HOW I INVEST IN THE STOCK MARKET WITH ZERO BROKERAGE FEES

Investment is a lot like sports.  To win, you have to be able to play the game. But, in Canada investing via the Top Banks costs us Canadians $9.95 for every trade we make. If you think there isn’t a way around it, think again!

I HAVE BEEN SELF-INVESTING FOR MY RETIREMENT WITH ZERO BROKERAGE FEES & NO ANNUAL FEES.

In this post, I will share with you why it’s important to lower costs and the tools and strategy needed to make that happen. If you like this post, don’t forget to follow me on LinkedIn and subscribe to my blog financialcakewalk.com. Now, let’s get into it.

WHY IS LOWERING BROKERAGE FEES IMPORTANT?

  1. Brokerage eats your returns. If you’re a small investor, which most young professionals are, you’re investing $500 – $1,500 a month. If you invest every pay-check or twice a month, each time buying 2 different ETFs, you’re paying almost $40 per month. For a $500 investor, that’s equal to 8% of the investment, which is higher than most mutual fund’s annual return!!!

You’ll basically lose more money investing than you do keeping it in cash. Hence, it’s important to either reduce your brokerage fees or pay no brokerage fees at all.

  1. Since self-investing becomes costly due to brokerage fees, you’ll most probably invest in your bank’s mutual fund. This would mean paying higher mutual fund fees and reaping inferior returns.
  2. Lastly, the worst thing that high brokerage does is keep small investors out of the market. I delayed investing by 6 months last year just because I did not want to pay the $9.95 fees every time I invested. This resulted in me losing 6 months of return. To make money in the market you need to invest in the market. (Remember: To win, you have to be able to play the game.) If you can’t afford to invest, how will you ever win?

WHAT’S MY INVESTMENT STRATEGY?

I keep it simple and invest in Index ETFs. Why? Because 93% of the mutual funds underperform their index return (source: Forbes article) and charge much higher fees. Therefore, investing in Index ETFs is an easy way to make higher returns with lower fees. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

HOW I INVEST WITH ZERO BROKERAGE?

I have an online investment account with Questrade, which has the following promotion.

Questrade 1

THIS IS NOT SPONSORED & I GET NO AFFILIATE INCOME FROM IT.

This allows me to buy ETFs for free instead of paying $9+ every time I invest, which for me is at least twice a month.

Now, let’s be honest, you will pay brokerage fees if you sell your ETFs. But, the brokerage fee is significantly lower than the top banks.

What’s even better is that I don’t pay any quarterly/annual fees for my Questrade account. That’s because I invest in an RRSP Account. Questrade charges no annual fees for any TFSA/RRSP account.

Questrade 2

How awesome is that?????

Now I know some of you are skeptical and have some reservations. Let me try and answer some common reservations.

  1. I CAN’T TRUST A NEW INTERNET COMPANY.

Yes, QuestTrade is not as archaic as the top banks! But, it’s not new either. It started its operation in Toronto in 1999.

  1. HOW DO I KNOW MY INVESTMENTS ARE SAFE?

Customers’ accounts are protected by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund within specified limits and Questrade offers additional private insurance to protect clients in excess of the CIPF limits, up to a maximum of CAD $10 million. (See Website)

  1. I WANT TO DO ALL MY BUSINESS WITH ONE BANK FOR A GOOD RELATIONSHIP.

The question I want to ask is, is the relationship worth getting inferior returns with higher fees? Maybe, it’s worth it for some. But, for most of us, it’s not!

  1. QUESTRADE OFFER WILL NOT STAY FOREVER

That I agree 100%. So what are you waiting for? Create an account and start investing. Yes, this offer will expire, but nobody is forcing you to keep investing through Questrade. If you find a better offer someplace else, invest there! But, don’t keep it to yourself, let me know too 😛 .

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BUILD A MILLION DOLLAR TFSA & RRSP ACCOUNT IN 3 SIMPLE STEPS

What if I were to tell you that you could build a million dollar TFSA & RRSP account in 3 simple steps?  You’re probably thinking, this can’t be for me. I am an average Canadian with an average job. Well, it’s time to get EXCITED, as this is just for YOU! If you follow this process, you & your partner can have approx. $1.5 MILLION in your TFSA and RRSP Account at retirement (age 65)! And it can all be accomplished even if you start investing at 30! So, don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t invest for retirement at 21. Just make sure you start investing TODAY!

This post is inspired by Tony Robbins’ book UNSHAKEABLE, it is a must read for all! If you’re a slow reader like me, get the audiobook. It’s just 7 hours 20 minutes! If your commute to work takes 1 hour each day, play it during your commute and you’ll get through the book in just 7 days!

Now, let’s get started:

1. INVEST 10% OF YOUR INCOME EVERY MONTH

Average family income in Canada is $76,000 a year (as per google). 10% of it is $7,600 a year or $634 a month. This is how much you need to invest every month. I am hoping you save more than 10% a month. But, if you don’t, think about it this way:

“If the government decided to impose an additional 10% tax today, you’d scream, you’d cry but, in the end, you’d pay it”

Pay Yourself! Secure YOUR retirement! Old age my friend, is not fun. When you’re old, you’re in constant pain, either it’s your knees or back or some other body part you don’t even think about right now. You can barely hear people, see things properly and doing a normal chore takes double the time. Do you really want to add financial worry to this mix??? Not me! So, save that 10% and invest it. You’ll thank yourself later.

This step is all about discipline. Therefore, don’t leave it on will power, automate the process. That’s what we have done. We get paid every 15 days, so we have set up auto-transfers to our investment account for the 17th and 1st of every month.

Invest every month or else you’ll pay a high price. Say, this year you turn 30 and you don’t invest anything. Assuming $76K family income, you forego investing $7,600. That’s not a huge amount right? Wrong! $7,600 invested at age 30 can be equal to a whooping SEVENTY SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS at retirement assuming a 7% return per annum. You can lose 10 times the money you don’t invest. This is the power of compounding!

