Five Part-time Business Ideas for College Students

Part-time jobs are the traditional route for college students to take when they need to make money. But a viable alternative might be to start your own part-time business instead.

Part-time businesses can offer a number of advantages over part-time jobs:

  • Since it’s a business and not a job, you can have more control over your schedule
  • You might have the talent to make more money in a business than on a job
  • The experience you gain could help you no matter what career you ultimately go into
  • It could be a jump start on your post-graduation career, if the business is even remotely related to your major
  • You’ll be establishing yourself as an entrepreneur while you’re young, which can be a major advantage throughout your life

With those advantages in mind, here are five part-time business ideas for you to consider.

Tutoring Service

There are probably one or two subject areas where you have above average abilities, and you can use those courses to tutor other students. Alternately, you an also tutor kids in high school or even younger. Math and writing are two subjects that are in particularly high demand. But you can tutor in any subject area where you’re strong, including anything related to computers, science, history, or reading.

You can also choose to tutor in non-academic areas. This can include basic computer operation and applications, sports, music and even English as a second language.

If you’re interested in tutoring, put together a good looking flyer, and distribute them around your campus and in the school offices. You can do the same thing at other colleges as well, or even at local high schools, and middle- and elementary-schools. Advertising in common ad sites, like Craigslist, or in school newspapers could also bring in business.

Freelance Writing

Do you see all the blogs and websites on the internet? Many of them need content writers. If you have areas of interest and where you have above average knowledge – along with above average writing skills – you may be able to pick up few gigs as a freelance writer.

You can start by getting articles published on some of your favorite sites. Make some comments on the sites, then follow up with email conversations with the site owners. Offer to write an article or two on the site for free. This will provide you with published articles that you can then use to market your work to other websites for paid work. Once you have a few clients, you’ll have a part-time business up and running – and one with little or no overhead at that.

Start Your Own Blog

You can also do your own writing by starting your own blog. This isn’t an immediate income as it will take at least months, and maybe a year or more to get it up, running and profitable. But if you can, you may have a solid side business (or something more) for the rest of your life. As a college student you have a built in advantage with a blog since much of the blog reading demographic is college students.

The idea is to build a blog with content that readers will find appealing. Not a general audience, but a niche who are interested in a specific topic area, and likely to remain loyal readers. The best blog ideas are ones where you are passionate, but also have commercial relevance. Personal finance (think Money Smart Life) is a perfect example.

Once you have the blog up and getting a few thousand visitors each month, you can take advertising and affiliate arrangements that will allow you to monetize the blog. It’s a work-at-home venture, so it will fit with just about any kind of schedule you have.

Buying and Selling Used Merchandise

If you have an eye for bargains, you could become a regular shopper at thrift stores and garage sales, buying decent merchandise on the cheap, then selling it at a profit.

This can work especially well with entertainment equipment, small household appliances, jewelry and antiques. The idea is to buy an item for, say, $5 – then sell it for say, $50. That may be one of the best case scenarios, but you get the picture.

You can sell the merchandise on websites like eBay, Craigslist or even Once you learn how those sites work, you can identify the items that sell the fastest and for the most money, and concentrate your buying efforts in those areas.

Sell Your Computer Expertise

Though you may think of your computer skills as average, they’re probably above average compared to the general population. As a young person, you’ve grown up with computers, but not everyone else has. That can be a business niche for you. You can sell your skills to help people set up their computers, set up applications, teach them how to use those application, or troubleshoot problem areas.

You can probably sell your services at a much lower rate than Geeksquad and other professional services, and that will give you a price advantage. Craigslist is a good place to market computer services, but you can also try school newspapers and even local neighborhood newspapers.

Some people, completely lacking in computer skills, may want to keep you on as a regular help source when ever they need it. That can be the beginning of a solid client base, as well as a source of referrals.

Have you considered starting a part-time business as a college student?

Imagine What Being Debt-Free Will Feel Like…

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” – Jonathan Swift

Everyone says that you should be debt-free. Inside, you probably already know that. After all, there are so many benefits to being debt-free that it doesn’t take a financial expert to figure out that your life will be better without debt that it is with it. But that begs the question: why isn’t everyone debt-free.

I’m going to speculate that knowing what’s right isn’t sufficient to motivate most people to do anything, least of which to become debt-free. You can crunch the numbers all day and still not find any inspiration to get out of debt. The problem is that we become comfortable with our habits, even when they’re bad habits. If you’re in debt, particularly if you’re deep in debt, the only way to get out is to change your thinking.

But if you’ve ever been on a diet, or tried to quit smoking, you know that changing your thinking isn’t the easiest thing you’ve ever done. The only way to make that happen is to create a whole new vision for yourself. It’s an emotional exercise in which you have to create a whole new set of emotional reference points. You have to imagine what being debt-free will feel like, then remind yourself of it every day of your life until it becomes a reality. It’s about creating the destination before beginning the journey.

Motivational experts refer to that as creating affirmations, which is essentially about creating and embracing a new self-image, complete with daily reminders to keep you on track. You have to change how you see yourself, in order to change what’s going on your life. Change is not driven by reason, and that’s why imagining being debt-free is so important in accomplishing it.

So let’s start the process by framing out what being debt-free will feel like.

