Stock Market Today: New COVID Strain Sinks Stocks in Short Session

Thought you were in for a quiet day of post-Thanksgiving trading?

Sorry, just the opposite as stocks spiraled downward in today’s abbreviated session.

The reason? A new strain of COVID-19 – B.1.1.529, which was assigned the Greek letter “Omicron” by the World Health Organization (WHO) – that possesses several mutations and was identified recently in Africa, with cases detected in Hong Kong and Europe as well.

“The new COVID variant has dominated attention and led to a sharp selloff among risk assets this morning, and will be closely followed just as a number of countries have moved to tighten up restrictions and even enter lockdowns once again,” says Jonathan Jayarajan, research analyst at Deutsche Bank.

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Not much is known about this new strain, but several countries have already restricted travel to and from South Africa, including the U.K., France, Germany and Singapore, and the WHO scheduled an emergency meeting Friday where they labeled it a “variant of concern.”

When the closing bell mercifully rang during this sell-first, ask-questions-later session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 2.5% at 34,899 – its worst day of the year – the S&P 500 Index was off 2.3% at 4,594 and the Nasdaq Composite was 2.2% lower at 15,491.

But it wasn’t just stocks that got hit. Oil prices were down 13.1% to $68.15 per barrel – their lowest settlement since mid-September.

stock price chart 112621stock price chart 112621

Other news in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 plummeted 3.7% to 2,245.
  • Gold futures eked out a marginal gain to settle at $1,785.50 an ounce.
  • Bitcoin wasn’t spared from the selling, sinking 5.6% to $54,256.53. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 1 p.m.)
  • Amid today’s COVID-induced broad-market plunge, traditional reopening plays sold off. Airlines and cruise stocks were among the hardest hit, with names like American Airlines (AAL, -8.8%), Delta Air Lines (DAL, -8.3%), Carnival (CCL, -11.0%) and Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH, -11.4%) all ending sharply in the red.
  • On the flip side, several vaccine makers and stay-at home stocks got a bid. Pfizer (PFE, +6.1%), BioNTech (BNTX, +14.2%), Peloton Interactive (PTON, +5.7%) and Zoom Video Communications (ZM, +5.7%) were some of the day’s biggest gainers.

Don’t Panic

Yes, uncertainty around the new strain is spooking global investors and comes “on the heels of markets beginning to price in a faster pace of policy tightening [from the U.S. Federal Reserve],” say analysts at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute (WFII).

And both of these events occur ahead of a debt-ceiling debate that is about to ramp up again on Capitol Hill (the stopgap bill passed by Congress in late September only runs through Dec. 3) – which could exacerbate volatility.

Still, WFII’s analysts note that “the global economy continues to be on solid ground, and fiscal and monetary policy remain supportive, despite some deceleration.” As such, they recommend looking past these short-term concerns and taking advantage of the pullback in stocks by buying equities.

While they highlight financials and technology as two of their preferred sectors, we also recommend dividend-paying stocks, which can help investors ride out market volatility with a bit less stress.

Dividend stocks come in a range of flavors, whether it be with those that pay shareholders on a monthly basis or with those that are boosting their dividends by a substantial amount. Here, we’ve compiled a list of companies that appear to be in their prime dividend-growth days and have announced income increases of between 100% and 650% this year.

Source: kiplinger.com

Food Delivery Advice from an Uber Eats Driver Who Made Bank

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The Salem, Oregon, resident made thousands of dollars in June 2020 delivering food for Uber Eats, an app for gig work that proved especially popular during the pandemic.
The very premise of Lyon’s challenge is a goal. It gave him something to focus on and the motivation he needed to make it through grueling 12-hour days.
What you earn from Uber Eats is heavily determined by your market — the city or metropolitan area you deliver in.
“Make sure you look approachable,” Lyon said.

Uber Eats Tips and Tricks From a Driver Who Made $8,357 in One Month

Of the hundreds of orders Lyon completed in June, he got some pretty weird requests from customers. One person asked if he could deliver a pack of cigarettes along with the food order. Lyon told the guy that he didn’t have the money on him to buy the cigarettes on his own, thinking it would end there.
Results may vary in your market. The key is to adapt to your locale. “My days were long,” he said. “I would do all that stuff to kind of break it up and have fun.”

1. Set Goals. Even Tiny Ones Help

Lyon vowed not to fall into that temptation. He carried only in cash, and that was strictly for gas. If he had downtime, he’d listen to podcasts or practice Spanish — while positioning himself for his next order.
Many factors went into his paycheck but none more than his sheer determination. He drove 12 hours — the maximum Uber Eats allows — for 30 days without a single day off.
“When you’re starting, accept every single order and then find your own trends in your own area,” he said.
Lyon drove primarily in Salem, Oregon. If you were to do the same challenge in a different city, you may make more or less than he did. A perfect example of this played out over TikTok. About halfway through June, another Uber Eats driver posed a challenge to Lyon: Who could make more money in a day?
A bigger city doesn’t always equate to better profits though, Lyon noted. Heavy traffic is likelier and could slow you down. You may have to pay to park to make the delivery.

Pro Tip
Some Uber Eats drivers pass on smaller orders in hopes to land larger ones. But that can backfire for inexperienced drivers. Lyon said he put that strategy to the test and found, on average, he was making an order no matter how selective he was being.

2. Take a Great Profile Pic

And to cut down on costs, his own food was homemade.
“I knew I needed to do at least 20 trips to get around that 0-a-day mark,” he said. “So that was always my goal. Anything after that was icing on the cake.”
When the paychecks from your side hustle start rolling in, it’s easy to think all that money is profit. However, quite a bit of it actually goes toward expenses and taxes. It’s one of the biggest pains of being a 1099 worker.
Before we get started, let’s be clear: What Lyon earned is not typical. Far from it.
Uber Eats gives drivers a referral code that they can share with other people to get them to start delivering, too. Once the new driver completes a certain amount of deliveries, the recruiter earns money. But the amount fluctuates depending on the market. Sometimes it’s 0 per 50 trips. Other times, it’s per 50 trips.

This is the main photo used for Sam Lyon's Uber Eats account.
For his Uber Eats profile, Lyon used a selfie taken in his car — then realized he couldn’t change the picture once it was uploaded. Photo courtesy of Sam Lyon

3. Manage Expectations Based on Your Market

Referral bonuses are “definitely not worth the time,” according to Lyon.
Sam Lyon pushed his earning potential in the gig economy to its limits.
And if you’re keeping track of expenses like gas and car depreciation, you can factor that into the amount you’re withholding for Uncle Sam. Lyon’s system was pretty simple. He had a fixed amount for gas, a day. That totaled 9. He had one oil change (), and also factored in his car’s depreciation (0) based on the miles he drove.
“If I was delivering to a suburb, my downtime would be spent driving the extra mile or two to be parked next to a McDonalds, an Applebees, a Red Robin.”
They both delivered food for 12 straight hours. The difference was that the other driver lived 45 miles north in Portland, Oregon. That turned out to be a crucial factor— the challenger made 3 to Lyon’s 8.
Privacy Policy
Downtime between orders trips up many new delivery drivers. You’re delivering food all day, after all. You might be tempted to go through the drive-thru for yourself. But idle spending can eat into your earnings.

Need a banking service that’s built for freelancers, helping you save for taxes and keep track of your expenses? Check out Lili. (It’s free!)

4. Learn From the Trends in Your Area

And that’s coming from someone who had hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok.
“In pending invites, I would make ,320,” Lyon said as he read off of the stats in his driver profile. “In successful invites, I made “You know what? Why not? I’ll do it. I picked up the money and got him the cigarettes. When I got back, he paid me the change as well. And I made a quick [tip],” he said.
“You can stop by here. I’ll put the money downstairs and you can come grab it,” the customer responded.
“See what kind of restaurants you like and which ones you want to avoid, he said”
Lyon is a big proponent of the quantity-over-quality approach to accepting orders.
The first picture you choose is the one you’re stuck with. Uber policy allows drivers to change their picture only if something happens that alters their appearance since the original photo. In that situation, you’d have to contact customer support.
He challenged himself to make as much money as possible in that one month. To do so, he drove 12 hours a day for 30 days straight.

5. Occupy Your Downtime

Lyon went for it.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
His specific challenge may not be replicable (or even advisable) in every circumstance. But if you’re a current or aspiring delivery-app gig worker, you can apply Lyon’s tips for Uber Eats drivers to maximize your own profits.
“Depending on what city you’re in, there are a lot of moped Uber drivers, there are a lot of bike Uber drivers. You can’t really compete [in a car] in those urban, downtown areas,” he said.
Adam Hardy is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

6. Don’t Waste Time With Referral Bonuses

“Suburbs are just front porch and then you’re gone.”
In an interview with The Penny Hoarder, Lyon broke down his earnings and what he learned from his 30-day challenge. He also offered some Uber Eats driver tips that other gig workers can use.

