It’s the end of January. Do you know the status of your 2019 financial resolutions?
If you never made any, or you’ve already let them slip, it’s not too late to start or start over. After all, you’ve probably only gotten one paycheck so far this year—or maybe none, if you’re a furloughed or working-without-pay federal worker.
Self-improvement or moral resolutions as a New Year’s tradition go back thousands of years to Babylonian times. During those times, people made pledges to clear their debts or give something back. We still make similar promises today.
The most popular New Year’s resolutions in 2018, according to YouGov Omnibus, are exercise more (59%), eat healthier (54%) and save money (51%). Save money beat out lose weight (48%), reduce stress (38%) and stick to a budget (35%). So if you’re making a financial resolution this year, you’ll have lots of company.
It’s easy to forget your resolution, but there are lots of techniques (okay gimmicks) around that will help you remember your promises to yourself and stay on track. Here are 10 savings challenges to participate in 2019.
1. The 52-Week Challenge
Out of all the savings challenges out there, this weekly savings challenge is the most popular and comes in various forms. Every week, you’re supposed to deposit a certain, pre-determined, amount into a savings account, jar or envelope.
If this is your first time saving anything or you’re looking for a small savings challenge for your child to start, then I’d suggest you start off small. Each week deposit $9.64 into a savings account. You can set up automatic deposits with your bank or use savings apps like Qapital. The amount is at your discretion too. You could save less or more depending on what you’re comfortable with. This challenge doesn’t have to last 52 weeks; you can sock away $500 in 30 days, 100 days or 6 months – it’s your decision. Once you’ve accomplished this goal, you can use it to fund a short getaway, a new outfit, give to a charity, designate it an emergency fund or use it as seed corn for your next savings challenge.
Out of all the 52-week savings challenges, this one is the most widely talked about. A simple variation of this challenge is to deposit a dollar amount equivalent to the week you are in. For example, if it’s week one then deposit $1 and at week 52, deposit $52. (If you’re starting in week 3 of 2019, play catch-up with a $6 deposit.) By the end of the year, you’ll have $1,378. You can also reverse the order for quicker gratification by saving $52 on week 1 and decrease your weekly savings by $1 until you are left saving $1 on the last week of the year. Qapital offers a 52-week rule saving feature that you could use to support this challenge.
Aiming for an exact $1,000 savings goal? Try saving $10 per week for the first four weeks and then save $20 per week until the last week of the year.
If you’re looking to make a major purchase or build up an ample emergency kitty, then this challenge is for you. You could simplify the process and save $100 a week for 52 weeks. But, you might like challenges where you snowball your savings. There’s one challenge where you save $20 in week one, week two is $35, week three is $45 and week four is $125. The next set of four weeks will go up by $5 to $15 dollars (your choice) and then repeat the process every four-week interval until you reach your $5,000 goal.
Take on challenges like this for major goals like a first home down payment or a wedding. Deposit $125 on the first week, $150 on the second week, $175 on the third week and $300 on the fourth week. On the fifth week, start the cycle all over again and continue the challenge until you reach $10,000. An amount such as $10,000 or greater doesn’t have to be tackled alone, especially if you’re paying down credit card debt. Partner up with your significant other or family members to pay for a mutual goal and have a built-in accountability partner.
2. Bi-Weekly or 26-Week Savings Challenge
Not everyone can handle saving every week. Some people get paid bi-weekly or twice a month and prefer to save according to that schedule. Thankfully, there’s some challenges that consider that. The $1,000 challenge requires you to save $26 from your first paycheck of the year (or the first week if you want to cut the year short) and then add on $1 to your savings deposit every week (i.e. on week 26, you would deposit $51 into your savings).
To save $10,000, you could alternate between saving $275 or $475 from every paycheck between week one and week 24. That will bring you to $9,000. Then, save $425 on week 25 and $575 on week 26 to reach your goal.
3. Save One-Month Of Salary
Your savings are a hedge against unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances such as job loss. Experts recommend saving enough to cover at least a few months to six months of necessary expenses. For this challenge, you can start off with a goal to set aside 8.33% of your annual salary, or one month of salary, by stowing away 10% of your monthly income into your savings account. Throughout the year you can increase it to a higher percentage to increase the number of months you would like to cover. Alternatively, you could increase it the following year when you participate in the challenge again.
4. Round-Up Savings or Save The Change
Your New Year’s Resolution may involve breaking bad habits like overspending or spending frivolously. I’ve found round-up apps to be helpful in helping people like myself see that I do have more money to save and I don’t need to attend Taco Tuesdays every week. Apps such as Qapital,Acorns, Digit, and Qoins save by automatically withdrawing spare change or extra dollars from your checking account. With Qapital, you can choose how much to round up on your checking account purchases and the loose change gets deposited into a Qapital goals account that is FDIC-insured and backed by one of their partner banks. Some apps like Chime and Qoins have the ability to use your spare change to pay down your debts while other apps like Acorns takes your extra cash and invests it.
