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best early retirement personal blogs

6 Best Early Retirement Blogs That Are Personal

Not denying that there are a lot of websites and blogs which we can learn personal finance and retirement planning from. Most websites although subject centric, it’s hard to have a connection with unlike personal blogs we can relate through the bloggers’ experiences and journeys.

That is why I find myself returning to the same personal blogs more often than commercial ones and so I compiled this list of personal finance blogs about early retirement that feel personal and I absolutely enjoy reading.

I will also add to the list over time as I discover more blogs like these.

Making Sense Of Cents

While Michelle, the author of Making Sense of Cents is way younger than 40, she has a lot of wise advice she shares on her blog. What I like about her blog is that she keeps it real and her writing is very easy to relate to. Her personality is approachable as you can see from her responses in the comments.

Among the money saving and earning posts that are all helpful tips, I’ve enjoyed the most from her post about how to make money blogging. Most of her posts have very comprehensive information and she also shares her monthly income reports. If you want to learn about saving money and making extra income from side jobs, her blog has a wealth of ideas to help and inspire you.

Millennial Money

Many of the personal finance blogs that become successful have become commercial blogs. They are great websites but have since lost personal touch by the creators themselves. That’s not with Millennial Money. It still remains like a personal blog with Grant’s voices across the blogs, but in addition, also carries a ton of great information.

The website is very well thought out and designed. Articles are all very comprehensive, I especially like reading their reviews written with pros and cons and ratings.

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5 Best Of Personal Finance Products & Why I Love Them

Sharing my personal experience and perspectives on these popular products and services written with my very own opinion and personal take. I’ll skip the product intro because you already have the basic knowledge about them and what they are used for, I think I can offer you a distinct review through personal stories that will be more helpful than general info.

Here are my stories with each of these financial products that are best in their market.

Best Budgeting App – Mint.com

Cost: FREE

I have been using Mint the last 12 years before the company was acquired by Intuit. By far, it’s been the best budgeting and expense tracking software / app.

Track towards budgets and goals

Personally, I had saved money towards goals for buying a home and building an emergency fund with the help of Mint by understanding my family spending and cashflow. It allows me to create budgets to track my spending every day with color coded progress bar, which helps me to stay in check controlling on our discretionary spending like shopping or dining out.

Report on saving trends and net worth

Mint is designed to auto categorize every transaction, while it may require my manual re-categorization at first for a few transactions every now and then, it’s becoming smart enough to do its job well over the years. Using the trend graphs, I have been able to watch and assess our net income and net worth for when the time comes to do our annual financial reviews.

Is Mint safe?

I think the most important question and concern that hold people back from using the service which connects to all the financial accounts a person has is this – is Mint safe? My short answer is yes. Mint is safe to use and you can read about how Mint, an Intuit company (the same maker of TurboTax and QuickBooks) address the security concerns here. But, if I may just add, we all should still apply best practices for good online habits in doing our part.

Best Financial Planning Software – Personal Capital

Cost: FREE (Unless you sign up for their advisor service)

I use Personal Capital mainly with the free program. While they offer financial advisor and investment management services, I am not considering those human services since I enjoy doing the research myself and DIY financial planning. With that said, the free tools are great, I recommend everyone to at least give it a try.

Track your net worth, cashflow, investment, retirement and more

With Personal Capital, you can see all your accounts in one place. It allows you to track your net worth, budget, cashflow, and portfolio. What’s really cool is the retirement planner and savings planner to help you track progress towards your retirement, savings and education goals. Also, the investment fee analyzer helps you to see how much fees would have incurred throughout your investment accounts. Through the investment checkup tool, you are able to compare your asset allocation with a target allocation based on your individual profile.

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Dreamhost Web Hosting Review

Dreamhost: My (Non-Sponsored) Review As A Customer

Are you thinking about starting your own website or blog? And looking for real customer review of Dreamhost as the web host? You have come to the right place. I have used their service for several months now and just got the time to write about my experience with them as I created this new blog. I will continue to share my experience on here to help you decide if they are the right one for you.

Disclaimer: Please note that when you purchase through affiliate links, I may earn a referral commission, which helps to run this blog, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

What is Dreamhost?

Dreamhost is a web hosting service provider. They offer website hosting, wordpress hosting, and cloud hosting. Located in Los Angeles, California, Dreamhost is also a domain name registrar.

Do you want to host your own website?

If you want to start an online presence with a website or a blog, you have a choice of free website or self-hosted website. You can create a website for free using a website builder such as Wix, WordPress(.com) or others. But, free website builder has limitations and disadvantages.

