You Won’t Believe the Net Worth of These YouTube Stars


You don’t have to be a movie star these days to have an audience or to make millions of dollars.

With over 1.5 billion monthly users, YouTube is quite literally the place to be if you want to be a millionaire. The amount of money some YouTube stars are making is ridiculous. And as YouTube continues to grow year after year, so do the bank balances of some of their biggest stars.

But just how rich are these YouTube stars? What is it that they do?

Let’s find out by looking at the net worth of some of YouTube’s biggest names. You’ll be surprised by how much they earn!

Dan Middleton AKA DanTDM – Approximately $16.5 Million

Daniel Middleton (known as DanTDM to his legion of followers) was the highest earning YouTube star of 2017. And with over 17 million subscribers, DanTDM has quite the audience to make his living from.

He made an incredible $16.5 million dollars in 2017. That’s 13% of the entire earnings of top 10 YouTube stars, who made an impressive $127 million among them.

DanTDM hasn’t starred in any big blockbusters, but he’s making money like a movie star.

He built up his channel by making videos on the video game Minecraft, but his business is pretty varied these days. He sells branded merchandise, has his own YouTube sponsored animated web series, and has even gone on his own jet-setting world tour.

And with business transport costs being tax deductible, YouTuber entrepreneurs like DanTDM have no excuse not to get out there and meet their fans.

Besides, who doesn’t want to make a living playing video games, posting videos and traveling the world? Just be sure you’ve got the taxman on board!

Evan Fong Aka VanossGaming – $15.5 Million

Evan Fong is another gamer living his life on YouTube and making a killing from it.

And for the luxury of playing games and joking around, Evan made $15.5 million in 2017. He’s the second highest earner after DanTDM, taking home 12% of the share of the top earnings on YouTube.

With over 22 million subscribers, this 25-year-old Canadian sensation’s style is pretty simple. Chat, have a laugh with his friends and play video games while commenting on the gameplay. He’s also another YouTuber star making an animated series under YouTube’s lucrative Red programme.

These YouTube stars certainly know how to make money from their side hustles.

Dude Perfect – $14 million

Dude Perfect isn’t actually one person – it’s five. And unlike our first two YouTube stars, their content isn’t to do with video games.

They’re jokesters who like to perform trick shots on camera, and boy, does it rack up viewers! With over 26 million subscribers and over 4 billion video views, they’re the most viewed and subscribed to YouTube channel dedicated to sports.

And that lucrative base makes them money and brings in big star names. Actors, professional football stars, golfers, and NASCAR drivers have all appeared in videos for their subscribers.

They’ve even broken a few world records and have a successful TV series on Nickelodeon.

Logan Paul – $12.5 million

Even if you’re not too familiar with YouTube stars, you might have heard of Logan Paul.

He got himself into a bit of hot water recently by posting a controversial video of a trip to Japan where he found a suicide victim, resulting in huge international criticism. He’s also lost lucrative contracts, including being dropped from YouTube Red.

That hasn’t stopped him being one of YouTube’s top earners. He made $12.5 million in 2017, mostly by vlogging about his life and posting comedy videos.

He’s been in films, TV series, and been involved in big advertisement campaigns for the likes of Pepsi.

How 2018 shapes up for him might be a little different, but given that he’s the most popular YouTube vlogger and third on our net worth list, the future is probably still bright, if he can get over the controversy.

Felix Kjellberg Aka PewDiePie – $12 Million

Our next YouTube star is another name you might have heard of, for the wrong reasons, and was previously YouTube’s biggest earner.

Felix Kjellberg, or better known by his YouTube channel name PewDiePie, is another video gamer making videos. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, Felix’s use of racial slurs and anti-semitic slogans over 2017 caused criticism and outrage in the news, losing him lucrative sponsors like Disney and YouTube Red in the process.

Controversy aside, he isn’t doing too badly for himself, making himself $12 million in 2017, and an estimated $124 million since he started in 2010.

It just goes to show that being controversial isn’t enough to kill off your YouTube income if you’re a big enough name. And you’re already rich.

Jake Paul – $11.5 Million

Jake – Logan’s equally controversial older brother – is another YouTube star with an impressive $11.5 million in earnings from his own YouTube vlogging videos.

Just as his brother was getting into hot water for his Japan escapades, Jake was getting into trouble by using the N-word and posting suggestive content.

Controversy aside, this YouTuber built up his following outside of YouTube on the now-defunct Vine. He also had his own role on a TV show for Disney, before he was (you guessed it) fired.

But with 13 million subscribers and rising, he’s got the audience and the influence to keep making big money in the future if his brother and PewDiePie are anything to go by.

Ryan ToysReview – $11 Million

Unlike our Bad Boys of YouTube collection, Ryan is a little more wholesome. This six-year-old doesn’t do controversy, he just does toys — and makes big money from it.

Nearly 12 million subscribers watch this little American unbox and play with all sorts of toys and games for kids. One video alone has 800 million viewers, most of them children his age.

If you’re a toy maker, you’re allowed to drool at that sort of audience! And it’s toy makers that helped this little boy and his parents make $11 million in 2017.

Not bad for someone in kindergarten.

YouTube Stars Keep On Getting Richer!

The number of YouTubers morphing into millionaires is growing, and controversy doesn’t seem to be standing in their way.

Alongside the YouTube stars listed above, comedy duo Smosh earned $11 million from slapstick comedy videos. Lilly Singh earned a cool $10.5 million from comedy and music videos and her own YouTube Red film. Casey Neistat, another vlogger, has 8 million subscribers and a net worth of around $12 million.

These YouTube stars have built multi-million dollar business empires by effectively monetizing their YouTube audiences and grabbing lucrative advertising contracts along the way.

If you’re looking to replicate the success of these YouTube stars, why not think about how you can avoid some obvious YouTube marketing fails with your own content?



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The right way (and the wrong way) to lend money to family and friends


There are those who believe that money writers lead perfect financial lives. Ha! Would that it were so. When we get together, we often share stories about the dumb things we’ve done. Today, my friends, I want to tell you about an instance in which I failed to follow my own advice, an example of how not to get rich slowly.

