real, nine-figure incomes are as rare as a unicorn at a donkey convention. Even some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, didn’t make their billion-dollar fortunes overnight. It took years of smart decisions, a bit of luck, and probably a few sleepless nights.
And don’t forget, these ultra-wealthy folks aren’t waiting for a paycheck every month. Their wealth comes from various sources, including investments, real estate, and businesses3. They’ve got their fingers in so many pies; they could open a bakery!
What Does a 9-Figure Lifestyle Entail?
Living a 9-figure lifestyle is beyond the realm of what most people could even imagine. It involves not just extraordinary wealth but also the responsibilities and opportunities that come with it. Here’s a detailed look at what such a lifestyle might entail:
A 9-figure lifestyle allows for some of the most opulent luxuries in the world. For instance, consider real estate: billionaires often own multiple properties around the globe. According to a report by Economics Times, the average billionaire owns 4 homes, with each worth nearly $20 million.
Traveling is another area where this wealth is evident. Private jet travel is commonplace among this group. The cost of owning a private jet can range from $3 million to over $90 million, not including the ongoing costs of maintenance, fuel, and crew salaries.
Philanthropy is a significant aspect of a 9-figure lifestyle. Many ultra-wealthy individuals are committed to giving back to society. For example, Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, pledged to give away 99% of his wealth to philanthropic causes.
The Giving Pledge is another example of this. Initiated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, it’s a commitment by some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to give away more than half of their wealth to solve societal problems.
Individuals with a 9-figure income often have vast and diverse investment portfolios. For instance, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet, has investments spanning multiple industries. He owns The Washington Post, has a venture capital firm called Bezos Expeditions, and invests in space exploration with his company Blue Origin.
Having a 9-figure income often means employing an extensive personal staff to handle daily affairs. For example, Oprah Winfrey, a billionaire media mogul, reportedly employs a team of over 3,000 staff, including gardeners, chefs, housekeepers, and security personnel.
This level of staffing isn’t uncommon among the ultra-wealthy. After all, managing a 9-figure lifestyle requires a lot of planning and assistance to make sure everything runs smoothly.
The ultra-wealthy have significant influence in politics due to their large contributions to political campaigns and the influence they can wield over policy decisions. This influence can be used for both good and bad purposes, depending on who is wielding it.
However, the effects of political influence by wealthy individuals shouldn’t be underestimated. It can have a profound impact on policy decisions and shape public opinion in powerful ways. This level of influence is not available to everyone, but those with 9-figure incomes typically use it to their advantage.
Privacy and Security
With great wealth comes the need for privacy and security. People with a 9-figure income often invest in advanced security systems, hire personal security staff, and take measures to maintain their privacy.
This isn’t just to protect their money; it’s also about protecting themselves and their families from potential threats. After all, when you’re one of the wealthiest people in the world, there are bound to be a lot of eyes on you.
Those with a 9-figure lifestyle often have access to experiences that are out of reach for most. This can range from private concerts with top musicians to exclusive dining experiences with world-renowned chefs.
This level of wealth also opens up opportunities to travel to the most luxurious places in the world. From private island getaways to luxury cruises, the experiences available to 9-figure earners are limited only by their imagination and budget.
The Bottom Line – Making 9 Figures
Taking all of this into account, it is clear that those with a 9-figure income have access to exclusive and luxurious experiences, as well as the privacy and security often associated with great wealth. This level of influence can also be extremely powerful. Therefore, it should not be underestimated or overlooked.
Overall, 9 figures is an amazing achievement and one that requires hard work and dedication. It is often an indicator of success and can open up a world of new possibilities for those who have achieved it.
Regardless of your current financial status, never forget that anything is possible with determination and perseverance! With the right attitude and mindset, you, too, could one day reach 9 figures or more. Start planning today, and remember to take every opportunity that comes your way. With a bit of luck and the right attitude, success is just around the corner.
FAQs – Making 9 Figures
How many words are nine figures?
Nine figures is a term used to refer to incomes between $100,000,000 and $999,999,999. It does not refer to the number of words.
Does anyone make nine figures?
In the United States, a remarkably small number of individuals achieve the remarkable milestone of earning nine figures or more. According to a report by Market Watch, only 205 people in America earn an astonishing sum of over $50,000,000 in wages alone annually.
To put this into perspective, a nine-figure income would be twice the amount of $100,000,000! As a result, the exclusivity of this income bracket is amplified, leading to a limited number of individuals who can boast such astronomical earnings.
What do “figures” mean in money?
Figures is a term used in accounting and finance to refer to digits of numerical values. It does not refer to physical currency or coins. For example, if you have $50,000, five figures are present (50000). This can also apply to other forms of money, such as stocks, bonds, and investments.
What is a nine-figure job?
A nine-figure job is a term used to refer to the careers of those who have achieved the tremendous milestone of earning nine figures or more annually. This could include professionals from various industries such as tech, investment banking, and sports.
These individuals are typically highly successful in their fields and command higher salaries than other professionals due to their extensive experience and knowledge.
What’s the difference between a 9-figure salary and a 9-figure income?
A 9-figure salary is an annual income of $100,000,000 or more. A 9-figure income is a measure of all sources of income that a person has, including wages, investments, and other revenue streams like royalties. This means that a person can have a nine-figure income without having an extremely high salary.
For example, someone who earns a salary of $1,000,000 but has investments of $100,000,000 would have a 9-figure income. This demonstrates why it is important to consider all sources of income when assessing the overall financial health and status of an individual or family.
What is the difference between 9 figures and 8 figures?
Eight figures refer to financial values between $10,000,000 and $99,999,999. In contrast, 9 figures are incomes of $100,000,000 or more. This is an important distinction to make when discussing the wealth of individuals because it shows how much greater the income of a nine-figure earner is compared to someone with eight figures.
For example, someone who makes $100,000,000 in a year would have twice the earnings of someone who makes $50,000,000. This is why it is important to consider figures when discussing wealth and income, as they can provide valuable insight into the financial status of an individual or family.
Is 9 figures a lot of money?
Yes, 9 figures is a lot of money. It is an astronomical amount that few individuals ever reach. As such, it demonstrates the impressive achievements of those who have managed to achieve nine-figure incomes and provides insight into their level of success and financial status.
The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet, Inc. does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks, securities or other investments.
Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions. In this episode: Learn Nerdy tips to plan a Disney vacation without going broke, and how to choose a retirement plan when self-employed.