“I think goal setting was huge for my success,” Lyon said. “Setting markers in what you want to achieve are extremely important.”
It breaks down like this: His total earnings were ,357. His expenses account for ,148, and he set aside an estimated 30% of the difference for taxes, about ,100. That brought his actual profits to roughly ,100.
“I would go home and spend 30 minutes to an hour preparing food and eating before going back on the road,” he said. “I did not have any fast food during that 30 days.”

A man checks his phone in his car.
Lyon encourages indulging customers’ odd requests, as it can lead to a big tip. Photo courtsey of Sam Lyon

7. Indulge Odd Requests. They Could Lead to Big Tips

Before you start your gig, have a professional or financial goal in mind. That can keep you on track — and keep you from burning out.
“I would definitely keep in mind you will have to pay those taxes later. It’s not automatically coming out of what you earned,” Lyon said. “Personally, I set aside 30% of what I make. That way, I have a little bit of wiggle room.”
“It started off as a beautiful day. The birds were chirping. The sun was shining,” Lyon said in a video. “The perfect day for two gladiators to enter the arena.”
When you’re making your Uber Eats driver profile, don’t blast through it thinking you can go back and change it later — especially the photo step.
Keep your side hustle in check. Here’s how to create an exit plan so that you can enter the gig economy, meet your goals and get out.
Setting aside 30% might seem steep, but it’s usually an overestimate. Lyon, like most taxpayers, would rather have a refund come tax time than a hefty tax bill.

8. Track Your Expenses

Ready to stop worrying about money?
In the end, Lyon made ,357 and documented his journey on the video-sharing site TikTok, where he goes by the moniker SabbiLyon. Each day, he recorded a short video to log his progress — amassing more than 200,000 followers and millions of views along the way. Lyon entertained just about every odd request he got. They usually led to big tips.
Once you get a sense of those trends, you can then experiment to try to maximize your pay.
In the time it would take him to land a big order, he says he could have been delivering three smaller orders.
After a week or so of driving, he was able to see how much money was possible to make given his parameters. So he aimed for a specific target: ,000 by the end of June.To reach that, he would try to make at least 20 deliveries a day. He didn’t worry much about the pay of each delivery because they ended up averaging about an order. <!–

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The app shows you potential earnings based on the amount you would have earned if all the people you invited completed their first 50 trips.

Amazon Prime Review – Is it a Good Value for the Cost?

At a glance

Amazon Prime Logo

Our rating

Amazon Prime

  • Plans: One standard plan for $119 per year or $12.99 per month (about $156 per year); discounted Student Prime plan for eligible members
  • Features: Prime Delivery (multiple expedited and discounted delivery options); Prime Video; Prime Reading; exclusive Prime deals; unlimited music streaming; unlimited photo storage; eligibility for Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card subject to credit qualification
  • Advantages: Wide range of shipping options, though variable by customer location; potentially valuable media perks; higher cash-back earnings for qualified Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card users; Prime member discounts at Whole Foods; 30-day free trial period; household memberships; discounted student memberships
  • Disadvantages: Relatively high annual (and even higher monthly) fee; no refunds if you fail to use the service; additional fees for expedited food delivery; music library is weaker than some competitors’

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

Amazon Prime is one of the most popular retail loyalty programs in U.S. history. Although Amazon itself doesn’t regularly release membership figures, a study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that more than 100 million people had access to Prime in 2019.

Why is Amazon Prime so popular? And is it really a good value for the cost? To decide for yourself, take a closer look at Amazon Prime’s core features and member perks. Then, weigh the facts to determine when and whether it’s worth the annual expense.

Key Features

What’s remarkable about Amazon Prime’s subscriber count is the fact that you must pay to join. Regular Prime members pay $119 per year when billed annually or $12.99 per month (about $156 per year) for the more flexible monthly plan. 

Prime Student members pay $59 per year when billed annually and $6.49 per month (about $78 per year) when billed monthly. To qualify, they must have valid dot-edu email addresses and be able to prove they’re actively enrolled in at least one college course in the United States (including Puerto Rico).

Tens of millions of consumers happily pay comparable annual fees for warehouse store memberships. But most other common retail loyalty programs, such as those run by supermarket and department store chains, cost nothing to join.

But when you look at Amazon Prime’s core features, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular despite the cost.

30-Day Free Trial

All new Prime members are eligible for a 30-day free trial to test-drive the service. During the free trial, you have access to all Prime-exclusive perks and benefits.

You must enter a valid credit card to secure your free trial. Your membership automatically rolls over to paid status at the end of the trial period unless you cancel.

Household Prime Membership

Amazon allows multi-person Prime memberships covering the same household. My wife and I pay a single annual fee for our joint Prime membership. Like merging finances in joint accounts, joint Prime memberships are common practice for spouses and committed domestic partners. 

Household Prime memberships also make sense for long-term roommates.

Prime Delivery

Amazon Prime’s most valuable benefit is Prime Delivery, a collection of Prime-exclusive free and discounted delivery options including:

Free 2-Day Delivery 

Prime’s signature benefit is available on more than 100 million Amazon products for customers in the continental U.S. Members don’t have to worry about a minimum order size or limits on delivery frequency to get free two-day shipping. 

By comparison, free shipping takes anywhere from five to eight business days for non-Prime members, depending on their location and what they order.

Free 1-Day Delivery

Free one-day delivery (next-day delivery) is available across the continental U.S. on more than 10 million Amazon products. Just look for the “Prime FREE One-Day” logo. 

One-day deliveries arrive by 9pm local time the day after you order them. And you’ll never run into minimum order sizes or delivery frequency limits.

Free Same-Day Delivery

Free same-day delivery is more like free 10-business-hour delivery. 

Eligible goods — several million in all — ordered before noon local time arrive by 9pm local time on the same day. Products ordered in the afternoon or evening arrive the following day. 

To qualify, orders must have at least $35 in eligible purchases. Same-day delivery is only available in select cities. Roughly speaking, you can get it in the largest 50 to 100 U.S. metro markets, though Amazon adds new cities regularly.

Free Ultrafast Grocery Delivery 

In select U.S. cities, Amazon offers free ultrafast grocery delivery through Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market. In some markets, participating third-party retailers may offer ultrafast grocery delivery through Amazon as well. 

These deliveries typically take no more than two hours during the business day, but they may take longer during off-hours. Look for the “Available Today” icon in the upper left corner of the shopping page.

Secure In-Home Delivery

In select U.S. cities, Amazon offers secure in-home delivery through the Key by Amazon app. 

You can use the app to watch deliveries in real time to ensure the delivery person minds their business inside your home. You must install a special lock and camera and register any frequent guests to limit Amazon’s liability for damage or theft before accepting your first in-home delivery.

Amazon Day Delivery

If you typically place multiple orders per week, you can set a standing Amazon Day to receive everything you ordered during the preceding week. 

It’s a nice perk for Prime members who are frequently absent during the week. For example, setting your Amazon Day for Friday or Saturday reduces the risk of package theft when you’re out of the house on weekdays.

Release-Date Delivery

Amazon Prime members are eligible to shop for preorder products at least two days before their scheduled release dates, then receive free guaranteed delivery the day they’re available to the general public.

Other Amazon Delivery Perks

Amazon’s regular shipping benefits get all the glory. But they’re not the only perks for Amazon Prime members.

Additional perks include:

  • Shopping rewards when you select the no-rush delivery option (either points to use as a credit toward future purchases or instant discounts) 
  • Free delivery on special merchandise that doesn’t typically qualify for free delivery, such as bulky, heavy, or fragile goods
  • Discounted expedited delivery on products that don’t qualify for free one- or same-day shipping

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is Amazon’s Prime-exclusive library of free on-demand TV and movie content. 

Amazon Studios’ top original series and movies (known as Amazon Originals) are available through Prime Video at no additional charge. So are hundreds of popular non-Amazon shows, movies, and live out-of-market sporting events. 

Amazon doesn’t make its entire universe of video content available to Prime members for free. Premium TV series and films may carry one-time rental fees. 

You can stream Prime Video to your TV with a compatible smart TV or external device, such as an Amazon Fire Stick or Apple TV. On the go, you can access content through the Amazon Prime Video app, which is compatible with Android and iOS operating systems.

Amazon Prime Video is the most popular Prime service available on an a la carte basis. If you only want access to Prime Video streaming and don’t care about other Amazon Prime perks like free, fast delivery, you can get it for $8.99 per month. That’s less than competitors like Hulu and Netflix.