Limitations of free website builders:

  • No domain name Your business name or URL is attached to the domain of the website builder. For example, instead of yourbusinessname.com, it will be yourbusinessname.wix.com.
  • Company branding Your website will be required to show the website builder’s badges or links, which takes users away from your page to their builder plans.
  • Ads Free website builder puts their brand top and bottom of your website. It can make your website look unprofessional. You as well as your visitors are going to find these ads intrusive.
  • Limited theme customizations You may have several themes or colors to choose from but the customization is going to be vastly limited on a free website builder and your website won’t be as unique to your brand as you’d like.
  • Limited storage Every website builder on a free website builder is going to have a small storage size and will be required to pay for additional space. If you are going to end up paying monthly, it’s better to look to hosting your own website than using free website builder.

The reasons above are why you would choose to host your own website to have a better control of your website aesthetic, content and data.

In order to run your own website or blog, all you need is your domain name, a web host service, and content management system, which I will explain later.

Dreamhost – Web Host & Domain

So, what is a web host? Web host is the place where all the files of your websites live. Web hosting companies store your data and serve your websites to the world wide web. When you register for a web hosting plan, you are basically using their server space to keep all of your files and have them transmit the necessary data from the server to your visitors’ device.

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Google Search Console Breadcrumb Structured Data

Google Search Console Breadcrumbs Error: Missing field “itemListElement”

When creating this new website and setting it up in Google Search Console, I got this error – Missing field “itemListElement” in the Breadcrumbs Report. How am I supposed to fix it? I googled search for a solution but to no avail.

Maybe I should ignore it? I thought. But, Google wouldn’t index my website properly.

I eventually figured it out and fixed the issue. Finally, it passed all the validations.

Breadcrumbs Guidelines & Fixes

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to find out what specific error Google Search Console is complaining about by entering your website domain in the Fetch URL field. It will test the structured data and report any error on that page. [Update: The Structured Data Testing Tool is being deprecated, Google now recommends using Rich Results Test]
  2. Expand fields that show error on the right side table. It will point you to the code line item for the specific error. Follow the instructions to fix your error. Click here to learn more about Structured Data that Google use for search results.
  3. For error specifically about Breadcrumbs, look at the site hierarchy requirements in the guidelines.
  4. Since this article is written about Error – Missing field “itemListElement”, you will click on the BreadcrumbList to see the required properties. The full definition of BreadcrumbList schema.org/BreadcrumbList.
  5. Scroll to the bottom to see examples of the markup – Microdata, RDFa, Json-LD. Follow whichever format (one of them) that your website uses and make sense of the HTML code. The error could be due to the current markup not following the required guidelines, which you must fix.

For example, in my case with my WordPress theme Astra, (which uses the format Microdata), I had to add itemprop=”itemListElement” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/ListItem” on the homepage that it originally says missing, add <meta itemprop=”position” content=”1″ /> for one of the items and remove itemprop value from “http://schema.org/BreadcrumbList” code.

Other Newly Detected Breadcrumb Errors

If you encounter Error – Missing field “item”, check using Structured Data Testing Tool (link above) to see if the error points to a trailing item. It is required by Google to have a URL as an “item” even for a trailing item. It does not make sense to have URL on the trailing item that is where the current page is but that’s just Google requirement.

The workaround that I find to work is by installing Yoast SEO plugin (free version). From Yoast SEO -> Search Appearance -> Breadcrumbs settings -> Enable Breadcrumbs.

Hopefully this article help someone out there that’s having problem with their new website when trying to configure Google Search Console. I think it’s rare that anyone will have to address this issue but if you did, let me know so that I know the time I spent on writing this didn’t completely go in vain.

Thoughts? Comment below.

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road to retirement

How much should I save? Am I on track for retirement?

Savings Made Easy

I came across these commonly asked money questions all the time, I thought I will put together a list with the easy basic answers as a starting point for somebody to quickly assess their savings progress to know whether they are on track for retirement.

How much of my salary should I save each month?

The general rule of thumb is to save at least 20% of your salary each month towards savings.

Everybody knows the earlier you start the better.

The best way to start is to create an automatic savings plan in which you automatically deposit into a savings account.

Create separate account for each goals and name them specifically based on the goal:

  • Retirement – 401K, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA
  • Emergency Fund
  • For major expenses like “House Down Payment”, “Buy A Car”, “Trip To Cancun”

How much should I have in an emergency fund?

Most common advice is to save at least 3-6 months worth of your living expenses in an emergency fund.