So who cares about power of compounding? This is what Albert Einstein and Warren Buffet have to say about it:

“Compound Interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it, he who doesn’t … pays it!” — Albert Einstein

“My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes and compound interest” — Warren Buffett

Therefore, start investing today and stay disciplined.

2. INVEST IN INDEX FUNDS / INDEX ETFs in your TFSA & RRSP Account.

This is a two part step. You decide what to invest in and in which account.

A) Invest in Index Funds or Index ETFs. Here’s why!

THIS REAL STORY, WOULD DRIVE THE POINT HOME!

In 2007, Warren Buffett publically wagered $500,000 and suggested a 10 year bet! He bet that no actively managed fund would be able to beat the return of a low-cost Index Fund at the end of 10 years from then.

Well, that sounds crazy! Obviously these managers that charge hefty commissions and fees are super talented and they can beat the returns of a simple passive index fund. Therefore, many fund managers took up the bet, or that’s what you’d assume! Right?! Well wrong! ONLY ONE PERSON TOOK UP THE BET—Ted Seides, then co-manager of Protege Partners.

Ted chose few of the best hedge funds, with the most talented managers and the bet began! Before I tell you what happened, it’s important to note that this bet began in December 2007, before the financial crisis of 2008. Therefore, this was a great test for both actively managed funds and passively managed index funds.

The bet was for 10 years, hence the final results were out in Jan 2018. No prizes for guessing, Index fund won by a crazy margin. The Index Fund chosen by Warren Buffett made 7.1% compounded annually whereas the “talented” hedge fund managers made, wait for it————— 2.2% compounded annually!!! This story was covered by many publications like Forbes & CNBC, click to read.

This means, if you had invested $100,000 at age 30 and never invested a penny again, at 2.2% return, the value of your investment, at age 65 would be $214,181. But if you achieved a return of 7.1%, the value of your investment would be……..any guesses??? Value would be $1,103,142!!! Basically as per this example, you would have lost $888,961 (over 8 times the original investment), when you could have earned it, if only you’d invested in an index fund.

Now there are many reasons why actively managed funds underperform and I’ll write a detailed post on it soon, so don’t forget to subscribe to the blog (scroll all the way down). But, for now these are the main reasons:

1. High management fees.

2. High transaction costs.

3. Greater chance of human error or bad decisions.

Now, I think you’ll agree that investing in a low-cost index fund is the way to go. Let me give you one last statistic from this Forbes article that notes – “Big company stock funds under-performed indexes by nearly 93% of the time for a 15 year period (ending June of 2017)”.

You make your own decision my friend, I rest my case.

B) Invest in TFSA & RRSP Account. Here’s why:

As Canadians, we have the option of investing in TFSA and RRSP. These are the most amazing tools you can use to grow your investments. Let’s understand this with an example.

Say your family income is $76K at age 30, you invest 10% of your income every year from age 30 to 65 and your income increases by 3% each year. The difference between investing in a savings account and TFSA, assuming a flat 20% capital gain tax, is as below:
Portfolio at Retirement
You can increase the value of your portfolio by almost 30% by saving taxes over-time.

I would personally invest in TFSA up to the limit before investing in RRSP, as RRSP is taxable at the time of withdrawal, whereas TFSA is not taxed ever.

But, I urge you to discuss this with a tax professional as tax strategy is personal and should be based on individual needs.

3. STAY INVESTED

Believe it or not, this is the step that most people get wrong. Most people try to time the market. But, the truth is that no one, I mean NO ONE, has been able to consistently time the market. Not even Warren Buffett and he himself admits it.

DON’T TRY TO TIME THE MARKET. Just understand, irrespective of all the short to medium term ups and downs, the market has always gone up in the long-term. Therefore, stay in the market and keep investing as per plan. Remember, if you have invested in an index fund like S&P 500 then you have somewhat mitigated your risk as your investments are well diversified and you have invested in the top 500 companies of America.

Just stay the course and stay patient.

The greatest danger is staying out of the market. As the returns in the stock market are not made on a consistent basis. I mean, when we say S&P 500 made 7.1% return per annum in the last 10 years, it does not mean that it made a return of 7.1% every year. Some years it made 20-30% while some years it made as low as -50%. Therefore, the key to earning that average return of 7.1% is to stay in the market.

WANT PROOF?

Again, Tony Robbins’ book Unshakeable comes to the rescue. Tony notes in the book that between 1996 and 2015, S&P 500 gave an average return of 8.2% a year. But, if you missed the top 10 best trading days of those 20 years, your return would only be 4.5% a year.

Take a minute and grasp this!

If you made a mistake of not being in the market for 10 of the best trading days in TWENTY YEARS, you would lose almost 50% of your return. Do you feel confident enough to time the market now? I know, I don’t!

Well this gets even better (or worse)! If you missed the top 20 trading days in these 20 years, your return would be a mere 2.1% (compared to 8.2%). If you missed 30 top trading days, your return would be—any guesses? Answer is – Big Fat Zero%.

Top Trading Days
I know, I wouldn’t try to time the market! But if you are still not convinced, here’s another interesting fact.

JP Morgan did a study which showed that 6 out of the 10 best trading days, during 1996 and 2015, occurred within 2 weeks of the 10 worst days.

This means, if you tried to avoid the worst days and went out of the market, there is a great chance that you’d miss out on the best trading days. The days on which patient investors make most of their profits.

Moral of the story is simple! You can’t win the game sitting on the bench, you have to play the game to win the game!

CONCLUSION:

I started by claiming, you, an average Canadian, could have approx. $ 1.5 Million at retirement. This is how:

1. Average Canadian family income is $76K. Invest 10% of your income every month from age 30 to 65. I am assuming that your income grows by 3% each year till retirement.

