Living sustainably in Seattle

Sustainable living is becoming less of a choice and more of a necessity.

As President Donald Trump dismantles the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and refuses to acknowledge deals such as the Paris Accord, it’s up to private citizens to make meaningful changes to this country’s carbon footprint.

For many, this will seem like spitting in the wind. With the world’s greatest superpower doubling down on fossil fuels, what can a single person do to affect change in the climate?

From a pessimist’s point of view you’d be absolutely right. However, fatalism won’t help the climate.

To show how real change is happening, let’s look at how citizens and companies in Seattle have responded to climate change.

These tips from this thriving tech city may make you look at your carbon footprint in a new light.

Duwamish Valley

The use of natural air filters (plants, bushes and other types of greenery) has had a significant impact on the air in the polluted Duwamish Valley in Seattle.

And they’ve been created by a number of groups, including King County Wastewater Treatment Division, Just Health Action, DIRT Corps, Duwamish Valley Youth Corps and Duwamish River Clean Up Coalition.

Speaking to the Seattle Times, community engagement and outreach manager for the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition Paulina Lopez said, ‘The community needs to be empowered, and needs to be heard, and needs to take action. Having a green wall is a great example of collaboration of work, but also as a showing that concrete action can be taken and that can help improve air quality. This is a way, also, of showing the community that if you speak up, you can make a change.’

Seattle Airport

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has been attempting a number of strategies to reduce air pollution. In doing so, it’s securing the future of a number of companies working alongside it, including Looking4.com, Aqua Terra and Anthony’s Restaurant.

The airport has been making headway on sustainable aviation fuels and has changed other vehicles to their electrical variants (electric cars, vans etcetera). Alongside this, it will become the first US airport to have electrical charging outputs across runways, helping reduce pollution even further.

According to KUOW, the airport aims to get 10 percent of its fuel from locally produced biofuel a decade from now and 50 percent by 2050. Will this be nothing more than a drop in the ocean? Only time will tell.

Amazon

Worldwide consumer site Amazon has been under fire from Seattle employees over its lackadaisical attitude to climate change

In another interview with the Seattle Times, Weston Fribley, a software engineer in Seattle, said, ‘We’re in a position as Amazon employees where we can push for Amazon to be a leader in the climate space. We think that by having a group of co-filers, we’re showing how broadly felt this concern is within Amazon.’

We hope you found these examples useful. Is there anything you’d like to contribute to the debate? Then let us know in the comments below.

How To Finance Your Car Purchase

Whether you are a seasoned car buyer or a first-time car buyer, the process can be daunting. Not only do you have to find a car that works for you with make and model and style, you need to find one you can afford. In most cases, people are financing the purchase of their vehicle. This is because they don’t have the cash on hand to pay for it in full. Financing your car purchase is doable, below we have outlined a few key tips that will help with the process.

Knowledge of Lending

Before going to shop around for either your car or for car loans, it is important to understand what you are doing. Learn about auto loans and get to know all the terms and items that may be thrown at you when meeting to discuss your financing. If you don’t understand it, you may end up signing a contract that isn’t in your favor and you will be locked in for its duration. This could put you in financial trouble.

Credit Score

Your credit score is a key factor when it comes to lending. If you have bad credit history than you may not get the best offers from lenders. This means you may have to pay higher rates for them to take on the risk of giving you a loan. If you have a good credit score than it may be in your favor because you will get a better deal. This means you may be offered more money with lower interest. Either way, it is important to understand where you stand when it comes to your credit score before you shop around.

What is available

Shopping around for a car loan is in your best interest. Check out comparison tools that put different loans side by side and allows you to filter the results to see exactly the type of loan you are looking for. You can also apply online for most loans. This allows you to find the best financing deal. This would mean you are getting the lowest rate and the most favorable terms for your situation. Besides finding loans online or with financial institutions, you can get offers from a car dealership directly. See what the dealership where you want your car says you are qualified for and be sure to pick the best one.