Prime Reading

Prime Reading is Amazon’s Prime-exclusive collection of fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, and audio recordings. Prime Reading works are available for download on any compatible device, Amazon-made or otherwise.

Music Streaming

Prime subscribers can stream over 2 million songs, including new hits and old favorites, through Prime Music for free. But it’s worth noting that’s a fraction of what’s available from leading streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, which have more like 40 million songs in their respective libraries.

Prime Deals & Prime Day Deals

Prime Deals are Prime-exclusive shopping discounts and promotions. They’re subject to change but generally include discounts of 10% to 40% on popular Amazon products, with a focus on home goods, electronics, and kids toys and accessories. Prime-exclusive deals are particularly plentiful on Prime Day.

Prime Add-On Subscriptions

Prime members are under no obligation to add anything to their Prime subscriptions. Before you subscribe to an add-on, check its availability. 

As add-ons, all these subscriptions carry an additional cost — anywhere from $2.99 per month for Amazon Kids+ to $29 per month for NBA League Pass. But they make valuable services for anyone who uses them regularly.

Premium Prime Video Channels

Prime members can watch high-quality video content not included in the regular Prime Video. 

Known as Prime Video Channels, this premium content lineup includes subscription movie and TV channels like HBO and Starz. It also includes a decent lineup of live sports channels and memberships, including NBA League Pass and MLB.TV. 

There are no big channel packages full of content you don’t really watch. You pay only for the channels you want, which helps control your total entertainment cost.

Amazon Kids+

For a small additional monthly fee after a one-month free trial, Prime members can add unlimited kid-friendly content — books, TV shows, movies, and apps — through Amazon Kids+. Kids+ includes built-in parental controls.

Amazon Music Unlimited

Amazon Music Unlimited is an expanded song library with over 60 million songs, which is on par with top standalone subscription streaming services. There’s a decent additional monthly fee associated with this service.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a premium cash-back credit card that’s ideal for Prime members who spend heavily at Amazon and Whole Foods.

It’s a more powerful version of the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. The Prime Visa earns 5% cash back on Amazon-universe purchases and an unlimited 2% cash back on purchases at eligible restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores. 

Credit qualification applies. This card is designed for Prime members with good to excellent credit. Before you apply, check your credit score.


Advantages

There are many reasons to invest in an Amazon Prime subscription. 

1. Vast Array of Shipping Options

Amazon Prime’s most valuable benefit is a slew of free or discounted shipping options, from two-day free shipping on some 10 million products to ultrafast two-hour shipping in select metro markets. 

If you frequently place last-minute orders, the rush delivery fees could cost as much as or more than many of the products you buy. That makes Prime’s subscription fee seem like a bargain. 

Even if you’re not in a rush, it could still be worth it. Let’s optimistically say you average a delivery fee of $5 per order. Your month-to-month Prime subscription pays for itself if you place just three orders per month. On an annual subscription, it pays for itself with two orders per month.

2. Media Perks Have High Potential Value for Frequent Users

Amazon Prime Video in particular delivers tremendous value for frequent users when compared with competitors like Hulu. 

Unfortunately, it’s not a universal library. For example, Netflix has a trove of original shows and movies, and the newest, choicest flicks carry per-rental fees. But it’s more than enough to keep Prime members occupied on nights in.

3. Free Trial Period

You can cancel your Prime subscription without penalty during the 30-day free trial period. That’s a lifesaver for budget-conscious shoppers looking to dip their toes in without paying anything out of pocket.

4. Household Membership

Joint household memberships are ideal for couples, families, and long-term roommates looking to pool their shopping and media consumption dollars. 

You can only have two adults on a household membership, but its time-saving features give parents peace of mind without paying an extra dime. Teens can shop on their own, pending your approval via text, and you can customize parental controls to limit and monitor kids’ access to media.

5. Membership Discounts for Students

Verified students enjoy 50% off the monthly or annual cost of a Prime membership. That’s excellent news for penny-pinching scholars expecting to rely on Amazon for timely deliveries of textbooks, electronics, school supplies, and basic dorm necessities.

6. Special Discounts at Whole Foods

Prime members enjoy exclusive 10%-off deals on hundreds of products at Whole Foods, subject to change and availability. 

Were it not for this perk, I wouldn’t bother shopping at my local Whole Foods at all, but this discount is deep enough to make Whole Foods’ prices competitive with nearby downscale supermarket chains.

7. Higher Cash-Back Earnings on the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card

For frequent Amazon and Whole Foods shoppers with above-average credit, the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card’s 2% cash back bonus subsidizes or entirely offsets Prime’s annual membership fee. 

Earning 2% back on gas and restaurant purchases is nice too, though you don’t need to be a Prime member for that.


Disadvantages

As good as it is for so many, there are downsides to the Amazon Prime subscription.

1. Relatively High Annual Fee

Amazon Prime has a relatively high annual fee: $119 per year when billed annually and $12.99 per month (about $156 per year) when billed monthly. For reference, that’s roughly double the cost of a basic Costco membership. 

If you’re not a frequent Amazon or Whole Foods shopper, don’t regularly take advantage of Prime’s non-shipping perks and features, and don’t mind waiting a few extra days for delivery, Prime probably isn’t for you.

2. No Partial Refunds for Unused Benefits on Annual Subscriptions

If you use your Prime benefits at any point during your subscription period, you’re automatically ineligible for a refund of Prime fees paid during that period. 

For instance, say you opt for the two-day free shipping benefit on one order in January, the first month of your Prime membership year. Then, you don’t use your subscription for months, deciding to cancel your annual subscription in May. You’ll pay the full cost for the entire year, despite canceling five months in. 

That’s an incentive to pay for Prime on a month-to-month basis, despite the higher yearly cost. And it’s a disadvantage over warehouse stores like Costco, whose expansive satisfaction guarantees make it fairly easy to cancel for a retroactive refund.

3. Expedited Food Delivery Costs More

An Amazon Prime membership does not entitle you to expedited grocery deliveries. For most folks, the fastest, cheapest way to get edible essentials using your Amazon discount is to stop by the nearest Whole Foods Market, where Prime members enjoy 10% off select goods. 

Amazon Fresh is particularly expensive. Mercifully, shipping is free on Prime Pantry orders over $35.

4. Free Music Library Isn’t Particularly Impressive

To most people, 2 million songs sounds like a lot. But Prime’s free streaming music library isn’t very extensive compared with top-of-the-line streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. 

Those seeking deep cuts may want to look elsewhere or spring for a paid Amazon Music Unlimited subscription.


Final Word

Amazon Prime has a lot to offer, but it isn’t for everyone. 

My wife and I get our money’s worth and feel it’s a fair value. But we know plenty of occasional Amazon shoppers who can’t justify spending more than $100 per year for Prime benefits. Other shoppers take issue with Amazon’s growing retail dominance and prefer to support independently owned retailers instead.

Whether Amazon Prime makes sense for you depends on how much value you can extract from it. If you’re already selecting one- or two-day shipping on frequent Amazon purchases, shopping at Whole Foods, and regularly streaming Amazon content, it makes sense to join Prime. 

If you shop Amazon infrequently or not at all, don’t watch much TV, and don’t live near a Whole Foods, Prime likely isn’t worth it for you. If you’re living somewhere between those two poles, your choice might be tougher, but you now have what you need to make an informed decision.

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The Verdict

Amazon Prime Logo

Our rating

Amazon Prime

Verdict: Amazon Prime is a wildly successful retail loyalty subscription that more than justifies its high annual cost and even higher monthly cost (a premium for the freedom to cancel anytime).

The ideal Prime user is an individual or household willing to pay upfront for free, expedited shipping and able to take advantage of value-added perks like Prime Video and member-exclusive deals.

If you qualify for the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card, you’re much more likely to offset the annual Prime membership fee. And you may neutralize the cost through increased cash-back earnings alone if you spend enough at Amazon and Whole Foods.

Prime is not ideal for occasional Amazon shoppers or those willing to pay more to support local or non-Amazon retailers.

Editorial Note:
The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: moneycrashers.com

25 Festive Christmas Scene Backgrounds for Your Video Calls

If you love decking the halls with friends and family but aren’t ready to travel yet this holiday season, we’ve got a solution for you.

Video chat with your favorite people for all things holiday. Whether you’re virtually baking, sharing a meal from across the miles or coming together for some Christmas carols and gift unwrapping, the right Christmas scene backgrounds will take your video chat to a 10 in seconds.

No matter if you’re Zooming or gathering on Google, these video backgrounds are holiday perfection, distilled into a single image.

1. A dazzling tree

Lighted Christmas tree christmas scene backgrounds

Lighted Christmas tree christmas scene backgrounds

We’re talking about something that sparkles — an all-lights background.