2. Invest it in low-cost S&P 500 index fund/ETF. I am assuming a return of 7% per year as S&P 500 made 7.69% p.a. compounded annually from 1st Feb 1993 to 1st Feb 2018 (25 years) [*source: yahoo finance*] and 8.2% from 1996 to 2015 [*source: Tony Robbin’s book Unshakeable]

3. Invest in TFSA or RRSP in order to save taxes over time. Take advice of your tax consultant for this step.

Subject to the above assumptions, at retirement you will have $1,493,917 in your Retirement Account.

Remember to stay in the market and follow the plan. Financial success is not as complicated as people make it out to be. Just educate yourself by reading books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, Unshakeable & MONEY Master the Game; stay disciplined; and invest early.

BONUS STEP – THIS WILL HELP YOU TO IMPLEMENT THESE STEPS!

My husband and I are setting up our own portfolio using Unshakeable by Tony Robbins as guide! Super Excited!!! You too can do the same by subscribing to our blog, as we will share our step-by-step progress, here on our blog!

Flood us with all your doubts, questions and worries. We will do the research and try to cover all your questions in our upcoming posts.

Remember, knowledge is useless without ACTION. So make a financial plan today and take steps towards achieving FINANCIAL FREEDOM!

We wish you all the best!

P.S.: Books I ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND:
   

INVEST WITH CONFIDENCE – STEP BY STEP GUIDE

Making an investment, especially with no financial background, is a leap of faith. But, it doesn’t have to be a blind one.

Imagine making an investment with CONFIDENCE. Imagine being able to articulate to your spouse/parents/friends, or most importantly to yourself, EXACTLY why you made that investment, why it’s the RIGHT investment for YOU and how it’s BETTER than ALL other options.

This is how you can do it:

STEP-1: START WITH WHY

Ok, I’ll confess I stole this phrase from Simon Sinek. But, what can I say it makes sense!

My suggestion is to ask 2 “Why” questions.

  1. Why am I investing – What is the RESULT I am seeking? (FINANCIALLY)
  2. Why am I investing – What will this PROCESS do for me? (EMOTIONALLY)

“FINANCIAL” Question– You need to ask yourself the question: What am I investing for? Am I investing for Retirement/ Vacation/ Down Payment on a House/ New Car? Once, you know WHY you are investing and the result you want, all other questions will be easy to answer.

My suggestion is to choose only one objective for every investment. Do not invest $1,000 for retirement and vacation. Have a separate account for retirement and separate for vacation.

“EMOTIONAL” Question: Like it or not, we are driven by our emotions. And contrary to popular belief, money is not the best motivator or else we’d all be investing more.

Therefore, you need to find some other “Non-Financial” or “Emotional” reason to invest.

I can’t tell you what that would be for you, but I can share mine!

My Reason:

I like to be in control. I want to design my life, to the best of my abilities. I don’t want my life to be a collection of random events that I had little control over. For me, every time I invest or learn more about money I feel a bit more in control of my financial destiny. This is what motivates me to LEARN MORE, SAVE MORE and INVEST BETTER.

Does this have to be your reason? No! Do you NEED an emotional reason? No! But, trust me the process is way more rewarding if you have one!

STEP 2: CALCULATE YOUR MONTHLY SAVINGS

This is pretty straight forward. There are 2 ways to do this:

  1. Calculate what is left every month after your expenses.
  2. Recommended- Decide what you want to save and make a budget to save that amount. [Read 5 EASY WAYS TO MANAGE PERSONAL FINANCES for ideas]
STEP 3: FORECAST YOUR BIG-TICKET EXPENSES FOR THE NEXT 1 YEAR

One of the main reasons that people don’t have enough savings is not because they don’t save but because they withdraw from their savings. Investments need time to grow. So, if you invest in a Mutual Fund and then withdraw from it in 6 months, you won’t see any tangible returns. Not seeing your investments grow will only de-motivate you from investing.

I suggest you sit down one day and note all your expected big-ticket purchases for the next 1 year. I like to do it in excel, like below:

Upcoming expenses

Save this amount separately and either don’t invest it or invest it in short-term & low risk products. I personally save them in a separate savings account. Now, that you have saved separately for these expenses, there is no reason to withdraw from your investments. DO NOT WITHDRAW FROM YOUR INVESTMENTS. If any additional expense comes up, reduce your normal expenses to accommodate it.

If the upcoming expenses are too high and you are left with little or no money to invest, it’s time to re-evaluate your expenses: both big-ticket as well as regular. You can check your spending habits using this format.

STEP 4: DECIDE YOUR INVESTMENT HORIZON (i.e. THE TIME PERIOD OF YOUR INVESTMENT)

Don’t over-think this step. It’s straight forward and easy. What are you investing for (from Step-1)?

If you are investing for retirement then it is probably over 20 years from now, which means very long term. If you are investing for down payment on a house, then the investment horizon will be the number of years from today to the day you want to buy the house.

Therefore, don’t invest in long term investments if you need your money in short term and vice versa.

LONG-TERM CAN MEAN TAX SAVINGS—BUT, SAVING TAX SHOULD NOT BE THE PRIMARY GOAL

Ok, I know you want to save tax and so do I!

I highly recommend using all the tax advantages that you can. But, most tax saving options are for long-term. Therefore, do not invest in those accounts if you need your money in the short term.

A good investment is the one that provides you the money you need WHEN you NEED it.

Having said that, MAXIMIZE YOUR EMPLOYEE MATCHING FUND. If you are an employee and your benefits include Employee Matching Fund (i.e. EPF in India, RRSP in Canada and 401K in US), then invest in it at least up to the matching limit.

I’ll explain! The basic concept is that the employer deducts “x%” from your paycheck every month to invest it for your retirement. This “x%” is your contribution. But, they also “match” your contribution. For example, your employee matching fund limit is 5% of your salary, this means that if you contribute 3%, your employer will contribute 3%, if you contribute 5%, your employer will contribute 5%, but, if you contribute 7%, your employer will only contribute 5%.

This is where the MAGIC lies!

