Authors Posts by Joshua Rodriguez

Joshua Rodriguez

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Hey everyone, I'm Joshua Rodriguez. I'm the founder of CNA Finance as well as several other sites. If you'd like to connect with me, follow me on or Twitter! I'd love to see ya there. Also, if you're looking for top quality content for your blog, news outlet, or any other website for that matter, please reach out to me at Info@CNAFin.com! Legal Disclaimer - CNA Finance is NOT an investment advisor. All investment decisions should be well thought out and made with the help of a an investment advisor. For our full legal disclaimer, please scroll to the bottom right of this page.

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Lock Your Finances

The tough economic climate which has prevailed in the UK since the double-dip recession first reared its ugly head in 2008 is continuing to bite. The latest sign that times are hard for many isthe recent rise in fraudulent acts, committed both by individuals and corporations, which is plaguing honest businesses across the UK. Identify theft more than doubled in value in 2012, and the trade of counterfeit goods has now hit a five-year high. Companies are also seeing a dramatic rise in ‘insider fraud’, which accounted for 80 percent of the total fraud-related financial losses last year.

With the financial climate still very much in recovery mode, businesses are fighting for their lives out there not just to succeed, but simply to stay afloat. With corporate and employee fraud on the rise, it’s essential businesses can trust their customers, suppliers and staff.There are plenty of free company checking websitesoffering an invaluable service that allows you to conduct a full background and credit check on suppliers and corporate customers before you choose to do business with them. This is just one measure of reducing your exposure to corporate fraud. Here are four more…

  1. Know your people

If you employ seasonal or temporary staff your risk of fraud will rise, simply because of the increase in new and unknown faces working for the company. In this case you should conduct a thorough audit of the specific weaknesses you face and implement internal processes which identify and nullify the risk of fraud.

  1. Keep a close eye on your credit rating

Many businesses regularly use Company Credit reports to monitor their credit rating. Any refusal for credit which seems contradictory to an otherwise positive credit rating should be viewed with suspicion, as this may be a sign your credit rating has been damaged by fraud. By contacting a Credit Reference Agency you can review the information held about your business and check everything is as it should be. If you do identify any discrepancies, the Credit Rating Agency will be able to advise you on your next step.

  1. Fraudsters start small

Most fraudulent employees will start by taking small amounts of money to test the water and see whether the fraud is detected. By carefully checking your bank statements for any small, unsolicited use of the company account, you will be able to nip fraudulent activity in the bud and trace the culprit before any lasting damage is done.

  1. Are your customers credit worthy?

Before you offer your customers a credit facility, it is essential you conduct the relevant checks to ensure the details they have given you are correct, and they are creditworthy. With the customer’s permission you can access their credit reports to make the necessary checks you need for peace of mind.

What are your thoughts on corporate fraud? Have you ever been the victim of a fraudulent act? Perhaps you have implemented antifraud measures we have not covered in this blog? We’d love to hear from you so please leave your comments below. 

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Commercial Real Estate

Years ago I took the time to get my series 7 and ended up working with a company called Growth Financial. While I was with the company, I didn’t make huge money, but I made enough to live and live well. After about a year and a half of working with them, the economy took a turn for the worst. Eventually, like tons of other financial firms in 2008 and 2009, Growth Financial went belly up. The good news is, I understood the financial climate and started planning for the worst early.

That Was The Start Of My Credit Card Blog

The early planning lead me to creating a niche blog revolving around credit cards. I thought it would do well because I knew quite a bit about finance, and lets face it, credit card affiliate programs have some of the best commissions out there. So, I purchased a domain name, installed wordpress, buttoned this up here, pinned that up there, and wouldn’t you know it, I had a website!

I was lucky enough to have about 8 months to work on my website before Growth Financial went under. It’s a great thing I did too because by the time they did, it was making me a bit of money. It wasn’t even coming close to matching what I made at my full time job, but it was enough to pay the bills and put food on the table.

This Lead Me To My New Career

Once I realized that I could turn my computer into an ATM so to speak, I caught the fever. I started really hitting marketing hard, and the site continued to do better and better. Soon, my website was making me more money than my day job ever did. It was great!

Which Lead To More Hustling

While building my website up, more and more visitors were coming, applying for credit cards, reading content, and more. What I didn’t know was that there were people taking note in my website who really didn’t care about credit cards. They were business people. After a while, I started getting random calls occasionally from this guy or that lady with this or that company. They wanted to know if I could consult them on marketing. I couldn’t quite understand why. I was self taught, there has to be better people for consulting than me out there. Nonetheless, I’ve never been the one to turn down money, so I through an astronomical figure out there and a few of them took it. It was pretty neat because I threw a big monthly cost at them hoping that they would turn me down. Instead, I stumbled into a rather lucrative consulting business!

My Consulting Lead Me To What This Article Is All About

My consulting lead me to a man that owned a pretty big investing firm, a nice restaurant, and a Bentley; we simply can’t forget the Bentley. To say the least, the man pretty much had money flowing steadily out of his eyeballs. You’ll understand why I refer to him as him, and this man, instead of his name soon. Anyway, I ended up spending a lot of time with him at his restaurant discussing strategy and beyond that, life.

One day he pulled me aside and asked “How much money are you making Josh?” I’m not usually one to blurt out figures, but at this point, the man was a friend and seemed sincere in the question, so I answered. At the time, it was 20k a month, give or take a thousand.

He started to tell me that I would be a great addition to his securities company. It was understandable because it seemed like the 2 things we talked about most were marketing and securities. So, he knew how I thought. I couldn’t imagine him paying more than I was making so, I politely said I was happy where I was. He came back with “No, no, no Josh, you don’t understand. You could be making double, even triple what you’re making right now.”

I thought to myself JACKPOT!!!! As I screamed at the top of my lungs to myself. I couldn’t have imagined making that kind of money. I was perfectly content with the great money I was already making, but when you’re talking about $40k – $60k a month, you’re really talking about a lot of money.