2. A nod to Santa

Especially when you’re so close to Christmas Eve, align your background with this jolly, quintessential symbol.

3. Let it snow

We don’t all get a white Christmas, but your video background can always show what you hope will be in the forecast.

4. That Christmas card feel

If you’re not sending holiday cards this year, use your Christmas scene background to transform your meet-up into your very own virtual card.

5. Something sweet

Candy canes

Candy canes

Candy canes are some of the best and most flavorful parts of the holiday, and those red and white stripes look great as a backdrop, too.

6. Get out into nature

Find some pine trees to create a scene that depicts how Christmas feels.

7. Give the gift of virtual togetherness

Fill your Christmas scene background with presents to get into the giving mood.

8. Stockings hung with care

Create the ideal holiday living room behind you, complete with a fireplace, no matter how small of an apartment you have.

9. Holidays cookies

A favorite treat all winter long, share a picture of delicious gingerbread men.

10. Tap into the movies

Home Alone christmas scene backgrounds

Home Alone christmas scene backgrounds

Source: PopSugar

Tap into the movies — Holiday movies are the best, but consider skipping the mushy ones and opting for a Home Alone or Die Hard background for a different approach to the Christmas spirit.

11. Christmas at Disney

Everyone can wear their mouse ears.

12. Capture some magic

This lit-up carousel and Christmas tree are the perfect combination.

13. Wrap it in a wreath

Simple and festive, wreaths aren’t just for doors.

14. Dangle some ornaments

No matter how much you actually decorate your home, setting up a Christmas scene background full of ornaments really adds some color.

15. Share some holiday cocktails

Christmas bar cart

Christmas bar cart

Source: West Elm

If your video call is more like a virtual party, set your background to match the mood.

16. Travel to Santa’s workshop

It’s perfectly fine to try and get a sneak peek at the naughty list, right?

17. Invite a reindeer

Complete your virtual meet-up with special Christmas friends.

18. Make it Christmas on the abstract

Even out-of-focus holiday lights keep up the Christmas theme.

19. Don’t forget about Frosty

Snowmen speak for the holidays, too.

20. Pop in Santa’s helpers

Cute Christmas elves

Cute Christmas elves

A nod to the elves — those hard workers — is always in good taste.

21. Crack a smile

Everyone likes seeing a Nutcracker among the other holiday decorations.

22. Caroling all the way

If you’re gathering for a virtual sing-a-long, pop up some holiday sheet music behind you.

23. Put up a gingerbread house

Instead of making one yourself, grab an image of this edible creation and slap it up as your background.

24. Put up the biggest tree lighting

No reason why Rockefeller Center can’t make an appearance in your own home.

25. Send a Christmas wish

Christmas cookies

Christmas cookies

Channel Santa and spread some cheer.

Setting up your Christmas scene background on Zoom

Once you’ve selected your perfect holiday background image, it’s time to upload it into Zoom for your next call. Setup is relatively easy.

  • Select and download the image you’d like to use on your computer.
  • Log into Zoom. If you’re the meeting organizer, make sure you’ve enabled Virtual Background under User Management — Group Management — Meeting — Virtual Background.

To apply a virtual background once you’re in Zoom:

  • Click your profile picture, then settings
  • Select backgrounds and filters
  • Click on the ‘+’ sign on the left to add your own image

This image will remain as your background until you change or disable it. It’s also a good tip to not wear the same color shirt as your background. The camera will have trouble telling you two apart, which means you could get lost in your scenery.

Setting up your Christmas scene background in Google

If you use Google Meet (aka Hangouts) instead, you can easily change your background image both before and during a call.

Before a call:

  • Select your meeting in Google Meet
  • At the bottom right of your self-view, click the three stars to change the background
  • Click on your preferred option to select a pre-uploaded background
  • To upload a new image, click the ‘+’

During a call:

  • At the bottom of the screen click the ‘:’ button
  • Click the three stars to change the background
  • Click on your preferred option to select a pre-uploaded background
  • To upload a new image, click the ‘+’

To make it easy to find your backgrounds, put them all into the same folder so there’s no searching your files when you should be chatting on a video call with friends and family.

Celebrate the holidays with these Christmas scene backgrounds

Now, you’re all set with the most festive Christmas scene backgrounds for your holiday video calls, and you didn’t even have to start decorating yet. Use any of these themed backgrounds to infuse all your holiday video chats with merriment and cheer. Start scheduling those virtual meet-ups now.

Source: rent.com

28 Great Black Friday Deals and Doorbusters for 2021

There’s a great haze hanging over Black Friday shopping in 2021, and it’s not induced by the usual Thanksgiving dinner turkey coma. The fog is from the dozens and dozens of full cargo ships yet to be offloaded at the nation’s largest shipping ports.

As Kiplinger and others have warned, gift shopping this holiday season will be seriously hobbled by a struggling supply chain and overall prices rising due to inflation. “We’ve seen shipping delays before, but supply chain issues in the past were more specific to a handful of items, says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge of TrueTrae. “This is more of a widespread issue, so I think shoppers will be surprised by how difficult it will be to get certain gifts.”

But that doesn’t close the door on promotions tied to the day-after-Thanksgiving that we’ve come to call Black Friday. 

“Despite higher prices overall, Black Friday definitely isn’t cancelled,” says Nathan Burrow, senior deals expert at The New York Times’ Wirecutter. “It’s still a time where you can save — so long as you shop strategically. The shopping holiday has expanded beyond a single day and now occupies the better part of a week with preview sales starting as early as October. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are more or less all part of a continuous sale, and though we have noted a trend of retailers closing their brick and mortar locations for the Thanksgiving holiday proper (Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Home Depot, and Costco are the most notable), online storefronts will be available throughout.”

Bodge of TrueTrae agrees that Black Friday is still an important shipping event, but shoppers must use their heads. “I’m hearing that the number of deals might be fewer and we could see some stock issues if retailers don’t receive shipments on time, but there will still be lots of deals,” says Bodge. “To make the most of the day, I would suggest that consumers sign up for emails from the retailers they plan to shop with, but in addition, shoppers can level up their savings by seeing what their favorite deal sites are up to, especially with cashback, which can really make a big savings impact. For instance, CouponCabin.com has a rotating offer where 20 stores a day offer 5X their usual cashback.  And Rakuten is offering up to 10 percent cash back over Black Friday weekend and up to 15 percent on Cyber Monday from hundreds of stores.” 

So let’s get at it: We found 28 Black Friday deals and doorbusters, many available beginning the day after Thanksgiving, some starting as early as … now. Have a look.

Black Friday Deals at Amazon

Last year, Amazon lit off the holiday shopping season a month before Black Friday, when its pandemic-delayed Amazon Prime Day was moved from its usual summer spot to October (it returned to summer in 2021). But that doesn’t mean Amazon hasn’t pushed Black Friday-like sale prices in 2021.

The e-commerce giant deeply discounts its proprietary smart home products — smart devices with Alexa built in such as Kindle readers, etc. — around the holidays. For example, the Alexa-enabled Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) is 43% off, the 50-inch Amazon Fire TV 4-series is 30% off, and Fire TV Stick 4K is 50% off.

Surprisingly, you can pick a pair of the red-hot new Airpods Pro with Magsafe charging for $200, a $50 savings. Robotic vacuums and air fryers will be a thing this year, and Amazon has the iRobot Roomba 692 for $200, a $100 savings. A Ninja Air Fryer AF101 is selling for $90, down from $120.

Wirecutter’s Burrow says there will be Black Friday (and early Black Friday) deals from Amazon on Sony and Samsung products as well. 

Black Friday Deals at Best Buy

Best Buy dropped its Black Friday deals early, and as you can guess, it’s loaded with bargains on TVs, including a Samsung 75-inch Class 7 Series LED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV for $850, a $250 savings, and a Sony 55-inch Bravia OLED 4K UHD Smart Google TV for $1,400, a $400 savings.

Also on Best Buy’s Black Friday list is an Apple 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display for $1,000, a $500 savings; Bose Quiet Comfort headphones for $279, a $50 savings; a Keurig Limited Edition Jonathan Adler K-Mini Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker for $50, a $50 savings; and a Mr Christmas 7.5 foot, Alexa-enabled, prelit artificial Christmas tree for $400, a $100 savings. What does Alexa bring to a Christmas tree? The ability to control the lights’ timing, patterns and colors remotely. Your cats will love it.

Black Friday Deals at Costco

Warehouse powerhouse Costco’s Black Friday ad promises savings on lots of electronics, of course. And you can always find fine quality and savings with Costco’s private label Kirkland Signature lineup of goods (and you’ll find Black Friday savings on many items, including chocolate-covered almonds as well as organic tortilla chips). But first note you still have to have a Costco membership, starting at $60, to shop the deals, online and in warehouses. 