If you invest up to 5% of your salary, you get a 100% return on day one!

How? Let’s say 5% for you monthly salary is equal to $200 a month. Now if you contribute $200, your employer will contribute $200 and your investment value will be $400. Double than your contribution or 100% return, that too, risk-free and on day 1. This kind of return is impossible in any kind of investment.

Therefore, invest up to the matching limit, even if you must reduce your expenses to do that. Otherwise, you are just leaving free money on the table!

 STEP 5: BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOUR BANK/INVESTMENT ADVISOR

Do not procrastinate this step. Yes, I know you haven’t researched all the options yet. But, that’s OK! All you need to know is:

  1. Why are you investing (Financially)? (STEP 1)
  2. How much are you going to invest every month? (STEP 2 &3)
  3. What’s your investment horizon? (STEP 4)

You don’t need to know about all the tax implications and different options at this stage. Is it better if you do? Of course! But, if you are anything like most people, you’ll take ages to research and delay investing. So, don’t do that. Just make the call and book the appointment.

STEP 6: QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR BANKER

There are a few key things you need to keep in mind before you meet an advisor.

You are the customer!

It’s their job to explain you the concepts, even if it takes time.

You do not need to know the jargons as a first-time investor.

You need to invest in a product that makes sense for you and not necessarily the product they are pushing you to buy.

Now, that you are with the advisor ask these questions:

  1. What are the different investment options for you? Keeping in mind your objective (Step-1) and investment horizon(Step-4)
  2. What are the tax benefits for each option?
  3. Can you withdraw from it? How much can you withdraw? How many times? Any implications?
  4. What is the minimum amount you need to invest every month?
  5. What were the yearly returns for each of the investment options in the last 5 years? They generally have a brochure for every mutual fund (online/offline), it’s stated in that. But, ask them to point it out for you. It might get overwhelming for you to find it later, mark that and take all the brochures home.
  6. What are the total fees for that mutual fund? Ask them for more options with same risk but less fees. Note all these fees down and make them highlight it for you in the brochures.
STEP 7: DO NOT INVEST THAT DAY

I am all about taking the plunge and investing early. But, it’s more important to invest in a way that works for you.

If you decide to invest the very same day, there is a huge chance that your investment decision would be based on what the advisor wanted to sell you rather than what’s the best option for you.

Do not invest that day but book an appointment for next week.

Go home and evaluate all your options. Make sure that they are in line with your goals, time horizon and risk appetite.

STEP 8: INVEST WITH CONFIDENCE & AUTOMATE YOUR INVESTMENTS

Once you decide (don’t take over a week), complete the DECISION STATEMENT below:

I HAVE DECIDED TO INVEST $____ PER MONTH FOR ______YEARS TO FULFILL MY WISH TO _________(RETIRE COMFORTABLY/BUY A HOUSE/BUY A CAR). THE PRODUCT I HAVE CHOSEN IS _________(NAME OF THE MUTUAL FUND). IT HAS HISTORICALLY GIVEN ___% RETURN P.A. IN THE LAST 5 YRS. IT IS A _______(HIGH/MEDIUM/LOW) RISK INVESTMENT. THE REASON I CHOSE THIS INVESTMENT OVER OTHERS IS BECAUSE ________________ (YOUR REASON)

Now, you can invest with clarity and confidence.

But, don’t forget to automate your savings. We personally do this for our investments. Since we get paid every 15 days, we have set up automatic transfers to our mutual fund account to transfer money every 15 days. It ensures we save every paycheck and stay on track with our investments.

CONCLUSION

ACTION TO BE TAKEN – Fill in the blanks in the DECISION STATEMENT (STEP 8). You can use the process we use or have your own process. But being able to articulate your investment decision will give you the confidence and motivation to invest more and invest better.

Now you have made a choice that works for you. Do you understand every little detail about it? No, but that’s OK!

Making an investment is not a one-time decision so, review it every 3 months. Compare options if you aren’t happy and shift your money if you come across a better option.

The most important thing is that you have started your journey. Keep educating yourself and keep moving forward.

Did you find this article helpful? How do you make your investment decisions? Let me know in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to like and share this article and subscribe for similar content.

P.S.: Books I ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND:
   

 

PLANNING TO BE RICH OR PLANNING TO BE POOR!??

The question to ask is, am I planning at all? If I am not planning to be rich, by default I am planning to be poor or at least not as rich as I’d like or worse, not as rich as I have the potential to be. Financial independence, investments, entrepreneurship are topics that have always intrigued me, and this is what I have understood about planning:

1.      HAVE A VISION AND WORK BACKWARDS. Just like you’d ideally prepare for an exam. PREPARE to be rich. Just like schools design your syllabus and weekly and quarterly tests (read goals). Have a clear vision and work it backwards. Where do you need to be in 10, 5, 2 years to achieve your goals and be on track? Now work it backward to what you need to achieve this year/month/week and then take a small step towards it daily! Yes, I said daily! Didn’t the students who got the best grades study daily? Well, it’s the same. The only difference is that you don’t have scheduled tests, just surprise tests. That’s what happens when life is your teacher. Are you prepared financially for a surprise test?

2.      ONCE YOU HAVE A PLAN, STICK TO THE PLAN. God I know it’s tough! But, it’ll be worth it.

3.      DEVELOP THE MIND-SET & SKILL-SET TO BE FINANCIALLY FREE. For mind-set, I strongly suggest reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad series. OMG! It’s amazing. As far as skill set is concerned, think about investments you want to make 2-5-10 years from now and start evaluating those opportunities now. Yes, real opportunities, things that are on the market right now. And yes, on paper/excel. Evaluate them as if you have the money to invest in them, even though you don’t and then watch them. This way you’ll gain experience without the risk. Just like cramming the day before the exam is not a good idea, learning about an investment option the day before you want to invest, is not a good idea.