Banks are getting in on the action, too. Bank of America has a Keep The Change Savings program for its customers that rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and then deposits the difference into a designated BOA savings account. Be mindful of your bank’s rules for allowing third-party access to your accounts and make sure the savings app you choose offers FDIC insurance.
5. The Weather-Dependent Challenge
Budget blogger Melissa Berry at Sunburnt Saver created a savings challenge that follows the weather. She calls it Weather Wednesday. On Wednesday of every week, you look at the highest temperature for that day and then save an amount equivalent to the number of degrees. For Berry, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., could be depositing over $100 a week into her savings bucket. If you live in Alaska, turn those negative degrees into positive dollar amounts.
6. $1 A Day or The 365-Day Money Challenge
With 365 days in a year and $1 for each day, you could have – drum roll, please – $365 in your savings account by the end of 2019. Use this simple strategy towards a gift for yourself, a charity donation or towards a trip. If this challenge is not enough of a challenge, try this idea with young family members. Another version of this is to match your daily savings to the number of the day in the year. If it’s day one then save $0.01; on day 150, save $1.50 and on the last day of the year, save $3.65. By the end of the year, you’ll have $667.95.
7. $5 Dollar Savings Challenge
The $5 Savings Challenge has many forms. There’s one that will help you achieve $7,000 by multiplying the number five by the number of the week you’re in. At week one you would sock away $5 and at week 52 you’d put away $260. Another type of $5 challenge involves physical cash. You may have seen photos of stacks of $5 bills floating around the internet; they are probably flaunting the results from this particular savings challenge. It requires you to take any $5 you come across and physically save it in a jar, shoebox or envelope. Then six months or one year later, deposit all of your $5 bills into your savings account.
8. Monthly Challenges
If you like No Shave November, then you might enjoy these savings oriented monthly challenges too. Budget blogger Kumiko Ehrmantraut of The Budget Mom crafted a list of ways you could save each month of the year. For example, her savings calendar includes Pack-A-Lunch January and Freezer & Pantry May (a challenge she said saved her $300), plus Generic July and No Spend November. Blogger and content manager Irina Vasilescu at Don’tPayFull.com, a coupon website, designed a similar challenge.
9. The Bad Habit Jar
We’ve all got a bad habit. When British media website Unilad posted a video on their social media of someone putting cash into an “I Am Late Again” jar, I chuckled. Then I realized that’s a pretty clever way of saving money and playfully penalizing a bad habit. Some of us grew up in households where there was a swear jar to curb children from using any language the adults disapproved of. And others can recall Schmidt’s Douchebag jar on the sitcom New Girl. I’m not sure what happened to the money once those jars were full, but I’m sure whatever you have by the end of the year can go towards a nice reward for yourself or someone else or towards your rainy day fund.
10. The Envelope Challenge
Envelopes aren’t going out-of-style anytime soon. Between the envelope budget method and the envelope savings challenge, there’s a rising demand for them. They are a bit easier to carry and move than a jar or shoe box. To start, mark each envelope with a series of numbers; pick a range you are comfortable with such as 1 to 25 or 1 to 150. Throughout the year, fill the envelopes up to the corresponding number. The envelope marked with the number 10 will hold bills and coins equaling $10, while the envelope marked 25 will have bills and coins totalling $25. The 1 through 25 range will total $325.
A New Year’s resolution to save more money is a worthy promise to make to yourself. To make sure you stay on task in 2019, try to get specific about how much you want to save, take one step at time, get a support system from friends, family members or like-minded communities and don’t sweat your mistakes. Also, make sure you enjoy your money every now and then so you don’t exhaust yourself with the process.
-Asia MartinForbes Staff
Bill Gates Gets Why People Are Doubting Billionaires—And He Has A Defense (Even For Mark Zuckerberg)
The once and future richest person in the world (once the Bezos divorce finalizes), Bill Gates will happily apply the dispassionate, sharp-elbowed logic that made him one of the most fearsome business minds of the past century—even when the subject, abstractly, is him, as well as the other, suddenly unpopular members of the Three Comma Club.
“I think it’s fascinating that for the first time in my life people are saying, ‘Okay, should you have billionaires?’ ‘Should you have a wealth tax?’ I think it’s a fine discussion.”