This Week in Your Money: Unlock the magic of making your next Disney vacation more affordable with insider tips from travel Nerd Sally French. She joins hosts Sean Pyles and Liz Weston to unveil the secrets behind experiencing Disneyland and Disney World on a budget, from strategic hotel choices to the types of tickets you might want to avoid. Plus: The Nerds discuss the value of early entry benefits, share their hot takes on whether Genie+ tickets are worth the splurge and explore methods for saving money on food and souvenirs.
Today’s Money Question: Investing Nerd June Sham joins Sean and Liz to answer a listener’s question about how to manage retirement plans and quarterly taxes as a self-employed professional. The Nerds go deep into 401(k) contribution limits, mega backdoor Roth 401(k) and IRA plans and SEP, or simplified employee pension, plans. You’ll discover money-saving strategies, understand when it’s important to budget for quarterly taxes and learn when you might need a tax professional to keep your finances in check.
Check out this episode on your favorite podcast platform, including:
NerdWallet stories related to this episode:
Sean Pyles: Liz, I know you’re a big Disney fan and a Disneyland regular. How much do you think you’ve spent at Disneyland over the years?
Liz Weston: Oh, so much that Scrooge McDuck hasn’t finished counting it yet.
Sean Pyles: That’s a lot of gold coins. Well, this episode, we’re going to help folks find a more affordable way to get the most out of a Disney vacation.
Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where you send us your money questions and we answer them with the help of our genius Nerds. I’m Sean Pyles.
Liz Weston: And I’m Liz Weston. Listener, you know the deal. There’s probably something in your financial life that you need help with. Well, let us be your Nerdy helping hand. No matter what the money question, send it our way.
Sean Pyles: You can leave us a voicemail or text us on the Nerd Hotline at 901-730-6373. That’s 901-730-NERD. You can also email us at [email protected]
Liz Weston: In this episode, Sean and I answer a listener’s question about choosing between different retirement accounts. But first, it’s off to Disney. We’re talking with travel writer Sally French about how you can save money on a Disney vacation.
Welcome back to Smart Money, Sally.
Sally French: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be back talking about one of my favorite topics, Disneyland.
Sean Pyles: Yeah. So Sally, it’s summertime. If families want to squeeze in a vacation to Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California before school starts, how much should listeners budget?
Sally French: Sean, I love the question, but it is so broad. There are so many ways to travel to Disney on every budget. That said, NerdWallet did some research to understand how much a trip costs for a family of four. What NerdWallet found is that a three-night visit to Disney World can range from about $3,000 on the lower end up to $6,000 for families who prefer more of a deluxe experience, and at Disneyland, it’s actually slightly more expensive. A family of four can expect to spend $3,600 on the low end and $6,500 on the higher end.
Sean Pyles: That is a lot of money. You can have a fantastic trip through Europe for that amount of cash. So what do you think are some good ways to save?
Sally French: What NerdWallet found is that more than tickets, more than souvenirs or food, hotels ate up the biggest chunk of the budget. And a big reason why Disneyland trips were more expensive overall than Disney World trips is because Disneyland hotels are more expensive overall.
When NerdWallet compiled this research, we looked at Disney-owned hotels, that’s as opposed to something like a Hilton or a Hyatt nearby, and in fact, staying at that Hilton or that Hyatt nearby or even something off-property like a vacation rental can be one of the best ways to save. Disney-owned hotels are just so expensive. At least at Disney World, there are roughly two dozen Disney-owned hotels, but at Disneyland there are only three Disney-owned hotels, which just really limits the options. So if you do want to fully stay at Disney for your entire trip, expect to pay a lot more.
Liz Weston: And it’s gotten more expensive over the years. I remember back in the day, you could actually get a room at the Grand Californian at Disneyland for under $200. Those days are so long gone. Yes, I just …
Sally French: Wow! Liz, please tell me you snagged that under-$200 deal. I’ve never stayed there because it is not in my budget.
Liz Weston: We snagged that a couple of times in January when our daughter was very small. Now, I just checked, and a standard room is over $800 a night at that one hotel. Yeah, so it’s crazy.
Sally French: But I think it is worth mentioning what the benefits are. So for people who don’t know what the Grand Californian is, that hotel has its own entrance to California Adventure Theme Park, and there are other benefits, like early entry. Early entry can be one of the most valuable perks because you get in line before everyone else does, and you know at Disney, time is money. So even though it’s expensive, just keep in mind there are benefits that, for some families, it can be worth it.
Sean Pyles: And getting into the park early can maybe make it so you don’t have to buy something like Genie+, which is a tool that allows people to skip lines in a very convoluted way. And Liz, I know you have strong feelings about this program. Can you please give us your thoughts?
Liz Weston: I’m going to try my hardest not to derail the conversation multiple times, but I do have to have a rant about Genie+. Could Disney have come up with a more confusing and complicated system? I would give anything to go back to our beloved FastPass, which was actually free. Now, you have to pay $25-plus per person to skip some lines, not all the lines, some lines. plus you’re going to pay another $25 to $30 bucks, again per person, to skip the lines for each of the most popular rides. It’s a huge additional expense for a family, but the alternative is standing for hours in line because the parks are almost constantly busy.
So to circle back to that early entry can make a big difference, the other thing that can really help is to be there at what they call rope drop, which is when the parks first open, generally about 30 minutes before the posted time. So if you can get your whole family up and there to the park, you can actually ride a lot of rides in that first hour or so.
Sally French: Yeah. And you know Liz, that’s really the best tip. I was actually just at Disney World and in the first hour, we did eight rides. We just beelined to Fantasy Land and just boom, boom, boom. We just hit all of them. But then the next three hours, we only got on two rides because people start piling in late. And so if you can get all those rides in early, you knock it all out and then have the rest of the day to sort of kick back and relax.
Sean Pyles: Yeah. Well also, if you are looking to have a relaxing vacation, I wouldn’t necessarily think that Disney is the place to do that. Between all of the people and the time and the money involved, it seems a little bit too stressful for my tastes.
But Sally, I’m wondering if you have any other tips for how people can save money if they are going to go the Disney route for their vacation.
Sally French: Yeah. So we talked already about considering staying off property. Again, there’s pros and cons, but other things are bringing your own stuff from off-property, so that is food and souvenirs. A lot of people don’t realize that Disney actually is very open about allowing you to bring in your own outside food. There are just a few limitations, like you can’t bring in glass or hard-sided coolers, things like that.
Same for souvenirs. Disney charges so much for souvenirs, but typically, there are very similar souvenirs being sold at Target. Your kid wants to go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and get their princess dress. Can you go to a store like Target or even order on Amazon or wherever you buy kids toys and buy a princess dress for your kid there? They probably won’t even realize that you didn’t buy it at the Disney parks. So if you can surprise your kid that night and say, “Here’s your new princess dress,” they’ll probably think it came from Disney anyway.
