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Banks typically look for every possible instance to charge customers to fees. That’s why it’s particularly important to stay aware of your bank account balances. With the increasing popularity of automatic payments (outgoing) or automatic withdrawals (pulls), a poorly timed deposit can result in overdraft fees or insufficient funds (NSF) fees. A few years ago, I took a survey of the different ways banks process their customers’ debits and credits, and saw how easily it would be for banks to trap customers treading close to low balances in a maze of fees.

For example, let’s say you have $500 in your checking account at the beginning of the day on September 1. You could have previously written a check for $600 to pay your September rent, you could have an automatic withdrawal using your debit card scheduled for $300 to pay your electricity bill on the first of the month. You go to the bank after work and deposit $500 into your checking account.

Some banks would process the rent check first, generating one overdraft fee of $35. This would be followed by the $300 automatic withdrawal, processed during the ACH batch, but now your balance is a negative $135, so you receive a second overdraft fee and a balance of a negative $470 before your overdraft coverage comes from your savings. Finally, the bank processes your deposit, giving you a balance of $30.

Had the bank processed the deposit first, you would have saved $70. And if the payments were returned rather than covered through overdraft fees, you might have caused problems with your landlord or your electric company. Banks justified these techniques with two specific claims:

  1. Larger withdrawals should be processed first because they usually represent more important payments, like rent and mortgage payments.
  2. There’s no consistent way for banks to know what time an automated transaction is received, and thus most transactions should be processed in batches at night.

Consumer groups have criticized banks for this approach because it isn’t consumer friendly, it’s designed to maximize profits at the expense of customers, and it’s rather easy to improve. And after class-action lawsuits and guidance by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus, more banks are improving their procedures.

Wells Fargo is in the process of making some positive changes. Again, I’m a long-term customer of Wells Fargo, or to be more accurate, I’ve been a customer of a string of banks that, through a series of mergers and acquisitions, has ultimately (so far) become the bank known as Wells Fargo.

As of August 11, Wells Fargo no longer posts checks and automatic payment transactions (ACH) from highest to lowest value. Instead, the bank will post transactions based on the date and time the bank receives them. It still isn’t as simple as it sounds. Wells Fargo doesn’t post these transactions immediately. That happens during the same nightly batching process. Each branch has a cut-off time for deposits, but you may not see that cut-off time until you visit the bank or ATM.

Cash deposits and transfers made before the cut-off or after the cut-off and before batch processing begins will be counted as available when other transactions are posted during the batch process. Check deposits might not clear the same day, however. After the any qualifying deposits are posted, Wells Fargo will process debit card purchases, ATM withdrawals, account transfers, online bill payments, and teller-cashed checks based on the time the transaction occurred.

Then, Wells Fargo pays your checks and automatic payments. This is the category that used to be prioritized by value, from high to low. Now these will be processed in the order the instructions were received by the bank, and if no time information is available, they will be processed from low value to high.

Wells Fargo has some additional changes coming in September. More transactions will be considered “pending withdrawals” during the day. Previously, you wouldn’t be aware of pending withdrawals during the day, but now, Wells Fargo will mark them as pending withdrawals as soon as they are received, and reduce your available balance immediately. The withdrawals will still be processed during the nightly batch. If you look online, you’ll be able to see pending withdrawals beginning September 19.

While these changes do reflect some improvements and perhaps some clarity over the old system, there are still certain instances where customers can find themselves with multiple overdraft fees or returned payments.

Even diligent people make mistakes with their financial accounts. But the best way to avoid having to deal with these issues is by taking a sensible approach to account balance maintenance:

  • Know how much money is in your bank account.
  • Don’t write checks or initiate automatic withdrawals using money that isn’t in your account and available today.
  • Keep track of your finances so you don’t have any questions about whether your payments will clear your bank account.
  • Always keep a solid buffer in your checking account. Choose a buffer amount that covers your weekly transaction volume.
  • Set up an alert (with your bank, with Mint.com, with Quicken, or with some other tool) to alert you if your balance is low.