Off To Studying I Went

Because it had been years since I practiced as a series 7, it was like starting anew in the eyes of FINRA. So, I had to take that exam again. It’s the kind of exam that asks you questions like “Which of these four answers is closest to the correct answer”, the types of tests I hate. I knew I would most likely fail if I didn’t study. So, off to Johnson Lipman Corporation I went to purchase my books and training.

Then, Ana Got Involed

If you’ve ever taken the series 7 exam in the past, you know how much of a pain it is, how much studying it really takes to pass, how much time of your life you have to invest in it to get it done. Naturally, Ana saw me investing all this time and became interested. Soon enough, she started studying with me.

Here’s Where It Went Bad

Excited that Ana was taking part in all of this with me, one of the times I was at my new friend’s restaurant, I brought up that she was studying with me. The man quickly replied with, “What…Why would she be doing that?” I answered stating that I figured if she passed the exam, we could work at his firm together. He then responded with, “She doesn’t need to pass the exam for that, the only women that work in our firm answer the phones.” The sad part is, he was being stone could serious. My buddy was an immigrant from a part of the globe that didn’t respect women as much as we do here, and he brought those ideas over here with him.

Naturally, I was upset. I just can’t see how I would be more capable of doing a job than a woman that’s just as or even more qualified for the job than me. Over time, our views on different things separated further and further apart. I actually haven’t talked to him in over a year!

I Still Wonder Though…

I make great money these days, well at least my business does…personally, I make a modest living. I’m happy where I’m at and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. However, I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like to walk into an office with a starting salary of $40,000 per month. I wonder what life would have been like for Ana and myself. Most importantly, I wonder if I made the wrong decision. Would it have been better for both Ana and I if I continued studying, got the job, and got rich? Or, would I have hated myself because I sold my soul to a sexist pig for some extra money?

What Would You Do?

If you were offered a job that came with an amazing salary, I’m talking a job that would make you a millionaire in just a few years, would you be able to turn it down if the person you had to work with closest was a sexist pig? Do you think I did the right thing or should I have bitten my tongue?

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Barclaycard Rewards Credit Cards

In December of last year, I wrote a post around the discussion of secured credit cards. If you read that post I may have peaked your interest in using a secured card or an alternative to improve your credit scores. I followed up with talking a bit about the first steps to repairing bad credit scores and common credit score myths you shouldn’t fall prey to. So, if you’ve been following along and putting the posts into action, chances are that you’ve moved from the poor credit score range to at least the fair credit score range by this point. Congratulations, it’s been a long road, but you’ve made it! So, what’s next?

Continue Building

In the past, I offered a credit building service. I worked with tons of people digging through credit reports, filing disputes, creating plans for paying off debts, and ultimately creating positive lines of credit to improve their overall credit reports. At this point, most of my customers were very happy. They watched their credit scores go from poor to fair, and generally wanted to celebrate. However, this point proved to be the most crucial point as well.

About a year into working with people on their credit scores, I started to notice a trend. It seemed like consumers had been divided into two groups. The first group, 60% of people would be so excited about the jump in their scores that it would motivate them even more to continue building. Unfortunately, about 40% of people sort of just grew content with the credit score they’d built for themselves.The sad reality is that these people would go back to their old ways financially and destroy all the work they’d done to get where they were!

A Friendly Reminder Of The Plan

Just in case you’ve forgotten a step over the last 6 months, or you weren’t there for the original post. Let’s go over a couple of tips to keep your momentum going…

  1. Continue Paying Down Debts – If you’ve still got debts looming over your head, don’t worry. Your credit is improving because you’re making great financial decisions. Over time, you may have started to bring in more money. If that’s the case, consider sending extra payments to your highest interest debts to knock those down a notch.
  2. Don’t Stop Using Your Credit Card Responsibly – We talked about using your secured credit card while following very specific rules. The rules are simple, don’t spend more than 50% of your credit line, make sure to pay your balance off in full every 2 weeks, and actively use your card every month. Although the credit card may change, the rules won’t, so try not to forget them.

Now It’s Time To Reward Yourself…Literally!

This post can’t be all business right? I mean, you just hit a major landmark, don’t you deserve some kind of Kudos for your efforts? Of course you do! So, take a second to pat yourself on the back…

Now, let’s talk about rewarding yourself in another way. When you first got your secured credit card, you had poor credit. Because of this, your credit card choice was based on one simple thing…you wanted to improve your credit score, and you wanted the credit card that was best for doing that. However, because you’ve reached fair credit, that’s no longer the case. Now there are 2 major factors to consider…

  1. You Want To Continue Building Your Credit – Of course you want to build your credit score to the excellent range, but the truth is that any credit card can help with that. Because you now have fair credit, there’s no ball and chain attaching you to secured credit cards; you have options!
  2. You Want More From Your Card – Let’s face it, you find yourself reading personal finance blogs where bloggers talk about the vacation they just took for 300 bucks because of their credit card rewards. You dream about doing that, but you’ve never had the credit to get the cards that let you. Although you’re not going to get a top notch rewards credit card yet, you do qualify for rewards!

A Great Rewards Credit Card To Kick Your Journey Off With

One of my favorite credit cards for consumers in this stage of the credit building process is the Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®. I do have to admit, I get paid to promote this card here at CNA Finance, but the truth is that I get paid to promote tons of different credit card offers; many of which, like this option, are designed specifically for consumers in this stage of the credit building process. So, being paid to promote it isn’t why I’m telling you about it. The bottom line is, if you’re following the plan I outlined months ago, and plan to do it well into the future, as a person with fair credit on this plan, this card is going to be one of the best ways for you to enjoy rewards.

