Friday, July 28, 2017

Why I Bank At Metairie Bank

I've seen a lot of blog articles over the years praising certain banks and offering handy affiliate links that allow readers to open accounts, and bloggers to be paid commissions.  I have nothing against bloggers making money, and I'm certainly open to earning more of it.  However, you will not find any affiliate links in this post, nor will I be paid for writing it.

Years ago I wrote an article about how we came to be customers of Metairie Bank. Basically I felt that our prior bank, Chase, stole $6.00 from my son.  He did not have a bank account (or any money) but had received checks as graduation gifts.  I had him endorse the checks to me, take them to my bank (Chase) deposit them in my account and then cash a check I had written to him.  Since he did not have an account, they charged him $ 6.00 to cash his mother's check, drawn on their bank.

This week I found yet another reason to be pleased that we chose to move our money and banking business to a relatively small local bank, Metairie Bank and Trust.  We have several large bills that are due only once or twice a year and we've had to pull money from savings to help pay for some of them this year.  I'vKe read several bloggers who have suggested creating separate bank accounts for bills like that, and contributing to those accounts monthly, so, via the website, I opened a new savings account to cover such bills.

When the bank statement came, I found that I had been charged a $15 service charge, and since I had never seen a service charge on my other savings account, I called the bank to find out what I did wrong.  The clerk who answered the phone could not help me but put me through to the officer in charge of my accounts.  I left a voicemail message and she called me back within a couple of hours.

When I told her what the problem was, she explained why the service charge had been assessed--there was a minimum balance requirement that I had not met.  I told her I'd accept responsibility for not reading the fine print, but that I needed to close that account before that charge hit again.  She said that wouldn't be necessary and asked me what I expected the minimum balance to be and how many transactions per month I expected.  When I told her, she changed the type of account--no more than six transactions per month (more than I need) and no minimum balance and no fee.

I then asked her if I was going to be charged for a paper statement, like I was on  my Girl Scout account and on the account for my Dad's estate.  I told her that with those accounts, I was willing to pay for the paper because it wasn't my money, but that I'd be ok with online only for the savings account.  Again, she said that wasn't necessary, and then went through all my accounts with me and changed them to accounts that met my needs and didn't charge ANY fees.

My whole family banks at Metairie Bank.  They offer free teen accounts which require the teen to get parental permission for large debit card withdrawals.They are everything I want in a bank and I hope they are in business for a long time because I have no desire to go back to doing business with a behemoth like Chase.  While Metairie Bank probably isn't in your area, I'll bet there is a small local bank that offers better service than the "big boys" do; give them a chance.  You may be as happy as I am.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Can You Make Money with Amway or Other MLM Companies

One way many people make ends meet, or gain extra cash for investments or luxuries is via "side-hustles", jobs they do when not at their regular employment.  One such side-hustle that has been around for years is direct sales, otherwise known as "Multi-Level Marketing".

What Is Multi-Level Marketing?

Multi-Level Marketing is a business model wherein the company's products are sold directly from one person to another, without a physical store.  The sales people are independent contractors who set their own hours and find and service their own customers.

It is called "multi-level" marketing because one characteristic of these businesses is that if you recruit and train a new sales representative, you get a share of his/her commissions, and depending on the company, a share of the commissions of the people those people recruit.  The people whose sales earn you money are called your "downline".  Generally speaking, people who make a lot of money in multi-level marketing companies are people with big downlines.

What Types of Products Are Sold Via Multi-Level Marketing?

The multi-level marketing model is used to sell products from insurance to cosmetics to toys or kitchen gadgets.  Well-known names include Avon, Amway, Pampered Chef and Discovery Toys. 

How Do I Start With MLM?

Many people have been invited to parties where the purpose is to display and sell MLM products.  You can go to parties selling Pampered Chef kitchenware, essential oils, candles or even sex toys.  Besides taking orders for merchandise, the sales representative is almost certain to tell you that you too could make money selling this stuff.  Today, many MLM sales people offer merchandise via facebook or webpage, and, again, let you know that you too could be doing this. In short, anyone who purchases anything from a MLM representative is likely to be encouraged to become a sales representative themselves.

Why Would People Recruit Competitors?