Liz Weston: And I’m not sure about Disney World, but not far from Disneyland is what we like to call “The Magical Target” because it has tons of Disney merchandise for half or less of what you’d pay at the parks. It’s on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, which is just down the road from Disneyland.
Sean Pyles: Tickets are also a really expensive part of Disney, but there are a few ways to get discounted tickets, right?
Sally French: Yeah, so Liz already mentioned Target, but I also recommend using Target to simply buy gift cards, which you can turn around and use to buy souvenirs in the park or use them to buy theme park tickets. The reason why I recommend buying gift cards at Target is for folks who have a Target REDCard, which is Target’s branded credit card, that REDCard offers 5% off and it’s automatic at the register on Target purchases.
If you’re not going to Target and you don’t have a Target REDCard, you might also look at places like Costco. They often have deals. AAA tends to have deals. Of course, these vary based on the time of the year. There’s even sometimes local resident deals. So if you live in California, there might be an offer. So shop around, even if you have some sort of corporate employee discount program, you might find discount Disney tickets there as well.
Liz Weston: And we should mention that Target also sells Disney entrance tickets and there’s usually a $5 to $10 discount compared to buying them directly from Disney. And then again, you get that 5% REDCard discount.
Sally French: Yeah, that’s a great tip.
Another thing to remember is Disney recently implemented that on-demand pricing. So if you are used to taking Ubers and Lyfts, you might know about surge pricing. That is something that has relatively been new to the Disney parks. So for better or for worse, it used to be that if you wanted to go to Disneyland on Christmas, a Saturday in the summer, it was just absolutely packed. And then if you went to Disney on a Tuesday in February when it’s raining, it would be a complete ghost town. And what’s happened now is that they charge significantly less to go on those off-peak times, that’s the rainy Tuesday in February, and significantly more to go on the peak times like the summer Saturday.
And so what that’s actually done is it has evened out the crowds because people are price-sensitive and they say, “You know what? I don’t mind going on that Tuesday in February if I can save money.” So if you are like that, you might be able to save money by going on those off-peak seasons.
Another sort of ticket hack, I like to say, is to avoid the Park Hopper. So Disney sells tickets that are single-day single-park, or they sell Park Hopper tickets, which allow you to go to multiple parks in one day. So at Disney World, there are four parks, and at Disneyland, there are two parks. If you are only going to be at the overall Disney resort for one day and you want to see what each park has to offer, then you will have to buy a Park Hopper, but these tickets are more expensive than single-day single-park. So if you are going to be on property for multiple days, I recommend just doing that single-day single-park.
Sean Pyles: So Sally, I have one last question for you. Given how much things cost at Disney, is there anything free at these parks?
Sally French: Sean, you asked the right person because I love free things to do at Disney.
So at Disneyland Resort in California, they have a shopping district called Downtown Disney. You can also wander into some of the hotels, which are nice to look around. You might even spot a Disney character there. But at Disney World, Sean, I actually took an entire week-long trip to Disney World and did not set foot into the parks once. That’s because I was explicitly trying to figure out what I could do outside the theme parks and the answer is a lot.
So they have something similar to Downtown Disney called Disney Springs. Again, it’s a shopping and dining district. They also have another smaller district called Disney’s Boardwalk and there are so many free things to do here. So the Boardwalk has live entertainment at night. You’ll see jugglers, you’ll see singers.
And then all of the resorts have so many unique attractions. We mentioned earlier there are about two dozen Disney resorts. They’re all really highly themed. You can watch the fireworks, you can ride the monorail around. They have so many amazing transportation systems that are free, like lovely boat rides. They have a Skyliner, which is this aerial gondola. It’s free.
And so believe it or not, there is so much stuff that you can do outside the parks that I think you could have a great time at Disney without once stepping foot inside a theme park.
Sean Pyles: All right, well Sally, thank you so much for sharing your tips with us.
Sally French: Thank you.
Liz Weston: Before we move on, we have an exciting announcement. We are running another book giveaway sweepstakes ahead of our next Nerdy Book Club episode.
Sean Pyles: Next month, we’re speaking with Cameron Huddleston, author of “Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk,” which guides us through challenging but essential financial conversations with our parents. To enter for a chance to win our book giveaway, send an email to [email protected] with the subject “Book Sweepstakes” during the sweepstakes period. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on August 9th. Include the following information: your first and last name, email address, ZIP code and phone number. For more information, please visit our official sweepstakes rules page.
That wraps up our This Week in Your Money segment. Today’s Money Question is up next. Stay with us.
This episode’s Money Question comes from Austin, who texted us their question. Here it is as read by our audio editor, Kaely Monahan.
Kaely Monahan: Hello, my name is Austin and I have a question for a future NerdWallet Smart Money podcast episode. I earned some of my income through 1099 work as an on-call pediatrician at my local hospital. I’ve created a single-member LLC to receive this pay and would like to utilize it in the best way possible. It is extra and not needed for our monthly bills or expenses, and thus is used solely for saving and investing. I already maxed out the yearly employee 401(k) contributions and backdoor Roth through my W-2 salary, so I don’t think I can do any more on that front. I know I could contribute up to 25% of the total 1099 money to a solo 401(k).
My primary question is logistically, how do I do this? How do I choose between a Roth versus traditional 401(k)? How should I set aside some money for quarterly taxes and how do you pay quarterly taxes? How can I determine how much to put into the solo 401(k) each month versus how much I can save or invest in my taxable brokerage? And finally, do I need to wait until year-end and know the total yearly income before investing in anything? Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for all your help.
Liz Weston: To help us answer Austin’s question, on this episode of the podcast we’re joined by investing writer June Sham. Welcome to Smart Money, June.
June Sham: Thank you so much for having me.
Sean Pyles: It’s great to have you on, June. There’s a lot going on in Austin’s question, but before we get into all of it, a quick reminder courtesy of the NerdWallet legal team. We are not investment advisors or financial advisors and will not tell you what to do with your money. Our job as Nerds is to give you the information and context so that you can make informed decisions with your money.
OK, now let’s get into the meat of Austin’s question. They’re asking about three different types of retirement plans: an employer-sponsored 401(k), a backdoor Roth and a solo 401(k). And Austin is essentially wondering how to fund and prioritize these accounts.
June Sham: Yeah, of course. So with the employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, you as the employee make pre-tax contributions into the account. What’s really great is that typically, most employers will offer a matching contribution based on the amount that you put in, and so it’s a great way to earn some extra free money towards your retirement savings.