It’s a discussion that took place yesterday just a block from Trump Tower, home of America’s first-ever billionaire president. “My opinion is that there should be an estate tax and maybe even higher than we have today. Among The Forbes 400, I don’t think we’d get a majority—Warren [Buffett] and I are sort of against interest on that,” says Gates. “So I think there’s plenty of debate about how capital should be taxed, how estates should be taxed.”
But as for the kind of disincentivizing economics lamented by the Beatles in “Taxman” and increasingly championed by America’s far left, Gates remains clear: “The idea that there shouldn’t be billionaires—I’m afraid if you really implemented something like that, that the amount you would gain would be much less than the amount you would lose.”
In looking at how Gates now deploys tens of billions philanthropically—both the money he and his wife Melinda put into their eponymous foundation, the world’s largest, and that given and pledged by Buffett—it’s critical to understand that perspective.
Just as Gates views, correctly, that a tax system moving from progressive to confiscatory creates less wealth and innovation overall, he and Melinda examine issues systemically.
“It’s more evocative to say you’re saving one life than to say you’re saving a million,” he says. “It’s a weird thing.”
That worldview comes through in the 2019 edition of the Gateses’ annual letter, released this morning. Ostensibly, this year’s letter, which lays out their philanthropic observations and priorities, focuses on nine surprises that have inspired the Gateses to take action. In reality, it’s a valentine to the power of philanthropic investment—the idea of giving not to salve problems, but to solve them.
“I think it’s fascinating that for the first time in my life people are saying, ‘Okay, should you have billionaires?’”
The Gateses write about Becoming A Man (BAM), a group counseling program that helps teenage boys stay in school by channeling their anger. (Bill Gates says he had a “touching experience” sitting in on a group, and even took his turn to vent—about learning that global polio cases were going up.)
And their “toilet fair” in Beijing, designed to inspire a next-gen toilet that can alleviate sanitation issues. Their fixation on Africa, whose young population promises to transform the global labor force.
All of these initiatives tell a similar story. They’re about “picking novel ideas” or “off-the-wall theories,” as Gates says, and then proving that the concepts work. “Once you find a solution and want to scale that up, it’s usually government money.”
That’s a sticking point when dysfunctional Washington can’t enact even the most obvious forward-thinking policies. Take foreign aid, less than 1% of the U.S. budget and an expenditure that, since the Marshall Plan, has consistently generated positive ROI, in terms of creating stability and vital trading markets and stemming deadly diseases.
While Congress rejected President Trump’s proposed foreign aid cuts, Gates remains worried. “It just can’t be ignored, given the intensity of political debate over domestic issues—and if you have one party saying, ‘Hey, helping foreign countries, that’s kind of a sucker’s deal, does it even benefit us?’”
This shortsighted nationalist streak is a global issue. “We’re very worried that if Brexit goes poorly, at least for a time, [the U.K.] might not see [foreign aid] as a priority at all,” he says. “If the French domestic stuff gets too painful, will they stay generous?”
In education, Gates has faced similar headwinds. “You get into political policy things in terms of what you’re trying to achieve. It’s tricky.” The most obvious example here: his previous battle for the Common Core education standards, which critics like Diane Ravitch undermined by terming such efforts a “billionaire boys club.”
“The attack that ‘Why should you even have a say in setting the agenda?’—that has a certain resonance to it,” admits Gates.
So why should billionaires get to choose what problems we’re solving?
“Philanthropy is there because the government is not very innovative, doesn’t try risky things and particularly people with a private-sector background—in terms of measurement, picking great teams of people to try out new approaches,” says Gates. “Philanthropy does that.”
Philanthropy, as practiced by the Gateses, also takes risks in the existential terrain political leaders would rather bury their heads in. Bill Gates still worries about nuclear proliferation, an area his partner-in-crime Buffett has championed. He’s been the global leader on the risks around pandemics and also, to a lesser degree, climate change, where his $1 billion Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund makes big bets.
Artificial intelligence looms on the horizon as the newest threat brought on by innovation. “In the long run,” says Gates, “AI is a tough problem.”
Notably, Gates does not feel that way about social media. Last century’s boy wonder, who faced scrutiny for what the federal government saw as Microsoft’s monopolistic tactics, clearly has empathy for this century’s boy wonder, Mark Zuckerberg, now a lightning rod for Facebook’s role in the erosion of democracy, as most recently outlined by Facebook investor Roger McNamee.
“I think what Roger [McNamee] has said is completely unfair and kind of outrageous,” says Gates. “They’re blaming Mark for everything. I mean, Trump was not elected because of Facebook. They say ‘filter bubble.’ All these polarization things. … Well, be clear. I get to read whatever I want to read, I get to listen to right-wing radio, I get to listen to Fox News. You kill Facebook and I can still live in my filter bubble. But filter bubble is not just my Facebook feed, so acting like, ‘Hey Mark, wake up someday and solve the filter bubble problem.’ No, Roger McNamee has no practical solution to the filter bubble thing.”