Wouldn’t you know it, I found myself dealing with an overdraft fee recently. Yes, even people who write about personal finance make mistakes. To be honest, as budgeting became less of a necessity for me, I let some of my financial guard down, and haven’t been tracking my finances as closely as I used to. For many years, I looked at Quicken on a daily basis, but I haven’t done so in a while. I’m trying to get in the habit of checking my transactions once a week, but it’s going to take me some time to improve the accuracy of my transactions over the last year or so.

For more information on Wells Fargo’s new posting order policies, you can read this PDF.

Were you ever stymied by the way your bank processed your deposits and withdrawals over the course of one day? Are these changes by Wells Fargo significant improvements?

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If you’ve been online in the past week or two, you have no doubt seen viral videos of strangers — and maybe even your friends — dumping buckets of ice over their heads. There is a charitable cause behind these videos. Most, or at least some, of the cold, soaked folks are accepting the challenge to support the ALS Association, a non-profit organization that provides support for research, assistance for people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), and coordination of care, and the organization advocates for its cause through political lobbying.

Does dumping ice on your head have anything to do with curing a disease, and does it matter? I suppose the answer to both questions is no. There seem to be some disagreements about who started this latest craze. People have been dousing themselves with water to bring attention to causes for a while, but someone wishing to support the ALS Association caught onto this idea and it has certainly captured a lot of people’s attention.

And it’s working. According to the ALS Association, the organization has received $22.9 million in charitable donations between July 29 and August 19. For some context, that collection compares with just $1.9 million raised during the same time period last year, during which time no viral video was asking people to support the ALS Association. That is massively impressive. Good job, everyone who donated.

Still, more questions need to be asked. The ALS Association explains that the increase in donations come from both existing donors — those who have historically supported the organization — as well as 453,210 new donors. Presumably 453,210 persons or thereabouts were inspired by the video to do something they wouldn’t have otherwise done. And existing donors might have increased their normal contributions to be part of the frenzy.

How much of the $22.9 million has come from these 453,210 individuals? Are we looking at a case where a small group of major donors seized the opportunity to help the organization manifold, while your average ice bucket warrior kept their contributions slim? Does the organization even know what to do with $22.9 million?

Before I contribute to an organization, I like to know a little more about it, beyond the mission statement, beyond the marketing. The most important thing is whether the organization is a good charity, and that could mean many different things. Is the organization’s mission in line with something I’m passionate about and interested in? Are the executives taking care of the money they receive?

In the case of the ALS Association, the non-profit’s 11 executives earned $1.8 million in salary for the tax year ending January 2014. Another $950,000 was spent by the organization for marketing consultants. The organization raised a total of $23.6 million in funds that year, and only $363,000 of that was from government grants. During that year, only two individual donated more than $5,000 to the organization; one contributed $5.75 million and the other gave $500,000. While this doesn’t guarantee how people donated this year, it does seem like a good portion of contributions come from small donations like those that might result from a campaign like the ice bucket challenge. This is encouraging.

Here’s the organization’s explanation for the $5.75 million contribution:

In December 2013, the association received a bequest totaling $5,750,000, establishing a term endowment according to designations made by the donor. The proceeds of this bequest are to be maintained by the association in an endowment fund for a period of ten years. Earnings from the fund are restricted to support research and may be spent on a current basis.

The ALS Association’s total expenses in the last fiscal year wee $26.2 million, up from $25.7 million the prior year. These expenses include research grants, patient and community services, public and professional education, fundraising, and administration. Those administration expenses are 7.3% of the total. Charity Navigator, a company that rates non-profit organizations, comes up with a different result of 11% using the prior year’s financials, but considers that to be relatively efficient and provides the organization with an overall four-star rating.