Depending on your individual situation, you should consider putting aside more if you feel you may need to take more time to find a new job and if you have a family with multiple children as dependents.

Finding a new job takes 6 to 9 months on average, so I feel setting aside 6 months of basic living expense for emergency fund would be better especially for family with children.

How much do I need to save for retirement?

In general, plan to save at least 25X of your desired income for retirement.

For example, if you have $100,000 expenses per year, you will need a minimum of $2.5 million for retirement.

How much should I contribute to 401K?

First, max out on your employer match, if they match. Don’t miss out on a golden opportunity to take advantage of extra money that is a perk given by your employer.

Even if they don’t match, you should still max out the 401K plan contribution limit for the year (according to the IRS, $19,500 in 2020).

The more the better. In case you are not able to max out the contribution limit, try to save at least 10%-20% of your salary with 10% being the bare minimum.

How much should I have saved for retirement by age 20? 30? 40? 50?

By AgeX Times Your
Annual Income
How much money you should have saved for retirement
(This is a general rule of thumb similar to Fidelity Retirement Plan)
201/4XAim to have 25% of your annual income saved
251/2XAim to have 50% of your annual income saved
301XHave the equivalent of your annual income saved
352XHave twice your annual income saved
403XHave three times your annual income saved
454XHave four times your annual income saved
506XHave six times your annual income saved
557XHave seven times your annual income saved
608XHave eight times your annual income saved
6710XHave ten times your annual income saved by the time you retire

These are not specific recommendations or advice, given that every individual has different goals and lifestyles, and there’s no one size fit all type of savings or retirement plan, so remember to do you own research and calculation for your unique situation.

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money milestones finance tracker

8 Money Milestones To Reach In Your 40s

Looking at our finances at first, I could not tell if we were even on track for retirement while we keep on working towards saving all these years. But, how should my finances look like in my 40s? How much savings should I have by now in order to reach our financial goals?

I figured I better create a checklist to make sure we actually meet some of the critical milestones before we get too far off track. And hopefully, this list can be helpful to others who wonder about similar questions as well.

Pay off high interest debts or student loans

Did you know that the average interest rate for credit cards is 17.3%? That is a very expensive debt. Especially when compared to national average savings rate of 0.09%, according to the FDIC. If you still have high interests debt (other than mortgage), you should first try to eliminate it as fast as you can. Hopefully, by age 40, you have paid off all of your student loans already.

Most credit cards charge compound interest rates. If you pay your balance in full every month, there is no interest.

However, if you carry a remaining balance at all, the interest is calculated based on the entire balance of the month even though you paid it down and it starts compounded daily from the day of the purchase, not just after the due date.

Compound interest accrued daily, instead of 17% annually, interest compound based on the balance at the end of the day. As a result, the total interests is actually costing more than you thought.

So, pay off credit card balance in full every month to avoid interest. Also, make sure you have auto payments scheduled prior to due date to avoid late penalty fee. And, to set yourself for long term financial success when you hit 40, first pay off any debts, student loans and credit card balances and continue on good credit card habits.

Set aside a solid emergency fund

The rule of thumb is to have 3 to 6 months of living expenses covered when it comes to saving in emergency fund. I think that’s a reasonable benchmark for young couples.

For a family with multiple children, I think a minimum of at least 6 months is needed because for an unexpected event like a layoff or job loss, it may take at least 6 to 9 months to get a new job while you still have a mortgage to pay. Let’s be honest, getting a new job is only going to become more difficult for middle aged people and once we reach 40 and beyond.

With the said, how much of emergency fund is enough really depends on each household since everyone’s lifestyle, living expenses, financial obligations, geographical locations, stage of lives, health are all so different. You should do what you and your family is comfortable with and always have a backup plan.

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Low Cost Index Funds vs ETFs

Low Cost Index Funds vs ETFs | Side By Side Comparison

Unlike actively managed mutual funds, Index Funds and ETFs track an index rather than having a professional fund manager actively manage on a daily basis. By saving on that cost, Index Funds and ETFs charge lower fees to investors.

An average fees called expense ratio for an actively managed equity mutual funds is ~0.63% according to 2016 data from the investment company institute while for passive funds like Index Funds average expense ratio is ~0.09%.

Both Low Cost Index Funds and ETFs have many common traits but also have subtle differences. We can look at the below comparison to see the similarities and differences between them.