If you and I pretty much have the same circle of friends, why would I recruit you to sell the same widgets I'm selling?  Isn't that self-defeating?  There are three  reasons MLM sales people try to recruit friends and family to sell:
  • They receive commissions from their "downline".  When a representative recruits you, he or she trains you as well, and for the rest of your MLM career, will get a commission on things you sell.
  • It turns you into a regular customer.  Many MLM products are small low-priced consumables. They are things that will pay a very low per-item commission--the money is made by acquiring repeat customers who purchase multiple items per sale.  By signing someone up as a salesperson and giving them the "dealer" rate on the product, you improve the chance that they will buy the product regularly, even if they don't sell any.
  • They get to sell you a kit and starter supplies.

How Much Money Can I Make Selling Mary Kay?

There are people who make a living selling Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, and other MLM products.  However, according to this website, in 2010, Mary Kay had about 30,000 representatives in Canada in 2010.  Of those, about 3,800 had both been with the company for a year, and had earned commissions in 2010.  Over half of that 3,800 earned less than $100 in 2010.  However, Mary Kay did have 24 people in Canada who earned over $100,000 in commissions.

I researched this subject a couple of  years ago and at that time most of the companies had a document on their website that showed the number of distributors they had and the percent of people with various earnings.  I can't find such charts now so the law that required them to be displayed must have changed.  Nevertheless, the figures I remember were similar to those listed above for Mary Kay--namely that few people stuck with it very long, and most of those who did still didn't make much.

The other thing to remember is that while companies tout commission rate of 50% or more, they don't emphasize things like shipping, maintaining inventory, gas to deliver product or the cost of brochures or other advertising.  If you are going to sell essential oils, diet supplements or Amway products, you are running a business and will have business expenses.

Still, I think many of us know people who have been selling these products for a long time.  Some readily admit they aren't making much if any money.  They like the products and sell to a few friends.  They aren't making real money because they don't treat it like a real job.

Is MLM the Side Hustle for Me?

Honestly, probably not.  First, realize that with ANY sales job, if you are selling low dollar products, you are going to have to sell a lot of them to make money. The higher the price of the product, the harder you are going to have to work to find customers, and the less often they are likely to buy.  Think car dealership vs grocery store.

The Car Dealership

When you walk into a car dealership, you probably want to buy a car.  However, there is a good chance you are going to walk off that lot, after spending time with a salesperson, without buying anything.  If you do buy something, chances are you will not be back for years.  On the other hand, the salesman who does sell you your car will probably make a day's pay (or more) on the deal.

The Grocery Store

When you go into the grocery store, you probably want to buy groceries and it would be unusual for you to leave without buying anything.  Chances are very good that unless you are visiting from out of the area, you will return to that store in the near future.  While the per product mark-up of about 15% isn't that much per item, when you consider the number of items moved per day, most grocery stores are profitable, even after paying the help--and speaking of  "the help", the amount of employee time  you consume per item is pretty minimal.

MLM Products

The price of most MLM products is closer to the price of groceries than to the price of cars.  If I run out of lipstick, and you happen to call and ask if I want some today, I may buy, but unless I am highly invested in your brand or product, calling you for it is an extra step and if I have to wait for you to get it before I can get it, then I have all the reason to buy a competing product. As a dealer you need me to return over and over again, just like the grocery store does, but you are giving me the attention that I get at the car dealership.  

Think about it.  How much do you spend on make-up every month, total?  $100?  To me that is high,but let's go with that number.  If I buy $100 worth of cosmetics from you every month and you have no other customers, you make $50.00. Sounds good, right?  If all you want is enough money to buy your own make-up, then maybe, especially if we are friends, will see each other regularly, and you know that I will not need samples or freebies, and you know that I won't be getting any of my makeup at the mall.  

What is more likely is that you happen to catch me at the right time or that you have a product or two that I like, so I buy it from you periodically, when I want it.  If you want to sell me other stuff, you need samples, you need to spend time talking it up.

What Kind of People Make Money With MLM?

People who make money with MLM are people who can sell--not only can they sell the  products to retail users, they can sell the concept of running your own business to other people and they can keep those people motivated to continue to sell both product and program.  They are also people who work their business full time.  

But I Want to Try MLM

The first step in "starting your own business" to sell MLM products is to purchase a sales kit of one sort or another.  The kit will contain samples, sales materials and perhaps some saleable products.  New sales reps are encouraged to "invest in their business" by buying more than the minimal kit and by investing in training classes.  If you want to try MLM sales, the first thing to do is determine how much you are willing to lose in the process--and then limit the amount you invest in product and training to that amount until you have earned enough to recoup your investment.  