For Black Friday 2021, Costco is featuring a Samsung 32-inch Class FHD curved monitor for $200, a $50 savings; a Conair Turbo Extreme Steam hand-held fabric steamer for $35, a $15 savings; an HP touchscreen laptop for $500, a $100 savings; and a NutriBullet blender combo for $70, a $30 savings.

Costco’s ad notes it is closed on Thanksgiving Day (as are dozens of retailers), but it has some online sales starting on that Thursday.

Black Friday Deals at Home Depot

Home Depot is promising Black Friday sale prices until the end of December and, as you can probably guess, said deals are heavy on appliances and tools. One tip: If you need the appliance, make sure it’s in stock; many homeowners have been waiting for months for backlogged appliances they’ve paid for. Some of those appliances haven’t been built yet or are stuck somewhere in the crippled supply chain.

Black Friday deals at Home Depot include a stainless steel 28.2-cubic-foot Samsung French door refrigerator for $1,298, a $700 savings; a Galanz digital toaster oven and air fryer for $80, a $50 savings; a DeWalt cordless drill-driver set for $99, a $60 savings; and a stainless steel Samsung dishwasher for $498, an $81 savings.

Black Friday Deals at Lowe’s

Lowe’s and Home Depot go toe-to-toe the rest of the year, why not on Black Friday? To that end, you’ll see a similar lineup of sale items from appliances to tools.

Lowe’s is dealing a 28.2-cubic-foot Samsung french-door fridge for $1,300, down from $2,000; an Amana top load washer for $494, down from $600; a versatile Little Giant ladder for $159, down from $239; and a DeWalt 20-volt cordless drill-driver for $99, down from $159.

Black Friday Deals at Walmart 

Walmart stores on Black Friday will have deals including $398 for a 70-inch 4K Onn smart TV with Roku (Onn is Walmart’s house brand); $109 for a an Apple Watch Series 3 GPS, down from $199’ $69 for Power XL 12-quart 6-in-1 air fryer oven; $299 for an Xbox Series S game console; and $14-$25 for special buy select video games (note: all of these deals will be available online beginning 7 p.m. Eastern on Monday, Nov. 22, 5 a.m. in-store on Black Friday.

Source: kiplinger.com

15 Tips for Young Entrepreneurs Who Want to Start a Successful Business

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Additional Resources

The astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson famously said that the best way to encourage our children to become scientists is to get out of their way. He notes that the messes toddlers make are their way of experimenting with the world and exploring it, and only interference by adults starts to turn them away from that curious explorer mindset. 

Much the same can be said of encouraging our children to develop an entrepreneurial spirit. Whether mowing lawns, opening a lemonade stand, or selling creative projects, our kids are consistently looking for ways to earn money, and with it increase their independence. 

Unlike encouraging a spirit of scientific exploration, raising successful aspiring entrepreneurs requires a slightly more hands-on approach. This is more complicated ground with steeper penalties for failure. While your child, tween, or teen flexes their small-business muscles, keep in mind some important ways you can help them in their journey. 

Tips for Young Entrepreneurs Who Want to Start a Successful Business

1. Check the Local Small Business Laws

No local authorities will take issue with a second grader’s lemonade stand, or a fifth grader mowing neighborhood loans. That can’t always be said of a teen earning a few thousand dollars with a small business. Although many business licensing requirements have relaxed in this age of online commerce, you don’t want your teen to lose their earnings to fines and fees. 

Look into the laws surrounding small businesses in your area, and get an expert opinion from somebody in the City Planning Office or local Chamber of Commerce. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s here, and have your teen do most of the work. The necessities of law are part of being an entrepreneur.

If your child’s successful business venture approaches five figures of income, consider looking into formally structuring it as a corporation. This can provide various legal protections, help with compliance with any licensing or permit requirements, and be an important learning experience as you navigate the associated expenses and observances side by side. 

2. Don’t Let the Business Eclipse Academics

Running a small business can be exciting and time-consuming to the point that it tempts your teen away from their schoolwork. If this happens, it’s important to view school as their full-time, regular job and their business venture as a side hustle. This is true even if the small business is making enough money to represent a real opportunity for post-graduation financial success. 

Keep in mind, and remind your teen, that if the business fails they’ll have little to fall back on without at least a high school diploma. Yes, there are examples of famous entrepreneurs who didn’t graduate like Richard Branson and Quentin Tarantino, but there are far more dropouts working low-skill, low-wage jobs to make ends meet.

It can help to set formal goals for academics and the business, and to set those goals on timelines that allow for success in both. If academics falls behind, adjust the goals to prioritize the school work. For kids who are excited about their business, you can write up a business plan and an academics plan, using similar formatting to emphasize the similarities.

As a bonus, balancing academics with having their own company can teach time management skills at a level deeper and more meaningful than any other experience available to teens. 

3. Encourage Them To Take on Employees

Being their own boss teaches young entrepreneurs a lot, but managing other people — especially peers — can teach lessons that no other experience in life can teach. 

If your teen’s business is making money, encourage them to hire a friend, classmate, or younger family member to help with some of the work. This helps them learn about the skills and challenges of leadership while also teaching an important lesson about the value of having help. 

By outsourcing tasks they don’t like or aren’t good at early, your teen starts to learn how to value their time and expertise. It fundamentally changes their relationship with work, and their potential for success. This is a skill many adults still struggle with, and can unlock many doors to success.

Start with younger siblings and cousins as options for your child’s initial labor pool. This not only fosters a stronger relationship between family members, but many states offer exemptions to worker’s compensation and some employment laws when hiring a family member. Check with the laws for your area first, but this can save a surprising amount of money over the run of a business. 

4. Become a Managing Partner

The smartest teen in the world will fall down on some of the basic tasks of business management because they lack the perspective, contextual knowledge, and physical brain development to succeed in those areas. For that reason, it’s smart for you to fill a role as a managing partner when your child decides to start their own business.

Depending on your teen’s skill level and business experience, your role might just be to check in once every other week to make sure certain tasks are getting done. It might be to handle the books and business metrics. You might even take on the duties of the sales department or bookkeeping. Your mileage will vary, but getting involved helps them succeed while simultaneously demonstrating that you care about their success.

Partnering with your child in a business carries a second benefit beyond improving their potential business success. By working together on a business, you build a relationship that lasts long after they leave the house. Whether the enterprise fails catastrophically or makes the whole family rich, the shared experience is irreplaceable.

If your child needs some start-up cash, you can use a managing partnership as a condition of giving them an informal business loan. Like real investors in the business world, you grant them starting funds but require a hand on the business’s operations to protect your investment. 

5. Start With Scalability

Before taking on their first client for any business idea, your teen should think about and develop a plan for how to build up to a second client, and a third. They should also have an idea of the maximum number of clients they can serve given the realities of their schedule and access to transportation, and a plan for going beyond that number if they’re experiencing rapid success. 

A plan to scale up is important even at the beginning stages to start a business. Even if your teen never implements any of it, and only makes some pocket change off a valuable experiment, the exercise will introduce them to a success concept many adults never learn about.

It bears repeating that you must make certain any plans for scalability take academic, athletic, and social needs into account. This might mean artificially slowing the company’s growth during homecoming or baseball season, but that’s all right. Entrepreneurially-minded kids need early and repeated lessons in work-life balance, which can start right here. 

6. Be Ready for Taxes

Like with your local business regulations, the IRS and your state Department of Revenue won’t much care about a kid making a few bucks, but if your teen has self-employment income of at least $400 from their own business, they’re responsible to report it and potentially pay taxes. If they earn enough money, it can even interfere with their status as a claimable dependent. 

Talk to your accountant about this, and set up a plan for dealing with that part of your teen’s entrepreneurial journey. If they become small-business owners for life, taxes will be their constant companion over the course of their career. 

Although companies like H&R Block and TurboTax offer online corporate, small-business, and self-employment filing options, it’s often worth it to hire a CPA to do business taxes. If you keep your books organized, the amount they charge for the service is reliably lower than the deductions they help you find. 

7. Remember Community Resources

Almost every city, county, state, and special interest organization has some sort of resources for small-business owners. These may include in-person education, online classes, grants and loans, mentorship access, or work spaces filled with expensive, specialized tools. They’re out there, often paid for with your tax dollars, waiting to be used.

Not all such opportunities are open to teens, but in many cases the staff will be excited about somebody getting involved so young and become even more enthusiastic about contributing success tips. LinkedIn and local meetups can be good sources for mentoring and success tips, as long as you monitor and curate the adults your child meets. Encourage your teen to check into these opportunities in the community.