“They’re blaming Mark for everything. I mean, Trump was not elected because of Facebook.”
(“It’s hard when you’re in this vortex,” adds Gates. “I was in such a vortex once upon a time. A little bit different because mine was more of a court-related thing than the broad view of whether the software was good or not.”)
Ultimately, Gates, whose net worth, even after large donations to the foundation, approaches $100 billion, views philanthropy as a vital force for good. And he thinks that potential critics—even a loony potential British prime minister—will come around to that view.
“When I met with Jeremy Corbyn for the first time, does he view me as the billionaire guy who collected more money than he thinks anybody is supposed to collect?” recalls Gates.
“Or does he view me as the philanthropist who’s helping improve Africa and hopefully learn about education? Fortunately he was very nice, he viewed me as the second. But I’m sure he had to hesitate: ‘This guy is one of those people that maybe there should be none of’.”
-Randall Lane, Forbes Staff
The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players 2019: LeBron James Leads With $89 Million
“I’m not a businessman—I’m a business, man,” Jay-Z famously rapped more than a decade ago. It’s a lesson that NBA superstars are taking to heart as they recognize their ability to call the shots on and off the court.
The biggest stars, including LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, have set up companies to manage the opportunities in media, marketing and investing that come along with being global icons.
The NBA’s top 10 earners will make an estimated $540 million this year from salaries, endorsements, appearances, royalties and media pacts.
The tally is up more than $180 million for hoops’ top earners from five years ago. James is the NBA’s highest-paid player for the fifth-straight year, with $88.7 million, including $53 million off the court. (Kobe Bryant was the last active basketball player to outearn King James.)
James, Curry and Durant are among the rare breed of players who make more off the court than on it. Endorsements provide the bulk of the off-court earnings for the trio. Shoe deals are the driving force, but these stars are increasingly pushing their personal brands into other areas.
James took control of his own marketing in 2006 when he launched what is now LRMR Ventures. A Hollywood production company, SpringHill Entertainment, followed in 2008.
It has created TV shows like The Wall and Survivor’s Remorse and is working on remakes of the films House Party and Space Jam. James expanded his business empire with his digital media firm Uninterrupted in 2015. It got a boost via a $15.8 million investment from Time Warner the same year.
James has moved past the traditional endorsement model in many cases. He eschewed a $15 million renewal of his endorsement deal with McDonald’s to double down on Blaze Pizza, where he is an investor and franchisee.
He teamed up last year with Cindy Crawford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lindsey Vonn to launch Ladder, a health and wellness company, selling protein powders to start. James’ net worth is an estimated $450 million.
-Kurt BadenhausenForbes Staff
Blockchain Startups Showed No “Signs Of Life” In 2018
While 2017 was the heyday for the entire crypto industry, in 2018 things turned a little darker.
Falling prices, fears around crypto regulation, lackluster institutional interest, and concerns over the ICO funding model which had run rampant in the previous year, all combined into the perfect storm of crypto doom and gloom.
While much focus is placed on token prices as a barometer of the heath of crypto, a new industry analysis has found the number of blockchain startups in the sector declined precipitously last year.
Novum Insights—which monitors around 9,000 companies in the blockchain and crypto sectors by tracking token trading as well as “signs of life” activity on websites, social accounts and GitHub pages—found over 1,811 companies, or 20% of its sample, stopped showing any such signs in 2018, and many simply vanished entirely.
Reasons for the failures identified by Novum range from outright scams and Ponzi schemes where project creators simply vanished, to the more mundane business reasons of poor capital management, business model failures and shifting regulations.
“A large number of companies were shut down in 2018 after India and China’s announcements of considering cryptocurrencies illegal on their soil,” added Novum’s CEO and founder Toby Lewis.
The failures in Novum’s sample also affected some verticals more than others, with failures affecting more than 30% of crypto companies working in the manufacturing sector, and more than 20% of companies in the entertainment, logistics and agriculture sectors.
The most promising vertical for crypto and blockchain in 2018 was education and academia where slightly over 10% of companies failed.
Despite the downturn, a total of 1,065 new ICOs raised about $21 billion for crypto and blockchain startups last year, although this figure was skewed towards Q1 and Q2 when crypto prices were between 80% and 90% higher.
Novum’s sample of crypto companies—which isn’t necessarily representative of the wider sector—suggests a contraction of business activity in the blockchain and crypto sectors during 2018, given the high level of failures and lower numbers of companies raising capital.
Time will tell if 2019 shows any better signs of life.
-Oliver Smith Forbes Staff
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