While some of the MLM companies sell products people really enjoy, the reality is that most of their sales representatives do not have earnings commensurate with the efforts they employ.  There are plenty of available side hustles that are worth more to the average person. 
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich. *< and The John and Jane Doe Guide to Money & Investing. *

Friday, July 14, 2017

Update: Second Quarter 2017

Hard to believe another year is half over.  Since it seems to be the thing to do for financial bloggers, I'll take a look at how this year has gone.

This is the year we are learning how expensive new(ish) cars are.  We unexpectedly ended up buying an almost new car Labor Day weekend last year, and since we had just cleaned out our account buying a used car for my college girl, we decided to finance it.  Our interest rate is low, we are glad we have the car and financing it was a better choice than liquidating assets but we definitely notice that payment coming out of our account.  We also notice that it costs more to insure an almost new car than one that you only carry liability on.

This has been the year of medical and dental bills.  I'm in the middle of getting an implant and crown, and I had a wisdom tooth pulled.  In March I had what I thought was a bladder infection, except that the tests came back negative for that so I ended up getting a bunch of other tests to rule out more serious causes of blood in the urine.  They came back negative as well, but the bills will be about $800.

My teen starts Catholic high school in the fall, meaning her tuition is twice what we have been paying, and that it was due two months earlier.  To have the money, we had to liquidate assets, and chose to do so from our Lending Club account.  I'm not sure we'll be able to pay ourselves back this year, it just seems like every month there is something. To avoid this problem next year, I have started putting 1/12 of her tuition plus 1/12 of our insurance bills into a savings account each month.  The way those bills fall, we should be able to pay them from the savings account.  I'll be the first to admit that discretionary spending slows around here when the checking account balance gets low.

Finally, with my college girl graduating and hopefully moving into an adult job (and out of the house) soon, we figured this spring would likely be our last full family vacation and even though we spent less than a week in Orlando, amusement parks aren't cheap.

Luckily, our major savings in our 401ks are automated, and fortunately, the stock market has done well this quarter.

Let's take a look at some numbers.


My husband and I have Roth IRAs and regular IRAs, and a taxable account.  We deposited $300 in each Roth IRA this quarter.  The combined dividends from these accounts totalled $1922.60.  These accounts consist of a variety of mutual funds purchased for us by our ex-financial advisor, along with Vanguard's International Bond Index Fund, Total Stock Market Index Fund, 500 Index Fund, Total Bond Market Index Fund and REIT Index Fund. In the last year, our rate of return has been 11.8%.


My 401k has a year to date return of 11.75 %, and the account paid dividends of $407.98 this quarter.  It is invested in Janus Triton,  Oppenheimer Int'L Small Mid Co A, MFS Government Securities Fund-A , Pioneer Fundamental Growth Fd-A,  and Delaware US Growth Fund-A.  My firm contributes 5% of my salary, and I contribute 6%.  


My husband's 401K is with AXA and it has increased in value, though not a lot.  He puts in the minimum necessary for employer match.


The initial investment in this account was $7,000.  It began the quarter at $8176.26.  Even though we've withdrawn dividend payments, it ended the quarter at $8,355.99,  So far this year the account has paid $78.98 in dividends.  I have invested in "Motifs" or baskets of stock with a variety of themes including dividend payers, things I like and online gaming.  Motif has changed their fee policy such that if you have less than $10,000 and do not have any commissions in a given six month period, they charge you a $10 fee.  To avoid that, I am planning on moving money from Lending Club to Motif.

Lending Club:

My returns have been steadily dropping.  Accounting for expected defaults, Lending Club estimates my return since I began the account at about 5.05% annually, whereas three months ago it was  5.68% annually.  I had a negative return last month--more write-offs than interest paid. From what I've read in various places, I'm not the only one whose returns have dropped. As notes mature we are not re-investing; we are moving the money to Motif and to our Roth IRAs. 


My returns here have dropped as well, but not as drastically.  Right now my annualized net returns are still 6.9%, and my "seasoned" returns--the returns on notes that are more than ten months old are 6.23%.


Loyal3 went out of business. Rather than selling the fractional shares and moving the whole shares, I just sold everything and applied it to the tuition bill.  