For several years now, one of my indulgences has been season tickets to the Portland Timbers, my home-town’s professional soccer team. I’ve been a Timbers fan since I was six years old. I used to listen to their exploits on the radio during the 1970s. I can still sing “Green is the Color” from memory:

When the new Portland Timbers joined Major League Soccer in 2011, I jumped at the chance to buy season tickets. (Here’s video I took from the Timbers’ first MLS game.) After Kim and I decided to embark on our RV adventure across the U.S., I thought I’d have to give up my seats. I was sad. But then my friend Joe made a great suggestion: “Why don’t you sell them to me for the season?” A win-win, right? Well, sort of…

What NOT to Do

Joe paid me for half the season when I renewed the tickets in the autumn of 2014. Before Kim and I left on our RV trip in March 2015, he gave me an $800 check for the remaining balance. Then, on the night before we left Portland he sent me a text: “I’m in the process of changing banks…If it’s no difference to you tear it up and tell where to send a new check.”

I replied with my home address (which Joe already had) but didn’t hear back. I sent another text in April but got no reply. In May, we connected. Joe agreed to send the check to Colorado, where we’d pick it up while visiting Kim’s mom. It took me a while to reply with the address, but when I did nothing happened. No big deal. I’m an easy-going guy. I figured we’d just connect elsewhere on the road.

How Not to Lend Money (A)   How Not to Lend Money (B)

In September 2015, Joe and I finally connected again. He told me had a check sitting on his desk, ready to mail. I suggested he send the money by Paypal and gave him my contact info. Nothing happened. I pinged him again the next week. Nothing. The week after that, still nothing. When we finally connected again in late October, Joe had a sob story for not paying but promised to send the money right away.

The holidays came, and I forgot about the $800. But Kim didn’t. The debt gnawed at her more than it did me. “I can’t believe Joe hasn’t paid you,” she said. I shrugged.

In late February 2016, Kim sent Joe a text asking if he was ever going to pay. This made Joe cranky. He texted me and asked what was up. “I did pay you,” he said. “I sent the money by Paypal.” I checked my Paypal account. I had never received payment from him.

I sent Joe an email outlining the entire sequence of events. I tried to keep my tone calm and reasonable (because truly, I wasn’t angry) but I wanted him to see things from my perspective: He’d had a year to pay me for the tickets, but hadn’t managed to do so.

Joe wrote back immediately:

This is insanely frustrating. First of all JD. I think you’re a great dude, and I appreciate what you were trying to do here for both of our benefit. You clearly have a good knack for letting things slip thru the cracks.

While Joe wasn’t wrong — I do have a knack for letting things slip through the cracks — I found his logic puzzling. His failure to pay was a result of my slow replies? I wrote back:

It’s not my responsibility to manage this situation. I haven’t let anything fall through the cracks. You are the one who owes the money. As such, you are responsible for paying in a timely manner. You, as the debtor, are responsible for repaying the debt without the lender having to hound you.

I’ve given you my mailing addresses (and Paypal addresses) repeatedly yet never received payment. I’ve also followed up several times without any sort of reply from you. It’s true that I haven’t always been prompt in my own replies — I own this — but that lack of promptness in no way changes the fact that you’ve had the info you need to pay since March 30th of last year.

I don’t want to argue over who should have been better at communication. I love my big buddy Joe and don’t want you to feel like I’m dogging you. As I said before, I’m not angry. But I think we can both agree that we need to get this fixed.

Joe never replied to my email. It’s now February 2018, two years since I last heard from my friend, and I suspect I’ll ever get paid. One thing’s for certain, though: At this point, our friendship has disappeared, and that’s too bad. (I, for one, would be happy to patch things up. I like Joe!)

I’m not sharing this story to demonize Joe. Obviously, I think he’s ultimately responsible for this situation, but I acknowledge that on my end, I’ve been a poor communicator. Plus, if I had deposited his check when he gave it to me before the RV trip, none of this would have happened.

No, my aim here is to provide a real-life example of what can happen when we lend (or borrow) money from family and friends. There are smart ways to do this and there are dumb ways. Joe and I chose a dumb way. (And yes, I realize this didn’t start out as a loan, but that’s effectively what it is now.)

Let’s look at the right way to lend money to family and friends.

The Right Way to Lend Money to Family and Friends

When a friend or a family member asks to borrow money, your first inclination is probably to help. But many people have learned the hard way that friendships and finances make a poor mix. My interaction with Joe is a typical example.

Not all loans between family and friends end in disaster, of course. In fact, although I’ve never been able to find stats on the subject, I’d be willing to wager that most loans go smoothly. But the potential for trouble is so great that you should think twice before lending (or borrowing) money. How would it affect your finances — and your friendship? Even when things do go right, the situation can get awkward.

For instance, in 2011 I made a large loan to a friend for a business project. That project fizzled. For the past seven years, my friend has always made his payments on time, but he’s had a tough time paying down the principal. For most of the life of the loan, he’s made interest-only payments. (This is a good deal for me, but not for him.) My friend I have maintained a good relationship, but it’d be even better without the money situation looming over our heads.

You can save yourself a lot of grief by knowing in advance what you’ll do when somebody asks to borrow from you.

Some people decide they’ll never make personal loans. If they’re asked, they say something like, “Sorry, but it’s my policy never to lend money to people I know.” If you think this is too harsh, you can offer to help in some other way. Most of the time, you’re probably better off saying “no” than putting yourself in a position where you have to hound a friend for money, as I’ve had to do with Joe.

Despite these warnings, some of you will be tempted to lend money. If you do, follow these rules. You’ll be glad you did.

  • Discuss other options. Are there other ways to help? Sometimes people think money is the only way to deal with problems when there are actually other ways to offer assistance. Figure out what the root problem is and see if there are other ways to help solve it without donating dollars.
  • Lend only the amount you can afford to lose. You may never see the money again, so don’t put your own financial well-being on the line for your cousin Bob. Make sure your own situation is solid before you lend money. (In my case, losing the $800 Joe owes me does hurt, but it doesn’t change my life trajectory.)
  • Be clear about your expectations. Draw up a payment plan. You can use the online calculator at Bankrate.com to create a loan schedule. And discuss what will happen if something goes wrong.
  • Get it in writing. At LawDepot.com, you can fill out a web form, and for $15 you get a complete promissory note. There’s also a free sample template at ExpertLaw.com. When I loaned money to my friend for his business project, we had an actual written contract.
  • Deal with problems right away. You may feel you’re being kind by not sending a reminder that the payment is 30 days past due, but you’re just setting yourself up for trouble. Let the borrower know you’re keeping track. This is where I failed with Joe; I didn’t like reminding him to pay, so I went radio silent for several months thinking he’d simply man up. He didn’t.

Here’s another idea: If you can afford it (and if it seems appropriate), consider giving the money instead. That way there’s no ickiness on either side. If you get paid back, great; if not, you can feel good about helping out a friend in need. And remember: It’s always okay to politely refuse.