Index FundsETFs
What isIndex-Tracking Mutual FundsExchange Traded Funds
Use For (Similarity)Investing in pooled assets that track performance of index benchmark for portfolio diversificationInvesting in pooled assets that track performance of index benchmark for portfolio diversification
Management (Similarity)Managed professionally but “Passively”Managed professionally but “Passively”
Advantages (Similarity)Lower investment minimums
Lower expense ratio
Tax-efficient
Lower investment minimums
Lower expense ratio
Tax-efficient
How It’s TradedTrade once a day after market closesTrade like stocks intra-day means you can buy or sell on the open market throughout the day
Brokerage CommissionUsually have no brokerage commissionDepends on which brokerage you use, you may pay commission each time you buy or sell shares.
Dollar Amount vs Whole SharesYou can buy a set dollar amount even in partial sharesYou can only buy in whole shares
Automatic InvestmentAllow for automatic investment so you can set to invest monthly, quarterlyRequires you to manually trade each time

S&P 500 Index Funds & ETFs

Some of the best index funds and ETFs that track S&P 500 provide investors especially beginners an easy way to start investing while providing portfolio diversification. Instead of owning stock of a single company, a diversified funds offer holdings of 500 largest U.S. companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Berkshire Hathaway, Google, etc. with each company at different weight percentages that make up the total “basket” of shares.

Below are list of Index Mutual Funds that track S&P 500 by different brokerages:

  • Fidelity ZERO Large Cap Index (FNILX)
  • Fidelity 500 Index Fund (FXAIX)
  • Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares (VFINX)
  • Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund (SWPPX)

Below are list of ETFs that track S&P 500:

  • Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)
  • SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY)
  • iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV)

Key Takeaways

  • No matter which of these investment vehicles you choose, look for brokerages that offer “no transaction fee” Index Funds or “commission-free” ETFs in order to reduce cost and maximize your investment.
  • Pay attention to the expense ratio for each of the funds to avoid having large fees that eat up your investment amount.
  • Both products have their pros and cons, which of these is better for you and if you may consider them both to add to your portfolio ultimately depends on your financial goals and investment style.

The information here is for informational purpose only and should not constitute financial or investing advice.

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seo tips that grow blog traffic

10 Effective SEO Tips That Will Grow Your Blog Traffic

You love creating and sharing and that is why you have started a blog or website. Now, wouldn’t it be more fun knowing that there are people who actually read what you share? But before that, they have to be able to find you.

That is why SEO (Search Engine Optimization) matters because it is essentially how search engines like Google allow others to discover your blog. The higher you rank on search results for particular keywords, the more likely people will land on your pages.

So here I put together a list of 10 effective SEO tips that every blog must know in order to grow your audience.

1. Research Topic and Keywords

Before you even start writing any posts, you might think about what topic to blog about. This is a good time to do a little bit of research to validate the topic and keywords are the ones that people are interested in reading.

Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner are 2 separate tools that are very helpful when researching for topics and keywords.

Google Trends is especially helpful for 2 reasons when you enter a search term:

  • It shows related topics and queries
  • Gives recently trending searches

Google Keyword Planner is similar but provide more extensive results:

  • Keyword search volume
  • Relevant keyword ideas

Both of these tools are free.

2. Create Blog Format Types That Captivate Audience

  • How-To guides
  • List style posts (“Best of” or Tips list posts)
  • Visual posts
  • Personal stories

How-To Guides

It’s easy to understand why How-To guides are so welcomed. They are tutorials that are designed to teach something. It serves a purpose in the way that people who want to learn will need them. Tutorials with step-by-step guides provide an easy to follow instructions that ensures that a certain goal is met upon completion.

List Style Posts (“Best of” / “Top X Tips”)

Similarly, list style posts are the 2nd most popular type blogs. They are usually formatted with headings and subheadings that make reading and finding information easier. 

Visual Posts

People often say “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

Adding images that are relevant is a powerful way to send your message across. It is also very effective when you provide step-by-step instructions with screenshots. Images are simply easier to digest. Visuals add colors and moods when done correctly stimulate positive emotions and feelings.

3. Write Catchy (Max CTR) Headlines

  • Numbers
  • Emotional words

Numbers

Numbers and digits stand out in a group of alphabet letters. So try to use them in headlines or titles as a way to grab your readers’ attention. Titles with number will improve the Click-Through rate, which will help with the Google ranking.

Emotional Words

Besides keywords in your headlines, emotional words tend to attract people to click through and read. Some examples of emotional words are:

FreeEasyTodayProvenFastPowerfulBest

4. Make Your Posts Easy To Read

  • Spacing and padding
  • Headings and sub-headings
  • Bulleted list

Spacing And Padding

Nobody likes crammed website or blog.

