Happy Blog-Day to Me!

On June 19, 2008, I posted a little post called “Welcome to Beating Broke“.  Yep.  662 posts later, Beating Broke has reached it’s 5th birthday.  That’s like 80 in blog years.  Seriously.  Something like 95% of blogs are dormant or just don’t exist anymore after 6 months.  You’ll have to excuse the obvious pride I have in having made it for 5 years.

Over the years, the site has grown quite a bit.  For instance, in the first 6 months of it’s existence, Beating Broke had 4,251 unique visitors to the site. In the last 6 months, there were 18,500 unique visitors.  Over the lifetime of the site, there have been nearly 103,000 unique visitors and almost 177,000 pageviews.  Sure, there are sites that do that in a month (or a day), but I still like those numbers.

There have been a few pretty popular posts.  In fact, the most popular post on the site has more visits than the entire site did in it’s entire first 6 months!  In case you’re curious, and to satisfy my own ego (it’s allowed today), here are the top 10 posts on the site for it’s first 5 years.

  1. Important Changes to Tax Credits and Deductions for 2011
  2. 1950 vs. Today: Have our Spending Habits Improved our Lives
  3. Five Foods you Shouldn’t Waste Your Money On
  4. Creating a Simple Budget the Beating Broke Way
  5. Quick and Easy Passive Income Ideas
  6. Lending Club – How I Select My Investments
  7. I Quit My Job – Overcoming the Fear
  8. Are Insurance Companies Just Big Ponzi Schemes
  9. Emigrant Bank Announces 3.75% Dollar Savings Direct (I miss those rates…)
  10. Benefits of Buying Certified Pre-Owned Cars

A pretty interesting mix, if I do say so myself.

Enough of the ego building though. :)  I’m looking forward to the next 5 years.

If you’ve read this far, I’d love to hear what you want to see more of here.  Leave a comment with your requests, suggestions, comments, dirty jokes, etc…

Paying Down Student Loans with Smarterbank

There’s little question that student loans can be one of the more difficult debt burdens that a person can have.  The cost of tuition is rising each year, and the rates seem to be following suit.  Many college graduates are finding themselves with a degree that cost as much as their first house is likely to.  It goes to reason, then, that finding any means available to help pay that debt off is probably a good idea.

What is Smarterbank?

I was recently introduced to a product offering called Smarterbank.  It’s an online checking account that’s run by The Bancorp Bank.  It’s fully FDIC insured to $250,000 and, for most purposes, operates just like any other online checking account.  Much like some other online banks, Smarterbank has some perks attached to their accounts.

In the case of Smarterbank, they give a “cashback” that goes directly to your student loans.  For purchases under $100, they apply .5% of the purchase to your Smarterbucks account.  For purchases over $100, the first $100 gets you the same .5%, and everything over $100 gets you 1%.

Smarterbank Fees

One of the nice perks of Smarterbank is that it’s a relatively fee free account.  There’s a monthly “inactivity” fee if you don’t use the account at least once in a month of $4.50, otherwise, if you’re a smart user, you’ll never hit a fee.  And, by smart user, I mean you don’t overdraft, or do something else silly.  They’ve got fees that are associated with things like statement research, etc, but those are pretty standard and you’re pretty unlikely to ever use those services.  You also get access to over 40,000 ATMs in the STAR ATM network.

The Smarterbucks Program

As I mentioned above, the “cashback” goes into your Smarterbucks account.  So, you’re probably wondering what the heck that is.  Smarterbucks is a rewards program.  Not unlike programs like Swagbucks, it rewards you for certain actions.  Things like shopping through their portal (“Smarterbucks Marketplace”) earn you cash back that is credited to your account.  You can also ask others to contribute to your account.  That option could be pretty cool to use as an alternative for people to give to you for birthdays, Christmas, or special events.