I am reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing (linked below) and it’s blowing my mind. I’ll keep sharing what I am learning. But, I’d like to know what you think too. Just leave me a comment.

P.S. You can also check out 5 EASY WAYS TO MANAGE PERSONAL FINANCES.

Books I ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND:
   

WHY & HOW TO GET AN INTERNSHIP

“In youth we learn; in age we understand.”- Marie Von Ebner Eschenbach

In recent years, companies are increasingly preferring candidates who’ve had an “experience” in the “real world”. Therefore, if you’re a college student who wants to get a job after completing your studies, make sure to do at least one internship. (Better yet: Do multiple internships!)

Before coming to the nitty-gritty of what, how, when, and where of internships we must understand what exactly are internships?

“Simply put, it is an opportunity that employers offer to students interested in gaining work experience in particular industries.”

HOW LONG DOES AN INTERNSHIP LASTS?

Usually internships lasts for about 3 to 6 months depending upon what the student/candidate is doing right now. Mainly internships are full-time i.e. the regular office hours. Others are part-time (also called as “live projects”) which maybe for a few days of the week or few hours in a week.

IMPORTANCE OF INTERNSHIPS:-
  • Internships offer students a hands-on opportunity to work in their desired field. They learn how their course of study applies to the real world and build a valuable experience that makes them stronger candidates for jobs after graduation.
  • Employers increasingly want to see experience in the new college grads they hire because of the growing competition. Hence, their internship programs as the best path for hiring entry-level candidates. 
  • An internship can be an excellent way to “try out” a certain career. For instance, you may think you want a fast-paced job in sales after college, but after an internship, you may find that it’s not for you; that’s valuable insight that will help you choose your career path. 
  • In some colleges, internships also count towards course credit. This is dependent on your individual school’s requirements, but usually, a three-month-long internship counts as a full course credit.
  • You will develop skills, gain confidence and build a network. Not to mention you might also make money.
Personal Note: Try to get an internship in a “Start-Up” because not only will you learn your designated job but you will get a chance to experience the actual working of a business. Your contribution will be valuable and you will be an important part of the team.
WHERE TO GET INTERNSHIPS FROM?

The sources of getting an internship are many, to cite a few, websites, LinkedIn, referrals, gate-crashing etc. But if you’re like me whose best-friend is their computer, then the following are the awesome websites from where you can get internships and live projects.

1. INTERNSHALA.COM

My personal favorite, you can register and build a profile and filter according to your city preference.  This is one of the best resources for Indian students looking for internships. Apart from lot of intern opportunities, the key things that differentiate this website from others are Internshala EDGE which is a review of your CV, and Internconnect, which helps interns connect with other interns in their company or city.
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2. LETSINTERN.COM

More than 4 Million students use Letsintern to find internships of all kinds, for example, Visual Internships, Live Projects, Campus Ambassadors, Volunteer Opportunities and many more. It has more than 30000 organizations onboard.

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3. INTERNTHEORY.COM

I have done a live project of campus ambassador from this website. The communications are good and feedback is immediate. You will get a certificate of completion after you have done the project in the designated time.

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4. OYSTERCONNECT.COM

You can find thousands of live projects and virtual internships on this website. It allows you to WORK FROM HOME for corporate giants like HUL, Shiksha, GlaxoSmithKline, etc. If you live in a city with few opportunities or are unable to take a job outside home for other reasons, Oysterconnect.com is a platform for you.

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Do let us know your experiences regarding internships and live projects in the comments. 🙂

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MBA

MBA is a prestigious degree and people work really hard to get into an MBA program, especially if it is a renowned school of business. But has it ever occurred to you why “The Best Business School” is the best business school and what makes it so? Well, it is the quality of students and yes, not to mention the strict tests that you have to take, followed by the grilling interviews to reserve your seat in the college.

Once you get in there, what will you do? You will suddenly realize that this is not like your grad school where everything was spoon-fed to you but in fact you will have to work night and day to stand out from the crowd, because, just because you have an MBA degree, does not make you a “Master of Business Administration.”

Here are a few things that I’m experiencing in an MBA college. Also the things that I wish I had done before joining an MBA program.

  1. IT’S YOUR LIFE, MAKE IT INTERESTING!

One thing that I deeply regret not doing before joining MBA is not experiencing the “real world”. I’m not just talking about the fancy corporate internships but just the usual experiences like volunteering for a cause, travelling or learning a hobby. Many will have good scores but what makes you stand out from the crowd? What is your story? And how does it shape your attitude?

  1. AN ACTIVITY THAT YOU DO EVERYDAY

Okay, now I can boast! One thing that shaped my attitude towards the Corporate Life is that I have a fixed routine in the morning. Yes, it takes discipline to get out of the warm bed and go out in the cold but believe me when I say this, it gives one, a great sense of accomplishment and makes me not look like a complete loser. A routine can be anything you do in the morning, yoga, Pilates, or in my case just go for a jog.

  1. NETWORK! NETWORK! NETWORK!

Meet people, if you’re busy in your assignments, build a LinkedIn profile and connect with people, congratulate them, know their birthdays, wish them and speak with them. Befriend your professors, business is a lot about building and retaining relationships. Right people do come in handy, you know that right?  Plus, it will open a wide variety of job opportunities and will build trust if you try and connect with them.

  1. DO INTERNSHIPS AND LIVE PROJECTS

Internships are a great way to discover your passion, which industry/job interests you? Which industry/job is not your thing? What are your strengths and weaknesses in a professional setting? Three months of internship will teach you things that the two years in classroom can never teach you. Go out, work, meet people and get work done! You will understand whether the particular industry/job type is for you or not. A first-hand experience in the industry can gear you for the challenges to come.

  1. ASK FOR HELP

Seriously, ask for help!  Nobody expects you to do everything but once you have committed, your employer will want that job done. Get your doubts cleared, speak with people who have already done that job. Make mistakes (unintentionally of course!) but don’t repeat them, learn from them and move forward.