After my disaster with Joe, for instance, I decided to do something different with my Timbers tickets during the second year I was on the road. I simply gave them to Kris, my ex-wife. I know she loves going to the games just as much as I do. “Do you mind if I share these?” she asked. She ended up distributing them to our mutual friends. I lost out on the cost of the tickets in 2016, but I got to save my seats, I avoided hassling anyone for money, and my friends got to enjoy the MLS-champion Timbers in action!

One last thing: At some point, you may be the one borrowing money from a friend or family member. You should do this only if you can’t boost your income or tap an emergency fund. When you borrow, explain exactly why you need the money, put the deal in writing, and then stick to your word. Be proactive.

Keeping your word is the most important part. That means repaying the loan as promised — or sooner, if possible. Take this as seriously as you would any other financial obligation; in fact, take it more seriously. If you don’t pay the bank back, you’ll damage your credit score. But if you don’t pay back a friend, you’ll damage that friendship and your reputation. You don’t want to end up like me and Joe…



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Two broke millennials in pursuit of financial freedom ~ Get Rich Slowly


This guest post from Claudia Pennington is part of the “money stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all stages of financial maturity. Today, Claudia shares the steps she and her husband have taken in their pursuit of financial freedom.

Claudia and Garrett PenningtonGarrett and I were your typical, college-educated millennials (thanks to student loans) who purchased new cars (courtesy of auto loans) and an overpriced, pre-recession home with a 30-year mortgage. We were good consumers, the kind of consumers that lenders love: We spent on credit and we paid our bills on time.

Fast forward to 2014 ⇒⇒ We managed to acquire even more debt. We had a car loan, two car leases, a mortgage, student loans, and credit card debt. Living paycheck to paycheck was exhausting!

It took years for us to realize just how tired we were.

  • Tired of not having any time.
  • Tired of not having any money.
  • Tired of not being able to travel.

After listening to people on the radio talk about similar money problems, we decided it was about time that we get our own finances in order. In 2015, we took a hard look at our spending from 2014. We didn’t like what we saw. We created a plan to get out of debt and change our lives.

Fast forward to today ⇒⇒ We managed to eliminate all of our debt. We’re a one-car family (no auto loan). We paid off our student loans (paid Sallie Mae Navient back). We paid off our mortgage in just over a year.

Let me tell you how we did it.

Home Expenses in 2014: $45,954, in 2017: $7,227

According to Mint, we spent $45,954 on everything “Home” related during 2014. Our “Home” expenses included mortgage, insurance, repairs, remodeling, utilities, and any “stuff” we bought to adorn our home.

Having a 1500-square-foot home was a drag. Between the money going out for heating, cooling, taxes, insurance, and many repairs and the time we spent cleaning it, mowing the lawn, and shoveling snow, we were over home “ownership”.

After spending nearly $46,000, you’d think we might have made a dent in the mortgage. But no, you’d be wrong. At the end of 2014, we still had a mortgage balance of $156,000 because we weren’t paying anything extra. Our house owned us.

Baby Boomers around us were dying to retire but finding themselves handcuffed to jobs in order to pay their mortgages. Neither of us wanted to end up like them. But in 2014, that’s exactly where we were headed.

By 2017, we had sold our 1500-square-foot house, moved into a 500-square-foot house (yes, I’m serious), and managed to pay off the mortgage on the new place. Our $7,227 in expenses included taxes, insurance, utilities, and the “stuff” to take care of the house like soap, rugs, and whatnot.

Auto Expenses in 2014: $10,256, in 2017: $7,466

At one point, both of us had a Volvo and a smart car. That’s right: Our household of two owned four cars.

To acquire four cars, we had two car loans and two car leases, so it’s no surprise that in 2014, we spent $10,256 on debt, repairs, and insurance for four cars.

And you know what’s really crazy?

We had so much stuff in our two-car garage (hobby stuff, home stuff, deck furniture, etc…) that we struggled to park just one car in the garage. The time and money we wasted juggling four cars was obscene.

By the end of 2017, we had become a one-car family. The leases on our smart cars ended in early 2017, so we paid the end-of-leases fees and returned those cars to the dealership. Most of our expenses in 2017 were the result of car repairs and maintenance, like a new computer, fancy synthetic oil, and so on.

Health Expenses in 2014: $14,532, in 2017: $3,726

In 2014, Garrett started seeing a new, out-of-network, out-of-pocket doctor ($$$). It was a last-ditch effort to address a lifetime of chronic fatigue. (He’s doing much better today!)

Also in 2014, I came down with some bizarre symptoms that went undiagnosed (probably tick-borne illness). Thousands of dollars in MRIs, blood tests, and CT scans, no one could explain the difficulty walking, fatigue, and brain fog. (Thankfully, I recovered.)

In total, we spent $14,532 on our medical needs in 2014.

And all of the stress about money certainly didn’t help our health!

Eliminating all of our debt also eliminated much of the stress we felt about money. What a relief it was knowing that we were true homeowners, living mortgage free in our “tiny” house.

Downsizing to the 500-square-foot home freed up a lot of time. No longer were we spending hours each week maintaining or remodeling our home. Instead, we spend our time hiking, kayaking, and doing all the other action verbs we enjoy doing.

Food Expenses in 2014: $15,693.48, in 2017: $7,070

Between our jobs, half-done home remodeling projects, and countless medical appointments, we had convinced ourselves we didn’t have time to cook when we lived in our larger 1500-square-foot home. In fact, we thought that by eating at restaurants every other night, we were actually saving time.

Going to restaurants all the time led to laziness and poor food choices. We weren’t eating well. We weren’t exercising. It’s probably no surprise that our health expenses were as high as they were because we weren’t taking care of our bodies.

Looking back at that year, it’s clear that we were the problem in our lives. The state of our finances was largely due to bad decisions and poor choices. But spending nearly $16,000 on food wasn’t the problem — a lack of accountability was our real problem.

Honestly, food continues to be a struggle — even as I write this in early 2018. When we plan ahead and purchase enough groceries for the week, we’re okay; going out to eat isn’t even a thought. But when we don’t plan portions properly or we forget to go to the store to replenish the stockpile, we run into trouble. Our spending on food is down significantly, but there’s still room for progress.

Claudia and Garrett on the Steps of Their Tiny Home

2015: The Year of Change

In 2015, we started talking about money and what we wanted to do with money in the future. We quickly realized that we weren’t spending money in a way that aligned with our values. Neither of us imagined that we’d be working until 67, but we weren’t doing what we needed to do in order to retire earlier.