Tips For First Time Rewards Credit Card Users

Tip #1: Don’t Use Them If You’re Not Ready! – Rewards credit cards reward you for spending money. If you’re a spendaholic like I used to be, this is a recipe for disaster. That being said, only use rewards credit cards if you’re 100% confident in your ability to make sound financial decisions when using it!

Tip #2: If You’re Going To Use Rewards Credit Cards, Maximize Your Earning Potential – I recently wrote a post called “How To Earn More Rewards With Your Credit Card“. If you’re serious about earning as many rewards points as possible, this is a must read!

Tip #3: Continue To Pay Bi-Weekly – Although this is one of the tips in the How To post mentioned above, it’s important enough for me to mention it again. Paying your credit card completely off on a bi-weekly basis will allow you to avoid interest by making sure your credit card is paid off well before the grace period. If you pay interest, you’re not earning rewards, you’re paying for them! So, don’t pay interest!

Reader Question

Are you just breaking through the fair credit barrier? If so, are you excited to start earning rewards? If you’ve got great credit, do you remember how it felt to hit this mark? Finally, if you’ve got poor credit, do you have a plan for improving it?

Great Reads From Around The Blogosphere

How To Make Money For College Doing SAT Prep – This is an awesome post that shares how college students can rack in some big bucks doing SAT prep. If you’re in college and in need of money, it’s a must read!

Music-Mondays: Tears in Heaven –  This is an absolutely amazing Memorial Day post by Shannon. It actually took me two go arounds to read it because it’s a bit emotional. Nonetheless, a great read, check it out!

kt's headshot

Hey everyone, if you’ve been following along in the past few weeks, you’ve heard a bit about Katie A. I’ve been anticipating this day since the day she first contacted me. With today’s post, Katie officially becomes a personal finance blogger, and let me tell you…the post is incredible. Everyone in the CNA Finance community, welcome Katie A, our new friend!

This is the story of how I achieved a 700+ credit score by the time I graduated from college.  The process started when I was about 15 years old and way before I ever opened up my first credit card.

First, let me give you some context: about the only personal finance advice I ever got from my parents as a kid was to (1) save aggressively and (2) never get a credit card.  Sound familiar?

In other words, I didn’t learn this stuff at home.  In high school I was lucky to be in a very small group of students in a 10th grade class about personal finance, where the teacher advised that we get a credit card as soon as possible.

I was a teenager, so naturally, I was instantly interested in learning more – mostly because it was the exact opposite of what my parents had taught me.  🙂

I had absolutely no idea how credit worked, and I had perceived it to be a bad thing.  Of course, my teacher gave great advice about how to avoid debt by managing credit cards well.

Remember, I was only 15 at the time and I didn’t have a job – I wasn’t even close to being able to apply for a credit card.  But I knew this information would come in handy in a few years.

A few years later, as my 18th birthday approached I started gathering the application materials for a credit card: proof of income, report cards to show that I was a good student, a recommendation letter, etc.  And a few weeks after my 18th birthday I had officially established credit – while I was still in high school! 

Of course, I practiced my teacher’s advice about managing credit.  The results?  By the time I graduated college four years later, I had a credit score of just over 700 and a credit limit of about $10,000 between two credit cards.

Even more results: by the time I was 25 I had achieved a 780+ credit score, had been approved for a loan for grad school (without a co-signer), and had been pre-approved for a mortgage at an excellent rate (also without a co-signer) – these accomplishments are not the norm, as reported by a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.  And it all started at age 15.

Learning about credit at such an early age made a huge impact on me and made me aware of how powerful my decisions could be.  Plus, by the time I left the nest to attend college in a new city – I was used to managing my credit card, I knew about the dangers of debt, and I was aware of expensive credit card offers.

I recall many banks on my campus offering free t-shirts to students who applied for their credit card.  Crazy, right?  Even crazier: this marketing tactic actually worked!  Students would actually apply for cards, without  knowing what they were getting into.  I was lightyears ahead of my peers because I had learned about all this years ago in 10th grade.

Teaching teens about credit is an opportunity, not a risk.  In her famous TED Talk, cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore says that the teen years are “a period of life where the brain is particularly adaptable and malleable. It’s a fantastic opportunity for learning and creativity.”  The teen years are a great time to teach this stuff for many other reasons:

  • The sooner they learn it, the greater the impact will be
  • By the time they leave the nest for college, they’ll be well informed and prepared to make important financial decisions on their own
  • With student loan debt on the rise, knowing how debt works and how to minimize it is an invaluable skill for teens to master

Teaching credit management early on will have a greater impact and will give teens a head-start.  When my parents refused to talk to me about credit – they were only trying to protect me from the dangers of debt.  But ignorance is not productive – and in this case, it would have inadvertently hindered my development.  Once you get over the fear of teaching your kid about credit, the next challenge is: how to teach it?

For more information about teaching your teen about credit and personal finance, head over to my site and sign up for my newsletter where I’ll share very specific actionable recommendations about how to do this.

But if you really want to get started, here’s a simple action step you can take TODAY to start the conversation about credit.  You don’t have to teach them everything all at once.  Start small and be casual.

Next time you’re discussing school grades, you can get the conversation started by saying something like, “Did you know I still get graded on stuff?  The grade measures how responsible I am with money – it’s called a FICO score, the higher the score the better.  And once you leave school, you’ll continue getting grades too.

That’s it!  You’ve successfully gotten the idea of a credit score on their radar – in a way that they can relate to: by comparing it to grades in school.  And you can leave it at that, you don’t even have to get into what FICO stands for, or what a credit bureau is.

The purpose of this very short, very casual conversation is to get this idea on their radar and to inspire curiosity.  They will naturally want to know more if you leave them with a little bit of mystery.

In the comments below, please share with us how the conversation went.  Were you surprised?

Want More To Read? Here Are 2 Great Posts From Around The Blogosphere!

Why Do You Live Where You Live – In this post, Andrew shares a bit about why he lives where he does and asks the question, “Why do you live where you live?” There’s some great responses in the comments!

