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10/12/16 Personal Finance #

What I’m Doing With a $250 Windfall

What I’m Doing With a $250 Windfall


I won $250 in a contest recently, and while it’s not exactly a windfall that will change my life like a lottery win could, it was enough to get me daydreaming about the possibilities with it.

It was a simple contest, which is my prerequisite for entering any contest: Take a photo of myself wearing the hat of a, a sponsor at FinCon, a conference for financial bloggers that I attended in late September. Then put it up on Twitter, with #ClarkCash and #FinCon16 in the tweet after following @ClarkHoward on Twitter.

The free hat was in a swag bag given to attendees, with a business card attached to the hat giving instructions on how to win $250:

“The 4 most creative entries will each win $250 in cash for a total of $1,000! Winners will be announced at Clark Howard’s #FinCon16 keynote speech Thursday at 4:30 p.m.”

I noticed the hat in the swag bag after an afternoon walking around a tent full of sponsors that I wanted to meet, with the hope that I could either write for some of them or have them advertise on my personal finance blogs. I went to my hotel room to rest for a bit when I read about the contest on the free hat, and decided to give it a try.

I pulled some cash out of my wallet and took two photos and tweeted them out:


And this: Continue reading

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10/07/16 Children , Work

Taking a Day Off From Work Shouldn’t be a Hassle

Taking a Day Off From Work Shouldn’t be a Hassle

I’ve never been a workaholic. I’m all for getting work done and doing my best at it to give clients excellent stories as a freelance writer and editor. But when it comes time to take a day off from work or the weekend off and relax, I’m ready for the time to re-energize.

That may be one of the reasons why I’m not rich. Or why the three websites I run about personal finances don’t have the awesome readership and advertising numbers that I’m aiming for.

I bring all of this up because of something I heard from one of the keynote speakers at a conference I attended last month for personal finance bloggers. Part of his message was: Take a day off. Or two or even three days off if you can. It was a much better message than what another speaker offered.

After years of working to build his website — which is one of the top PF sites and is among his many successful endeavors — and missing some valuable time with his children so he could grow his business, he came to the conclusion that taking a day off from work each week was important.

This didn’t seem like much of a revelation to me.

But I got the sense that to many of the 500 or more people in the ballroom listening to him, it was an insightful idea worth trying. Continue reading

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10/03/16 Retirement , Saving # ,

Think You’re Bad With Money? Take This Quiz


Image: RomoloTavani

Americans are financial dunces, and we may be getting denser. When the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) asked 27,000 adults to take a five-question financial literacy test, only 37% could answer four or more questions correctly. That’s down from 39% in 2012 and 42% in 2009. The quiz asked people questions about compound interest, inflation, and investing.

Our financial ineptitude has serious consequences. Many survey respondents were spending more than they earned, had little money in savings, and were only making minimum payments on their credit cards. Over time, those behaviors can put someone in a financial downward spiral from which it’s hard to escape.

Even worse, many of us may be unable – or unwilling – to recognize our own bad money habits. If you have a steady job and pay your bills on time, you might think your finances are under control. But if you’re frequently surprised to discover you have almost no money in your bank account or are carrying a balance on your credit card, chances are you’re secretly bad with money. In the long run, your careless ways will catch up with you, as you discover you can’t afford to buy your dream house, send your kids to college, or retire. In a worst-case scenario, a financial shock, like unexpected medical expenses or a job loss, could force an unpleasant reckoning.

The good news is you can avoid those consequences if you change your money ways. The first step to good financial health is assessing your financial fitness today. Take this five-question quiz to find out if you’re a financial whiz or really, really bad with money. Continue reading

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09/19/16 Minimalism , Work # ,

The Frightening Side of Free

The Frightening Side of Free


My Instagam account was hacked awhile ago, and how easily it was done and the site’s inability to help me has set back my acceptance of free social media accounts online.

It’s not enough to make me want to delete my email account — as one prominent person did after learning of Colin Powell’s hacked email account — but it’s enough to seriously get me to put less of my personal life online. I already have much of my professional life online, and I rely on it and my name to help me get more work as a freelance journalist. My name, after all, is my business website.

And by hacking, I don’t mean that my private Instagram account that I only allowed people to see via invitation was published publicly — though that or something worse may have happened and I don’t know about it. By hacking, I mean that my account was taken over by someone else and I can’t get it back.

“That’s not the end of the world,” you might say. Agreed. I can sign up for another Instagram account very easily. And any photos that I put up there that I wanted to keep have already been uploaded from my phone to my computer, so at least those aren’t lost.

What worries me is the unknown, how easily this happened, and why Instagram doesn’t seem to give a hoot that my account was stolen. What is the new owner of the site doing with my photos? Are my other social media accounts in danger? Is everyone this vulnerable? Continue reading

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09/06/16 Personal Finance , Retirement , Saving , Work #

I’m a Financial Blogger Who Isn’t Sinking in Debt. Is That Bad?

I’m a Financial Blogger Who Isn’t Sinking in Debt. Is That Bad?


I’m going to a conference in a few weeks for financial bloggers. Many of the attendees have been in some major debt at some point in their lives, and write about it often and how they’ve overcome it.

Not me. I have three finance blogs — one focuses on personal finance, another on investing, and this one, CashSmarter, is where I share my life lessons on personal finance. Other than a mortgage, I don’t have any major debts and I’ve never been so far in debt to a credit card that I’ve had to pay off thousands and thousands of it down to get my financial life in order.

All of this makes me wonder if I’m meeting my goal of telling a compelling financial story that people want to read about. If I haven’t been $147,000 in debt, or haven’t paid off $26,000 in debt in 18 months — real stories by real bloggers I respect and enjoy reading — how is my story worth reading?

Reading how someone extricated themselves from six figures of debt can be fascinating — even if you’ve never been in that much debt. Anyone with a credit card knows how easy it can be to add more charges to a card, so going into a huge amount of debt isn’t too far-fetched for many of us.

And getting out of it is the typical American tale of overcoming large obstacles to become a success. It’s a life lesson worth reading about for lots of people. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.
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