The CEO received total compensation last year totaling $362,458. Is that the right price to pay for a non-profit CEO for a company with annual expenditures of more than $25 million? Maybe. Or maybe knowing the CEO is in a financial position those with ALS would like to find themselves in makes the idea of supporting the organization less tasteful. I do know that running a non-profit organization like the ALS Association is complex and difficult, yet an established organization certainly takes advantage of the willingness of people to support that organization — whether it’s smart people and consultants to advise the CEO or whether it’s the corps of thousands of volunteers who assist non-profit organization through some of the less sophisticated tasks of operating the programs.

Taking all things into consideration, the ALS Association seems to be on solid financial footing and is actively working towards its mission. The money raised by the organization has historically been distributed through grants from the ALS Association to groups doing the hands-on work in research in care, hospitals and universities. Judging by their financial disclosures, their IRS Form 990, and their reviews, you can feel confident giving to the organization.

There has certainly been some criticism in social media about the ice bucket challenge. Many challengers passed along the message by asking that the people they “nominate” either dump a bucket of ice water on their head or donate. This has stirred backlash — other people believe that people should donate regardless of whether they want to record and share a video of an impromptu ice shower. And there are always a good percentage of people who take the challenge, sharing videos with their friends on Facebook, without even mentioning ALS or otherwise identifying the purpose of the video.

But if the numbers can be believed, it’s working. It doesn’t even matter that some people are dumping water and maintaining the virality of the cause without donating or without mentioning ALS. In this case, it’s working, because the medium is so large, the message is getting through. Assuming the ALS Association is not behind this, and that it is a true grassroots campaign, this is a beautiful situation for the organization. Usually, you have to spend a lot of money on marketing to raise funds like this, and companies that handle the fundraising often take a significant piece of the revenue.

For example, hiring a company to handle telemarketing keeps some of the most important outreach work for an organization manageable, but a company that raises $133,000 might keep $111,000 for itself, leaving only $22,000 to the organization it’s working for. $22,000 is better than nothing, but it’s just a portion of the total raised.

In this case, I have to side with the supporters of the ALS ice bucket challenge, not the critics. In other cases, yes, acting foolish on social media in support of a cause, without even mentioning that cause, could backfire. People who have no concept of charity will naturally join in on the fun when they see their friends and strangers doing it. It reminds me of the planking meme from a few years ago. There was no organization to support, just a feeling of inclusion in a popular movement. Luckily for ALS, the penetration of the ice bucket challenge meme is so high that even if 60 percent of video participants have no idea about ALS and neglect to donate money, the benefit to the organization is still fantastic.

If you do choose to participate, you should focus on ALS and give to charity yourself, to the extent that it fits in with your budget, whether it’s $1, $5, $100, or more. Then again, if you don’t give, even if you don’t mention ALS, in this case you are likely still helping the organization. However, you could look at the recent figures and determine your $100 amid a haystack of $22.9 million in one month has diminishing returns for the organization this year, and might do better for an organization that receives much less public attention — at least this month. There are many ways to look at the situation to determine whether you should participate and donate.

Some of the other criticisms of the challenge don’t really stand up to scrutiny. Is it a waste of water? The amount of water needed for the challenge is negligible, but could be seen as a waste in areas where there is a drought. Is it a case of “slacktivism,” where people can feel good about “supporting” an organization without really doing anything? Maybe, but if so, just throwing money at a problem is the same thing — the real charity is donating time and effort. What I don’t like is that this is an indicator of how culture is changing from an externally-focused, doing-good model to a look-at-me-I’m-doing-good model. Celebrities are jumping in on the craze. I’ve even seen friends use the ice bucket videos to market their businesses or “personal brands.” The self-centered trend runs counter to altruism, empathy, and charity, so it’s interesting to see this combination of people drawing attention to themselves in addition to the disease.

Will you do take the ALS ice bucket challenge? Donate to the ALS Association here.