Finalize the Loan

Once you have negotiated a deal that is acceptable to both you and the seller, it’s time to sign the paperwork. Make sure you read between the lines and don’t just sign on the dotted lines. Lenders and Dealerships are known to include things in the fine print like additional fees and penalties. Things like turn in fees or over mileage fees can creep up on you. Don’t let anyone try to weasel their way into making you sign. Politely ask them to go through each page with you so you understand what you are signing and don’t regret it later.

When making such a big purchase as buying a car, it is most likely you will be financing. Be sure to follow the steps above to make the best of the experience and get exactly what you are looking for.

4 Essential Tips When Saving For the Future

It’s no secret that H and I have been working on saving quite a bit lately. Last summer, we spent a lot of cash on our house and neither of us was happy with the amount we had saved at the end of the year. We both recognized this and talked about it, and decided to finish up all of the house projects that we started, and from then on we would slow down the pace of the projects quite a bit. Just that single move alone would save us about $1,000 per month. However, that isn’t all that we’ve been doing to lower expenses.

One of the first things that I did was do a monthly expense audit. We looked at every place where we had a fixed bill every month, and started working on lowering that. I looked at getting a new cell phone and plan, as well as switched our internet provider. Just making these two moves alone, we were able to drop our costs in that area from about 200/month (1,200/year) to less than 75/month! That is a savings of $1,500 in just 12 months, and it took about 30 minutes total of my time! I haven’t even gotten to some of our other expenses, like car insurance. And what will we do with that extra money? Anything we want, whether it’s going out to a nice dinner or spending it as fun money. When we save money, the choice is ours!

Next up, H and I have also been focusing on building our savings account. Though we have more than 1, we have been very focused on building up the money in our emergency fund. Our dedicated emergency fund is a lot lower than we would like it to be, so we’ve been moving all of our extra cash in that direction to we can build it up to at least 3 months expenses. That should happen by sometime in the second quarter of 2014. To focus more on our savings accounts, we’ve been using coupons a lot more when we’ve been going on our date nights. They have probably saved us about 100 bucks through out the time we’ve been doing date nights and saving the valpack coupons (we don’t get the newspaper).

We’ve also been focusing on our habits. I’ve noticed that when we plan to do too many things, we end up spending more money on stuff that we normally wouldn’t spend money on because we feel this huge time crunch. So, we have been very cognizant of what we are scheduling lately, and are not totally trying to run ourselves ragged. Even though we’ve been pretty careful, we still end up doing too much sometimes. For those times, we make sure that we’ve got some healthy snacks already prepared and on hand for us to just grab. This has really saved us quite a bit of money over the last few months, and we’ve been able to bank the rest into our savings.

We’ve also taken a hard look at how much driving that we do and have started riding our bikes more. We are saving quite a bit on gas, though I imagine that will change now that the weather has gotten colder and it wont be all that easy to ride our bikes around in the snow when its cold. Though we will probably start driving a bit more in the coming months, we were able to cut down on quite a bit of usage of gas in the brief fall we had and saved quite a bit of money.

This is what we’ve done over the past few months to save some money.

Readers: What have you done over the past few months to save some money? Have you looked at your monthly bills and checked to see what you can lower or do away with entirely?

Essay about The Importance of Personal Finance

This is a sample essay on the importance of personal finance. Students can use it as an overall guide on how to organize and structure your own essay on the same topic. If you have problems with such writing, turn to CustomWritings.com, an essay writing service for professional academic help. In this case, you will get a professional to write the paper for you. This option is of much importance for those who want to see how real experts work on such pieces of writing.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that money is one of the most important aspects of living life. Many people spend the entirety of their lives needing money, training to make more money, or actually making it so they can afford all of life’s many expenses. That said, one cannot deny that the modern days numerous expenses call for personal financing and management for almost everyone, but especially students. It’s no secret that many college students struggle with their finances, and while this scenario can be somewhat attributed to the rising cost of a college education, there have also been many arguments supporting the notion that students simply do not understand the importance of managing their finances. This sample piece discusses the value of personal finance in a student’s life.