 

Yes, MBA is fun and games, especially the 2nd year of it and if used correctly it can make your life! Make friends, party, because MBA is not about memorizing books and passing exams (that’s important too!) but knowing yourself, connecting with people and making and sharing stories. Who knows what you’ll discover in yourself and others.

 

 

 

EFFORTLESSLY REVIEW YOUR CREDIT CARD STATEMENT IN JUST 5 MINUTES (FREE EXCEL FORMAT)

Let me give you a compelling reason, last year, I got C$450 worth of bank/credit card charges reversed. We wouldn’t have noticed these charges if we didn’t check our statements on a regular basis. This is not the only reason you should check your credit card statements and bank statements. Checking your statements every month will help you:

  1. Know your spending habits.
  2. Create a better budget.
  3. Protect you from fraudulent use of your bank account or credit card.
  4. Take the first step towards financial discipline.

Honestly, you know you should check your statements, I don’t need to tell you that! Let me just help you do that effortlessly and in no time.

STEP 1: GET ACCESS TO MY EXCEL SHEET FORMAT: Comment below to get access to the format and we’ll email it to you.

STEP 2: DOWNLOAD YOUR CREDIT CARD STATEMENT IN EXCEL FORMAT: Most banks will allow you to download your statement through online banking. Just select excel or csv format to download your statement.

STEP 3: COPY YOUR STATEMENT TO THE FILE WE SEND YOU: Make sure that the debit column lines up and the category column is blank for you to enter the category later. It’s better if you choose the “value” option in paste special while pasting.

STEP 4: CATEGORIZE ALL EXPENSES: Categorize the expenses by either choosing the drop-down menu or by typing your own category. No need to categorize credits as this sheet only gives you a summary of your expenses.

STEP 5: REFRESH THE TABLE: Refresh the table using the refresh option when you right click.

This is what you’ll get! All your expenses summarized in a table and pie chart in less than 5 minutes. Make sure you do this every month. Now, my friend, you have no excuse!

Credit Card Excel within article.png

P.S. You’ll receive the email with format from FINANCIAL CAKEWALK. Follow us at financialcakewalk.com for more resources and articles.

 

5 EASY WAYS TO MANAGE PERSONAL FINANCES

Contrary to popular perception about personal finances,

Managing money or managing personal finances neither has to be boring nor feel like an ordeal. What if I told you that it could become an activity that gives you pleasure on a daily or weekly basis? And it can be that first step in your journey towards the coveted Financial Freedom!

Learning to manage your personal finances well, especially in your 20s can give you a sense of accomplishment, control over your life and the confidence to invest your own money like a BOSS!

Let’s get into the top tips that I personally use and recommend.

1.      MAKE IT A MINDLESS ACTIVITY

The main reason why we young professionals do not tackle our finances head-on is because of the mental energy we think we’ll need to spend on it. You might feel this considerably more if you have never studied finance in school.

The truth is that lot of it can be done in a very mindless manner, once you set up the process.

I will post a complete step by step guide for setting up a monthly routine but for now set yourself up for success with these small steps:

i) Download your Bank’s app:

These days all banks have an app, where you can see your account balance, transactions and your credit card balance. Knowing your bank or credit card balance on a real time basis can help you keep track of your expenses and stay within your budget.

It’s simple!

Just check your credit card balance before you enter any store to buy something. Enter the store only if your budget allows you to. Similarly, just check your balance on your mobile before committing to an outing with your friends. Just knowing your bank balance on a real time basis can help you control your expenses and move forward on the path to financial freedom.

ii)  Check your monthly Credit Card/Bank Statements:

Now we all know we should do this but we don’t! Let me give you a compelling reason. In just the last 3 months my husband and I got C$ 450 worth of bank/credit card charges reversed. We wouldn’t have noticed these charges if we didn’t check our statements on a regular basis.

You need to check your statements not just to check if your bank is charging you for something you have no clue about, but also to make better budgets and know your spending habits. I’ll share a step-by-step process for this in my upcoming articles along with spreadsheets we have built to track our expenses. Check out our formats, or make your own.

Once you have a format ready it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes a month to copy & paste your statement from the bank’s site to your spreadsheet, categorize your expenses and compare it with your budget.

Once you know that going through your statements is going to take you less than 10 minutes a month and you don’t have to do any calculations, you’ll want to do it, especially to find those bank charges that you can get reversed. Just imagine how good and adult-like you’ll feel once you do this for 3 consecutive months!

iii)   Automate your Savings and Investments:

This is truly the easiest and best thing you can do to make sure you are saving every month.

AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS!

Firstly, decide what amount you are going to save and set up automatic transfers. Secondly, set the transfer date within the first 3 days of you receiving your pay check. This way you will SAVE BEFORE YOU SPEND.

It is much easier to not spend the money you don’t have. Especially when you can see your bank balance on your phone.

Most people spend all month and save at the end of the month. Needless to say they are not always able to meet their saving targets. In addition to that they think and worry about saving money all month.

You, on the other hand, can feel happy and proud of yourself all month by setting up these automatic transfers at the beginning of the month. This will ensure that you meet your savings targets and are able to spend within your budget without worrying about it all month.

2.      MAKE A FLEXIBLE BUDGET

This can be the main difference between you feeling great about spending within your budget or feeling horrible and frustrated because you can’t seem to ever stay within your budget.

First and foremost you need to know your spending habits. What are the things you are spending on? How much are you spending on necessities? Are you spending on anything that you don’t really care about or doesn’t bring you any joy? What are the things you are spending on that give you joy aka “discretionary spending”? Discretionary spending includes shopping for clothes, haircuts, travel, entertainment etc. Basically things not necessary for survival but things that give you joy.

Check how much money you get every month (say its $3500). Calculate how much you are spending on rent, groceries, commute, utilities and other necessities (say $2300). Then calculate your discretionary spending (say $1000). Calculate how much you are spending on things you don’t care about and are not necessary (say $200). So basically, if you did the math, you are not saving a dollar.