I started seeking out online personal finance resources to help us get our financial situation in order. One of the blogs we found was 1500 Days, which is all about financial independence. It was the first time we’d encountered the term; it sounded as if though financial independence would lead to the life we sought.

J.D.’s note: I love 1500 Days. It’s one of my favorite finance blogs. Two of its best features? First, Carl is hilarious. And second, the blog contains plenty of dinosaurs.

By April 2015, we set a plan for getting out of the hole we’d dug, to become money bosses for the first time in our lives. We wanted to achieve financial independence in 1500 days — on 19 May 2019. Having such a lofty goal meant we had to make some big changes.

Since our saving rate was nonexistent, we stopped spending on all non-essentials and started budgeting. We challenged all of our expenses to see how low our spending could go. Each expense we lowered meant more profit margin. But cutting our expenses wasn’t enough to get us out of debt in the timeframe we outlined. We had to take bigger steps to rearrange our lives in order to accomplish our mission.

  1. I left a part-time job in favor of a full-time job. Garrett put extra hours into his W-2 sales job because of the commissions he could earn.
  2. We put the 1500-square-foot house on the market in April 2015. (Sold in May 2016 — $0 in proceeds from the sale.)
  3. We set about the process of building a smaller home. We found our postage-stamp lot — 2500 square feet — and had a small house manufactured to fit on the space. We moved into our 536-square-foot home in September 2015. (We’ve been loving it ever since!)
  4. We sold one Volvo and turned in the two smart cars at the end of their leases. Now, we’re a one-car family. Since I work from home, I’m content with biking around town to run errands or when I just want to hang out by the river.
  5. We started a side hustle and used the income from our side hustle to pay off our credit card debt in October 2015. [J.D. again. Claudia is too shy to say, but I’ll mention it for her. Their side hustle is SEO Audit Guide, a company that helps folks in the online space optimize their websites. I’ve paid for their services myself. Twice.]
  6. We used the debt avalanche approach to eliminate the remaining debts, which we paid off in March 2017. (Here’s a debt avalanche calculator.)

We’re just three years into this journey to FI, and I’m proud to say we are 100% debt free. No mortgage. No car loans. No student loans. No credit card debt.

2018: The Year of Growth

Our purpose for this journey was to create margin in our lives to pursue something purposeful, our “why,” something other than W-2 employment: a life of financial independence colored with slow travel and entrepreneurship.

If you know about the stages of financial freedom, you know we’re working on Stage 4: Security.

[The Stages of Financial Freedom]

In the last several months of our journey to debt freedom, we were able to make monster debt payments — as much as $13,000 toward the end. We were obsessed with getting out of debt, so we didn’t save any money. Sometimes we had as little as $500 in our checking account. Most of the time, we had less than $100 in savings.

In 2017, we made solid progress on Stage 4. We set aside enough in our emergency fund to cover one year’s worth of expenses (about $30,000) and we invested the max in our tax-deferred retirement accounts.

In 2018, we’re focused on growth. We want to grow our income, which will in turn increase our saving rate. This will give us more money to invest. (We’re interested in dividend investing.) After much debate about how we should pursue financial independence, Garrett and I decided that real estate just isn’t right for us. Dividend investing is a better fit. (With real estate, we’d need to invest far too much time and money to generate enough passive income to cover our expenses.)

Pursuing financial freedom changed us for the better. We’ve seen significant improvements in our finances, but also our health and happiness. No longer are we broke millennials living paycheck to paycheck. Somewhere along the way, we became happier, healthier, self-actualizing, wealth-building millennials. And financial freedom is finally in sight.

Reminder: This is a story from one of your fellow readers. Please be nice. After twenty years of blogging, I have a thick skin, but it can be scary to put your story out in public for the first time. Remember that this guest author isn’t a professional writer, and is just learning about money like you are. Unduly nasty comments on reader stories will be removed or edited.



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How one young couple budgets and plans for the future


This month’s theme at Get Rich Slowly is relationships. All month long, we’re focusing on how money affects our interactions with family and friends — and how family and friends affect our interactions with money.

A couple of months ago, I shared a series of career interviews that the Khan Academy has been producing on an ongoing basis. Each interview consists of three or four separate videos exploring what it’s like for different people from different fields to manage their households.

Last week, the Khan academy published a joint interview with a married couple: Julia (a registered nurse) and Michael (a construction business owner). They interviewed each partner separately, then brought them together to talk about how they budget and plan for the future.

When Julia and Michael got together, Julia was the sole breadwinner for the family. Michael was still going to school and he was trying to start his construction firm. When they learned Julia was pregnant, they shifted gears. Julia went on maternity leave and Michael found a job at an auction house. They’ve been living on one income their entire marriage, but that will soon change as Julia gradually re-enters the workforce.

Julia and Michael used to live in Boulder, Colorado, but city life didn’t agree with them. Plus, costs were too high. They chose to move in with Julia’s parents in the country, which gave them a lifestyle they preferred and allowed them to save money.

In the interview, Julia and Michael break down their income and expenses. (Their largest expense — by far — is $600 per month for transportation!) They also describe why they’ve made certain decisions

“We wish we knew how expensive life was. Having a kid is very expensive,” Julia says. “Rent is expensive. When we didn’t live on the farm, it was unaffordable for us. One of the most important things we’ve learned is to invest in yourself. It’s okay to invest in your education because that’s improving you down the road, improving your financial outlook.”

If you want to see more from this couple, here’s Julia talking about what she does (and how much she makes) as a registered nurse and here’s how she got her job (and what she plans to do in the future). Here’s Michael discussing what his job is like and how he got his job.

As I said in December, I think this library of videos is an excellent resource, especially for kids who might be trying to decide which career to pursue.



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How do we start over with our budget? ~ Get Rich Slowly


As relationship month continues at Get Rich Slowly, I’m getting lots of questions from readers about how to handle money when other people are involved. It’s a difficult subject!

For instance, here’s an email I recently received from LM, who is looking to convince her husband that they need to change how they’re handling money:

We’ve been happily married now for almost ten years. We have two kids (aged five and six). I’m a stay-at-home mom. My husband is an engineer with an above-average salary (about $80,000 per year). We have two cars. We have no debt except for our mortgage. (We have about ten years left on that.)

I feel like we need to totally revamp our finances because we’ve lost our way. We’ve slowly fallen off our budget and started to spend money we shouldn’t. What should we do? How do we start over? How do I convince my husband we should re-evaluate our finances?

Before I begin, I want to point out to LM that it sounds as if she and her husband have made some smart choices in the past. She may be unhappy with their present course, but she should be proud of what they’ve accomplished so far. Debt-free except for ten years left on a mortgage? That’s great!