The primary reason many students suffer financially throughout their college years is that they are often impulsive, mostly due to being young and relatively inexperienced in living on their own. Most students do not fully understand the true extent of expense when living solo, often leading them to put less value on money for necessity rather than amenities. A lack of inhibition is to be expected to some extent, and there’s not much that can be done about it outside of life experience itself. Personal financing is an excellent alternative, due to its inherent nature of bringing money to the forefront of the student mind. The first step to solving any one problem, in this case, a student’s lack of awareness or experience on an issue, is to make the issue obvious so that it can be studied and accounted for. In this light, personal finance is important to students simply so that they may realize just how vital financial management is when living on your own.

Naturally, personal finance serves a very important functional purpose for students as well. Once the need for personal finance makes itself obvious, that usually equates to budgeting. Budgeting one’s finances is one of the most effective ways of countering the impulsiveness of youth, primarily by not condemning it outright. Being able to spend money on things one does not need but does enjoy shouldn’t be criticized, so long as it is done in moderation and secondary to necessities, which budgeting helps facilitate. By taking the time to partition one’s resources according to their needs, not only does a student learn the details of their living expenses, but they ensure that they can be met. Furthermore, this partitioning of money lets the student know exactly how much they have left over to satisfy their secondary wants following their primary needs. In this way, personal finance, and the budgeting it entails accounts for a student’s needs but does not punish them for also satisfying their wants, within reason. Not only does this lead to greater financial stability for them, but it helps keep them content as well.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, personal finance helps facilitate fiscal responsibility in students that have, for the most part, been able to rely on the financial abilities of their parents throughout most of their lives. There is much to learn about the financial world, especially once you are living on your own. Many students do not know the true value of an investment, saving money on a monthly basis, or the dangers of relying on credit, despite how important it is to build that credit. To call the financial world complicated would be an understatement, which is exactly why personal finance is such a broad term; and why learning its intricacies is valuable for anyone, not just students. In truth, the value of personal finance cannot truly be ascertained since it includes such a broad spectrum of knowledge, skills, and tricks, but that value also cannot be overstated enough. It is a valuable life skill that will serve any individual for as long as they live, but students, who are usually facing the world alone for the first time, can reap more benefits from personal finance than nearly anyone else.

In short, the value of personal finance to students is potentially even more significant than it is for the average member of society. There’s no real specific reason for why other than the simple fact that knowing how to manage your finances in useful no matter who you are or what you do. All other factors notwithstanding, there’s truly no argument to be made against an individual learning as much as they can about personal finance. But for a younger person that has less life experience than others, the benefits of learning and mastering the many facets of personal finance are great. Aside from teaching them more about managing their own money in a way that still allows them to indulge to an extent, they will also learn the value of many different financial tactics and the risks of relying too much on riskier financial alternatives. Going into full detail on the values of personal finance for a student is not possible in this brief discussion, but in reality, it doesn’t need to be. That personal finance is a valuable skill to learn is obvious, regardless of what member of society is in question.

References:

  1. Basu, Sudipto. “Personal Finance for College Students.” One Cent At A Time, 30 Dec. 2017, onecentatatime.com/personal-finance-for-college-students/.
  2. Clark, Sophia. “Why Personal Finance Education Is Important.” TechBullion, 18 Feb. 2018, www.techbullion.com/why-personal-finance-education-is-important/.
  3. https://www.BlueShoreFinancial.com, BlueShore Financial: “Ten Reasons Why Financial Planning Is Important.” Ten Reasons Why Financial Planning Is Important | BlueShore Financial, 2018, www.blueshorefinancial.com/ToolsAdvice/Articles/FinancialPlanning/TenReasonsWhyFinancialPlanningIsImportant/.
  4. Joy, Devin. “Personal Finance for College Students | Lesson Plans and Workbooks.” InCharge Debt Solutions, InCharge Debt Solutions, 2018, www.incharge.org/financial-literacy/resources-for-teachers/college/.
  5. “Personal Finance Lessons: Budget Planning for College Students | SunTrust Resource Center.” SunTrust, 2018, www.suntrust.com/resource-center/personal-finances/article/personal-finance-lessons-budget-planning-for-college-students.
  6. Sherman, Brad. “The Importance of Personal Finance Knowledge.” Sherman Wealth Management | Financial Planning in MD and DC Metro, 1 Nov. 2016, www.shermanwealth.com/the-importance-of-personal-finance-knowledge/.
  7. Zucchi, CFA Kristina. “Why Financial Literacy Is so Important.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 19 Mar. 2018, www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/100615/why-financial-literacy-and-education-so-important.asp.