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Fair Isaac Corp. is changing the FICO score calculation, and many consumers will have higher credit scores as a result. The FICO score is still the most widely used measure of a consumer’s creditworthiness. The current calculation is called “FICO 08″ and the new calculation to be rolled out soon is called “FICO Score 9.”

Banks rely on credit scores like the FICO score to determine whether to lend money to consumers and how much to charge borrowers for that privilege. Overall, the higher credit score you have, the lower loan interest rate you may qualify for. FICO isn’t the only game in town. Lately, it’s been seeing some competition from products like VantageScore. VantageScore recently updated their own scoring algorithm to better reflect risk, and because this score is backed by the three credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, it has been gaining traction among banks and lenders.

The update to FICO is Fair Isaac’s response to the new VantageScore algorithm. FICO’s new scoring approach, FICO Score 9, prevents certain behaviors from negatively affecting scores.

Accounts that have been transferred to collections agencies and have been repaid are dropped, so these accounts are no longer factored in. Previously, an account that had been in collections but has been repaid remained a negative factor in calculating a FICO score.

Medical debt won’t negatively affect your credit score as much. FICO now believes that medical debt has little to do with creditworthiness and risk. Most people find themselves in medical debt not because they are bad at handling loans, but because they were ill-prepared for a major medical expense. Sometimes, even the best emergency funds can’t handle immediate medical expenses.

Yet, presence of medical debt can certainly be a problem when a person is considering taking on more debt, which is why a bank would look at a credit score.

These changes, plus an alleged new technique for diving the creditworthiness from consumers without a credit history, are purported to be good for consumers in general. And for those who fall into the above categories, scores will undoubtedly increase. Increases scores, in theory, have great advantages for consumers. Debt becomes less expensive. If you qualify for a better mortgage rate by 50 basis points (or 0.5 percentage points), you could save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage. This is significant savings and could be a fantastic benefit. It could help more people reach financial independence or debt-free living sooner — or at all.

This is a very optimistic outlook. Maybe Fair Isaac has consumers in mind — and considering part of the impetus for these changes were recommendations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there is definitely a pull in favor of a large portion of Americans, those who borrow money sometime in their lives. But Fair Isaac doesn’t deal directly with consumers for the most part; banks do. And banks have a way of turning anything good for consumers against the consumers.

New regulations to protect consumers? Banks charge additional fees. Lower rates available on mortgages? Fewer consumers qualify for credit. Extremely low rates for banks borrowing from the Federal Reserve? Extremely low interest on savings accounts. New, higher credit scores for a portion of American borrowers? The potential results seem clear: Higher loan interest rates, a higher standard for lending, fewer loans, or a combination.

Does a bank look at raw credit scores or percentiles? From a financial perspective — and these are companies in the financial industry so they know all about evaluations from a financial perspective — it doesn’t make much sense to evaluate loan applicants on raw numbers. Percentiles hold the keys to decision-making.

Let’s saw a university based its applicant acceptance solely on SAT scores. The SAT scores its test on a scale up to 800. When I was in high school, there were two SAT tests, math and verbal, for a total possible score of 1600. A score of 650 out of 800 in math would have been very good, and would have qualified the test taker for a good percentage of universities. That score might have been in the 90th percentile, so scoring a 650 in math means you’ve performed better than 90 percent of the population.

The SAT company changes the test, though, and in one year, perhaps they made the test easier. The same person who received a 650 might now receive a 680. That sounds like an improvement, but because the test has changed, now that 680 is the lowest score necessary to be in the 90th percentile. Your score improved but so did everybody else’s. Colleges aren’t just going to admit more students because more test-takers scored 650 or above, they’re going to move the cut-off to remain with the 90th percentile.

