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
Jeff Bezos Is No Longer The Richest Person In The World After Amazon Stock Plunges
Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos lost his title as the richest man in the world during after-hours trading on Thursday, after his ecommerce behemoth reported lackluster third-quarter earnings.
Amazon shares fell 7% in after-hours trading, knocking Bezos’ fortune down to $103.9 billion. That puts him at number two among the world’s richest. The new number one: Microsoft cofounder and fellow Washington state resident Bill Gates, who is worth $105.7 billion.
Bezos became the richest man in the world in 2018 and the first centibillionaire to ever appear on the The Forbes 400 that year with a net worth of $160 billion, ending Gates’ 24-year run as number one.
But the Amazon chief executive’s net worth drop isn’t entirely due to the decline in Amazon shares. Bezos transferred a quarter of his Amazon stake to his ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos as part of their divorce settlement, which was finalized earlier this year. MacKenzie Bezos is worth $32.7 billion, and among the top twenty wealthiest people in the world.
On Thursday afternoon, Amazon reported a 26% drop in net income in its third quarter, its first profit decline since 2017. In after-hours trading, Amazon dropped nearly 9% to $1,624 per share in the 20 minutes after the market closed. It has since rebounded slightly, hovering at $1,657 per share at 7:30 p.m. ET
The company said it is investing heavily in logistics and delivery infrastructure, with the goal of making one-day shipping the norm for Amazon Prime members.
The company disclosed during its second quarter earnings call in July that it had spent “a little bit” more than the estimated $800 million that it has previously said it would invest in one-day shipping infrastructure.
The company declined to disclose how much it had spent on one-day shipping in the third quarter. But chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky did disclose Thursday that the company plans to spend $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter, presumably to finance the one-day shipping initiative.
Gates, meanwhile, has been out of Microsoft since 2014 when he stepped down as chairman of the storied company, though he remains a board member. He has sold or given away the majority of his Microsoft stake and diversified his wealth over time. He is now the co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private charitable foundation in the world.
Bill Gates debuted on Forbes’ first ever billionaire list in 1987 with a net worth of $1.25 billion. Bezos first joined The Forbes 400 list of richest Americans in 1998, one year after Amazon went public, with a net worth of $1.6 billion.
-Angel Au-Yeung; Forbes
These Are The Biggest Givers On The Forbes 400
This has been a year of record-setting in billionaire philanthropy. In September, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of POM Wonderful and Fiji Water, pledged $750 million to the California Institute of Technology for environmental sustainability research.
In June, Blackstone cofounder Stephen Schwarzman donated $189 million to the University of Oxford—the largest single gift to the school since the Renaissance—to fund its work on humanities. The same month, Broadcom billionaire Henry Samueli pledged $100 million to UCLA’s engineering school, the largest gift ever to the department.
Forbes tracks gifts and pledges like these as part of our ongoing coverage of charitable giving by the country’s richest people.
For the second year in a row, Forbes tracked the philanthropic giving of the richest 400 individuals in the U.S. and gave each member of The Forbes 400 list a philanthropy score. The score ranged from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most philanthropic. List members for whom we could find no charitable giving information received an N.A. (not available).
Though the number of the biggest givers—those who scored a 5—stayed flat in 2019, those who received scores of 4 and 3 increased compared with a year ago.
The changes reflect two things: The country’s richest have gotten somewhat more generous, and Forbes had more information to work with this year. Some billionaires were willing to share information on charitable giving for the 2019 list who didn’t in 2018. As a result, four dozen people got higher scores this year than a year ago.
This year, Warren Buffett led the list of top givers with $38.8 billion in lifetime giving, which is 32% of his net worth, and earned the top score of 5.
He was followed by last year’s biggest giver, Bill Gates, who has donated $38.5 billion so far. Two people who scored a 5 last year—Paul Allen and David Koch—passed away.
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Billionaires like DreamWorks Pictures founder David Geffen and WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton moved up to the top score after each scored a 4 last year. According to the latest tax filings, Geffen gave $38 million to his foundation in 2017, which brought his lifetime giving to about $1 billion.
Acton and his wife Tegan, on the other hand, have been expanding their philanthropic network, Wildcard Giving, which they founded in 2014 after Acton sold WhatsApp to Facebook. The couple has given away more than $1 billion to charitable causes.
Forty-one billionaires, including Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings and software billionaire Philip “Terry” Ragon, got higher scores this year than last year. Some, like Stephen Schwarzman, earned a higher score thanks to giving in the past year.
Others scored higher because we were able to find more information about their lifetime giving, through new public documents or details provided to us by Forbes 400 members or their spokespeople. In September, a Los Angeles Times report revealed that B.
Wayne Hughes, cofounder of self-storage behemoth Public Storage, had anonymously donated about $400 million to the University of Southern California in his lifetime. Hughes, who scored a 2 last year, jumped up to a 4.
Private equity tycoon Robert F. Smith’s pledge in May to wipe out the student debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College generated lots of headlines but did not end up changing his score because the gift wasn’t big enough to move him up a notch. In many cases, fortunes grew faster than lifetime philanthropic giving.
To come up with the information on which we based our score, Forbes reporters looked at tax filings for charitable foundations, annual statements, SEC filings and news about new gifts. When possible, we interviewed Forbes 400 members and executives from their foundations. Some Forbes 400 members said they have chosen to donate anonymously, citing religious or privacy concerns.