Distinguishing Wants from Needs

One of the most difficult aspects of living in a market-driven, consumption-oriented society is knowing when what you already have is good enough. After all, you’re bombarded with messages everyday telling you the thing with which you thought you were satisfied has been replaced by something ending with the suffix “-er”.

Whether bigger, better, faster, prettier or even smaller, we’re continually being told what we have isn’t good enough. This can make distinguishing wants from needs tough to do.

Needs and Wants Defined

On the face of it, the difference between needs and wants is pretty simple.

A need is something you must have to survive, while a want only makes your existence more pleasant. For example, you might well need a car to get back and forth to work to earn an income to help you survive. But you want that car to be a Porsche or a Cadillac—even though a Volkswagen or a Chevrolet will do.

When it comes right down to it, all you need to survive is nutritious food and water, competent health care, clothes, shelter, and an income to help you acquire those things. Desiring anything beyond the basic version of those things transforms the need into a want.

Mind the Questions You Ask

Marketers routinely plant thoughts in our heads to elevate wants into needs.

“Why throw good money after bad? Rather than fixing that toaster, just get a new one with more modern features.” (Because it will cost more.)

“Why settle for a HDTV, when Ultra HDTV is coming soon and will make HDTV obsolete?” (It doesn’t.)

“I’m already spending $20,000 to get the car, why not spend another thousand to get it in silver?” (Even though white is included in the base price.)

Succumbing to these rationalizations inevitably cause us to spend more money than we really should, just to satisfy an artificial “need”.

Stop and Take a Good Look

Getting caught up in delusional “needs” is very easy to do. In order to break the cycle, we have to step back, take a look at what we have and realize it’s so much better than good enough. When our brains convince us, we need something outside of our price range, we tend to focus on that thing to the detriment of the similar item we already have.

If we aren’t careful, this desire can become an obsession, rendering us incapable of appreciating the things we already own. This can push us to a relentless pursuit of “new and better.” In a society like ours, it’s all too easy to convince ourselves we’re being deprived, when the fact of the matter is we’re light-years away from deprivation.

Breaking the Cycle

With all of that said though, how much fun would life be if we just fulfilled our needs and never indulged our wants?

Pretty dull—right?

Maybe, but we must also be careful to avoid overindulging.

This is one of the reasons most Americans are in debt. To break the cycle, stop living from paycheck to paycheck and get out of debt, taking note of these impulses is a good first step.

Meanwhile, if the situation has progressed past your ability to make ends meet, it might be useful to contract the services of a company like Freedom Debt Relief. Firms like this can help you reduce your debts to a more manageable level, so you can pay them off and get back on solid financial footing.

Keep in mind; nobody’s saying you shouldn’t have nice things. We’re put on this earth to thrive, not merely to survive. However, learning to distinguish your wants from your needs will make it easier to enjoy those wants when you get them. Otherwise, you’ll always be seeking the next new thing, when the reality is what you already have is good enough.

Focusing On Bigger Things: Firing Your Business to Success

The biggest obstacle that holds back most enterprises from hitting the anticipated success is the inability to focus big.

Well, it is a bridge that can be frightening, but you need to cross it to succeed in business. It is time to stop focusing on small things and engage the gear towards the big things. Therefore, how do you focus on the bigger things?

Go for business coaching

Though you might have a great business idea or even started, it is the leadership skills that you have that will steer it to success. Do not feel too comfortable. This is the moment to make that great move. Business coaching is designed to help you look at the business from a different angle and craft better strategies.

Though your marketing strategy worked well and the sales are edging up. Good leadership skills leant through coaching will help to map more steps and cruise to success. Think of it this way. Beating the local competitors is not enough. You need to start competing with international firms.

Working with experts to make the big move

While it is true that your business product such as an app was only conceptualized for the local financial sector, it could bring evolution to the industry globally. All that you need is getting the right experts around you.