The challenge now is to build upon that solid foundation, to continue making smart choices with money.

To that end, I think LM and her husband are perfect candidates for conducting a family goals conference, which I wrote about earlier this week. They should set aside a couple of hours — maybe on a date night? — to seriously talk about their shared vision and how they can work together to achieve it.

This doesn’t need to be overly complicated. I think that if LM and her husband were to set maybe three or four goals for their family — not financial goals, but general goals — then they could begin to make decisions in support of those goals. They’d have a better idea of how they should be spending their time and money.

Once they’ve agreed upon some long-term goals, then I think LM and her husband need to conduct a budget review. Where have they been spending money? Is that spending aligned with their stated goals? If not, what changes can they make so that their money habits and mission match?

Note: I think it’s important for LM to approach this as a team thing, as a shared project. She shouldn’t set out with the idea that she’s trying to change her husband’s mind or habits. It’s tough to change anyone. And if they know you’re trying to change them, it just creates resentment and resistance. Instead, this should be a collaborative effort, filled with the words “we” and “us” instead of the word “you”.

If they’re not already tracking their spending, they should start. For a minimum of three months, they should track every penny they earn and spend. During this time, it’s less important that they judge their habits than that they document them. The goal with this exercise is to get an accurate assessment of how they handle money. If I were in LM’s situation, I’d probably learn to use You Need a Budget. (Actually, I think the You Need a Budget book [my review] would be excellent for LM’s family.)

In short, I don’t think LM is in a terrible position. My impression is that sure, maybe she and her husband have drifted off course but they have not yet run their financial ship aground. There’s still plenty of time to make a course correction so that they can reach their destination. (Wow, what a labored metaphor!)

What do you think? What would you do if you were in LM’s shoes? Are shared goals a good thing? Is returning to a budget the right step? Are there other things that she and her husband should be doing to stop spending? And, most importantly, how does she get him on the same page with her?



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Building financial empathy ~ Get Rich Slowly


Every night, I listen to audiobooks all night long. They lull me to sleep.

If I tried to listen to new books, of course, that’d be a problem. I wouldn’t hear 90% of the story. But I’ve learned to listen to books I know and love — books like True Grit and The Lord of the Rings — because then it doesn’t matter when I miss large chunks of the story. I already know what happens. If I wake up for five minutes at 2 a.m., I can listen as Frodo and Sam tramp through the Dead Marshes then drift back to sleep again.

This week, I’ve been listening to one of my favorites: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (read by Sissy Spacek). It’s terrific.

Near the start of of the book, young Jean Louise Finch — better known as Scout — comes home from her first day of school and tells her father she never wants to go back. Atticus thinks for a while before offering his daughter a piece of advice:

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Atticus is trying to convince Scout that her teacher isn’t all bad — she just has a different background and a different point of view. Atticus believes that before Scout condemns or criticizes Miss Caroline, she should practice a bit of empathy.

Atticus Finch gives advice to Scout

This is great advice for everyone, and for all aspects of life — even personal finance. Empathy is a skill that seems to have faded from our society (if it ever was truly present); instead, we’re quick to judge each other based on caricatures and stereotypes and incomplete information.

  • “Trump supporters are ignorant fools!”
  • “Liberals vote based on emotion, not logic!”
  • “If you’re in debt, you’re an idiot!”

It’s very easy to judge (and condemn) others who believe differently than you do. It’s especially easy when these folks make seemingly dumb decisions: Your best friend buys a new Dodge Challenger when she can barely pay her rent; a former co-worker takes a week-long vacation to Venice immediately after losing his job; your sister buys a new house even though she intends to move in a couple of years.

Rather than write these people off as “stupid”, I think it’s important to stop for a moment to consider why they do the things they do. It’s rarely because they lack intelligence. There’s usually something deeper going on. And as Atticus Finch suggests, it’s in our best interest to climb inside their skin and walk around in it. That’s the only way we can understand what makes them tick.

A Rush to Judgment

The May 2016 issue of The Atlantic contained an article that caused big waves in the personal finance community. Neal Gabler wrote about what he calls the secret shame of middle-class Americans: They’re broke and in debt. They suck with money.

Gabler writes:

Financial impotence goes by other names: financial fragility, financial insecurity, financial distress. But whatever you call it, the evidence strongly indicates that either a sizable minority or a slim majority of Americans are on thin ice financially.

Gabler cites a survey that found nearly half of all Americans would struggle to cope with a $400 emergency. He admits he’s one of them. He then spends 6000 words describing dumb things he’s done with money: He chose to live in a city with a high cost of living (New York). He continually moved to more expensive homes. He chose to pay for his daughters’ college education. And their weddings. Gabler and his wife didn’t just deplete their own savings — they depleted his parents’ savings as well!

May 2016 cover of The Atlantic“I made choices without thinking through the financial implications,” Gabler writes. “In part because I didn’t know about those implications, and in part because I assumed I would always overcome any adversity, should it arrive.”

It is very, very easy to pick this article apart and marvel at the poor choices the author made. His entire financial life seems to have been reactive rather than proactive. Honestly, Gabler is the polar opposite of what I call a money boss, a person who actively strives to take charge of her financial situation.

Two years ago, it was interesting to hear people’s reactions to Gabler’s article. Many folks told me they had zero sympathy for him and his situation (largely because it’s totally self-induced). “The author’s an idiot,” one person said. Another person wrote by email: “This article really made my head spin. It is the opposite of everything I believe in.”

My initial reaction was similar. As I read the essay, I was dumbfounded by Gabler’s decisions. (I was even more perplexed by what point he was trying to make. What was his purpose for writing the article? What’s his thesis? I mean, it has to be more than “half of Americans are unprepared for financial emergencies” — doesn’t it?)

But then I got to thinking. I used to be like this too. For decades, I did dumb things with money. I financed my lifestyle with credit-card debt. I bought things not because I valued them, but because they were the things people my age (and in my circumstances) bought. I had no savings. If a $400 emergency arose, I borrowed money from a family member.

The problem wasn’t that I was stupid or that I didn’t understand how money works. I understood perfectly well! But just because you know how to do something in theory, that doesn’t mean you can do it in practice. (Example: In theory, I know how to give a great speech. In practice, I suck.)

My problem with money wasn’t the math. My problem was the emotions. I didn’t have a handle on my personal psychology. It wasn’t until I decided to manage my life like a business that my situation improved. Again, that decision had nothing to do with math. It was all about mindset.