5 Common Credit Myths – In this post on Gen Y Finances, you’ll learn some of the most common misconceptions about credit and credit cards!

 

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Amazing Sunset

Hey everyone, if you’ve been following along in recent weeks, you’ve heard the mention of a new up and coming blogger. Well, not a blogger yet, but she’s getting it going. On Monday, Katie A will officially become a blogger with her debut post right here on CNA. I’m very excited to say the least.

Throughout the last couple of weeks, Katie and I have been sending emails here and there to discuss a topic, talk about an article, figure out how to get a menu to work properly, you name it! Well, here we are, a few days away from launch date and I figured I’d write something up that would help her get started with regard to driving traffic to her site. Then I thought…

HOW SELFISH OF ME!

I’m sure there are other up and coming bloggers that would appreciate tips on how to build high quality traffic just as much as Katie would. So, instead of typing up an email, here’s an article!

Why Most Bloggers Fail

When most people get into blogging, they are under the false misconception that if you build it they will come. The days of writing about something on a blog and automatically showing up on the first page of Google for a keyword related to that keyword are gone.

With that being said, most bloggers get into blogging under the false misconception that all they will need to do is write a post or two a week, and a side hustle income will start rolling in. The harsh reality is that making anything blogging takes some time!

Another major issue is that once you realize that earning any kind of income blogging takes work, most people won’t have the slightest idea as to where to start. So, off to research it is! Once you research ways to get traffic to your blog, you’re going to read about tons of strategies. Then you’ll read posts telling you why all the strategies you just read about are wrong and why you have to revamp your strategy to be successful. Over time, trying to market your blog kind of feels like running in a circle like a dog trying to catch it’s tail. At some point, most bloggers simply get frustrated and give up!

Why You Won’t Fail

The main reason YOU WILL NOT FAIL is this… Deep down inside, you don’t want to be a blogger, you want to be an authority in a niche that you love! Bloggers fail because bloggers blog. Bloggers don’t build communities around their ideas, bloggers don’t reach out to other industry leaders for collaboration opportunities, bloggers are rarely part of communities.

If you’re a blogger, don’t take offense to this, but here’s the truth…There are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of personal finance blogs out there. However, there are less than a hundred personal finance bloggers that I would call community leaders, industry leaders, authorities!

These are people like John at Frugal Rules, DC at Young Adult Money, Kim at Eyes on the Dollar, Grayson at Debt Roundup, Jeremy at Modest Money, Laurie at The Frugal Farmer and more. The community authorities are the people that you recognize when you hear their names or the names of their blogs. Why? Because they have done everything in their power to not only give the communities around them something great to read, but to give them advice on day to day life, to lend a helping hand to up and coming bloggers, to make the members of the communities they’ve created truly know they care about them!

So Where Do You Start?

So, you’ve come to the conclusion that you want to be an authority in your niche, but you’re still not sure how to do that. Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan for you! There’s only one problem, the plan is way to big to fit into one or even ten posts. So, from now on, every other Friday I’ll be posting tips about how to become an authority in your online community. So, let’s get to today’s lesson…

Leaving Comments To Introduce Yourself To And Maintain Relationships With Your Online Community

If you want to become an authority in any industry, the community surrounding that industry is going to need to know not only that you exist, but that you’re making a constant effort to be part of that community. Comments are a great way to do that. As a matter of fact, comments do a few things for you…

  • Create and Nurture Online Relationships – As I mentioned above, commenting on other blogs is a great way to get to know the community around you, and for the community around you to get to know you!
  • There Are SEO Benefits – Every time you leave a comment, you create a link that points to this website. Although those links aren’t in the content and are often times nofollow, over time the build up of links will do great things for you. We’ll talk more about nofollow, dofollow, contextual, non-contextual and other types of links and what they do for you later in the series. For now, it’s just good to know that most links are good. Just don’t hire anyone to build them for you and don’t use robots! Only create links in ways that feel natural and you should do just fine….there I go, off on a tangent about links… back to the main topic!
  • Traffic – Tons of bloggers look into comments on authority sites to find other bloggers to follow. I get several referral hits every day from comments I leave around the blogosphere. Because most of these hits are bloggers, most of them have the Alexa toolbar installed. So, in the end, your Alexa rank may get a little boost as well.
  • Most Bloggers Reciprocate – As you get more and more into running your blog, when you get comments, you’re going to start to feel like these people commenting are doing you a favor. You’ll learn that Google likes when content is added to pages, so the more comments you have, the more content your page has and the better it performs in search engines! So, by commenting, you’re doing other bloggers a huge favor. Most of the time, they’ll return the favor by commenting on your blog!

Steps To Creating A Successful Blog Commenting Campaign

Step #1: Find Authorities In Your Niche – Authorities in any niche get a ton of comments. You should be leaving one on every article as well! There are also benefits to knowing who the authorities in your niche are when it comes to running a successful blog commenting campaign. One of the biggest is the fact that chances are, there are tons of other influential bloggers commenting in the same place. So, you’ll never fall short of articles to read and comment on.

Step #2: Plan To Comment Daily – Once you get into comments, you’re making a commitment to the bloggers that you will be talking to on a regular basis. You’re saying, “Hey, I like your work and I’m going to occasionally swing by and show you that.” If you leave a comment, and drop off of the face of the earth for a month and a half, your comment isn’t going to be as valuable in the eyes of the blogger if you are constantly an active part of their community. The good news is that if you’re like me, you like to read daily. If you like to read daily, commenting doesn’t add much to your daily activities!

Step #3: Try To Find At Least One New Blog A Day – From a link perspective, it’s a good idea to find at least one or two new blogs a day to comment on. Think of your link building process like a spider building a spider web. The more strands the spider spins from different points, the more flies that spider will catch. It’s time to build up your little corner of the web. A great way to do that is make it a mission to find a new blog to leave a comment on every day!