The professionals will help to amplify your idea and introduce another viewpoint to redefine success. The focus is on rethinking the product and positioning it at the global level.

Restructuring and working with strategic partners

When entrepreneurs think big, it can get very scaring because of the large financial implication.

Where will the money for expanding offshore come from? Your business only needs to restructure with the target to move to the next level.

For example, it is possible to hit the one million mark in sales by adopting a different marketing strategy. You could even save a lot of funds by using online marketing as opposed to the brick and mortar models such as television and billboards.

To grow abroad, things do not have to be as complicated as many people often put it. For example, you could work with strategic partners in an offshore destination before moving a business there. Do not let anything stand between your dream and the ability to achieve it.

How to Start Saving for Retirement in Your 20’s

You’ve just left university and a half just embarked on your [first] career, the last thing you want to do is think about retirement – after all, you’ll spend the next decade or so paying off your student loans.

But if you really want to pursue a sustainable life, then you’ll need to start thinking about important financial milestones including retirement. The reasons are simple, costs keep going up, careers are becoming shorter, and we are expected to live longer, more active lives. As such, here are some tips on how to start saving for retirement in your 20’s.

1. There is no Time Like the Present

You only live once but this also means that you only have one chance to be prepared for your golden years. While it is difficult to comprehend what your life will look like 50 years from now, the reality is that you need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

One way to be prepared is to start saving – now. It doesn’t matter if it is only $50 per week, every penny counts and over time that modest contribution will grow into a sum which will help secure your future.

Still not convinced? Think of it this way, if you started with zero today and were able to put away $50 per week for 35 years, you’d end up with close to $170,000 and that’s only at an interest rate of 3 percent. Now, imagine you were able to average 8 percent over the same period? Then, you’d end up with close to $600,000 – that is some serious money.

2.  Sign up for Your 401(k)

While the odds are that you won’t be working for the same company in 40 years that you are working for today, you should start participating in your 401(k) program at work. In fact, you shouldn’t just participate, you should maximize your employer’s matching contribution as this is free money.

If you are self-employed, then you should make the maximum contribution as this money will help to lower your tax bill and the contribution of the two will help your money to start working for you instead of the other way around. Beyond this, try to stay away from direct investments in stock, bonds, and mutual funds through your 401(k).

Instead, focus on putting your cash in an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). Not only will the fees be lower, but your returns will be higher over the long run. Not convinced? Then check out this retirement advice from Warren Buffett.

One last thought, don’t turn your 401(k) investments into 40-years of torture as it shouldn’t be. Instead, try to find a balance between maximizing your savings and having enough money to live sustainably. Doing so will help you to reach your retirement savings goals while giving you the money you need for life.

3.  Set up an Emergency Fund

Into every life, some rain must fall and while this might be difficult to comprehend, just look at what your parents or grandparents had to do to survive previous economic downturns. Sure, the economy is strong, but it has also been growing for nearly 10 years and as such we are probably due for a recession – even though unemployment is at a 50-year low.

It might not even be a recession which pushes you over the edge, something as simple a major car repair could through a monkey wrench into your financial plans. As such, you also want to start setting up a separate account which will serve as your “Emergency Fund”.

While this account does not need to grow to $50,000, you might want to set a goal of having at least two-to-three month’s salary available as this will help to you to overcome any setbacks which might come your way over the years.

4.  Talk to Your Parent’s About Their Plans

This is something which none of us want to do, but the reality is that there will come a point in time when you will need to have this discussion with your parents. Given how important the topic is and the fact that they are already 20 or 30 years further down the road towards retirement, there is no time like the present.

If your parents aren’t completely prepared, then the key is not to panic. In fact, they still might have options including a reverse mortgage. Granted, your parents will need to be over 62, to begin with but they should also check the eligibility for seniors as required by reverse mortgage lenders.

Keep in mind, this is not the only option for the parents, but the key is to look at what they have done to this date and then find out what their long-term plans are. While you might face some pushback, keep in mind that you might end up having to take care of them down the road and this is all the more reason to make sure they are prepared.

If not, then you might have to adjust your retirement savings plan to for the possibility of caring for your parents in the future.