When seeking resources and help, don’t forget your child is still in school. Many schools have business classes, workshops, technical equipment, social media advice, and experts on hand any student can access for help with projects. Many teachers and counselors will be eager to help, especially those with business knowledge or experience they rarely access on the average school day. 

8. Begin With the Goal In Mind

This advice from business management legend Steven Covey is a classic for a reason. Whatever business model your teen decides to pursue, they should begin the journey thinking about how they want it to end, with clearly defined goals set from the beginning. 

Starting a new business to earn money for a car requires one set of circumstances, warrants a certain amount of time and financial investment, and has a lifespan of a set number of weeks or months. Starting the same new business as something your teen might want to make into a career changes every one of those aspects. 

There is no right or wrong goal here, but starting without one in mind is almost always a mistake. Even the best business in the world can falter and fail without a strong guiding goal.

Sit with your budding entrepreneur early in the process and ask what they hope to accomplish. “Making a few bucks” is a fine goal, but nail down specifics. That top-level goal can help them assign priorities, make wise purchases, and set up timelines for tasks in ways they would not otherwise. 

9. Teach Them How to Set Goals — Then Apply Them

Knowing how to set goals isn’t just important for small-business success. It will help your child succeed in whatever endeavors they take on at school, in college, and beyond. 

It’s easy to start with a smaller goal — something that will take multiple days of effort but which will absolutely happen if the child does their part. 

For example, saving enough money for a $20 video game is a good initial goal. They set a goal of earning $1 per day for a month, with up to 11 days off. As long as they achieve their daily targets, they’ll be able to get the game. Winning the lottery is a bad initial goal because even if they succeed at buying a ticket every week, there’s no guarantee of winning. 

Tying cash flow to realistic goal setting introduces them to the concept of setting goals and attaining them. Whether or not this small business works out, the experience of working toward a concrete goal and its inherent lesson will serve your young entrepreneur well for the rest of their life.

Teach your young entrepreneur to write down their goals and commit to a timeline for completion. When they reach the end of their timeline, assess with them how they did. If they didn’t reach their goal, what might they do differently next time? If they did, what might they do to succeed even more or faster? As they establish a track record of success and understanding, move to loftier, more complex, and less guaranteed goals. 

10. Model Smart Risk-Taking

A business is only successful if its key decision-makers are willing to take risks, and if most of those risks work out. Taking risks may seem like a natural part of childhood, but when you add money and parental approval, suddenly those risks feel much more intimidating. 

The best way to help your child overcome this challenge is to live by example. Demonstrate taking small and large risks in everyday life. Better yet, talk with your child about those risks. Discuss what made them risky, how you analyzed the dangers and benefits, what you gained from the gamble, and especially what you did to minimize the impact if the risk didn’t work out. 

Once you’ve made a habit of having that talk with your child, you can use it as a framework for assessing the risks associated with their business. This doesn’t just help their business succeed, but helps them practice and master a vital life skill.

11. Foster Creativity

Creativity is a skill. Like all other skills, it gets better with practice and fades if not used. 

Creativity is also essential to small-business success, and success in the business world overall. It’s how your child will come up with a working business model, how they will expand on their idea to help the business grow, and how they will devise solutions to the problems and challenges they encounter. 

Some ways to help build that creativity in your child include:

  • Make up stories together instead of reading them at some bedtimes
  • Play pretend games with your child, ranging from make-believe to more structured activities like Dungeons & Dragons or theater sports
  • Set aside art time and craft time, where your child plays creatively
  • Get out of the habit of simply answering questions or solving problems, but instead create the habit of exploring answers together
  • Play “what if” games, where your child explores the possibilities of simple changes to life or the world around them
  • Set up time for your child to get bored, then let them find new ways to fill that time

Most importantly, resist the temptation to come swiftly to the rescue when your child encounters a challenge. As long as it’s safe, let them find their own creative solutions. If you always swoop in to save the day, they never learn to develop their own creative problem-solving. Instead, they look to others for help — a habit that is absolutely lethal to entrepreneurial success.

12. Show Them How to Ask For Help

One of the ways schools often hurt our children is by how often they insist kids work on their own. Asking a classmate for clarification is punished as being disruptive in class. Looking up a tutorial to help with your homework can be considered cheating. Although this is sometimes necessary within the context of school, a small-business owner can always ask for help. 

Model finding help so your kids can see you asking your parents or partner, polling social media groups, calling an expert with applicable know-how, or looking for an instructional video on YouTube. Make this normal and encouraged — a tool you use to succeed at your goals just like any other resource. Knowing who to ask for help and how is a key success factor in any form of entrepreneurship.

When your kid is comfortable asking for help, show them some of the best ways to do it. Explore online tutorials and free trainings, and look for resources at the library, Chamber of Commerce, and local small-business authorities. Share audiobooks and podcasts together while running errands or on road trips. 

Teach your kids early and often how much help is out there, where to find it, and how to tell the good advice from the bad. 

13. Reward Failure Whenever You Can

World-famous Brazilian jiujitsu competitor Rickson Gracie writes in his memoir that at his first jiujitsu match, his father said to him, “Win and I will give you a present. Lose and I will give you two presents.”

It’s a little transactional to be appropriate for most kids, but the spirit is solid. 

Children — and adults — who are afraid of failure often can’t make the decisions necessary to succeed in business. So embrace failure when your children lose a game, make a mistake, or fall short of a goal. 

Your children will probably fail the first time they try something, because most people do. Nobody is born with everything you need to succeed on the first attempt. 

Congratulate them for having tried, and share honestly the ways they made you proud. Talk about what variables they controlled they could change the next time they try, and what they might do to minimize what they can’t control or change. 

Most importantly, share that it’s okay to be disappointed in the outcome, but that you will never be disappointed in them as a person. The short-term pain of trying and failing leads to the long-term gain of succeeding at something hard. 

14. Make Them Find a Way

Rob Kiyosaki, author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” tells a story about how he was given a job as a child that paid nothing. His friend’s father, who gave him that job, instead challenged him to find a way to make money with what he learned from that work. 

The work in question was cleaning up in a convenience store. Young Rob found a loophole in how comic books were distributed, and used it to create a comic book rental operation in his parents’ basement. 

That’s not to say you should be that extreme in your approach to training your child to solve problems and find business opportunities. But you can foster more independence and creativity by backing off a little more than you’re comfortable with when they ask for help. Make them identify the problem decisively and find their own solutions, then reward them for the effort even if the solution they try doesn’t work. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, so help your child experience necessity more often and see what they invent. Whether the finished product becomes a full-time adult income or just some after school pocket money, the lessons they learn will last. 

15. Don’t Let Them Cut Corners

Attention to detail and a willingness to work hard are two of the most important traits of a successful entrepreneur. Without micromanaging, watch how they approach the work of their business and help them see the value in doing it right from the beginning. 

This can sometimes lead to friction. Kids and teens are not always known for either of those characteristics. That’s okay. If you work through it well, you’ve accomplished two goals. The first is helping your child succeed with their business by pushing them to deliver quality for themselves and their customers. 

The second is even more important. Once they see the results of the extra effort, they begin to internalize its importance. That lesson will carry past the business into their academics, athletics, and relationships. It will set them up for success no matter where they go in their adult lives. 


Final Word

Whether your child is destined to make $1 million by age 18 or to fondly remember a summer they spent working for themselves, they can benefit from what starting a small-business teaches. 

Your role in this isn’t to do it for them, or to stand in their way, but to balance between the two. Lend enough support to allow them to flourish, but keep your hands off enough that they can truly say they accomplished the most important parts by themselves. That’s not just how you set up young entrepreneurs to succeed — it’s how you raise happy, empowered children.

Always remember: keep it light and fun. The goal here is not to raise the next Steve Jobs or see your kid on the cover of Forbes before they’re old enough to drive. It’s to teach them valuable life lessons they can apply to a new business, online business, or simply going to work. 

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Source: moneycrashers.com

What Is a Merit Scholarship & How to Get One

There are many avenues to fund higher education that one could take. Grants offer money to help college students cover the cost of their education, usually based on financial need.

Money received by grants does not typically need to be repaid. Student loans, on the other hand, refer to a lump sum of money that is loaned out for the purpose of covering educational costs upfront. Student loans require repayment on a specific schedule and with added interest.

In addition to grants and student loans, another possible way to fund your college education is to receive a merit-based scholarship. Merit scholarships are generally awarded based on some type of merit such as academic performance or achievement and usually do not need to be repaid. Unlike grants, merit scholarships are typically awarded independent of financial need.

What is a Merit Scholarship?

A merit based scholarship is awarded to an individual on the basis of academic excellence, or other non-academic criteria such as talent, and/or certain achievements. As mentioned, while some scholarships may review the financial needs of the student, it’s not typically the primary focus of the application.