Step #4: Start Commenting – Now you know how to get started, it’s time to start actually commenting. While you’re commenting, here are a few things to keep in mind…

  • Be Sincere – If you’re not going to read the article, DON’T BOTHER COMMENTING! It’s frustrating for a writer to put his or her heart and soul into providing honest advice and read a comment from someone that is completely unrelated to what you’re talking about. So, always remember to read the articles and leave honest, valuable comments!
  • Switch Your Name Up – I hate this because I really like the idea of branding one name. However, Google has gotten more and more strict over the years with regard to anchor text in your links. If all of your anchor text is the same, it may raise a red flag causing your blog to be penalized. Because your name becomes the anchor text in your link, using the same name on all of your comments can get you in trouble. Now, I’m not saying not to use your legal name, I’m just saying it’s best to use variations of it. For instance, I use Josh, Joshua, Josh R, Joshua R, Josh Rodriguez, Joshua Rodriguez, Josh @ CNAFinance, Josh R @ CNAFinance.com, Joshua @ CNA Finance, and several other variations. I’m not lying about my name, I’m just making sure to brand each variation instead of getting penalized by search engines.
  • Take Time To Share – Social Networking is going to be another major topic we talk about down the road in these posts. However, it’s always a good idea to spread the word if you loved an article. Most bloggers have buttons on their websites that make sharing easy, simply share the posts you like while you’re there and you’ll be surprised at how many people start sharing your posts as well!

Step #5: Keep Commenting – Commenting is a never ending job. So, when you think your list is getting old and it’s time to revamp, go ahead and revamp, but never stop!

Final Thoughts

Well, that’s all for the beginner to blogging lesson for the day. If you’d like more tips, swing back by in two weeks for the next edition! Comments have done tons for my blog and I hope they do the same for you!

Reader Question

Are you an authority in your niche? If so, did commenting on other blogs help you reach that status? If you’re not an authority, did you know little things like commenting could make such a huge difference?

Great Reads From Around The Blogosphere

What if your family is the Joneses? – In this post Shannon, an awesome blogger by the way, discusses how it feels when you feel like your family is the Joneses, but you live a frugal, financially responsible lifestyle.

Obsessed: 4 Reasons I Love Credit Card Rewards – This is an awesome post by Holly that explains why she loves credit card rewards so much. If you read this, I’d be willing to bet you’ll fall in love with credit card rewards too!

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Earn More Rewards

I remember years ago when I first got into blogging, I had no idea what rewards credit cards were. As I would read, I saw more and more “finance professionals”, well professional bloggers talking about the free vacation they took using a rewards credit card, or the money they saved through rewards programs. I was always intrigued by these posts; the only problem was that I couldn’t qualify for the offers that provided rewards. Eventually I started working on my credit and built it to the point where a rewards credit card wasn’t an unreasonable request.

I applied for 3 cards, and surprisingly enough, I was approved for all of them. I was incredibly happy because I had strategically picked the cards because they each offered different rewards I would enjoy. Over the years, I’ve made my fair share of credit card mistakes, but I’m thankful for them. If I didn’t make the mistakes, I wouldn’t be the credit card churner I am today! Another thing that happened over time was that I learned great ways to earn more and more rewards. Over time, I’ve dialed the earning more rewards process into a simple step by step checklist. So, today I decided I’d share it!

Earning More Credit Card Rewards – A Step By Step Guide

Step #1: Diversify Your Portfolio.

OK, I know we’re not talking about investment services, but we might as well be. With rewards credit cards, you’re investing time in planning and spending on your card to earn the highest return possible. When it comes to investments, it’s not best to put all of your eggs in one basket. The same goes for earning credit card rewards. Instead of choosing just one rewards credit card and focusing on earning one type of rewards, diversify. Maybe it’s best for you to have a travel rewards credit card, gas rewards card, and cash back rewards card. Simply think of different rewards programs that would best fit your needs!

Step #2: Clean Up Your Budget.

Your budget is going to play A HUGE role in your ability to maximize on the amount of rewards you earn using your credit card. We’ll get into how that works in the next step. First, it’s time to pull up your budget. Go through it and make sure everything is updated. If you don’t have a budget spreadsheet, click here to learn how to make one for free!

Step #3: Come Up With A Credit Card Spending Budget.

Dig through your budget and make a list of the monthly expenses that you pay using a debit card, or cash, but you know would accept credit card payments. These expenses generally include groceries, utilities, gas, entertainment, etc… Once you’ve figured out which of your monthly expenses fall in this category, add up the total you spend in those areas each month. This will become your monthly credit card spending limit. Don’t worry; I’m not giving you a play to dig you into debt…read further and you’ll understand!

Step #4: Set Up A Separate Savings Account With The Bank You Already Having A Checking And Savings Account with.

A special savings account is incredibly important to this process. Obviously, you’re not going to earn tons of interest on a savings account, but you’ll earn some interest. In the next steps, you’ll learn why this is relevant to maximizing the rewards you earn with your credit card.

Step #5: Start Using Your Credit Cards.

If you never use your credit cards, you’ll never earn rewards. It’s time to start swiping those things until you start a friction fire. OK, well maybe you shouldn’t be swiping that much, but you will need to use your cards. Stick to your credit card spending budget and start spending!

Step #6: Cover Your Butt!

When I first started using credit cards, I came to the quick realization that I had to pay back the debt once I got my first bill. I didn’t prepare to pay it off, to be honest, I didn’t prepare for anything. I ended up paying for three months on that balance which means I paid interest. Because I paid interest, I didn’t earn rewards, I paid for them. Here’s how to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you…and why it’s important to have a savings account dedicated to this process.