Some 401(k) plans now also come in a Roth version, which doesn’t have an upfront deduction, but you do get to withdraw the money tax-free in retirement. So Austin also said he’s doing a backdoor Roth. What that means is that he’s contributing money to a traditional IRA and then converting that money to a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs have income limits, so this backdoor version is a method for people with higher incomes to get money into their Roth IRAs, which they necessarily wouldn’t be able to do.
Liz Weston: Yes, and like a Roth 401(k), Roth IRAs also don’t have an upfront tax break, but the money that you take out in retirement is tax-free.
So June, what about options for people who are self-employed or have self-employment income like Austin has?
June Sham: With self-employment income, you have a number of different options, which I think, Sean, you’ve covered on the podcast before. Austin might be confusing a couple of the more common types of self-employment retirement plans. A couple of these could be the SEP, or simplified employee pension, which allows Austin to contribute up to 25% of their net earnings from self-employment, and that’s up to $66,000 this year.
A solo 401(k) plan, which Austin mentioned, also has a $66,000 limit in 2023, but it breaks down a little differently. The self-employed business owner basically could contribute as an employer and an employee. And as an employee, Austin can contribute 100% of their compensation up to what’s known as elective deferral limit, which is $22,500 for people under 50 in 2023. As an employer, Austin can make a profit-sharing contribution of up to 25% of compensation. And the cool thing is that both the SEP and the solo 401(k) now have Roth versions as well.
Liz Weston: I just want to take a minute because most people, when they think about 401(k) limits, they’re thinking about the elective deferral limit. So that’s the one that gets all the publicity that if you know anything about 401(k)s, that’s probably the one you’ve seen, but these plans actually have much higher limits that count things like employer and after-tax contributions.
Sean Pyles: June, some financial advisors will recommend a specific order for prioritizing different types of retirement accounts. Can you talk about that and what Austin should consider as they’re deciding which of their retirement accounts to put the most money in?
June Sham: When it comes to figuring out where to put your retirement savings, it really comes down to the types of accounts you have and how much you can set aside. Let’s say, for example, it’s not possible to contribute the maximum to all of their retirement accounts, and in this case, most advisors probably recommend starting with your 401(k) plan, especially if it has an employer match to get that free money.
After you’ve gotten the match, you can look to an IRA based on the type of tax break you want, and from there, you can go back to your 401(k) plan.
Sean Pyles: Austin also wants to know how to set up a solo 401(k). How would they go about doing that?
June Sham: For that, you need an employer identification number, which they already have since they’ve set up that limited liability company. From there, you can set up a solo 401(k) with most online brokers and they’ll provide stuff like plan adoption agreements and account applications to fill out. Once that’s completed, you can go ahead and choose your investments.
Liz Weston: OK. For the second part of Austin’s question, they want to know how to prioritize contributions specifically among their plans. What would you tell people about that?
June Sham: So for people like Austin who have both an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan and a solo 401(k) plan, the most important thing they need to remember is that the annual contribution limit is a combined limit. So how to split contributions between the two plans could depend on things like employer match, plan administrative costs and investment options.
Sean Pyles: All right. And that part about combined contribution limits is really important here. In general for the 2023 tax year, the elective deferral limit for 401(k)s is $22,500, the number that we’ve mentioned earlier in this episode, and that’s if you’re under 50. If you’re 50 and over, you can contribute up to $30,000.
From Austin’s question, it seems like they’re saying they’re contributing the maximum amount to their 401(k) from their W-2 employer and they’re also looking to add more to a 401(k) via a solo 401(k). That might mean that they actually over-contribute, which could land Austin in a bit of trouble. Can you discuss what happens if you do over-contribute to an account like a 401(k)?
June Sham: Yeah, so if you have an excess contribution, it must be withdrawn by April 15th of the following year, or else there could be a lot of penalties including having the plan disqualified.
Sean Pyles: Hm. That’s bad.
Liz Weston: Yeah, very bad.
June Sham: Yep, that’s not really great. Austin could also make contributions to the solo 401(k) solely as an employer, not as an employee, so that Austin can avoid going above that employee contribution limit. Or a last option is that Austin could simply opt for a SEP and not have to worry about that combined limit, since a SEP is considered an entirely different type of plan if it’s offered by a different employer.
Sean Pyles: June, you mentioned earlier that SEPs and solo 401(k)s also have a Roth option, and so do a lot of workplace 401(k) plans. A lot of people have a hard time deciding when to contribute to Roth versus options that give them an upfront tax deduction. Personally, I try to balance when my retirement money is taxed. Some is taxed now and some will be taxed down the road. I contribute a lot to my 401(k). Last year, I was really focused on contributing to my Roth IRA, and I recently set up something called a mega backdoor Roth, something that I know Liz is a huge fan of and we’ll get into in a little bit.
Liz Weston: I totally will. I totally will. I am all about tax diversification and it’s a phrase that planners love to use when they’re describing the ability basically to better control your taxes in retirement. If all of your money is in pre-tax options, like if you’re maxing out the 401(k) pre-tax or putting it all in a traditional IRA where you get a tax deduction, it all has to be taxed when it comes out and they force you to take it out at a certain age. If you’ve got money in a Roth, you don’t have to pay income taxes on withdrawals and you also don’t have to worry about required minimum distributions. That gives you a heck of a lot more control.
June Sham: Yeah, early in my career, I focused solely on making Roth contributions for pretty much that exact reason. I assume that my earning potential would change in the future and I wanted to be able to access that money tax-free in retirement. But now, I see a lot of value in having, Liz, what you said, tax diversification and taking advantage of things now as opposed to later and helping me plan out my retirement strategy.
Liz Weston: Yes. And one other thing to check out is what Sean just mentioned, which is the mega backdoor Roth option. We talked about the backdoor Roth where you contribute to a traditional IRA and then you convert it. The mega backdoor Roth is a similar idea, but it is on steroids. So mega backdoor Roths have to be offered by your employer and many of them don’t.
But if they do, it starts out with a 401(k) plan that allows you to make after-tax contributions, and then it offers what’s known as an in-service conversion. In other words, the money you put in after tax is converted right away into a Roth option. Normally, you would have to wait until you left your job to roll after-tax money into a Roth. So high earners really like the mega backdoor Roth because they don’t have to worry about those Roth IRA income limits, plus you can put a lot more money in. IRAs have a lower contribution limit, the $6,500 that we mentioned earlier for people under 50. With a mega backdoor Roth, you can contribute up to, get this, $43,500. That’s in addition to the $22,500 that you can contribute to the regular 401(k) plan.