Because I was once in Gabler’s shoes, I can empathize with his plight. And, generally speaking, I can empathize when the people I know do dumb things with money. When a friend makes a poor choice, instead of rushing to judgment I try to put myself in their place, to ask why they did what they did. That doesn’t mean I approve of their choices — just that I try to understand them.

Financial empathy allows me to appreciate other people’s motivations, and that in turn helps me provide better advice about money.

A Mental Exercise

There’s another less-obvious way you can use financial empathy. In fact, it’s one of my favorite mental exercises. Here’s how it works.

Whenever you encounter somebody with an interesting lifestyle, try to extrapolate what your life would be like in a similar situation given your current financial resources (and knowledge).

Let me give you some examples of what I mean.

Based on my current savings and spending, I am financially independent. I have a net worth of around $1.5 million and I normally spend less than $50,000 per year. My resources can support my lifestyle — but they can’t support every lifestyle.

During our 15-month RV trip across the U.S., Kim and I stopped in Montana to see some friends who have a high income and abundant savings. They live in a fancy new house on the banks of a river. They have fancy furniture. They take fancy vacations. After the visit, I tried to work out how much their lifestyle cost and how long my financial resources would support it if I were in their shoes. Answer: Not long. Four or five years, at best.

I did the same thing when we spent a day in downtown Chicago later in the trip. I loved the look and feel of the city, and wondered what it would cost to live there. I looked up home prices. (A place in the Jetsons-like Marina City complex would cost about the same as my home in Portland.) I noted grocery prices. I took into account I wouldn’t need to own a car. I tried to imagine what my life in the Windy City would be like. Ultimately, I concluded it’d probably cost a little more than what I spend in Portland, but that I’d still be financially independent.

Of course, not every place is as expensive as downtown Chicago or the banks of a river in northern Montana.

At the end of our RV trip, Kim and I spent a few days visiting my cousin Gwen in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. She and her family live on 100 acres they purchased for $110,000 in 2007. Because they’re conservative Mennonites, they have what most would consider a simple (or basic) lifestyle. They grow much of their own food in a large vegetable garden. They raise goats and cows for milk and meat. They get their water from a mineral spring running through their back yard. They’re not completely self-sufficient, but they do what they can to keep costs down.

Cheesemaking

If we sold our “country cottage” here in Portland, we could buy a similar creek hollow near Tahlequah, build a house, and still have plenty of money left over from the sale of my home. Because cost of living is so low in rural Oklahoma, I could live like a king indefinitely. I wouldn’t even have to watch my spending! I could buy the fanciest groceries, eat in the fanciest restaurants, and wear the fanciest clothes. There’s almost no way I could exhaust my savings unless I started buying expensive sports cars or flying first-class to Asia.

You don’t have to travel across the United States to do this exercise. You can do it in your own hometown. You can do it by trying to put yourself in the place of people you know. When you visit with a friend who seems to handle money poorly, put yourself in his shoes. Imagine you have your current financial resources but otherwise lived his life. Could you afford it? What changes would you have to make in order to afford it?

I believe mental exercises like this are invaluable. They not only help you explore other possible lifestyles, but they help you develop financial empathy. After putting yourself in your sister’s shoes, you still might think she’s making poor decisions. But at least you’ll have a better appreciation for what she’s experiencing.

Building Financial Empathy

Financial empathy can be used in lots of other ways.

For instance, I’ve noticed that people have a tendency to think that because they do something a certain way, everybody else can (and should) do it that way too. If their path to Financial Independence includes working three jobs, they think everyone should work three jobs. If they’ve elected to cut costs by living without a car, they think everbody should live without a car. And so on. When people don’t do the same things they do, they judge them harshly.

I don’t like this attitude. It demonstrates a fundamental lack of financial empathy.

I’m not saying that you should condone frivolous spending from family and friends, or that you shouldn’t share (and advocate for) the methods that have helped you achieve financial success. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that yours is the only way — and don’t let yourself think of others as “stupid” or “weak” when they make mistakes.

When I started Get Rich Slowly, my motto was: “Do what works for you.” By this I meant that there was no one right way to dig out of debt, buy a house, or fund retirement. Some strategies might be more effective than others, but that doesn’t make them “right”. (Dave Ramsey’s version of the debt snowball is fine example. Not optimal from a mathematical perspective, but often the best choice from a psychological point of view.)

Similarly, no two people will pursue financial freedom in an identical fashion. My path to Financial Independence involved writing millions of words about money while purging half of my possessions. I’ll bet your path has been completely different.

The bottom line? We’d all do well to heed the words of Atticus Finch: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Rather than rush to judgment, take time to consider things from other people’s perspectives — financially and otherwise. Doing so will not only help you better understand your friends and family, but will also help you better understand yourself.



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The high cost of becoming an Olympic athlete ~ Get Rich Slowly


I’m excited! The Winter Olympics begin today. Or they began yesterday. Or maybe they begin tomorrow. I’m really not sure.

I know that to convert from local time in South Korea to local time in Portland, I need to “add seven hours, then subtract a day”. So, it if it’s 11:03 on Friday in Pyeongchang, then it’s 18:03 on Thursday here in Oregon. Google says Olympics competition officially begins at 16:05 (4:05 pm) Pacific today (February 7th), so let’s go with that. If this article is visible, the Olympics have begun.

Anyhow, I love the Olympics — despite NBC’s relentless drive to show as little of the competition as possible. I love the obscure sorts. I love the human stories. And, most of all, I love the sheer athleticism. For the next couple of weeks, much of Get Rich Slowly is going to be written while I’m watching speedskating and ski jumping.

But have you ever thought about the cost of training to become an Olympic athlete? I don’t mean the physical, emotional, and mental costs — although those are steep and very real — but the actual financial costs of dedicating yourself to a sport for years in a quest to become the best in the world.

In some countries, the state provides financial assistance for its athletes. Not in the U.S. The U.S. Olympic Committee provides some funding, but its money is spread very thin. As a result, most American athletes pay their own way.

Here’s a two-minute clip from Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that explores the situation:

Snowboarder Jonathan Cheever (32 years old), for instance, has financed his career with $78,000 of credit card debt. The U.S. Olympic Committee gives him a yearly $1500 stipend plus health insurance. Meanwhile, Cheever does what the rest of us do when he’s not training: He works. He’s a plumber.

Because Olympic dreams are so expensive, many athletes have turned to crowdfunding. Longer ago, competitors used methods like car washes, rallies, and telethons. Nowadays, they turn to sites like RallyMe.

