Friday, February 24, 2017

Book of the Month: Blogging: The Ultimate Guide on How to Replace Your Job with a Blog

Blogging, monetizing, work at home,


Summary

Are you trying to start a profitable blog?

This book will show you exactly what you need to do to start a profitable blog today based on what top bloggers are doing. If you follow the instructions you'll have an amazing looking and profitable blog in no time at all!

  • Here Is A Preview Of What You'll Learn...
  • How to Build a Blog
  • How to Choose a Niche
  • How to Design Your Blog
  • How to Start Creating Posts
  • How to Create Valuable Blog Content
  • How to Generate Traffic
  • How to Monetize Your Blog
  • Much, much more!

Readability

The Ultimate Guide is short, easy to read and reads (and looks) like a blog post with lots of white space, headings, and first person text.

Is The Ultimate Guide Worth the Money?

The Ultimate Guide on How to Replace Your Job with a Blog is available as a Kindle download.  The Kindle price is $0.99 (this review was written in early January, 2017), which I think is a reasonable price for the size and quality of the book. A paperback is available for $18.99; I definitely do not believe it is worth that--for one thing it is only 53 pages long.

Rating of The Ultimate Guide on How to Replace Your Job with a Blog

You can check my book blog to get a better idea of what my ratings means.  I'm giving The Ultimate Guide on How to Replace Your Job with a Blog a B-.  It had some information I consider valuable, primarily dealing with affiliate income; however, the writing quality was not professional.

Source of The Ultimate Guide on How to Replace Your Job with a Blog

This month I am a Kindle Unlimited  member andThe Ultimate Guide on How to Replace Your Job with a Blog is one of the books available to members under their pay one price monthly membership.

Take Action

The books I review on this blog will all focus on some aspect of personal finance.  Part of my review process is to find at least one new-to-me, or previously untried thing in each book to put into action to improve my personal/family financial situation.  I will then blog again a month after the review to let you know what exactly I did and what results (if any) I have had from that action. 

As a result of reading this book I am going to:
  • Set up an email list.  I've never really seen the point--I want people to read my blog (and see the ads which are my source of income); not read a newsletter.  The Ultimate Guide suggested a newsletter containing affiliate links.
  • Look into ClickBank and Jvzoo

The book links in this post are Amazon Associate links.  If you click them and purchase from Amazon, I get a small commission but you do not pay more for  your product.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and Super Saving Tips*

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tax Time: How to Prepare Your Tax Return

By this time of year,  many people are ready to file their tax return and (hopefully) get a refund.  Let's take a look at the alternatives available for filers:

Complete Your Return Manually

Seriously, if you are single with no children, all your income is from employers who issued W-2s and you don't have any investments or retirement accounts, you can probably complete a 1040 EZ manually in less than 30 minutes.  The only problem with this is that you'll have to file by mail, which will delay your refund.

Use Online Software

There are a variety of online programs that allow ordinary people who are not accountants to accurately complete most tax returns.  If your adjusted gross income is less than $64,000, you have access to a variety of commercial programs via IRS Free File.  You must enter the program via the IRS website, not the program's website, in order to use them at no cost.  The companies may (will) try to "up sell" you but the basic return will be free.

If your income is more than $64,000 or you need specialized forms you may need to upgrade to paid versions of the programs.  Nevertheless, unless your financial situation is extraordinarily complex, you should be able to complete your own return with online software.  

Besides price, the main advantage to completing your own return is that by the time you are done  you have a clear understanding of where your money is coming from and how it is being taxed. Some very intelligent people have told me that their mortgage payment is tax deductible and that's why they keep making it, rather than paying off the house.  The mortgage payment isn't deductible, only the interest is--and it is only truly deductible if it and your other deductions are more than the standard deduction of $12,600 for a married couple who files jointly.  

If you do not qualify for IRS Free File, different programs have different costs and features.  Turbo Tax is the most robust package and in fact your W-2, 1099 or other tax document may have their logo on it along with a data entry shortcut.  Turbo Tax allows you to take photos of many forms and import them, possibly saving you time on data entry.  Turbo Tax is also often the most expensive program.

On the other end of the spectrum is FreeTaxUSA which never charges for federal returns and charges only $12.95 for a state return.  The interface of FreeTaxUSA is not as fancy and it lacks Turbo Tax's import features.


The main thing to watch out for with the online programs is the up-sell.  Many of them lead you though a long and involved interview/data entry process which prepares the proper forms.  However, the "free" return you signed up for does not include many of your forms and you only learn the true cost of your return when you go to save or file it.  They are betting that you won't want to do all that work again and will just pay the money.  

The online packages all offer e-filing as part of their service. 

Use Packaged Software

TurboTax Deluxe 2016 Tax Software Federal & State + Fed Efile PC/MAC Disc  [Amazon Exclusive]If you don't like the idea of  your personal financial information being on some company's website, you can purchase programs like Turbo Tax or one from H &R Block.  .  They can be downloaded or bought in a store on a disc.  The price may or may not include efiling.  

Before purchasing a package, review the contents to make sure the package you buy includes the forms you need. 

Once you have downloaded and installed the software, you don't have to worry about Internet connections so your may be able to move more quickly through unneeded screens. 

Most packaged software allows you to prepare more than one return per license so if you have multiple family members who need returns, they should be able to share the software.

 Use a Storefront Preparer

When many Americans think taxes they think H&R Block, even if they've never used H&R Block's services.  H&R Block and similar seasonal storefront tax preparation services hire relatively low wage help and train them to complete tax returns by using software similar to that listed above. 

While some of these people actually learn something about taxes during their training and tenure, according to Glass Door, the average seasonal hourly tax preparer makes $10-15/hour and at that rate, you aren't getting much expertise. They use a computer-generated interview to fill out forms.  If your taxes are simple enough to entrust them to H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and the like, they are simple enough to prepare on your own computer for less money. 