Now, there’s a lot of math that goes into this and we will have links in the show notes to articles that explain exactly how this works and who it might be good for.
Sean Pyles: I think a lot of listeners may be listening to that and thinking, “First of all, that’s confusing. I don’t know what’s going on.” And second of all, “$66,000 is a lot, a lot of money to contribute to a retirement account in a single year.” And so I want to zoom out a little bit and talk about retirement account contributions, maxing out retirement accounts, in relation to other financial goals, because maxing out a retirement plan or three can be really great for your future self, but it’s not realistic for many people and it can sometimes conflict with other goals like saving for a down payment on a house, building up an emergency fund, that sort of thing.
And our listener, Austin, is also wondering about when to invest money into a brokerage account versus a retirement account. I’d love to hear how you guys think about competing financial priorities in your own lives, especially as it relates to retirement and other investments.
June Sham: Yeah, you bring up a really good point, Sean. Our immediate financial goals and responsibilities are just as important as our future ones. It would be so great if we could all max out our retirement accounts, and truly, major congratulations to Austin for doing so, but it’s also not the end of the world if we can’t.
At least in my own life, I try to remember that everyone’s financial journey is different. You can’t use someone else’s financial plans because we’re all in different places. And so being strategic with your own money and being realistic with your own goals is the best way to make the decisions for yourself.
When deciding to prioritize between retirement or brokerage accounts though, you really need to consider when you need the money. If it’s shorter than five years, then short-term investments like online savings accounts, CDs or money market accounts might be the best move. For anything longer, you could consider, then, a brokerage or retirement account, but just remember that with retirement accounts, you can’t withdraw the funds until 59 and a half years old without incurring penalties and taxes.
Sean Pyles: One way I like to think about retirement contributions and the lofty goal of maxing out accounts in relation to other things is that you don’t have to do one thing for the rest of your life. Maybe you have a great year financially and you can max out your retirement account and maybe the next year, you have some financial setbacks or you have other expenses come up, like you have a kid, that needs a lot of money of course, and so you draw back from contributing as much to your retirement account because you have a much more pressing financial priority in the form of a baby or a house or whatever it may be.
So I think that just understanding that you may have peaks and valleys of what you can put into different financial priorities will help you be more flexible and accomplish many different things simultaneously.
Liz Weston: Yes, I would just add that I am really glad that I tried to put in as much in as possible to my retirement funds when I was younger because that gave me a heck of a lot more flexibility down the road when I did want to start my own business and have a kid and take some time off. And all those things were possible because I kind of maxed out at the beginning, if that makes sense. It is not something that everybody can do. However, that wonderful power of compounding really gets going for you if you can put money into a retirement account as early as possible.
So I do encourage people, don’t ignore this, this is really important, try to do it, but as you guys said, there are lots of different goals that we have to accomplish and sometimes it’s tough to get it all done.
June Sham: Yeah. And every little bit helps. If you only just put in a little bit, compound interest can help you take care of it even more.
Liz Weston: Yep, exactly.
Sean Pyles: Yeah. And play the long game. And Liz, now I have a question for you as a business owner. Austin is wondering about quarterly taxes and how to manage them. I’m guessing your suggestion for Austin would be to hire a qualified tax professional.
Liz Weston: And the earlier, the better. When you have your own business, you have so many complicated issues to deal with. It can really help to have another set of eyes on your tax return, someone knowledgeable who can guide you and answer questions because tax people do this 24/7. I mean, Austin is a doctor and they’ve got a business to run. They’ve got a lot of things to do without going to study the tax law. So yes, absolutely get a qualified tax professional.
We have what’s known as a pay-as-you-go tax system, so we are supposed to be withholding taxes as we earn money. You can’t just wait until you file your taxes to figure out what you owe, unfortunately. And Sean, I think you discovered this.
Sean Pyles: Yes.
Liz Weston: To your distress earlier in your career.
Sean Pyles: Years ago, I was on the hook for a pretty big tax bill because I did not save as I went with my contractor money, and I did not enjoy it. So learn from me and put aside the money, pay quarterly. Yes.
Liz Weston: There you go. And a tax pro can help you figure out how much to pay each quarter so that you are what’s known as penalty proof. In other words, you won’t owe penalties for under-withholding. Once you know how much you owe each quarter, you divide it by the number of checks or payments or whatever that you expect to get in the meantime, and you set that cash aside. Then you pay before the deadline each quarter. It’s super easy to do online.
Sean Pyles: I don’t think we’ve ever covered so many disparate but interconnected and complicated topics in a single segment.
June, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your insights.
June Sham: Thanks so much for having me.
Sean Pyles: And with that, now let’s get onto our takeaway tips. Liz, will you please start us off?
Liz Weston: Yes. First, know your options. You may have a variety of retirement accounts available, including Roth IRAs, traditional 401(k)s, and self-employment options.
Sean Pyles: Next, plan for tomorrow, but live for today. Maxing out your retirement accounts is a great goal, but think about how you can balance that with nearer-term financial priorities like going on vacations or buying a house.
Liz Weston: Finally, tap professional help. Tax obligations as a business owner can be confusing. Consider hiring a qualified tax pro to help you sort out what you owe and how to pay it.
Sean Pyles: And that’s all we have for this episode.
Do you have a money question of your own? Turn to the nerds and call or text us your questions at 901-730-6373. That’s 901-730-NERD. You can also email us at [email protected] Visit nerdwallet.com/podcast for more info on this episode, and remember to follow, rate, and review us wherever you’re getting this podcast.
This episode was produced by Liz Weston and myself with help from Tess Vigeland and Meghan Coyle. Kaely Monahan and Kevin Tidmarsh mixed our audio. And a big thank you to the folks on the NerdWallet copy desk for all their help.
Liz Weston: And here’s our brief disclaimer. We are not financial or investment advisors. This nerdy info is provided for general educational and entertainment purposes and may not apply to your specific circumstances.
Sean Pyles: And with that said, until next time, turn to the Nerds.
Every once in a while, a movie sequel or remake surpasses the original film. After polling the internet, “Name a single movie where the sequel or remake was better than the original?” Here are the top-voted responses.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
“The Dark Knight had so many more moving pieces. They were beautifully done, but you could argue that the Joker was the main character, not Batman,” one suggested. Another confessed, “I have no attachment to Batman, grew up a Captain America fan and Marvel in general, but The Dark Knight is the best superhero movie, full stop.”
2. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Someone stated, “Following up with Spider-Man 2. Superhero sequels are the exception to the rule because the first one is usually the origin story. For example, Batman Begins spends half the movie not being Batman.” “Spider-Man 2 elevated the superhero movie genre. It explored the human side of being a superhero,” a second added.