It’s true that medalists receive bonuses from the USOC — $25,000 for a gold, $20,000 for a silver, and $15,000 for a bronze — but medaling against scores of world-class competitors is tough. It’s almost impossible. The vast majority of Olympic athletes do not medal, and many from the U.S. live near the poverty line as they train, train, train.

Here are some past stories on this subject:

But you know what? I think I admire Olympic athletes even more because the financial costs are so high. I admire that they’re willing to dedicate themselves to their sports despite the costs involved. It makes their stories all the more inspiring.



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Is MaaS Really the Future of Digital Marketing?


Marketing isn’t the forefront of automation in our world. We’re behind industries like accounting or customer relations. This is due mostly to the fact that our profession relies mostly on asset creation.

When you build a marketing business, you’re doing a lot of content creation, link-building, campaign re-tooling. Automation saves time outside of those tasks. But it’s difficult to make those tasks automated.

This is where Marketing as a Service (MaaS) comes in. And in the next few paragraphs, I’m going to explain exactly how it will completely revolutionize the marketing world.

What Exactly is Marketing as a Service?

When we say “as a service” what we really mean is laissez-faire. When you employ Servers as a Service, you don’t have to mess with your server. All security, backup, APIs, storage etc are done for you.

Marketing as a Service should be no different. You should have to do the bare minimum to set up the service and from there on, you take your hands off the wheel and watch it work for you.

You Don’t Know Marketing and That’s OK

It’s extremely difficult to keep up with marketing trends even if you’re a full-time marketer. If your full-time job isn’t marketing, then it will be near impossible to stay abreast of the ever-shifting market. Marketing as a service makes this absolutely OK.

When you let someone else do your marketing, you can spend your market research time improving product and service value to a customer and investing in relationships. In essence, the purpose of marketing as a service is to free up the business owner and the entrepreneur to actually work on their business.

The Technical Side Is Taken Care Of

Since the advent of the internet, the need for technical knowledge in marketing has increased a thousandfold. And many business owners shirk marketing due to fear of technology. Marketing as a Service assuages the business owner’s fears in this area.

Don’t understand how to optimize pay per click ads? No problem, marketing as a service has you covered. When you hire a MaaS company, you’re up and running in a few minutes.

It’s a Centralized Model

Marketers often hole themselves up in particular niches. One might focus on SEO, another on pure content marketing, another on ad copy, etc. You sometimes have to hire multiple marketers to do the entirety of the work.

With marketing as a service, you should get an entire package in one service. No more shopping around through hundreds of marketer bios. Just find a service that fits your style and go with it.

Marketing as a Service May Not Be For Everyone

There may be a few reasons that a full-service marketing offer may not be for you. Not every service is a viable solution for every possible customer.

According to Story Block Media, lack of familiarity is one of the top reasons a company may not want to hire out their marketing. If a service does not fully understand what your business is about or your business is more complicated than an outside agency could fully grasp, then perhaps you should consider an in-house solution.

This doesn’t mean that outsourced solutions like the MaaS model can’t learn as they go, it just means that the beginning might be rough. Mixed signals often frustrate or cause confusion and the value a MaaS platform might be limited for certain industries.

This doesn’t mean fields that require expertise shouldn’t consider MaaS and do their research. Perhaps a marketing service will have prior experience in your field of expertise.

Some Services Might Be Too Slow for Your Needs

If you’re on a tight timeline, some marketing services might be too slow for your needs. Marketing is becoming more and more automated. But we still need hands-on work for most marketing efforts.

And if a marketing service acquires more contracts than they have time for, their services slow down. An in-house team may be able to keep you up to date and help steer your marketing ship more efficiently than an off-site marketing service.

But with an on-site marketing office, you do use up more resources than you would with an off-site marketing service. What you gain in efficiency, you lose in resources.

How to Get the Most Out of Marketing as a Service

While MaaS is a fairly hands-off experience, it’s still up to you to make sure you get the most out of the service. You should have a roadmap already worked out for your marketing campaign before you finalize your MaaS contract.

This will ensure the marketing service knows exactly what you expect. While a marketing plan may eventually become moot after a time, it’s a great way to gather data and establish goals.

But don’t expect a marketing service to follow your plan to the letter. A marketing plan is dynamic. It shouldn’t be a static document meant to constrain your marketing service.

Pay Attention to Your Customers

This may seem like common sense advice, but when it comes to marketing many companies forget that their goals should tailor to their customers. You might think the goals you have for your company’s future are perfect until your customers leave.

Marketing plans often fail because they don’t focus on how a service or product solves a customer’s problems. Usually, these failed campaigns focus too much on specifications. “Here is what we offer!” their ads yell.

Nobody cares.

Make sure you know how your service or product solves your customer’s problems before hiring a marketing service.

Not a Fix All

Of course, no solution will fix all your marketing problems. Often the problem is deeper than any outward marketing campaign can solve.

But MaaS is where most marketing is heading. Maybe it’s time to see if it’s right for your business.

If you’re interested in more marketing advice, check out the rest of Shoemoney.com.



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Writing your financial autobiography ~ Get Rich Slowly


I believe that each of us possesses a money blueprint, a mental map that defines our behaviors and attitudes toward money. Our basic blueprints come from our parents. They’re altered through our interactions with friends and co-workers. And, of course, our own experiences lead us to modify and add to our money blueprints.

A couple of months ago, I had lunch with my friend Michael. We talked a bit about my money blueprint, then we talked a bit about his. Because our backgrounds are similar, our money blueprints are similar.

“You know what would be interesting,” Michael suggested. “You should write your financial autobiography.”

“Nobody would want to read that,” I said, grimacing. Michel laughed.

“Well, they probably wouldn’t want to read it if you made it too long,” he said. “I don’t mean you should write a book about it. Just do a long blog post. Write your financial autobiography, then look to see how your past has affected your money blueprint.”

I liked the idea, but could’t understand how it would work in practice.

Then, last week, I read Alexander Chee’s 5000-word essay at Buzzfeed (yes, really — Buzzfeed) about how deeply money and pain are connected in his life. This is a financial autobiography. And this shows clearly how experience creates a money blueprint.

Alexander Chee’s Financial Autobiography

In 2000, Chee unexpectedly became the manager of his church’s outreach program for the homeless. To his surprise, he had no problem with the position. He managed its money effectively. Planning and budgeting were easy. This was vastly different to his financial life at home.

The calm with which I did this every week was not visible in the rest of my life. In the apartment I returned to after those volunteer shifts, my closet stacked full with boxes of files and receipts going back 15 years. Many were unpaid bills, missed payments, or collection notices. Letters from the IRS. A personal organizer I had hired a few years before had said, looking them over, “Oh, wow, you don’t need these,” then she laughed and told me to throw all the papers away. But I could not. When I eventually moved out in 2004, I moved with those boxes.