And that’s how I expect things will work with credit scores as well. There’s some leeway because the scoring change does not result in an across-the-board credit score increase. Only a portion of consumers will benefit from increased scores. But even though increased scores are limited to people who fall into those categories, the percentiles will change. Some people will probably see a benefit in the form of lower loan rates or a higher potential for qualification, but it won’t affect the overall amount banks are lending. The pool of money ready for loans won’t get bigger, at least not due to this change. If banks loan more money next year than this year, that would have happened regardless of Fair Isaac’s meddling.

With the new score calculation, there doesn’t appear to be a way for any consumer to see a lower credit score. Of course, some consumers will see lower credit scores over time, but that would be a result of their particular behavior with credit rather than the scoring algorithm change.

Some people win, some people will lose. And the people who lose will be those who weren’t affected by the score change, in other words, those who don’t have medical debt or haven’t had collections.

Another factor to keep in mind is that interest rates are still historically low. Experts have been predicting the rates would increase ever since the Federal Reserve Board began lowering them. Eventually those experts will be correct. Interest rates could go up at the same time more people have higher credit scores.

You can’t see your own FICO Score 9 yet. You can find out your FICO scores under the previous version of the algorithm by visiting MyFico.com and ordering “FICO Standard” products for each of the three credit bureaus. Because each of the three bureaus could contain slightly different data about a consumer, there could be a different FICO score for each bureau, even under the same FICO 08 calculation.

With the introduction of FICO Score 9 to lenders, consumers don’t yet have the ability to see exactly what lenders who use FICO Score 9 see. That puts consumers at a disadvantage yet again, just as when FICO Scores were not available to the public, and you were never able to know your own credit score until you applied for a loan. I expect Fair Isaac will begin allowing consumers to buy their scores using the FICO Score 9 algorithm eventually, but not before the lenders get a glimpse of the overall data and can make new decisions.

I decided to order my FICO 08 scores from all the bureaus. Previously, I had only monitored my score for free using CreditKarma, and the score reported there, my “TransUnion New Account Score,” has remained 790 for a long time. CreditKarma also reports a VantageScore of 874 for me, down from 886 a few months ago. MyFico charges $19.95 for each score, but I found a discount code (S1403STL20FST) to reduce that price.

Within seconds, I received my FICO 08 scores from each bureau: 807 from Experian, 806 from Equifax, and 806 from TransUnion. I expect little change between FICO 08 and FICO Score 9 for me since I don’t fit any of the above categories. But, if I had medical debt, my score could potentially increase by 25 points.

What do you think about these changes to the FICO scoring algorithm? Will it have a positive effect for consumers? What are your credit scores? (You can share them anonymously if you like.)

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The events that happened throughout my life, the paths that got me to where I am today, present an interesting story. I refer back to pieces of this story once in a while here on Consumerism Commentary but I never focus on it, nor do I ever really provide a complete narrative. When I write, I prefer to focus on things external to me. Although this blog started more like a personal journal interspersed with my financial details and interesting bits of information about personal finance, like many other long-lasting websites, it’s evolved over time.

Storytelling fills an important role. A good story triggers powerful emotions in readers or listeners, and these can be emotions of connection (like sympathy or jealousy or inspiration). Humans are emotional, not logical, decision makers, so strong emotions can cause readers or listeners to make decisions they wouldn’t have made without that emotional connection. Emotional triggers are certainly nothing new. Charismatic individuals have been using storytelling for centuries to spread religious beliefs, gain allies, and sell products.

The best salespeople today are keenly aware of this effect and use storytelling to convince people to spend money. A good story can change someone’s mind; a great story can change someone’s financial situation. Sometimes for the better, but often not.

For Consumerism Commentary, I try to think of ways to encourage readers to become better consumers: to make the most of the money they have, to improve their financial situation through building income and reducing expenses, to move towards a better financial situation than in the past even if full financial independence isn’t achievable. And, at least so far, I haven’t used my writing to sell products to readers. Yes, I’ve written or published some product reviews designed to help people make good choices about the financial products they use, including a way for readers to take advantage of those offers, but those have been generally directed at people who had already decided to use those products. I’ve tried hard not to sell someone something that wouldn’t be appropriate for them.