Once your Smarterbucks account reaches $15, they send a payment for that amount to your student loan.  At first, that might not seem like much, and, really, it isn’t.  But, every little bit helps.  And every $1 you pay off early is $1 that you aren’t accruing interest on for the life of the loan.  And that can add up in a hurry.

Would you switch to an account like Smarterbank for an offer like this?  Is the offer strong enough to make it worth the time?  What other offers have you seen that help with student loan payback?

See all the details on Smarterbank.

Are You Leading Your Finances?

This last weekend, I attended a young professionals conference.  As you can imagine, a large part of the conference was spent talking about leadership.  One of the speakers was legendary basketball coach Dale Brown.  One of the breakouts was entitled “Visionary Leadership”.  I’ve also just started reading the book “Entreleadership” by Dave Ramsey.  In all of those places, there are lots of buzzwords that describe leadership, and what a leader is.

Of course, this being a personal finance site, my mind couldn’t help but apply as much of it as possible to personal finance.  When we think of our personal lives, we rarely apply the word leader to any aspect of it.  We apply it to ourselves and others in our work and volunteer lives, but not our personal lives.  Why not?

When it really comes down to it, we are the leader of our lives.  We are the ones who apply the same principles that leaders apply to business and volunteer organizations to our lives.  Or don’t.  We try and become better leaders at work.  We expect better leaders to lead us.  But rarely do we try and become better leaders in our personal life.

Leading your Finances

Leading Your FinancesPersonal finance aren’t all that much different from a business and a business’ finances.  We still have income coming in, expenses going out, and the profit left over.  Unfortunately, for many, that’s where the parallels end.  Let’s change that.  Let’s apply some of those leadership principles to our lives.  Specifically, let’s apply them to leading your finances.

Financial Efficiency

Business leaders are always looking for ways to make their business and employees more efficient.  Over the years, businesses have foregone the paper and pen and replaced them with computers.  They’ve replaced old marketing tactics with websites and social media.  Leading your finances means finding, and embracing, new ways to make your finances more efficient.  Forego the old check and envelope method of paying your bills and sign up for bill-pay.  Or automate your bill paying by setting them up for auto-pay.  Find ways to save that also create income.  Look into better rates at better banks.  Learn about dividend investing.  Learn about peer-to-peer lending.

Financial Opportunity Seeking

Many of today’s biggest and brightest businesses wouldn’t even exist today if their leaders hadn’t been continually opportunity seeking.  If all Apple still made was computers, it wouldn’t be the multi-billion dollar company that it is today.  If Steve Jobs hadn’t seen the opportunity in the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, they’d be just another company making computers.  Apply the same to your finances.  Peer-to-peer lending hasn’t always been what it is today.  There was a time where it was still a fledgling opportunity.  A small percentage, relatively, of the population saw the benefit of it as an investing avenue, and, for most, their finances are the better for it.  Be open to services and products that can help you make your finances better.

Continual Financial Improvement

Good enough is never good enough for a business leader.  The only thing that stays the same is their desire for improvement.  Beyond always seeking opportunity, we must also always be finding ways to improve our finances.  We must always be assessing the risk involved with those new opportunities, and making decisions on what will best improve our finances.

Financial Failure

Businesses fail.  If they have good leaders, they only fail momentarily and spring back stronger than ever.  They’ll have set the company up to be diversified so that any one failure shouldn’t be enough to ruin the company.  Investors talk all the time about the importance of diversifying an investment portfolio.  But, it can be applied elsewhere in our finances.  Having all of your money in one online bank is great.  Until your internet goes down and you can’t get to it to bill pay.  Diversifying to have a set amount of cash available in an emergency can help you out there.  Not depending on just stock investments is another great way to diversify for failure.  Prepare your finances so that an opportunity that fails only sets you back, doesn’t bankrupt you.

How can you improve your finances today?  What opportunities can you learn more about and assess for use in your finances?  What efficiencies can you create to make your finances better? What other leadership qualities can you apply in leading your finances?