Use a CPA or Enrolled Agent

If preparing your taxes takes real accounting, then hire a CPA.  The CPA will be able to compute your profit and loss for rental properties or business ventures.  He or she will be able to advise whether certain things are deductible, and will be able to give you advice about how to save money on taxes next year, even if he or she can't reduce this year's taxes.  

Enrolled Agents are non-CPA tax professionals.  They, along with attorneys and CPAs can represent you in front of the IRS.  

If all your income is reflected on tax forms issued by business or brokerage houses, a CPA is probably overkill, unless you just plain don't want to fool with it.  However, it has been my experience that the most time-consuming part of preparing your taxes is gathering the information needed, and you have to do that whether you are going to do your own taxes or farm them out to someone else. 

While there are people who have complex tax situations which require the advise of a professional, the vast majority of Americans are perfectly capable of preparing their own tax returns. 
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and Super Saving Tips*

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Comparing ETFs and Mutual Funds: A Follow-up on Book of the Month: Step by Step Investing






This year I am doing a "Book of the Month" feature on this blog.  Besides the standard book review, since I am reviewing books dealing with finances, and since I by no means claim to know everything there is to know about finances, I am going to try to find at least one "Take Action" step in each book--one thing I can do to improve my knowledge, investment or blog.  In January, my book of the month was Step by Step Investing and I reviewed it here. 

One thing Joseph Hogue talked about was ETFs, which are exchange traded funds.  ETFs are the new "in thing" but I've never been able to figure out why they are preferable to mutual funds.  This month I decided to review some Vanguard mutual funds and their corresponding ETFs and see what the difference was.

Before I started that project, Janette left this comment on my post:  How to Lose Money on Your Investments 
My largest loss was a day that I realized the highly respected mutual fund, that had most of our savings, was going down. I put in the sell order immediately. I did not realize that a mutual fund only sells at the end of the day. I lost a LOT of money that day- and had to pay my broker $80 for the transaction.
I realized that by reading  Step by Step Investing:  A Beginner's Guide to the Best Investments in Stocks I had learned that had Janette's money been in ETFs rather than mutual funds, her sell order would have been executed immediately (however her broker defined that word), rather than at the end of the day.  So, presuming the share price was higher when she said "sell" than it was at the end of the day, Janette would have been better off at the end of the day.

How Are Mutual Funds and ETFs Alike?

Both mutual funds and ETFs are baskets of stocks.  They can be actively managed with a human (or more likely a team of humans) studying various companies and deciding which ones to buy stock in or they can be index funds where a computer buys and sells stocks to mimic an index of one sort or another.  For example, I own shares of Vanguard's Total Stock Market Index Fund which tries to mirror the U.S. stock market as a whole.  About 2.4% of the stock market consists of telecommunication companies so about 2.4% of that fund is made of telecommunications companies. 

Both ETFs and mutual funds are required to define a style of investing, publicize it and stick with it.  If you say you are running a small cap fund (one that buys companies with capitalization below a certain amount) then you don't buy stock in Johnson and Johnson, even if it is the dividend investor's stock of the week.  

How are Mutual Funds and ETFs Different?

Let's look at my very simplistic fund.  On a per share basis, it is 1/3 X, 1/3 Y and 1/3 Z.  Today, X closed at $10 per share but during the day it sold for as high as $12 and as low as $8.  Y closed at $20, which was its high point for the day.  For much of the day is sold close to $15. Z closed at $5, its lowest point in the day, but there were times during the day when it reached $6. 

 It just so happens in my perfect simplistic world that at 3:00 p.m. X was selling for $12, Y for $15 and Z for $6.  If my fund was an ETF and you bought or sold it at 3:00 p.m, your share price would be $33.00 per share.  If you bought or sold at the end of the day, the share price would be $35.00.  If my fund was a mutual fund, your cost per share would be $35 because mutual fund shares are only valued and traded at the end of the day.  

What Difference Does It Make?

Well, if you are in Janette's position, being in an ETF rather than a mutual fund can make a big difference, for good or for bad.  If Janette had been able to sell before the bottom dropped out of the price of her fund, she would have been better off.  Of course, if the price of the shares had bounced back up by late afternoon, selling at the end of the day would have been a good thing.  

But what about the day to day, for those of us who just invest our money and leave it sit?  This chart looks at two Vanguard funds which are available as ETFs, regular mutual fund shares or Admiral mutual fund shares (meaning you have more than $10,000 worth of that fund). You can see that in both cases the Admiral shares and the ETF had similar expense ratios that were noticeably lower than the Investor (regular) shares.  From what I could see, there was no minimum investment in the ETFs. 


Fund Name
Expense Ratio
Ten Year Fees on $10,000
Ten Year Value of $10,000
Vanguard Total Stock Market

ETF  0.05
MF  0.16
Admiral 0.05
ETF   $118
MF   $376
Admiral: $118
ETF  $20,104.24
MF   $19,884.58
Admiral: $20,103.24
Vanguard Value Index Fund
ETF  0.08
MF   0.22
Admiral 0.08
ETF  $189
MF   $516
Admiral  $189
ETF $17,827.93
MF  $17,593.47
Admiral $17,827.25

If you had invested in those funds ten years ago, you would have paid the fees listed in the second column and the final column shows the value of today of $10,000 invested ten years ago.  It appears that for small accounts, the fees on ETFs are less than the fees on mutual funds with the same assets and management.


Takeaway

We are thinking about investing in another Vanguard Fund, and rather than another mutual fund, it will be an ETF, since the initial investment will be too low for Admiral shares.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and I Am the Future Me*