At this point I own shares of AT&T, Visa, CVS, Lending Club and Hanesbrands.  Robinhood is an online broker that uses phone apps only, no webpage.  They charge no commission and allow you to place limit or market orders.  They also allow you to initiate bank transfers and then invest the money immediately--you do not have to wait for the tranfer to complete.  You do have to buy whole shares.  I've added money to this account that I've withdrawn from Kickfurther and right now the value is $442.96.  So far this year, dividends from this account total $2.24.


This is an online broker for whom I wrote a sponsored post.  I invested $100 in Johnson & Johnson through them.  They charge $0.99 per trade, so even though they sell fractional shares, I don't recommend investing less than $100.00 per trade.  I plan to keep the account and use it when I want to buy shares of stock that are substantially over $100, since my investments in individual stocks are as much toys as investments and I don't plan to put too many dollars in any one stock.  My J&J stock is now worth $100.33.  


I'm in the process of withdrawing my money not only because I'm in the red (an expected risk of investing) but because I've become convinced that Kickfurther is going to fail.  They have too little business at this time and while they have tightened their contracts and changed their business model somewhat, I've just seen too much incompetence to believe that the investment risk is the only risk I'm bearing and the returns have not justified the risk.

All in all, the second quarter of 2017 was a good one investment wise. Hopefully during the second half of the year we can return some of the capital we had to withdraw during the first half, but I'm seeing some big expenses down the road.  If I could just get these kids to move out....(actually they pay rent, not what they cost us, but something).

The Bottom Line

As compared to the beginning of the year, we are about $50,000 richer, but most of that is stock market gains, not savings.  We did put more in our 401k accounts than we pulled out of the others so we are going in the right direction. 
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The State of My Blog

I was looking back at my Blogger dashboard the other day, studying my stats and looking at how many hits I'd gotten on various posts.  I realized I'd been writing this blog for over two years now.

What started as I gathered research on how to handle an inheritance has grown into a hobby that has earned me a couple of dollars, plus taught me a lot about both blogging and investing.  This blog led to me giving freelance writing a try, something I'd always wanted to do but never realized how to get started.

So, what did I learn looking at my dashboard?

My Five Most Popular Posts

Not surprisingly, four of my five most popular posts are Kickfurther Merchant of the Week posts.  I was able to promote these posts on a subreddit run by Kickfurther and sometimes the featured company promoted the post as well.  These posts also had giveaways and I was able to promote them on giveaway link-ups.  

Surprisingly, my most popular post, whether I look at the day, week, month, or all time, is For Where Your Treasure Is: Should I Give to Them?  I can't figure out how or why people are finding the post but they keep on reading it.

Where I Get My Readers

I get a lot of my readers from Financially Saavy Saturdays.  Another source is Rockstar Finance, which provides feeds for over 1100 blogs.  I can also see that substantive blog comments draw readers from other blogs.

How Many Readers Do I Have?

According to Google Analytics, which I have just recently installed, I had 246 active users in the last 30 days.  According to adsense, my views have doubled since this time last year, which is a good thing.  According to Blogger, my pageviews in June are about where they were last year, and WAY down from previous months--but there was no reason for them to be that high for a the last few months so I suspect a bot.  

Am I Making Money?

I'm making a little money.  Adsense pays me about $5.00 a month.  I'm about to write my third sponsored post.  I participate in a couple of affiliate programs but the only one that has paid me anything is Kickfurther.  I've gotten a couple of free sample products from Kickfurther merchants and found a freelance writing client via this blog.  However, if I was in this strictly for the money, I wouldn't be getting anywhere.

What About Social Media?

I have a facebook page for this blog and a Pinterest account to which I pin things from this blog.  I am on Bloglovin and so far, traffic from them seems to be the exception rather than the rule.  I also have a Twitter account and all most post go there via Bloglovin but again, I never see any traffic.  I'll admit that I don't "get" Twitter.  I follow a bunch of people but rarely look at my feed, I just don't see the point.  

What's Next?

Well, I'm playing with MailChimp, so soon I may be like all the big kids and ask you to subscribe to my email list.  First I have to figure out what I'm going to mail you.  Like I've said before, this blog is a toy, and not a job.  I don't want to be spending hours every week designing emails.  

I plan to keep blogging here as long as I'm enjoying it.  Hope you stick around for the ride. 

Disease Called Debt