If you want to save $350 every month, you need to stop spending on things you don’t care about ($200 saved!). Now instead of cutting down on your discretionary spending budget by $150, just cut it down by $100.

Here’s the magic part:

Withdraw $50 cash from your bank account and put it in a secret compartment in your wallet – this is your flexible allowance. This is the money you’ll use when you have already exhausted your monthly budget but don’t want to miss that movie night or dinner with your friends. This way, you’ll still stay within your budget without feeling deprived. Try not to use this money often!

If you don’t use your flexible allowance for 3 months, you can use this money to buy that one designer shirt you have your eye on for ages, but is totally out of your budget. The point is to treat yourself!

Yes… this means that you’ll only save $250 instead of $350, but that’s OK! You are still making progress! Feel proud of yourself and enjoy the win! Slow and steady you will win this race.

Do not forget to auto transfer $250 at the beginning of the month.

3.      REWARD YOURSELF

I did elude to this in the above point. But it deserves to be an important point in itself.

We are all humans (regardless of what our sibling believes), and we love instant gratification. But most of our savings are for long term, hence we find it difficult to cut down on enjoyment today to save for the future.

Story Time:

Instead of telling you what you should do, I want to share with you what my husband (Aditya) and I did last month.

We live in Calgary, Canada. In the beginning of January, the temperature with wind chill was Negative 39 degree Celsius (-38.2 Fahrenheit). Yes! It was crazy cold. We both take 2 buses to work. But, since it was so cold, we had been taking more Ubers than we had budgeted. Thus, screwing our budget.

We knew we needed to get a grip over our Uber expenses, hence Aditya suggested that we put in place a reward system. We decided that if we both don’t take a single Uber in a week we’ll go out for a lunch date on Saturday, taking an Uber both ways. Guess what! It worked! We didn’t take a single Uber the next week and saved around $120 that week and went out for lunch on Saturday and our total expenses amounted to just $40.

We didn’t just have a nice lunch but also felt proud of our discipline and saved money.

Find what works for you and what is it that will help you control your expenses. Enjoy the process and remember to reward yourself and feel proud for the tiniest progress you make. That is where the magic lies!

4.      DO IT TO FEEL LIKE A BOSS

How do you feel on the days when you are able to achieve all the goals you set for yourself? Don’t you feel great?! Productive?! Feel like a BOSS?!

You can feel that way about your finances if you plan your finances well and execute those plans! You will also then be in control of your own financial destiny. Economic downturns won’t affect you as much. You will be the BOSS of your own life.

Of course this won’t happen overnight, but in a few years if you have good saving habits, a well-funded emergency fund and multiple streams of income including passive income, you’ll truly have your finances in your control!

Now of course this article only deals with the basic tips for beginners and I’ll write more articles on all the related topics with examples from my personal life. But the key thing is to start the process and not take on too much in the beginning. Take one step at a time.

But, always keep in mind that you are taking these small steps to take control of your finances and to be Financially Independent! Being Financially Independent means earning enough money every month to cover all your expenses without working for a single hour!

Isn’t that worth working towards? Well we are working towards that too 🙂

5.      DON’T BE ASHAMED, BE INSPIRING

Do you succumb to going out with your friends even if you can’t afford it? Or do you make up an excuse and avoid going?

Why don’t you just tell them that sorry guys it’s not in my budget to go out for dinner this week?

I know why!

You feel ashamed. You feel they’ll think you are a cheap and won’t like you or say things behind your back. I get you!

But you don’t have to feel that way. On the contrary, you can inspire them! Now won’t that be nice!

Read a few articles about financial independence. I recommend reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, it’s the best book you can read as a beginner.

Tell this to your friends:

Every time you don’t want to go out because of budget constraints, tell your friends that you read this book/article, it totally blew your mind and now you are on this Financial Diet (just like a normal diet) and you don’t want to screw it up by going for this movie. Tell them how proud you are of yourself for doing this and even share your progress with them.

Offer to lend your book and share the article that inspired you [Just share this article ;)]. You won’t just be able to get out of that movie night but also inspire them to develop good money habits. All this while avoiding all the confusion that gets created because of your frequent excuses.

If your friends get inspired then you all can go out for some free activities, like playing basketball or going for a picnic in a park or going hiking or biking or just having a pot luck at your place.

Trust me, everyone can benefit from saving a little more. Your friends will thank you! If they don’t get it and still make you feel bad, maybe you should reconsider your friendships.

CONCLUSION

I know you (just like many others), probably feel intimidated about finances and investing and all other money related things just because you didn’t study it in school. But trust me, it’s more about the mindset and less about the technicalities.

If you do the above, you’ll feel a sense of control. You’ll feel that you are growing up to be a responsible adult who knows how to manage the money they earn. This feeling is rewarding and fun! It’s exhilarating! Reward yourself when you stick to the plan, share it with loved ones and feel the small wins! This is what will keep you motivated to learn more and grow faster.

BONUS TIP:

Ask Questions! Don’t get stuck. If you are facing any problems or do not understand something, ask someone you think will know. If you don’t, you might not take any action for months. Time, my friend, is money (in this case literally!). Not sure who to ask? Just ask me in the comments below.

I hope this article benefits you and you try the above tips and become the boss of your own finances. Let me know which tip was your favorite, share your experiences and ASK QUESTIONS in the comment section below!

P.S. : If this helps you, help others by sharing it with them.

Books I ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND:
   

 

JOURNEY TOWARDS FINANCIAL FREEDOM STARTS WITH YOUR FIRST JOB

Financial Freedom is not about saving all the money you can and living like a miser. It’s about transforming yourself into a person who understands money, has good money habits, who is smart and has worked hard for years to create a life that gives him/her financial freedom. It’s a result of systematic planning and hard-work.

But, as a young professional the question is where do I start? I think there is no better time to start than your first job. Below are the 6 tips that have helped me earn more money as well as develop the right mindset. Don’t forget to like and share this post, if it helps you.

