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Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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personal finance

In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Business Finance

Calculator for what your freelance rate should be

(FINANCE) When every second on the clock counts and saving is imperative, where can you go to figure out your optimal freelance rate?

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freelance rates

The issue of what your freelance rate should be is daunting for most, but is especially stressful for those who aren’t particularly mathematically gifted. When every second on the clock counts and saving is imperative, where can you go to figure out your optimal rate? A new calculator has an answer.

What Is My Day Rate is a salary calculator which determines the hourly (and daily) amount you’d have to charge in order to meet your optimal salary.

The calculator itself is intuitive enough: upon landing on the What Is My Day Rate webpage, you simply enter your preferred annual income and wait for the results to load. You’ll see both a daily and an hourly sum appear shortly thereafter.

The process of figuring out how much to charge is simple, but that doesn’t mean the process is simple.

What Is My Day Rate draws from similar geographical, workplace, and demographic data to give you a number which reflects post-holiday, post-fee, post-non-billable work results.

By clicking the “See how we calculated this” link at the bottom of the page, you can see a specific breakdown of how What Is My Day Rate determined your rate.

You’ll notice that they take into account weekends, holidays, sick leave, bonuses, benefits, and more.

If division is a strong suit for you, you may also notice that What Is My Day Rate operates on a 40-hour workweek model, meaning your rate might even be optimistic for your standards.

One problem with the calculator is that it doesn’t account for taxes of any kind; while it factors in a rather generous benefits percentage and adds in things like mandatory vacation time and unpaid sick leave, there’s still a noticeable gap between the calculator’s projected expenses and what you would probably have to pay.

On the plus side, tax brackets change, so you’ll be able to plug the day rate results into a separate tax calculator without worrying about accuracy issues.

What Is My Day Rate is a valuable tool for any freelancer looking to establish their daily freelance rate without necessitating a spreadsheet and several hours of botched accounting—or a more expensive alternative. If you’re worried about undercharging, head over to their site to lock in your rate ASAP.

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Business Finance

How to spot and avoid crowdfunding scams

(TECH NEWS) Crowdfunding has become ripe for scams, don’t be a sucker — here’s how to spot ’em.

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crowdfunding scams

When it comes to your personal life, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a crowdfunding campaign because if you’re turning to GoFundMe or YouCaring, it means your house has burned down, you have cancer or your dog has died.

We regularly see these campaigns pop up in our social feeds and for the most part, we believe them because they’re our friends, they’re in need and we trust them so, of course, we pitch in.

However, some people use crowdfunding to fleece you. By now, you’ve probably heard of the couple from New Jersey who teamed up with a homeless man to raise over $400,000. The campaign was a scam, the cash was split and now these crooks are facing some serious consequences in court. Ugh.

We shouldn’t need to write this article, but some people suck and they’re out there duping us. Here’s how to spot them.

This should be obvious, but do not give money to people you do not know or do not at least tangentially know. It never hurts to scroll through the donor list to see if you recognize any of your friends or acquaintances there. If you do and have questions, reach out to them before you reach deep into your wallet.

What about victims of natural disasters? Offer your money to emergency funds run by non-profit organizations. Anyone can create a crowdfunding campaign, but in times of crisis many platforms create verified campaigns.

If the objective of the campaign is unclear, do not donate. We’ve all come across campaigns that are strangely worded or lack enough specifics to piece together a plausible story. If it feels like a Nigerian Prince is the campaign administrator, close the tab.

If a campaign’s photo looks fishy, do a reverse image search on Google to help validate that fishy feeling. If the search yields a lot of results for the photo, scammers have stolen it and are using it to tug at your heartstrings.

Most campaigns run for a very short amount of time, typically a couple of weeks and rarely more than a month. While there is generally a final social push to get to an unmet goal, there are rarely open-ended campaigns. Again, if the goal is unclear or out-of-reach, move on.

We’ve all seen campaigns that are truly gut-wrenching – deaths of loved ones, fights with cancer, entire villages wiped out. As with the case of the three jerks from New Jersey, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is. While some sites may be able to reimburse your donation, others won’t and nothing feels worse than falling for a scam AND losing your money.

And so, dear friends, this is why we at The American Genius almost never, ever write about crowdfunded projects. We care about you and we want you to use your money to help your real friends, fund YOUR next project or pay off your student loans.

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Business Finance

Financial impostor syndrome – what it is and how to fix it

(FINANCE) Financial impostor syndrome is more common than most know, but seeing polished people in your industry may make you feel like your struggle is unique – it’s not.

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financial impostor syndrome

If you’ve ever felt like a fraud when it comes to your success, you’re not alone. Impostor syndrome is recognized as a “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments.”

Typically, impostor syndrome is discussed as it pertains to your career, but it can manifest in other areas, like with finances.

Financial impostor syndrome has many components. You might feel as if you are bad with money and can’t be any different. Maybe you’ve made some bad decisions in the past.

You let these mistakes define your financial future.

Or maybe you dwell on the endless Instagram posts from people in your industry that depict the glamour of their financial successes (not knowing that they don’t own that jet, their client rented it for the weekend, or that they have a Ferrari but are potentially hiding it from being repossessed).

Some people believe money is bad or that they don’t deserve financial stability. Especially freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Alternatively, you may have money in the bank, but feel like a fake or fraud for earning it. You might think it was just luck that you have any resources, rather than believing in your own capabilities.

Financial impostor syndrome keeps you from reaching your potential.

Most people who have impostor syndrome also have low self-confidence and fear that they’ll fail. This can self-sabotage success. Instead of taking initiative and making positive changes, someone with impostor syndrome may bury themselves in work and avoid taking on extra responsibilities that could prove themselves.

When it comes to money, you might think that you can’t make changes, so why try? This type of thinking limits you.

Overcoming financial impostor syndrome isn’t going to happen overnight, but it is possible with some work.

1. Talk about it. You have to look at the reality of your situation versus your perception. Work with a mentor or mental health professional who can help you get information about impostor syndrome and help you manage your symptoms. You may want to consider getting a financial coach or manager.

2. Make a list of your accomplishments and successes. Celebrate your achievements. Learn to recognize what you contributed to your successes.

3. Create a new script for times when you feel like a failure. “I can improve my finances.” “I am able to stick to my budget.” I deserve financial freedom.”

4. Change your habits. Take small steps towards financial success. Spend cash only. Automate your savings and your bills. Cut up credit cards. Learn your strengths and weaknesses. Stick to your budget.

Additionally, you must forgive yourself for past mistakes.

Everyone has at least one or two regrets when it comes to their money. We don’t always see those mistakes, because we only hear about the person’s success. If you can’t learn to forgive yourself, you restrict your ability to make changes. Blame and shame never help anyone change behavior.

Make a plan to change your financial impostor syndrome. No matter what you’ve done in the past, you can start making small changes to your financial situation to find a way out. You deserve it.

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