Merit scholarships for college exist to acknowledge things like academic, athletic, or artistic promise and success.

They could also apply to specialty and niche interests, such as a specific degree program. The money could either come from the academic institution itself or an outside individual or organization.

Getting a Merit Scholarship

So what are merit based scholarships able to do for the total cost of your college education? These scholarships could help cover a portion of (and in certain cases, the full amount of) tuition, room, and board, therefore helping decrease the overall cost of college. Like grants, the money from scholarships does not need to be repaid.

Recommended: A Guide to Unclaimed Scholarships and Grants

Here are a few common types of merit scholarships:

Colleges and Universities

Many colleges and universities have merit aid awards that are offered to students. Programs may vary from school to school. Some schools may consider all students for a merit award without any further applications. In some cases there may be an additional application required. Select merit aid awards may be designed to cover the full cost of tuition, while others will only cover a portion.

Academic Merit Scholarships

Academic merit scholarships award money to students who demonstrate significant academic achievement in high school. Often, academic merit scholarships may consider a student’s GPA, standardized test scores, class rank or other factors.

Depending on the school, you may not need to submit or do anything extra to be awarded a merit-based scholarship. Instead, the school may decide based on your application alone. Note that the exact criteria considered can vary based on the school.

Athletic Merit Scholarships

NCAA Division I and II schools may offer athletic scholarships to select student athletes. If you’re interested in an athletic scholarship keep in mind that getting recruited can be a time intensive process. Depending on the sport you play you may need a highlight reel or video that shows off your skills. Coaches may also review your stats.

Most schools will also want to see your academic records and SAT or ACT scores as well. You might also consider reaching out to coaches at the schools you are interested in attending.

Merit Scholarship Options from Member Organizations

Member organizations are special interest groups, typically requiring some sort of membership fee. Some examples include the National Association of Flavors and Food-Ingredient Systems (NAFFS), Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and The Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

Oftentimes, these organizations provide scholarships to students. In some cases, they are awarded to members of the organization. One example of this is the Boy Scouts of America. In order to qualify for their Eagle Scout World Explorer, applicants must be an Eagle Scout.

Other times, awards are available to students who are pursuing a specific course of study. For example, the NAFFS offers an annual scholarship to “outstanding food science students .” While the DAR Richard and Elizabeth Dean Scholarship is awarded to students who are pursuing an undergraduate degree in American Studies. Scholarships from the SWE are available to applicants who are studying at an accredited university and pursuing a career path in engineering, engineering technology, or computer science.

Private Companies

Another source of merit scholarships is private companies. Companies like Coca-Cola, Burger King, Google, and more have annual scholarships. Like many other scholarship opportunities the application requirements and eligibility criteria will vary based on the company and/or scholarship. Here are a few examples:

Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship

This program awards 150 scholarships annually worth $20,000 each . This scholarship is available to graduating high school seniors who plan to enroll in an accredited U.S. college or university.

Burger King Scholars Program

The Burger King Scholars program offers scholarships to high school seniors who have a GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, demonstrate community involvement, and plan to enroll in an accredited college in the U.S. Since it was established in 2005, the program has awarded over $50 million to 43,000 students.

Generation Google Scholarship

The Generation Google Scholarship program is targeted for students pursuing degrees in computer science. For the 2022-2023 school year, recipients will get a $10,000 scholarship. This scholarship is open to students enrolled in an accredited Bachelors, Masters or PhD program who are studying computer science or computer engineering, or another “closely related technical field.”

National Merit Scholarship Corporation

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), has run the National Merit Scholarship Program since 1955. This award is open to high school students who meet the NMSC’s eligibility requirements, which are published online here . Students interested in pursuing the National Merit Scholarship program must also take the PSAT/NMSQT®, generally during their junior year. This is the qualifying test to apply for the scholarship program.

How to Apply

The process for applying to a merit scholarship can vary quite dramatically from scholarship to scholarship. Some merit scholarships, such as those offered by colleges and universities, don’t require students to fill out any additional paperwork beyond their application to the school.

Applying for merit aid from a source other than your school can be more time consuming and will likely vary depending on the organization offering the award. In addition to an application detailing basic personal information, students may be required to write an essay or personal statement, gather letters of recommendation, or go through an interview process.

If you’re interested in applying for a private merit scholarship, check in with the organization directly so you can be sure that you understand exactly what the application requirements are.

What Can Merit Scholarships Pay For?

Frequently, if the merit scholarship is offered by the school, the award will go directly to pay your tuition bills. If there is any money left over after tuition is paid for, it can be used to pay for other educational expenses including room and board, books, or other fees. Each school will have their own procedures for how merit aid is awarded to students, so confirm any questions directly with the financial aid office.

Merit Scholarships and Income Taxes

Generally speaking, merit scholarships are not taxed by the IRS. According to the IRS, scholarships and grants are considered tax-free so long as the following conditions are met:

•   The student is pursuing a degree at an educational institution; and

•   The award money is used to pay for tuition and fees or other expenses related requirements at the educational institution, such as, fees, books, and supplies.

There are some situations in which a merit scholarship may be taxed. If a grant or scholarship meets the following criteria, it may be taxable, according to the IRS:

•   The scholarship is used to pay for incidental expenses such as room and board, travel, or optional equipment.

•   The scholarship is awarded as payment for teaching, research, or other services. This excludes money received for services required as a part of the:

◦   National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program

◦   Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship and Financial Assistance Program

◦   or a comprehensive student work-learning-service program at a work-college , as defined in section 448(e) of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

If you have any questions about whether or not a scholarship you’ve received is considered taxable income, consider consulting with a tax professional who can provide advice specific to your personal circumstances.

Finding Merit Scholarships

Check in with your college or university to find out if there are any school-specific awards available and determine how to file an application (if an additional application is required). Online resources and databases abound to help you identify merit based scholarships across the United States. For students who are pursuing graduate degrees, there are also some scholarships and grants for graduate students.

It could be a good idea to make a running list or spreadsheet of all of the merit based scholarships that you are interested in, so you can keep the specific due dates and application requirements organized. This could potentially help relieve some stress as you go through the application process.

Consider Starting Early

Many merit-based scholarships look for demonstrated excellence over the course of an applicant’s entire four years of high school. Therefore, it could be a good idea to start thinking about what types of merit scholarships you’re interested in applying for as early as possible.

Maintaining Your Scholarship

It is important to note that some merit based scholarships could require the scholarship recipient to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) and/or require specific campus or community involvement to continue receiving consistent scholarship funding.

If you do decide to apply for a merit based scholarship, it’s a good idea to be prepared to not only do the hard work to secure the scholarship but also maintain it once you get to campus.

Other Ways to Help Finance College Tuition

If you do not meet the requirements for any merit scholarships for college, there are still many financing options available to you. Often the first step for students looking to secure aid is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA® ). Students must fill this out in order to receive any federal aid, including federal grants and scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans.

The federal work-study program sets students up with part-time jobs where they can earn money to put towards their educational costs.

Recommended: Am I Eligible for Work-Study?

New federal student loans boast consistent fixed interest rates, expectations for repayment, income-driven repayment plans, and possible forgiveness programs. Depending on your level of need you may qualify for either subsidized or unsubsidized student loans. With a subsidized loan (for undergrads only), the federal government pays for any accruing interest on your loans while you’re in school; with an unsubsidized loan, you have to pay for the interest yourself.

If federal aid and merit based scholarships aren’t enough to cover the cost of a college education, private student loans could be an option to consider. These loans are offered by banks and private institutions. Students and their co-signers (if applicable) apply for private student loans as if they were applying to other types of loans, such as auto and home loans.

Since they are not beholden to the same criteria as federal loan terms, private student lenders are able to determine their own unique term lengths, interest rates, and repayment plans; thus, private loans could fill in any gaps between the cost of attendance and the amount of federal aid and scholarships they receive. However, because they don’t offer the same borrower protections as federal student loans, private student loans are generally considered only after all other sources of funding have been exhausted.

The Takeaway

Merit scholarships are awarded to students based on some sort of merit, such as academic or athletic. This money does not typically need to be repaid by student recipients. Some sources for merit scholarships include your college or university, member organizations, private companies, or the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

If merit awards and federal aid aren’t enough to pay for college, private student loans may be an option to consider. If you think that private student loans could be a good option for you, you could consider SoFi’s private student loans. With no fees, flexible repayment plans, and a convenient online application, financing your education has never been easier. Keep in mind that, as mentioned, private student loans are usually considered as a last resort option because they don’t always have the borrower protections (like deferment) that federal loans do.

Ready to make a plan to finance college? Learn more about the options SoFi offers for private student loans.