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Greatest action film of all time” claimed one. Another argued, “Terminator 2 is in the conversation for the most remarkable film of all time. Period.”
4. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
“The Empire Strikes Back has to be the ultimate answer, right? Interestingly enough, it’s the one film in the trilogy directed by Irvin Kirshner, and George Lucas purportedly considers it the weakest of the three,” shared one.
5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” another noted. “The real testament to this film’s greatness is that you don’t need to have watched any Star Trek before it to be blown away. I took my significant other to see a showing at Montalban’s theater, and she loved it, having never seen an original Star Trek episode or film prior.”
6. The Thing (1982)
“The Thing with Kurt Russell. John Carpenter doesn’t always strike gold, but when he does, he nails it. I rewatch The Thing almost every year. Top five GOAT horror flicks easily,” one suggested. Another concurred, “The most obvious answer to the remake question.”
7. Paddington 2 (2017)
“Paddington 2. I say that in the knowledge that the original Paddington is a work of art,” shared one. Another confessed, “I cried through the entire thing. It made me want to be a better man.”
8. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
“The Rescuers Down Under,” one replied. “A film with no business getting a sequel, in which the sequel had no business being that good. You can see where the animation budget exploded.”
“It was the first film to use Disney’s new digital animation system. The Little Mermaid had a scene using it at the end as a test, but most of it was still hand-inked and painted. I’m sure they wanted to go all out with it,” another suggested.
9. Ocean’s 11 (2001)
“Ocean’s Eleven. The original with The Rat Pack was not great. People don’t realize that it was a remake. The original was from 1960. As someone who loves a good heist movie and who loves old stuff, I said, heck yeah, and wasted my time watching it. I mean it. It wasted my time. Very disappointing,” someone shared.
10. Dredd (2012)
“Dredd with Karl Urban is way better than Sylvester Stallone’s version,” one suggested. “The worst thing about Urban’s is that it just leaves you wanting a sequel. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it,” confessed another.
11. Evil Dead II (1987)
“Evil Dead 2. I know this is the film I’ve watched more than any other. It’s just a flat-out masterpiece. Of course, I still have an enormous love for the first one, but what they did with the second is so creative and expanded the Ash character so much, and it’s just such an amazing physical performance.”
12. The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)
“The Muppets Christmas Carol,” said one. “Finally, an indisputable fact. There are a bunch of decent to good versions of A Christmas Carol, but for some reason, the best version is the one with singing puppets,” another replied.
“It’s not the singing muppets alone that made it. It’s the stark contrast between the silliness of the muppets and Michael Caine playing Scrooge as serious as a heart attack,” a third argued.
13. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel movie ever. Even if you’re not into Marvel, this movie is a great action movie,” claimed one. “I think the Captain America films are the most consistent series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” added another.
14. Shrek 2 (2004)
“Shrek 2 is a hill that I will die on,” stated one. “I’m convinced people think the first is better just because the Shrek concept was new and the first is more nostalgic. It was a good movie, but Shrek 2 was a masterpiece.”
15. The Suicide Squad (2021)
“The Suicide Squad with Idris Elba and John Cena destroys Suicide Squad with Will Smith. The first one was like, ‘Here’s our attempt to rip off Guardians of the Galaxy! It’s a bunch of wacky jerk characters you’ve never heard of and a lot of licensed music, and it’s more of a comedy than our other superhero movies!’
And then the sequel was, ‘That didn’t go as well as we wanted, so this time we literally hired the guy who made Guardians of the Galaxy to do it right!”
16. Dune (2021)
“The Dune remake was much better,” one replied. “Oh, David Lynch’s Dune isn’t without its charms. It’s a very odd movie,” a second argued. Finally, a third added, “Totally agree. It’s not as weird and fun as the original version, but it makes more sense regarding the book.”
17. Addams Family Values (1993)
“Addams Family Values. Joan Cusack deserved a supporting actress Oscar nomination. Her performance today still holds up 100%. She’s incredible, and Debbie is such a great character,” one suggested. Another added, “This was too far down. it took all the characters in great new directions. The Debbie and summer camp storylines are both fantastic.”
18. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Someone confessed, “Mad Max: Fury Road. I went into that movie without expectations, which completely blew my mind. It’s my favorite movie in the past decade.” “Me too,” another admitted. “I watch it about once per year, and each time I watch it, my jaw is on the floor for the entire movie.”
19. Casino Royale (2006)
“Casino Royale,” shared one. “Possibly a hot take, but the intro song (You Know My Name by Chris Cornell) is easily my favorite of the James Bond intros.” “Agreed,” said another. “I loved that they used that song as his theme throughout the movie and didn’t play the classic James Bond theme until the end.”
20. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Someone suggested “Little Shop of Horrors.” “I never even knew there was a 1960 version. The 1986 version is a total classic,” admitted another. Finally, a third argued, “If we want to get super technical, the 1986 movie is based on the 1982 off-Broadway musical based on the 1960 movie.”
21. Logan (2017)
“I feel bad for The Wolverine since Logan so overshadowed it. Don’t get me wrong, Logan is the superior film, but The Wolverine significantly improved over X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s just that Logan was so good. Hugh Jackman is Wolverine,” one replied.
22. The Mummy (1999)
“The Mummy with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz is the superior Mummy film. Another added, “Also if we are talking about the Fraser/Weisz continuity, I think The Mummy Returns improves on the original as well.”
23. The Fly (1986)
“The Fly,” one replied. “From what should have been a Twilight Zone episode to one of the best pieces of body horror in history AND brought us, Jeff Goldblum.” “Jeff Goldblum’s performance in The Fly is the male equivalent of Toni Colette’s in Hereditary,” a second suggested.
24. Rush Hour 2 (1998)
“Rush Hour 2. The original Rush Hour was slightly more serious, with hilarious moments like Lethal Weapon. However, Rush Hour 2 was the perfect balance of comedy and action,” shared one. “Absolutely. The chemistry, combined with Vegas hijinks and great villains, made for a rewatchable movie,” a third added.
25. The Godfather Part II (1977)
“The Godfather Part II. Why on earth did I have to scroll this far to find the number one answer,” someone asked. Another agreed, “It is widely considered that The Godfather Part II is the best movie ever made. So it shouldn’t be this far down the list!” Finally, a third stated, “I agree. I scrolled to almost madness. It’s the epitome of a sequel surpassing its original!”
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Christmas movies are more than entertainment — they can offer financial lessons, too. The Grinch reminds us that expensive things aren’t everything, while Ebenezer Scrooge proves spending and sharing money is often a good thing. And if you learn anything from Home Alone, it’s the importance of security and insurance.