Storytelling has a much bigger benefit than selling products — it can sell ideas. And that starts to get dangerous. An inspiring story about quitting your job to blog full time can easily convince people who would otherwise know better to follow that same path in search of riches. I know for a fact that my personal success has given hope to people, even if their reasoning might have been, “If that fool can quit his job and sell a little blog for an insane amount of money, a smart guy or girl like me can do even better.” This is why I don’t make a big deal out of my story. This is why I take my role as a business coach for select clients very seriously. I don’t want to see people make huge mistakes.

People often ask me if blogging as a business has a future. People every day are quitting their jobs, ready to tell their stories online, ready to find a way to sell things to their readers, and they need to know if there’s a future in blogging. In fact, my girlfriend, who is also a blogger, asked me about this recently, but companies have paid me to hear my thoughts on the future of blogging, even though I’ve often been happy to chat with CEOs about it for free.

They ask me because I’ve been around. I’ve been on the Internet since about 1989. I’ve been building various types of online communities since 1990. I’ve been building websites and teaching people how to build websites since 1994. I know how to manage UNIX servers so I’m familiar with the technical side of the Internet, but I’m also as well as the social side (and that goes far beyond “social media”). And I watch related trends pretty closely, and I see a future that is troublesome for the small-time independent web publisher. Today’s environment is not one in which I’d suggest anyone quit their day job to be the next big blogger. Not without a head start, not without the financial backing that allows you to effectively compete, not without something that makes it clear that success is imminent.

That doesn’t mean bloggers can’t start today and become popular. That happens all the time. But translating that popularity into a sustainable living, or even better a valuable asset with the potential of lasting a long time or being recognized by the market as an acquirable asset, goes from rare to incredibly unlikely. But people beat the odds all the time. In fact, people who are more inclined to ignore the odds have an increased chance of meeting those goals, at least partially. I don’t want to say it’s impossible. The danger is in seeing others who have done something impressive and expecting the same will come with a little hard work. Make a living? Maybe. Make a great living? Well… Make a fortune? Doubtful.

The inspirational entrepreneurial story that spreads the lie that this path is the best way to secure a financial future is often incomplete. And the reason I’m writing this article in the first place is because I recently came across a story from a few years ago that is a perfect example of this. It shows you that a smart consumer will always need to look for the questions that go unanswered in any story.

Someone I follow on Twitter attended her sister’s wedding a few days ago, and posted a photograph of the two of them together, beaming with happiness. The individual I follow on Twitter will become clear in a few moments.

For some reason, I decided to look for more information, to learn more about her sister. One of the first things I found was her “origin story.” The trend with superheroes in movies recently is to present a character’s origin story — well, entrepreneurs have origin stories, too. And her story is about as sweet as it gets.

Mary Riesgraf — that’s her name — started a confectionery shop, Sweet Mary’s, in Los Angeles. The business is registered to a home address, so there’s probably no storefront. These are the words she told AllParenting in an interview:

Sweet Mary’s was started out of pure joy that my sweets brought to my friends and family. I started making homemade sweets for holiday gifts and everyone kept telling me to start a business. I was afraid of making such a big commitment so I didn’t consider starting a business until Fall 2011. My boyfriend Leif and my three daughters (Grace, 11, Sarah, 10, and Emma, 8) were my biggest fans encouraging me to go for it. I am so glad I started. I have had a blast making sweets and I love hearing all of the great feedback from our customers.

It’s such a heartwarming story about success, and inspiring to anyone who is passionate about a skill and contemplating starting a business to focus and perhaps make a living.

AllParenting notes that she and her shop has garnered the attention of celebrities, making the shop an overnight sensation. Mary took an activity she loved and for which she had a talent, opened a store, and suddenly celebrities were talking about it. Not bad! The story refers to mostly actors who quickly jumped on her team and supported her as happy customers, like Jason Lee (“Earl” from My Name is Earl), Timothy Hutton (“Conrad” from Ordinary People), and Jenna Elfman (“Dharma” from Dharma and Greg).