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SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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Source: sofi.com

11 Side Hustles That Can Make You Money

We could all use a little extra money, and a good side hustle is one way to get it. A side hustle could help you save enough for a down payment on a car or house, fund that vacation you’ve always wanted, boost your investment portfolio, help you pay down debt or whatever you need some spare cash for.

In an ideal world, you could put your money to work and enjoy a truly passive income, or your side hustle would be so lucrative that it could finally become your main gig. But even if you have to keep your day job, a side hustle can make you money in an area you’re passionate about.

A side hustle is something you do in addition to your main job, so the best ones don’t require a lot of time, give you flexibility in when you work and can help you earn a decent amount of cash. The ideas below include a mix of low or flexible time commitment and good value for the amount of effort likely needed.

Top side hustles ideas to help you earn more

1. Walking dogs

Walking dogs sounds so old school, but it can offer a better payout than you might think. Plus, you can scale the business at least a little. Pet owners are likely to be wealthier than average (according to at least one study), and a busy pet owner in a city might not have time to walk their pooch. So they may be willing to pay you to do the job regularly — and if you coordinate things right, you may be able to walk a few dogs at a time, doubling or tripling the money you make in the same period.

If pets aren’t your thing, you could take a turn as a house sitter. While some homeowners may pay in cash, others may be away for months and offer you a place to stay, helping you save on what is probably your biggest expense.

2. Selling in an online marketplace

People are familiar with third-party selling sites such as eBay, Etsy or Amazon, but you can take it upscale by selling on a site such as Poshmark, which offers new and used fashion items. An advantage of going higher end is that you may be able to earn more for the same amount of work.

You could sell items from others who don’t have the time or ability to do it themselves. But when you develop a deeper knowledge of the market, you could take it a step further by buying the top items directly from clients and then earning that profit margin yourself.

3. Speaking engagements

Are you a master of motivation, a doyen of design or a ninja of cybersecurity? Take your expert skills and knowledge to an audience that’s willing to pay for your time. You’ll need to establish authority (through social media, blogs, books, videos or something else) and likely grow your audience first, but then you may be able to monetize that. Find a conference that’s willing to pay you to talk about what you love and then repeat the gig at new venues and for new audiences.

4. Tutoring

Everyone wants to ace the SAT or ACT or even just their next exam. Take your knowledge of the subject area and teach someone how to achieve success there. Nowadays you may even be able to do it from the safety and comfort of your own home through Zoom or other video conferencing software. If you have skills for standardized entrance exam tests for professional schools such as the GMAT or LSAT, you might be able to take things upmarket and turn an even greater profit on your time and skills.

5. Freelance writing

Freelance writing can be an attractive side hustle if you’re looking to fit in some work when you have time. It’s an even better setup if it’s in a specialized field with few competitors so that wages remain higher. Find a niche to write about, establish a reputation for turning in clean copy that needs few changes and then scale up as much as you want. You could turn that side hustle into writing about something you love or even a full-time position when you’re a known authority.

Is writing not your thing? Do the equivalent in media as a freelance video editor. Establish your credentials and then specialize in a subject area or two that you love.

6. Open a mobile business

Consider opening a mobile business for services that a user might not be able to travel to get. For example, consider a mobile service for replacing broken glass for windows in houses or cars. Schedule an appointment ahead of time and show up to fix the issue. You could focus on business outside of normal hours to establish a competitive edge and still keep your main gig.

Another option on the mobile theme could be a car detailing service. Bring your gear and get someone’s ride ready to roll in style.

7. Ride-sharing

Ride-sharing has become popular in recent years, though COVID-19 has helped put a damper on it, at least for the moment. But one benefit is the flexible hours. You may be able to work around your schedule, limiting your availability to nights or weekends, for example. Many people opt for a major ride-sharing player such as Uber or Lyft, or you may also be able to set up with a regional player.

8. Moving stuff

In a growing economy people are moving all the time, even if it’s only across town. Set yourself up as someone who can show up at any time and move that heavy item around the block or to the other side of town in your unused truck. You could expand into storing things for people while they’re in the process of moving from one residence to another.

9. Set up an online store

It’s never been easier to set up an online store through a service such as Shopify, and when you get things rolling, you really can make money while you sleep. It’s tough to beat that flexibility. Of course, the hard part is finding the products that consumers can’t live without and getting that community of people to your site. But building an online store is the kind of thing you could work on in your spare time and build out incrementally as you learn the ropes.

Bottom line

The best side hustles let you earn good money on your own terms, but it can take time to build up your side gig into something worthwhile. You’ll need to inform people of what you offer and show that you reliably deliver whatever you promise. From there you can see how big you can build your side hustle and whether it can become something even more lucrative.

Learn more:

Source: thesimpledollar.com

7 Online Shopping Hacks to Save Money

There’s no question that shopping online is more convenient than shopping in-store, but sometimes you pay for that convenience in the form of shipping charges. With the holidays coming up, that cost difference can add up fast.

Thankfully, you can make up that difference by taking advantage of some tried-and-true online shopping hacks. Here are some of our favorite ways to save money when shopping online.

Download Money-Saving Browser Extensions

Rakuten, Capital One Shopping and Honey are some of the most popular browser extensions for saving money online. There are two ways that browser extensions can help: offering cash back on purchases and providing special coupon codes to save you money at checkout.

Capital One Shopping provides cash back, coupon codes and even shows if you’re getting a good deal on an item. If not, the extension will show where you can find a cheaper version.

When you download these browser extensions, they’ll pop up every time you visit an eligible site. For example, if you go to Target.com through the Rakuten extension, you can earn 1% cash back on your purchase in select categories.

Not every retailer provides cash back with these extensions, and some may have limits on which categories you can earn rewards with. For example, you often can’t receive cash back on electronics, toys or video games.

Different browser extensions may offer different rewards. For example, if you visit Walmart.com through the Capital One Shopping tool, you may receive 2% cash back in certain categories. But if you visit Walmart.com through the Rakuten extension, you’ll only earn 1% cash back.

That’s why it pays to download all three browser extensions and compare the various deals.

Pro-tip: Set up a holiday spending goal in the Mint app to help you stay on track.

Sign Up for Retailer Emails

Most online retailers offer a special welcome discount when you sign up for company emails, usually ranging from 10% to 20%. Visit the retailer website and wait for a pop-up that asks you to input your email address.

If you’re already an email subscriber to the retailer in question, search through your emails to see if you’ve received a coupon code recently. Check both your spam and trash folders since promotional emails often wind up there.

Abandon Your Cart

If you’ve ever put an item in your shopping cart and not checked out, you may have gotten an email for a special discount code. Many retailers will automatically send out these emails when the customer has abandoned their cart to entice them to complete the purchase.

Use this strategy to your advantage. Visit the retailer’s website, add the items to your cart and exit the browser. Within a day or two, you should receive an email reminding you about the purchase with an extra discount offer.

Not all retailers will provide a coupon if you abandon your cart, and an item in high demand may be sold out before you get the email. Still, it’s worth trying to see if you can snag a better deal.

Cash In Rewards Points

If you’re like some cardholders, you probably have credit card rewards points that you couldn’t redeem for travel purchases in 2020 and 2021. Instead of hoarding them for your next trip, redeem them for a digital gift card to use on purchases right now.

Cashing out for a gift card usually isn’t the most efficient way to use points, but it is a great strategy to save money on online purchases.

Reach Out via Social Media

If you’ve tried all the tricks mentioned above and still can’t find a discount, contact the company on social media. Twitter is usually the preferred method, but you can also try a private message on Facebook or Instagram.

Be polite, friendly and mention how you want to see if there’s a special sale or coupon. Not every company will respond with a discount code, but it only takes a few minutes to try.

Once, I posted a tweet about dying my hair purple using a specific at-home product. I received a discount code from its competitor in just a few hours.

Use a Rewards Credit Card

Many credit cards offer extra cash-back when you shop at participating retailers, usually ranging from 1% to 5%. For example, the Discover it® Cash Back card provides 5% cash back when you shop at Amazon.com.

Most cards provide a fixed cash-back percentage at all times, with special categories that earn an extra percentage. These categories often rotate every quarter.

The rewards may be given as a statement credit, miles you can redeem for travel or points you can use for digital gift cards. These cash-back rewards can be added on top of the browser extension or discount code.

Getting a new card in the mail can take up to two weeks, so apply soon if you want to earn rewards in time to buy holiday presents.

New cardholders may even qualify for an extra sign-up bonus, like $200 when spending $1,000 or 50,000 bonus points.

Follow Influencers on Social Media

Your favorite influencers will often post special discount codes that are only available through them. Follow influencers who shop at similar stores and check their Instagram stories daily to see if they’ve posted a code.

Search for hashtags related to the retailer you’re interested in to find influencers who provide special codes.

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Source: mint.intuit.com