Ahh, the holidays.
There’s nothing better when it’s snowing outside than having a cozy night in, re-watching countless reruns of your favorite holiday movies. 🎥🎄
You love them all — the classics, the rom-coms, the are-they-even-Christmas-movies. (And yes, they are). There’s something undeniably nostalgic and magical about seeing these holiday stories brought to life — even for the hundredth time.
Yes, there are lots of jingle bells, mistletoe kisses, and sparkly snowfalls. But along with the holiday clichés, these Christmas movies might even offer some practical financial lessons. 🤑
Not sure what we’re talking about? Grab your bowl of popcorn and your coziest blanket — and let’s dive into 10 of our favorite holiday movies and the financial lessons you can learn from each. 🍿
1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Let’s start with a classic: a story about the grouchy green monster who lives on Mt. Crumpit. Annoyed by the holiday cheer, the Grinch attempts to “steal” Christmas from the residents of Whoville. You know the rest — after sneaking into all the Who’s houses to take every Christmas gift in sight, the Grinch expects the town to mourn the loss of their beloved holiday.
Instead, he hears them singing and celebrating the next morning — even without their presents. The Grinch learns that it isn’t expensive gifts that matter at Christmas. Instead, it’s the people and community you celebrate with.
💸 Financial lesson: You don’t have to give or receive expensive gifts to celebrate the holidays.
Old Ebenezer Scrooge has come to life many times through countless film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ story — because it truly never gets old.
Scrooge is a grumpy, greedy, and selfish old man with a reputation for his tight-fisted ways. He refuses holiday invitations and unwillingly gives his employee, Bob Cratchit, a single day off for the Christmas holiday.
It’s not until being visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve that he understands the tragic reality of the life he’s been living — and the dark future that awaits if he doesn’t change his ways.
With a new perspective, greedy Scrooge finally loosens the purse strings. He wakes up Christmas morning and immediately sends an expensive Christmas turkey to the Cratchit family, later offering the hardworking Mr. Cratchit a raise. He also celebrates the holiday with his long-neglected nephew, who’s grateful to have his uncle around at last.
💸 Financial lesson: Saving is important, but so is spending money on experiences, things, and gifts that bring value to your life and others’.
Read more: When it’s okay to spend money
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a Wonderful Life depicts the selfless life of George Bailey — from the time he was a kid until he takes over the family Building and Loan business. Soon after their wedding, George and his wife Mary witness a run on the bank. The couple loans out their honeymoon money to keep their customers afloat.
Over the years, George continues to give himself to his community, sacrificing his goals and dreams to serve his neighbors and friends. But when a misplaced check leads George to fear his arrest and his business’s downfall, he loses all hope and contemplates ending his life.
With the help of the angel Clarence, George soon realizes he’s got a family and community who love him. Meanwhile, Mary makes up the lost money through generous donations from friends and neighbors. Try to make it through the final scene without crying, I dare you. 😢
💸 Financial lesson: If you’re struggling financially, there are resources and people who can help.
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
What’s the holiday season without the Griswold family’s hijinks?
Determined to have a wonderful Christmas, Clark Griswold takes the holiday spirit seriously, harvesting an enormous Christmas tree and decking out his house in a blinding display of lights. But as you might expect, things don’t go as planned — especially when the inlaws show up.
With the financial pressure of giving his family an incredible Christmas — plus the added burden of hosting his relatives — Clark desperately awaits the arrival of his Christmas bonus check. To Clark’s dismay, the bonus doesn’t arrive. Until, that is — in a state of fury — Clark confronts his boss about it. In the end, it’s a happy, if unconventional, Christmas.
💸 Financial lesson: Don’t spend beyond your means, even with the stress and pressure of the holidays.
5. The Holiday
The Holiday is a good old rom-com with a holiday twist. Two women on opposite sides of the world are equally unhappy with their love lives as the holidays approach. Trying to escape their respective lives for Christmas, the women meet on a house-swapping website and decide to trade homes for the holidays.
You can guess the rest: In her new surroundings, each woman meets the perfect guy and lives happily ever after-ish — all thanks to a holiday abroad.
💸 Financial lesson: House swapping is a fantastic way to make vacations more affordable.
Read more: Travel hacking 101: A beginner’s guide to travel hacking like a pro
Likely one of the funniest Christmas movies of all time, Elf tells the story of Buddy, a misfit human — raised by elves — as he searches for his biological father in New York City. Hilarity ensues as soon as Buddy reaches the Big Apple, but the financial lessons start in the North Pole.
Surrounded by handy, hard working elves, Buddy grows up doing exactly what’s expected from him: making toys. But it quickly becomes obvious — to Buddy and the elves — that he’s no natural toymaker.
Eventually, Buddy realizes making toys isn’t the right job for him, and he needs to set off in search of something different. First lesson: your initial career may not be the best fit.
Toward the end of the movie, Buddy’s biological dad has to make a tough choice between work and family. He chooses family (it’s a Christmas movie, after all 🧑🎄), and this choice eventually leads him to starting his own business.
💸 Financial lesson: You don’t need to keep a job that makes you unhappy — and you can always strike off on your own.
Read more: How to start your own business — a complete step-by-step guide
7. Die Hard
The only action movie on this classic Christmas list, Die Hard isn’t your typical holiday flick.
On Christmas Eve, New York City Detective John McClane heads to a holiday party at his estranged wife’s Los Angeles office. Instead of holiday festivities and reconciliation, the evening turns into a hostage situation. A group of German radicals seizes the building, and a battle between McClane and the terrorists breaks out.
Where’s the holiday cheer, you ask? Well — *spoiler alert* — the good guys win. It’s Christmas Eve, remember?
And what about the financial lesson? Turns out the bad guys were after bearer bonds — a fixed-income security in the form of a physical certificate. Without registration, bearer bonds belong to whoever has them in their possession. This makes them vulnerable to theft, ideal for money laundering, and the perfect subject of this thrilling holiday film.
💸 Financial lesson: Secure your valuables, and keep your money somewhere safe.
8. Four Christmases
Along with the fun decorations, seasonal treats, and general festivity of the holiday season, this time of year can bring plenty of chores, too. For some, spending your holiday vacation making appearances at numerous parents’ and inlaws’ homes is more of an obligation than a choice.
Some people, like Brad and Kate in Four Christmases, opt to spend Christmas their way by traveling to a faraway, sunny destination. And if you’ve seen this movie and met their families, you know it’s an understandable — even necessary — thing to do.