At the end of every day, when you’re done spending money for the day, get online and transfer the total amount of money that you’ve spent on your credit card from your checking to your savings account. Doing so will do two things for you…

  1. Make Sure You Never Pay Interest – Credit cards have grace periods. Because of this, if you pay your balance off entirely within a specified period of time (Usually 21 Days), you won’t be charged interest on your purchases. By putting the money to pay your debts off in savings every night, you’ll be more than prepared to pay within the grace period and avoid interest.
  2. Earn More – Savings accounts pay you interest. Granted, you’re not going to make much more than pennies on the average savings account, but remember, pennies add up to dollars! By storing the money you plan to use to pay off your credit card debt in a savings account, you’ll earn interest as the money sits! That’s what I call double earning!

Step #7: Get In The Habit Of Making Bi-Weekly Payments

As I mentioned above, credit cards have grace periods, which I think are beautiful things. Grace periods allow you to avoid 100% of the interest you would generally be charged on credit card debt. The only catch to the grace period is…well, you’ve gotta catch it! Because most grace periods are 21 days, it’s best to get into the habit of paying your balance off in full every two weeks. This shouldn’t be hard because you’ve already got the money waiting in your savings account…where it’s earning interest!

So There You Have It

These seven steps are all it takes to earn free vacations, free gas, cash back and more. They’ve worked for me for quite some time now, now it’s time for them to work for you!

Reader Question

Do you churn rewards credit cards? If so, is there anything you would add to this process? If not, why?

Even Steven Money Blue

I’m starting to really like Mondays everyone! I’ve been reaching out to bloggers I follow to see if they’d like to write a guest post. I think guests give my blog a little more flavor. Today, I’ve got a little treat from Even Steven. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

Have you ever gone to the casino or participated in a NCAA March Madness Pool guessing who’s going to win it all or even playing Fantasy Football with friends or co-workers and putting up $20 or $50 to put a little money on it.  Everyone gambles in some way and I’m no different, let me share some of my story and how gambling influences my financial decisions.

Growing up I felt like gambling was always around me, only in what most would consider rather normal circumstances.  People buying raffle tickets from me for my little league baseball team, seeing my family buy scratch off lottery tickets and Powerball lottery tickets, and even winning a Nascar pool at a local bar.  When you’re a kid you don’t really understand how gambling is involved in every day life.

In high school I played a little cards with my friends, learning a few games along the way; but we only played for change. So, I didn’t really think much of it other than having a good time with some buddies.  Off to college. While I was there the big “Poker Boom” happened.  Chris Moneymaker, the movie Rounders, and Online Poker were part of almost every college kid’s curriculum.  Online poker and tournament games with my college friends were more common than having a happy hour drink or heading off to a house party.  So to say my college life was filled with gambling is just the beginning of my gamble.

I played a ton of online poker in college, always on the computer for late nights and once I was 21 I was off to the brick and mortar casino’s, even stopping in Vegas for my 21st birthday party.  During the summers, while I was in college I caddied at a prestigious golf course and received cash for my work.  Since we had a lot of down time we played a lot of poker and when people weren’t playing poker they were gambling on Tiger Woods and who was better.  Gambling was all around me.  I didn’t think twice about taking on a student loan or paying for spring break with a credit card, I could win it back or earn it back on the golf course.  Gambling was influencing my decisions.

I successfully graduated from college and for a number of reasons I was not ready to begin working full-time.  I decided to gamble full-time instead.  For the next 3-4 months I went to the casino every day, usually 6 days a week, I made money, I paid off some debt, but money was of no object to me, I could lose $1000 or win $1000; it didn’t affect me either way.  I decided that playing poker every day was really a grind and I could do something else.

I ended up in the 9-5 day job and started to realize I didn’t want my entire life to be a gamble.  Although I did pick up all of my belongings to move to Miami for a girl, but love stories aside this was a huge gamble, I had some savings, but nowhere near enough, I didn’t think twice about putting it on a credit card, I even played online poker trying to earn my way through my decisions, since I didn’t have much of a bank roll that didn’t last long.

That gamble changed my life; it made me realize I wasn’t going to be able to gamble my way through life.  I moved back to Chicago and even asked that girl to marry me. Now this is not intended to be love story, but that gamble was the best one I have ever made.  My wife makes me not want to gamble, I talk out some of my decisions that I would have made years ago.

Even still the gamble is still there.  I wanted to buy stocks, rather than pay off debt.  I still get in the NCAA March Madness pool, play Fantasy Football, and get the urge to take a trip to the casino.  I love seeing IPO’s in the stock market, well-known companies that lose 20% in a day for buying opportunity. I bought Groupon without asking my wife, it’s a gamble even if it’s legal and in the stock market.

I have found other outlets to keep my energy focused on the good.  I blog over at evenstevenmoney.com as I work to pay back all my mistakes(debt), I run an eBay business where I buy and sell clothing, but most of all I listen to my wife, she has almost no gamble in her.  I have the risk tolerance of a man who prints money and she has the tolerance of an angry prison guard talking with an inmate (I hope I’m not the inmate in this scenario).

Maybe the gamble will never leave; maybe everyone has a little gamble in them, you know what maybe having a little gamble in them isn’t so bad.   Let me leave you with this and it’s something I’m sure I heard along the way.  Ever notice how the biggest and most expensive looking buildings are usually those at a casino and a bank?  Yeah, that’s because they make so much money off of you and me…….

 

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Picture of Ana I and Friends

As you probably already know by now, most days, I get a start by reading other personal finance blogs. I really get a kick out of reading the fun, touching, inspiring, amazing, sad, and every other emotion you can think of stories across this amazing network of personal finance blogs. Recently, I came across a post by Wendy at Girl Meets Debt explaining why she’s a blogger. Sure enough, in my reading today, I came across a post on Financially Blond where Shannon explained why she blogs. Of course, Shannon was inspired by Wendy, but now, I’m inspired by them both. So, I figured I’d share with the CNA Finance community why our little corner of the internet even exists. Here goes nothing.