 1. NEGOTIATE YOUR SALARY:

I had to mention this first, as you can’t do this after you sign that offer letter. This won’t just affect your gross income today, but will serve as a base for future raises and new offers. This can also considerably affect your savings and retirement fund in the long run. Not negotiating is like leaving money on the table because there is almost always scope for negotiations.

I negotiated my first salary and received a joining bonus during bad economic times and with no other offer in hand. Here are a few links to help YOU negotiate your first salary.

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-negotiate-first-job-offer-salary-2017-7

https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2013/06/26/new-grads-heres-how-to-negotiate-your-salary/#2e8dbdb436a9

Remember this is not a one-time activity. Studies show that you can lose over $100,000 during your lifetime if you never negotiate your salary. ALWAYS NEGOTIATE YOUR SALARY!

2. KNOW YOUR IN-HAND SALARY AND EXPENSES ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE RE-LOCATING:

When my husband and I moved to a new city to pursue a new opportunity, we made the rookie mistake of not knowing our exact in-hand monthly salary. Of course, we calculated it on excel but didn’t realize that this new promotion had put us in a higher tax bracket. YIKES! Nothing is worse than shifting to a new city, entering into a rent agreement and then on payday realizing you can’t afford to live in this city the way you thought you could. Simple solution is to ask the HR person for your monthly in-hand salary figure.

Another important thing is to figure out the living costs in the city. If this is the first time you are moving out of your parents’ house or college hostel, make sure your budget reflects the actual costs you’ll incur.

Why?

When I first moved away from home, I made a list of groceries for the month on walmart.com and I came to realize that my expenses were double of what I thought they would be! YIKES again! Ask someone in the city about their household expenditures or at least show your Walmart list to your mom. Knowing your in-hand salary and actual living expenses might be the difference between you accepting or rejecting that job offer.

3. KNOW YOUR BENEFITS

Benefits are a part of your pay. You earn them! Use them! The biggest stumbling block is either not knowing your benefits well or forgetting them altogether, only to realize at the end of the year that you left all that money on the table. The best way to ensure utilizing them is doing the following exercise when you first join an organization.

Step 1: Read your benefits package line-by-line.

Step 2: Highlight the benefits you think you’ll use during the year.

Step 3: Copy the highlighted benefits into a separate document along with the limits and claim requirements (ex. producing original invoice copy or doctor’s note). Make a table as below and update the “Claimed” column as and when you put in a claim.

Claim Table

Step 4: Pin this sheet at work, where you can see it every day. This might be the difference between you using the benefits or not using them. Out of sight, out of mind is a real thing.

Step 5: Make sure you understand all your benefits, especially the ones you think you’ll use. Once you start working, finding time to meet HR personnel to understand your benefits while managing multiple deadlines is going to be very difficult. Do this when you first join an organization.

Just doing this exercise will exponentially increase the chances of you using the benefits you work so hard for. Not using these benefits can cost you $4K to $10K or even more in just 1 year.

4. CARRY YOUR OWN WEIGHT

Now that you know the benefits your company provides, it’s a good time to make a list of the benefits your parents are providing. The most common things that parents pay for even after we start earning are medical insurance, car installments, phone bills (especially if you are part of the family plan), internet expenses, etc….

Make a list, talk to your parents and pay for these things yourself. Carry your own weight! You are no more a “dependent” and you shouldn’t act like one. Also, if you are staying with your parents, contribute in the house.

I find there are 2 ways to contribute financially. One – contribute a fixed amount every month. Two – buy groceries once a week, pay for home improvements, pay for some common utilities, etc. Do what works for you and your family.

But don’t limit your contribution to money alone. If you live in the house, you too are responsible for cleaning, cooking, laundry and all other things that one needs to just live a decent life. Contribute by making dinner every Monday and Wednesday, doing dishes every night, doing laundry every other week, cleaning once a month and keeping the house organized.

Remember if you were living on your own you’d have to do a lot more work than this. Appreciate your parents for what they provide. This is not just the right thing to do but also the first step towards being an adult.

You might ask what does this have to do with Financial Freedom. Maybe not much financially but it’s about the mindset. If you can’t assume your own responsibility how will you develop a character that’ll allow you to walk on a path that’s tread by a few and create your dream life?

5. GET READY TO ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL

Having a solid career is one of the most important steps towards Financial Freedom. And acting like a professional, a pre-condition.

Remember you are no more a student, let alone a kid. This means that bunking class and making excuses, no matter how innovative, should be left in the past.

You are now a professional, which means you need to be dependable. Yes, dependable! Your manager should feel confident that if she/he has delegated a task to you, it will be done. Your colleagues should feel sure about your commitment to the project.

You should be predictable, in a good way! No unfavorable surprises. No leave of absence to be taken for the imaginary marriage of your friend or death of an imaginary aunt. Because guess what, the punishment will no longer be detention, but career suicide. Nobody will call you a liar to your face, they’ll decide it in their minds and carry this image of you wherever they go.

6. STAY IN TOUCH WITH THE OTHER RECRUITERS

If you are one of those candidates who have 3 job offers and are spoilt for choice, remember to decline the other offers with the utmost grace. STAY IN TOUCH with these recruiters, I can’t stress this enough.

You might be swimming in the ocean of opportunity today, but tomorrow is a very fickle thing. It’s best to have recruiters in the real world who have a good image of you. They might be the ones who’ll get you that great jump during good times or that very needed job during the bad.

 

Financial Freedom is a journey and the only way to reach the destination is to start walking towards it. Take these first steps. Ask for help if you need to. The main reason people don’t take action is because they don’t know how to go about it. My suggestion is to Google your problem, you’ll certainly get inspirations. Ask people you trust or just ask me in the comments below. I wish you all the best! I hope this job brings you one step closer to Financial Freedom.

P.S.: Which tip was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to share this article if it helped you.