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make money from blogging work hard anywhere

How To Make Money Blogging

I have been reading a lot of blogs that seemingly writing about how to make money blogging but every article that you end up reading, it comes down to a few things. Courses, ebooks, digital content, youtube, instagram, membership.

I don’t want this to be yet another blog post that repeats whatever every blogger has already written about. If you wonder some of these are actually money from blogging or something else altogether, I don’t blame you, I feel the same. They aren’t directly income from blogging, more appropriately, they are income you can possibly make from online.

But, what about ways to truly make money from blogging? That is the focus and topic of this post. I know a few that really work and I plan to update the list over time as I continue to find more income streams from blogging that work well. Today I am going to share 3 ways that are the best for anyone looking to make money from blogging (including ways for beginners).

First is affiliate marketing. It is one of the more lucrative opportunities and income streams with high potential directly from blogging. Not to make it sound easy, websites or blogs that are able to monetize from affiliate marketing is because they have really good content that continuously attract users and traffic, only with a sizable traffic or pageviews that they are able to eventually make enough commission off of affiliate marketing.

1. Affiliate Marketing: Web Hosting Platforms

I know for sure one source of income streams that you can definitely make from blogging as a beginner is affiliate marketing specifically for web hosting platforms. It is not a secret and if you noticed, every blog has a “how to start a blog” page that gives step by step guide. (I have one too. Ha!) The most popular one is definitely Bluehost. They stated it on their website that for every referred visitor, you can earn $65 for each qualified sign up. Not bad, eh?

But, like I said, without traffic to your blog, there will be no extra income. So, you need great content that attracts an audience and with traffic comes visitors, and if you are able to build trust, visitors will seek your recommendation and with that, you can make some extra income through referral or affiliate. The key is content. Now, go make content that is going to provide value to your readers first and foremost.

In case you haven’t created a blog yet and have been thinking about starting one, I have a tutorial for you on How To Start A Blog In 5 Easy Steps Under $5 ($3.95/month) to help you get started. I simplified the guide so you can get set up quickly, no excuse can hold you back now.

2. Blog Sponsorships

The second real way of making money blogging is blog sponsorships whether through sponsored posts or advertisements.

Sponsored posts can be done in any of the following ways:

  • Posts written by the sponsor
  • Posts written by the blogger that bring brand awareness
  • Product reviews
  • Giveaways

A sponsored content or post can be either paid or in exchange for products.

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invest in yourself with personal development

The Ultimate Guide To Investing In Yourself (2020): Personal Development

Before we talk about investing financially, I think the best investment is investing in yourself.

(This is Part 1 of the series about investing in yourself in all aspects of our lives starting with Personal Development).

Personal Development

I started IO40 (InvestOver40.com) to remind myself at mid-life that there’s much more I can do in life, I still want to go after my dreams and feel excited about doing what I love every chance I get. And, if you’re reading, I hope you do too.

Listed below are ways big or small that we can invest in ourselves and will make a huge positive impact to improving ourselves.

1. Reflect and set new goals

Make a regular check in with yourself for self-reflection and set new goals both personal and professional. Take the steps to apply S.M.A.R.T. goals framework and make your goals happen.

(Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-bound)

2. Create a vision board

A vision board is a visual representation of what you want in life, you can make a physical board or create online or use mobile app. It helps to unlock your dreams, goals and successes, the important part is to contemplate on your vision everyday to train your mind to act on them.

I use Trello to create my vision board on my phone to see it everyday. I also use it to keep a gratitude list.

3. Create habit / routine

There is no one size fit all routine, everyone is unique in their own ways. Our mind and body operates differently. Create a habit and routine that works for you. You know yourself best, so create something that you can commit to long term.

4. Make plans for your day / week

Whether you have a routine or not, having plans for your day or week will increase your productivity. It is an effective way to ensure your to do list gets done. Spend some time on a Sunday night to prepare and plan for the week and a few minutes every night before sleep makes a big difference in what you accomplish the next day and over the week.

5. Create a bucket list

What now? A bucket list after vision board and routine? Yes, but they are different. A bucket list is an extensive list of the things you want to do before you expire. Having a bucket list helps you spend your money where you will find worthwhile because those are the things you eventually want to do. Think of it as a dream list or a less-regret list, so that you can invest in those experiences.

6. Follow your passion / curiosity

Up until now, in order to make a living you may have been working at a job that you don’t necessary enjoy anymore. Consider if it’s time to change job, switch career, if you have a passion that you have been wanting to pursue, maybe plan on making the switch or as a side hustle.

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