But Kate and Brad make one big mistake that costs them their trip and instead forces them to spend Christmas day visiting family at four different (and very dysfunctional) households.
Their mistake? Not buying travel insurance.
Yep — after a canceled flight shuts down Kate and Brad’s plans, they spend the holiday making four unpleasant visits instead of relaxing on the beach. Yikes.
💸 Financial lesson: Travel insurance is often worth the cost.
Read more: Is travel insurance worth it?
9. The Preacher’s Wife
The Preacher’s Wife follows the story of Henry, a struggling pastor, trying to make it through the Christmas season. Not only are members of Henry’s congregation coming to him with their own monetary and personal struggles, but the church itself is on rocky financial footing.
With the stress of keeping his congregation afloat, Henry’s marriage starts to disintegrate. It’s not until the arrival of the mysterious angel Dudley that Henry has a change in heart. He starts to understand he can’t do everything — but one thing he must do is be there for his family.
Ultimately, Christmas arrives with a happy ending for both Henry’s congregation and his family.
💸 Financial lesson: Financial stability is important, but don’t let money distract you from other important values.
10. Home Alone
In the original Home Alone, 8-year old Kevin McCallister has to defend his (very large and beautiful) home from burglars after his family accidentally leaves town without him.
Parental mistakes aside, Kevin not only survives — he thrives, booby-trapping his home for the ultimate bad guy takedown. It’s the stuff of (8-year-old) dreams. By the time the police arrive, Kevin has thoroughly destroyed much of his home with tar, glue, feathers, fire, and so much more.
We can learn a lot from Home Alone — aside from not leaving 8-year-olds behind when traveling. But how about taking better measures to secure your gigantic house? Not to mention the importance of buying the right insurance.
💸 Financial lesson: Secure — and insure — your home and valuables.
That’s a wrap on 10 financial lessons from your favorite Christmas movies. From It’s a Wonderful Life to Home Alone, these stories can teach us valuable lessons about money, such as the importance of investing wisely, saving for a rainy day, and securing our valuables.
We can also learn from the mistakes of others, like not buying travel insurance or taking the right measures to protect our homes. So this holiday season, take a few minutes to give your finances a tune-up with these timeless lessons. Happy holidays!
Finding the perfect tree for your apartment seems like it would be an easy task.
Choosing a Christmas tree is not always so simple and straightforward — there are a lot of factors that can impact your decision to get a tree and which type of tree you want for your space.
You may run into a few issues when considering which Christmas tree to get for your apartment. Your apartment may be too small for a full-sized tree. You might not be too thrilled at the thought of having to maintain a tree in your living room and cleaning up dried pine needles for weeks on end. Or you simply may have a hard time wanting a tree because it feels too generic or mainstream and you want something a little different.
Whatever your situation, if you’re looking for alternative Christmas tree ideas, here are some that may spark your interest as you decorate for the holidays.
1. Balloon tree
For a tree that you’ll probably never see anywhere else, tie various balloons together! Blow up some green balloons, then attach a paper clip to the tie of each balloon. Hook the paper clips together and keep adding green balloons until it’s your desired width and height.
To add some extra decorations to your tree, use a star-shaped balloon to top off your tree and add smaller balloons in different colors to look like ornaments. Grab some ribbon and tie it into bows, then use double-sided tape to attach the bows to your tree.
Keep in mind that balloons won’t stay inflated forever, so you may want to use this type of tree for more temporary settings, like parties, or if you’re a Scrooge that thinks Christmas trees should only be left up for a week.
2. Stacked books
For those that love to read more than anything and have a collection of books, you can put your personal library to good use! Place books face-up in a circle on the floor to set the base for how big you want your book tree to be. Stack more books in a circle on top of the existing circle you have, only make the second circle just slightly smaller. Repeat the process until you have room for only one book at the top.
Wrap Christmas lights around your tree of books and add a star to the top! You can even add long strings to ornaments and close the string inside of books to hang ornaments from the tree without damaging any book pages or covers.
3. Garland wall hanging
Source: Centsational Style
Save yourself the floor space by hanging a tree on the wall! Cut a few sections of garland, starting with a large section for the bottom, then gradually smaller pieces that will go towards the top. Secure the garland pieces to the wall using command hooks, starting with the longest piece closest to the floor.
Leave a bit of space (a few inches), then attach the next piece to the wall just above the first one — which should be just a little shorter than the first piece. Repeat this process until your tree has reached your desired size. Then decorate it however you want! Hang some ornaments and lights and start collecting presents underneath.
4. Wood pallet tree
Source: Meatloaf and Melodrama
Reduce, reuse and recycle with this pallet tree! It has a farmhouse-style feel, so if you’re looking for a more rustic Christmas tree idea, get out your saw and start building your tree.
Disassemble an old pallet — remove the nails and separate each of the boards from the base. Then saw the boards into 8-10 pieces, with the first piece being the longest, followed by a series of pieces that get progressively smaller, with the smallest being cut into a triangle shape.
Get another plank of wood from the pallet and attach the cut pieces of wood, with the triangle (smallest piece) at the top and the longest piece at the bottom. Use a nail gun to get the pieces really secure, but if you don’t have a nail gun, you can use a hammer and nails or wood glue to keep the pieces together.
You can paint the tree, if you’d like, then add some decorations to give it more holiday cheer.
5. A-frame ladder tree
Who knew an a-frame ladder could serve a dual purpose? This one is a really easy, quick fix for when you want a tree in a pinch.
Start by setting up a normal a-frame ladder. Then, run a strand or two of Christmas lights between the two sides of the ladder, from the top of the ladder all the way to the bottom. Hang some ornaments from the lights and add a tree topper to the highest point of the ladder.
Wrap a few gifts in holiday-themed wrapping paper (if you don’t have any ready yet, you can wrap some empty boxes to look like gifts) and place them under the ladder frame for additional decoration.
6. Photo tree
Share your favorite photo memories in the form of a Christmas tree! Place photos on the wall using a renter-friendly method (command strips, poster tack, etc.), starting with a long line of photos at the bottom, then making the next row of photos shorter by removing one photo from the line. Continue adding new lines of pictures until you reach the top with only one photo.
You can outline the tree with lights, hang up a few ornaments here and there and place a glowing star at the top to make it even more recognizable as a Christmas tree.
Which Christmas tree alternative is best for you?
Since it’s your apartment, you’ll have to be the one to determine which of these ideas is best for your personality and your apartment space. And there’s the chance that none of these are going to reflect your style — so don’t be afraid to get creative!
You can come up with your own fun alternative to a Christmas tree. Try using things like garlands, lights and ornaments to see what you can come up with that will represent your apartment’s style.
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