Why I Blogged In The Beginning – Money

I have to be honest here, I think the community deserves it. When I first started CNA Finance, I had one goal in mind and that goal was to make money. I had made money with other web properties in the past and figured I’d add another passive income stream. The only difference is this time, that income stream would be a blog. So, the real reason CNA Finance is even here today is because I wanted another income stream!

Why I Blog Now

If you’re a blogger, you know that blogging income doesn’t happen over night. I quickly realized that in the beginning phases of this blog. As a matter of fact, the lack of traffic, lack of page views, and ultimately the lack of advertising income int he beginning almost drove me to quit a few times, but for some reason, I decided to hold on. Wow, I’m glad I did. These days, money is still a part of why I blog, and thankfully, I’m finally making some. However, there are so many other reasons! Here are the ones on the top of the list…

People Like Katie A – This one actually happened very recently. Late last week, I opened my email and saw an email from someone I’d never heard from or of in the past. Her name is Katie A. In her email, she explained to me that she was a big fan of two pieces I’ve written. One that I wrote for Penny Pinchin’ Mom, and one that I wrote for CNA Finance.

She went on to explain that she was considering starting a blog about a topic that I will keep private…because it’s awesome and few people have tapped into her specific corner of personal finance. Anyway, she asked me what I thought of her topic ideas and how I thought readers might take the information she planned on sharing.

Then, she explained that she would like her first ever blog post to be on CNA(It will be debuting a week from Monday!). I know it sounds a little mushy, but come on…that feels great. I am going to debut a great new addition to the personal finance community. Since then we’ve chatted back and fourth and to say the least, she’s made me feel great about what I do here. All of that being said, thank you Katie, I hope I’m as much as an inspiration for you as you are for me, and I hope that the tips I give to help make your new blog thrive!

People Like Anne – About a year ago, I got a real tear jerking email. It was from a lady named Anne who has tried and tried and tried to get out of debt, but couldn’t seem to find a good plan. Then she came across a post on CNA Finance about financial hardship programs. She said she had never heard about these types of programs until she came across my blog.

Anne went into this long personal story about how incredibly hard her struggle was. At one point, she gave up her pets because she couldn’t afford to feed them. Toward the end of my email, she explained that on her more than 50k in credit card debt, financial hardship programs brought her minimum payments down by more than $800 a month! Wow, what a success story! Anne, if you’re still watching my blog, thanks for sharing, you and people like you are the reason I still blog!

People Like You! – Until I became part of the personal finance blog community, I had no idea what a tight knit community it actually was. People like Laurie, Grayson, and Jeremy make the PF blogging community a fun thing to be a part of. I can’t tell you how many tips I’ve gotten from Jeremy that have helped me to succeed. Laurie has always been friendly, and Grayson published one of my first guest posts! It wasn’t until I became part of this community that I knew how much everyone actually cared about each other’s success. So, a big thank you to everyone in the PF blog community that’s making it what it is today!

Freedom – I remember working a day job, and quite frankly…it sucked! I didn’t get paid nearly what I was worth and I was working more hours than I was sleeping! These days, my blog income has allowed me to build an entire business. Income from that business has allowed me to work from home. Now, I get paid what I’m worth. I may work just as much, but I choose when and where I work. If I want to work Saturday night on the beach, so be it! Ana and I have had so much more quality time since I’ve started blogging and it’s great. If you haven’t heard yet, I love that woman and I fall in love with her over and over again every day! My blog is one of the reasons we’ve got such a fulfilling relationship. Then again, she’s one of the reasons I’ve got a successful blog!

Now you know why I’m a blogger, why do you do it? If you’re not a blogger, have you ever considered starting one?

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Hey everyone, I’ve got some really exciting news! As you may already know from my comments around the blogosphere I recently moved into a new house. Even better news, I finally have a back yard! Why is this relevant? If you’re a personal finance blogger in the Portland area or who plans to be in the area, I’d like to invite you to my back yard! OK, that sounded a bit weird, but it’s true!

I’m Starting The Portland Personal Finance Blogger BBQ Potluck!

Wow now that I write that out, it seems like a mouth full! OK, maybe the name will change, but you get the idea.  I’ve been to a few different blogger outings now. You know, I’ve been to Moz.com seminars, I went to some sit down socials with other personal finance bloggers, never quite made it to FinCon, but I’ll get there one day; I’d like to take what I’ve learned from these events and come up with the ultimate good time/networking opportunity for personal finance bloggers in the Portland, Oregon area. Well, truth be told, if you want to fly here from China to hang with us, I’m OK with that too, but I don’t think that’s too realistic!

How The BBQ/Potluck Is Going To Work

I see the entire thing going in steps…I’m still not done planning the steps out yet, but here’s what I’ve got so far…

Step #1: Everyone Gets Here And Socializes While Food Is Prepared – We’ll hang, chat about life, blogging, and anything else that comes to mind over a beer or two while Ana manhandles the grill. Ana’s a beast more fierce than Tupac’s entire posse, the Lock Ness Monster, and Godzilla combined on the grill…so, you’re in for a treat!

Step #2: We Eat, We Party Some More – Everyone loves to eat, and since we’re not at a restaurant, we can pig out phroogie style! By the way, a big thanks to Jason Vitug @ Phroogal.com for coining the word Phroogie in his community! It’s an awesome word!

Step #3: The Speaker Of The Month Gives A Presentation – At some point, we’ll all gather around the TV in the game room for a presentation put on by the speaker for that month. The speaker will give a 15 to 30 minute presentation that revolves around becoming successful and maintaining success in the personal finance blog industry.

Step #4: Question And Answer – We’ll have an opportunity to ask the speaker of the month questions to get a real understanding for the new and exciting strategy we just learned about.

Step #5: We’ll Party Again!!!! – After the short seminar and talk about how to make our blogs more successful, we’re going to crank the music up and start partying again!

When Will The BBQ Be?