Our score is based on total lifetime giving and what percent of their fortune members had given away. We weighted these two factors equally. Some individuals were then bumped up or down based on several other factors, including whether they had signed the Giving Pledge, whether they had pledged significant donations, how personally involved they were in their charitable giving, and how quickly and effectively their private foundations distributed dollars. We didn’t count pledges or announced gifts that have yet to be paid out, but we took commitment to philanthropy—or lack thereof—into account.
Forbes has been tracking the wealth of the richest Americans since 1982. “Some of [the members] told us to drop dead,” James Michaels, veteran editor of Forbes, told the New York Times in a 1982 story about the list’s debut. “They said they wanted no part of it, that they’d sue us.
This happens in reporting.” At times, our reporting on philanthropic giving received a similar response. “The new philanthropy ranking is fundamentally flawed, in that it is biased in favor of those who make their gifts widely known, and against donors who choose to make their charitable contributions anonymously,” one current Forbes 400 member (who did not wish to be named) wrote to us last year.
-Deniz Çam; Forbes
Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa
Mastercard knows only too well that technology can drive inclusive financial growth with simpler and more efficient ways to do business and life. And Raghu Malhotra, the man spearheading this trajectory in Africa, is also focused on social progress.
In many ways, Raghu Malhotra is like the brand he works for, leaving his footprints in different parts of the world, and in some cases, the most unlikely corners.
On a scorching summer’s day in June 2016, Malhotra traveled 100km east of Jordan’s capital city Amman, to a camp with white tents named Azraq built for the refugees of the Syrian Civil War.
In the desert terrain and hot, windy conditions, people had to queue for hours on end for plates of food handed out of visiting trucks. But some of them, displaced and homeless overnight, expressed their gratitude to Malhotra, President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa (MEA).
Mastercard, a technology company that engages in the global payments industry, had distributed e-cards, as part of a global collaboration with the World Food Programme, to the refugees that they could now use to purchase food and other supplies from local shops.
“I spoke to the people myself and saw what their lives were… Even those who were doctors with their families and were displaced… They said to me ‘you have restored dignity to our lives; you have no idea how demeaning it is to queue up to be given food’… We actually digitized how that subsidy for food was given. Some of these things go beyond economics,” says Malhotra.
That very simply sums up Malhotra’s mandate for Africa as well.
The New York-headquartered Mastercard, ranked No. 43 on Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands, with a market cap of $247 billion, which connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and business, is fostering key partnerships across the African continent to help drive inclusive economic growth.
The idea, Malhotra says, “is to get our global skill-set to operate in its most efficient form in every local economy, at the same time, we must do good, and it must be sustainable.”
He calls Africa the next bastion of growth for various industries.
“As a company, we have stated we are going to get 500 million new consumers globally. And Africa plays a big part of that whole story… We want to be an integral part of various economies here,” says the man responsible for driving Mastercard’s global strategy across 69 markets.
“It probably took us over 20 years to get the first 50 million new consumers, in my part of the world, which is the Middle East and Africa (MEA). It took us probably five years to get the next 50 million, and last year alone, we put over 50 million consumers [in the formal economy] in MEA. That is part of our whole African story, so this is just not rhetoric; we are actually building our business on that basis.”
Home to four of the world’s top five fastest-growing economies, Africa has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, the youngest population, and a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending.
It’s a continent of opportunity for global players like Mastercard with an eye on the potential of a booming consumer base and small and medium entrepreneurs, most of whom are still not a part of the formal economy. A large proportion of Africa is still unbanked. There is enough business opportunity in offering people digital tools so they can lead respectable financial lives.
But it is in knowing that financial inclusion is not just about technology, but more about solving bigger problems, as the World Bank says in its overview for Africa: “Achieving higher inclusive growth and reaping the benefits of a demographic dividend will require going beyond a business as usual approach to development for Africa. Going forward, it is imperative that the region undertakes the following four actions, concurrently: invest more and better in its people; leapfrog into the 21st century digital and high-tech economy; harness private finance and know-how to fill the infrastructure gap; and build resilience to fragility and conflict and climate change.”
And in order to enable financial access, Mastercard has a balanced strategy in place, with the right partnerships for inclusive growth on the continent, Malhotra tells FORBES AFRICA.
“Every emerging market has different segments of people and you need to get the right product for the right segment. What we do is a balanced growth strategy across the continent based on timing, opportunity etc… Of course, because the bottom of the pyramid is much bigger, I think what we need is to adapt things differently; that is where the inclusive growth story comes from. That is where the opportunity is, but there is a second part to it…” And that, he summarizes, is advancing sustainable growth, doing good and bringing more transparency and efficiency.
The new pragmatic dispensation of governments in Africa towards ideas, technology and innovation has surely helped open up the stage to newer segment-driven products, especially as Africa already has such global laurels as Safaricom’s mobile money transfer and micro-financing service M-Pesa that took financial access to a whole new level. Also, sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world.
Malhotra says he finds African governments consistent in how they are rolling out their digital vision, and in trying to collaborate towards creating better ecosystems for their economies, though each is unique with its own dossier of problems.
“When I speak to various governments around Africa, I see a commonality of what their needs are and I also see a commonality in how they are trying to respond. So I think a lot of them realize running cash economies is a very inefficient way of doing things… Also, the consumer base is much more open to new technology because there is no bedded infrastructure or legacy infrastructure. I think where governments need to start thinking a bit more is how much do they want to do completely on their own.”
Part of this transformation on the path to financial progress is alleviating the burden of cash. Cash still accounts for most consumer payments in Africa. Mastercard, which started out as synonymous with credit cards, continues its efforts to convert consumers from cash to electronic transactions, and move beyond plastic.
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