I don’t want to criticize Mary. She’s done a great job — and congratulations to her on her recent wedding! The story is inspiring, but the interview neglects to focus on the huge advantage Mary has over a typical entrepreneur, tired of his or her job, feeling a pull to do something else with life. Mary had quite a few built-in connections. While she’s an actor and producer in her own right, her sister, Beth Riesgraf, is also an actor (and a talented film photographer). And the business was launched at the height of Beth’s popularity, as her show Leverage was coming to a close and fans were imploring the producers to keep the show running.

In the interview, Mary says, “My sister had tweeted about me and a bunch of our friends re-tweeted… It was explosive!” Today, Beth has 438,000 Twitter followers. I’m not sure how many she had in 2012, but I expect it was a similarly high number. If you want to be an entrepreneur, ask yourself how many Twitter followers your siblings have.

Mary also says about her first celebrity order, “Jason Lee ordered 150 of our Signature Caramel Chocolate Apples for his wedding.” The story of her success would have had less of an impact if she had said, “Jason Lee, my sister’s former fiancée and father of her daughter, ordered 150 of my caramel chocolate apples for his wedding a couple years before I launched my actual business.” Timothy Hutton, also mentioned as a celebrity customer, was Mary’s sister’s Leverage co-star. Sales or gifts, readers aren’t really sure what those orders are, but either way, they’re still in the family.

My intention isn’t to dampen the success of one particular sudden-entrepreneur, but just to show there are often a lot of details missing from our favorite inspiring entrepreneurial stories. This is just an example I came across recently, and one where I happened to know some of the missing pieces.

The problem is that a story like this can easily encourage someone to start their own business. Is that really such a bad thing, when the employment environment today is so bad and it seems to make a lot of sense for people looking for a better financial future to take matters into their own hands? Being a business owner does open lots of opportunities for personal, professional, and financial growth. But you have to do some market research and soul searching first. Don’t be swayed by inspirational stories. Ask questions! Get to the bottom of the issue. Find out why and how people succeed — not just how they say they succeed, because the true story is often much different than the marketing (and every story is marketing).

If you make decisions based on inspirational stories, whatever hard time you thought you had working at “just a job” could be much, much worse, when you find yourself struggling as a business owner. And then years later, when you discover you need to go back to the workforce, you’ll be in further trouble because you haven’t maintained your skills and have a gaping, unsuccessful hole in your résumé. Too many people are willing to be inspirational and motivational, and to be inspired and motivated, and too few people are willing to discuss realities. That just doesn’t sell as well.

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How Depression Threatens Financial Well-Being

by Luke Landes
depression

Depression prevents people from making what other would consider “logical” financial decisions.

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15 Actions Families Are Taking Today to Make College More Affordable

by Luke Landes
Graduation

Sallie Mae’s recent report explains the results of the latest survey on how American families pay for college.

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Naked With Cash: Betsey S, June 2014

by Luke Landes
Betsey - Naked With Cash

Betsey offers her mid-year financial update for Naked With Cash.

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Naked With Cash: Laura and Leon, June 2014

by Luke Landes
Laura and Leon - Naked With Cash

Laura and Leon present their latest financial update for Naked With Cash.

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Naked With Cash: Brian, June 2014

by Luke Landes
Brian - Naked With Cash

Brian shares his mid-year financial update for his latest Naked With Cash report.

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How Does a Company Care About Its Employees?

by Luke Landes
Building

I’m in the middle, well probably the beginning, of a long-term organization project. I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over the years, particularly since moving into a larger apartment seven years ago. If I want to live a more mobile life, I need to downsize somewhat. In this process, I came across a plaque I ... Continue reading this article…

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