My goal is that everything will be planned, up and running by the end of June. I’m not sure exactly what date it will start on, but when you RSVP, you’ll be placed on the mailing list and you’ll be given plenty of notice. Talking about planning, I’m looking for 1 more blogger to help me with that process. I’d like for the Monthly Blogger BBQ to be hosted by 3 great bloggers. This way, we can bounce ideas back and fourth about how to make this fun, and educational for other bloggers like us! I’ve got Mel from Dear Debt on the team and would like to add one more great blogger’s ideas in the planning phase. If you’re interested in taking part in this venture, please send me an email at CNAFinanceHelp@gmail.com or leave a comment and I’ll get back to you via email!

How To RSVP

Step #1: Make Sure Your On PT Money’s Blogger Map – This get together is going to have a lot to do with building a local and national community around your blog. A great way to do that is to show your community that you exist. PT Money has made it easy to do that with their Personal Finance Blogger Map. So, if you’re not on the map, make sure to add your blog by clicking here!

Step #2: Send Me An Email – Let me know that you’re interested in being part of the PF Blogger BBQ. To do so, send an email to CNAFinanceHelp@gmail.com answering the following questions…

  • What’s your name?
  • What’s your phone number?
  • What’s the URL to your blog?
  • Would you like to be a speaker?
  • If you’d like to be a speaker, what are some topics you’d be interested in speaking about?

There Are A Few Rules

  1. This get together is going to be a BBQ style potluck. So, please bring some kind of BBQ related dish. It’s OK if it’s raw, we’ve got a grill and a great cook! It’s also OK to bring side items!
  2. It’s a BYOB. If you plan to drink, please bring something you’d enjoy.
  3. Remember, the get together is going to be at my home and you are going to have my personal cell phone number. Please respect my privacy and my property by not sharing my information!

Great Posts From Around The Blogosphoere!

Why We Don’t Give Our Kids Allowances – In this post, Brian makes a very valid point. It seems like people are getting flat out lazy…OK he didn’t put it like that, but trust me, there’s a good reason he doesn’t give his kids allowances!

Your Mortgage Is 30 Years Too Long – In this post, Holly talks about the struggles she and her hubby went through getting a mortgage now that she’s self employed and touches on the big question…15 or 30 years?

How To Teach Your Kids About Money

Good day, CNA Finance friends!  Joshua has been kind enough to invite me to share some of the reasons that teaching your kids about money is so very important.  I’ve recently released a short but powerful e-book on the subject, called How to Teach Your Kids About Money, and I’m here today to share why I think it’s so important that parents make a concerted effort to educate their children in the area of personal finance.

My husband and I grew up in the era when money, on a personal level, was a taboo topic.  When I was a kid, very few kids (or adults) knew how much money their parents made, saved, or spent.  Debt was also a private subject that you didn’t share with your kids.  I believe that this mindset ushered in a bit of an age of ignorance about money.  What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?  So why not spend freely until your heart’s content?  After my parents’ divorce, I still didn’t know much about either of their money situations, but as often happens after divorce, both my mom’s and my dad’s financial situations declined.  We went from making ends meet to struggling to buy food and keep the electricity on.  It was not pretty.  I was occasionally teased by classmates for being a poor kid, and I didn’t like it.  Because I was never educated on money, I thought that the problem was that I didn’t have enough “stuff”, so when I got my first job at 15, my only goal for my money was to make sure that I had the stuff I needed to fit in with my peers.  What followed was a relentless chase to keep up with the Joneses.  My husband, on the other hand, also had fears about money due to it being a taboo topic in his home.  His father often gave him incorrect messages about their money situation that promoted huge amounts of fear in him, and as a result, he never wanted anything to do with managing our money or even knowing how much we did or didn’t have.  As you can imagine, our two misguided mindsets about money were a terrible combination.  After being married for 16 years, we finally realized that we had to get a grip on our financial situation, and after adding up the numbers, we realized that our debt had grown to dangerous numbers.  We soon made a plan to get out of debt, and are now fervently working to finish that plan.   In the process, we’ve also made a commitment to teach our children about how money works, so that they (hopefully) won’t make the same money mistakes we made.

Why It’s So Important to Teach Your Kids About Money

Whether it seems surreal at this stage or now, your children will one day make their own money, and as such, will need to know how to handle it.  As I look at the adults in the world around me, I see a few different camps.  There’s the “We’ve got a healthy outlook and plan for our money” camp.  There’s the “living paycheck-to-paycheck but making ends meet” camp.  And there’s the “we’re always struggling for cash” camp.  Which camp do you want your children to be in?  Do you want them coming to you every month, asking to borrow money “just until Friday”, or do you want their money situation to be one of peace and security because they’ve learned how to manage their income – whatever it is – well?    Poorly managed money will bring your children a number of avoidable stresses, where proper and healthy money management will bring them peace and the ability to make choices based on what’s best for them as opposed to what their money situation dictates.

One of the very best gifts parents can give to their children is a healthy knowledge and understanding of how money works.  Choose today to give your kids that gift, and educate them on the ins and outs of healthy money management.

What were you taught, if anything, by your parents about money when you were a child?

Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

Awesome Posts From Around The Blogosphere!

In spirit of leaving you with more great reads, here are 2 of my favorite posts done by Laurie about teaching your children about money…

Teaching Kids About Money: How To Prepare Them For Adulthood – Just in case you didn’t know, not only does Laurie own her own blog, The Frugal Farmer, she’s also a major player over at Frugal Rules. In this Frugal Rules contribution, Laurie shares great tips for preparing your children financially for success!

How To Include Your Kids In Budgeting Sessions – Budgeting is incredibly important as we grow up and become financially responsible for ourselves. In this guest post on Mom and Dad Money, Laurie shares great ideas for getting your children involved in budgeting!

Know of any other great posts by Laurie? Let me know about them in the comments…I’ll even approve links to them!

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