Chee gradually came to realize that while he was perfectly competent with his church’s money, something in his psychology was preventing him from behaving similarly with his own money. In his personal life, money and pain had become intertwined.

Chee family

Chee’s father died young — at the age of 43. He also died relatively wealthy and without a will. The state of Maine divided his estate, part of which became a trust for the 15-year-old Chee. When he turned 18, he gained access to that account.

“The first thing I did with my money was part rebellion, part panegyric,” Chee writes. “My father had loved fast cars and expensive ones, both, and so I bought what I thought he’d want for me, a black Alfa Romeo.”

Aside from this one expensive indulgence, Chee tried to make good use of his money. He used it to obtain a college degree, to turn himself into a writer. His trust fund lasted nine years. “For those nine years, I felt both invulnerable and doomed, under the protection of a spell that I knew to be dwindling in power.”

Throughout this long essay, Chee offers a variety of anecdotes to illustrate how he developed his money blueprint. Like my parents, his mother and father never really gave him overt lessons in personal finance. Instead, Chee learned about money from the way his parents acted.

Both of my parents had worked hard for what they had — my father, with his older brother, had scavenged for food from abandoned army supply trucks in Seoul during the Korean War. My mother had cleaned hotel rooms during the summer for the money she used to buy the car she drove away from Maine. My father believed money was for spending, and my mother believed it should never be spent. Her clothes were handmade also — for much of her life, she made them herself. She was as stylish as my father, but by her own hand.

This article is filled with financial lessons on everthing from the importance of estate planning to the power of thrift. More than that, it’s packed with examples of why smart money management isn’t simply about math. For most of us, it’s a complex subject loaded with psychological and emotional issues. And when relationships are involved, those issues are accentuated.

To the extent I have survived myself thus far, it began…when I realized I treated money emotionally and decided to treat myself as I would anyone else I was taking care of. Ordinary thrift and self-forgiveness were the payday only I could provide, no matter my professional or financial circumstances, and this realization was the gift of that time, as close to a Unitarian grace as I think I’ll ever get.

Chee’s article is a true financial autobiography. After reading it, I think I know what my friend Michael was asking me to do.

Writing Your Financial Autobiography

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I intend to set aside a few hours to write my own financial autobiography. I’ve shared bits and pieces of it over the years, but I’ve never tried to assemble these individual stories into a more coherent whole.

I suspect that many Get Rich Slowly readers could profit from writing their financial autobiographies, too.

When I do mine, I plan on free writing. I’ll do a massive stream of consciousness braindump. I’ve thought enough about this subject and my own history that this should yield an instructive story.

If you want to do this exercise but need some prompting to help you begin, consider exploring the following questions:

  • What are you earliest memories about money? When you were a child, what did you learn about money? Did your parents every give you money lessons? Or was the subject never discussed in your house? Did you get an allowance? If so, how much were you given and what were you allowed to do with it? What other experiences did you have with money when you were very young?
  • How did your relationship with money change during your teenage years? Were you expected to work when you were in high school? How was the subject of college handled? Was college an expectation in your family? If so, how was it going to be paid for? How did your perception of money change as you became more aware of the world and as you were exposed to friends with different financial backgrounds?
  • As you entered early adulthood and became more responsible for your own financial situation, how did your attitudes and behaviors change? Did they change? If you went to college, how did that experience affect your money blueprint? What did you learn as you entered the workforce, began to live on your own, and then entered into adult romantic relationships?
  • In more recent years, how have you handled money? Have your attitudes and habits changed since you were younger? How so? What is your current financial situation? How do you feel about that situation?
  • Where do you see yourself headed in the future? What changes would you like to make to your financial life? What goals would you like to accomplish? Are there parts of your money blueprint that seem faulty? How will you fix them?

If you want more help, the Faith and Money Network has a free thee-page PDF meant to help people prepare their own money autobiographies. (This guide comes from a religious perspective, but it’s still useful if like me you’re non-religious. Just ignore the churchy bits!)



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How to check your Social Security benefits online ~ Get Rich Slowly


Last week, I drove out to the box factory to see my brother Jeff and my cousin Nick. Ostensibly, I made the trip to check up on Mom’s financial situation. Really, though, it was an excuse to spend three hours chatting about nothing and everything all at once.

As I was looking through Mom’s Social Security info, I decided to check my own account online.

“Look,” I said. “I’ll get $1125 per month if I start Social Security in thirteen years. If I wait eighteen years, I’ll get $1598 per month. That’s as if I had another half-million dollars saved for retirement.” [I based this very rough estimate on the math for the four-percent rule.]

“Wait,” Nick said. “You can check your Social Security benefits online?” He was less interested in my hypothetical half-million dollars in added wealth than he was in looking at his Social Security account.

“Yes,” I said. “Of course. Generally speaking, the U.S. government websites are awesome.” It’s true. They are. Our government may get a lot of crap for the things it does wrong, but government websites are universally useful and informative.

“But is that safe?” Nick asked.

“Yes, it’s safe,” I said. “It’s the official Social Security site with official Social Security information. The government isn’t trying to scam you.”

“I didn’t know you could do this either,” Jeff said.

“Huh,” I said. “Maybe I should share this at Get Rich Slowly. If you guys don’t know about this, there are probably tons of other people who haven’t heard about it.”

How to Check Your Social Security Statement Online

It’s easy to check your Social Security statement online. Everything works exactly as you’d expect and the website security is tight. Here’s how.

  1. Head to the official Social Security website. (Make sure you’re at ssa.gov and that the start of the URL includes “https” indicating that it’s a secure connection.)
  2. Create an account. Follow the instructions carefully. When you receive your activation code, return to the Social Security website to complete the process.
  3. After you’ve created your account, log in. Even here, you’ll encounter an additional security measure. After you submit your password, the website will email you a one-time security code. After you enter that, you’ll be able to access your information. (You’ll get a new security code each time you access the account.)

From the main page of your account, you have access to all of your basic Social Security info, such as your earning record:

My Social Security Statement

And your estimated benefits:

My estimated Social Security benefits

You can also download your most recent Social Security statement and/or order a replacement card. (True story: My Social Security card was stolen from the glovebox of my Datsun 310 GX in 1988, when I was a sophomore in college. I’ve never replaced it.)

There’s not a lot to see in your Social Security account, but that’s fine. Sometimes you simply need to check your estimated benefits or your lifetime earnings. The Social Security website makes that easy and efficient to do.



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