Less worry and anxiety

Start by imagining how it will feel to have less worry and anxiety in your life. It’s not possible to completely banish worry and anxiety, but in today’s world debt is a major source of both. How much of either will you have when you’re debt-free?

Worrying about how you pay your bills each month, or how you’re going to get out from under a mountain of debt, literally tangles your brain. When it reaches that point, you’ll have little mental capacity to make improvements in your life, including career advancements that could help in so many other fronts.

How much clearer will your mental state be when you’re debt-free? How good will you feel physically when your body isn’t weighted down by the stress of debt?

Getting truly restful sleep

How well you sleep is often controlled by your level of worry and anxiety. But even though they are connected, lack of sleep becomes an entirely different problem. It drains your energy level, and makes it more difficult to accomplish even routine tasks. It also causes physiological problems, such as an increase in blood pressure and a battery of phantom aches and pains.

Now imagine that you’re debt-free, and all those problems are gone…

Having complete control over your income

What makes debt particularly difficult from a financial standpoint is that it gradually comes to control your income. Once debts are established, they require fixed monthly payments that must be made even if your income is insufficient. You can cut your grocery bill, your energy consumption, your entertainment expenses, and everything else in your life, but your debt payments will still be there – no matter what.

Now imagine that you’re debt-free, and your entire paycheck is yours to do what you please with. You can spend it, save it, invest it, or give it away – the choice is all yours.

How good does that feel? Will that motivate you to become debt-free?

Ending your various involuntary “partnerships” with the banks

There’s a debt culture in our society that most of us have become intoxicated with. We’ve come to believe that being in debt is normal, and that it’s the way that you get the things that you want in your life.

But there’s something else you get when you’re in debt – you enter into involuntary partnerships with your lenders. If you doubt that your lender is a partner in your life, try not make your payments and see what happens. Whatever assets you have that are acting as collateral for the loans will be gone. If they are unsecured loans, the lender can establish liens against your general assets, such as your income and your bank accounts.

In business arrangements, lenders can even restrict how you operate your business or use certain assets.

Most of us don’t think about the control that lenders have over us. But think deeply about this for a minute, and embrace it as the reality of all debt arrangements.

Then imagine that all of those involuntary partnerships and other assorted entanglements are gone from your life…

Having control over your economic future

Debt has influence over how you think, what you’re concerned with, how well you sleep at night, a big chunk of your income, and even control over your assets. Put that all together, and you have a series of arrangements that are compromising your economic future.

You can’t do what you want, you can’t spend money the way you want, and you don’t have nearly as much money to save and invest as you want, because your cash flow is committed to keeping your lenders at bay. This is a big reason why some people have no savings, or never begin retirement plans. They’re too busy paying yesterday’s obligations to move forward into the future.

Now imagine that you’re debt-free… what kind of future will you design yourself?

Spend some time ruminating on what it will feel like to be debt-free. If you can embrace that on an emotional level, you’ll find the commitment that you need to actually become debt-free. And once you are, so much more will be possible in your life.

Tips on Paying For Sports Gear with Credit Cards

Not long ago I wrote an article about saving money on youth sports and I got a text message a few days later from a friend asking about putting sports purchases on a rewards card.

There are a few tips I shared that lend themselves to using a rewards credit card. I’ll talk about them in the context of a specific card, lets look at the Discover it® card.

Getting the Right Size

One of the tips I gave about buying youth sports equipment was that when something was on sale you should buy multiple sizes of the item and return the ones that don’t fit. This is a good tip if you’re buying something online or if you’re in the store and your kid isn’t with you to try on the gear but you want to buy it right away to take advantage of a sale. If you take a guess at a size and choose the wrong one then you have to return it and you miss the sale price. At the start of a new season it could also be that all the sizes you need are sold out.

The obvious downside to this tip is that you’re paying for items you don’t use. However, if you put your purchase on your credit card and you return the sizes that are too big/small right away then you don’t actually end up having to pay for them. By the time your credit card bill comes due, you’ve already returned the items and got the credit on your account.

One of the nice things that Discover offers is that if you shop online for these types of items using Discover Deals, you can receive 10% Cashback Bonus when shopping at Sports Authority online. Deals is their program that helps you find coupons and discount codes and they have a Sporting Goods category, you can see more about the deals here.

Getting Cashback on Team Fees

One of the reasons Discover can offer higher rewards to users are the fees paid by the merchants. Most youth sports organizations try to keep their costs low so this means many of them don’t accept Discover when you try to pay for league registration fees.

However, if you’re making payments on behalf of the team and you’re getting reimbursed then a rewards card can give you some cashback. For example, I registered a soccer team for a tournament last Spring and the fees ranged from $400 – $600 depending on the age bracket of the team. Typically the way this works is you pay to register and the parents of the kids pay you back their share.

So if you were using the Discover it card and you earned 1% back on the purchase you’d get $4-6 cashback. Coordinating team events is a lot of work, it definitely takes up more time than $5 can cover but if you’re putting in the effort it doesn’t hurt to get the cash back.

Off-season Purchases

Another tip I gave was to buy off season and take advantage of sales around the holidays. Discover’s rewards card program has a rotating schedule of where you earn the highest cash back rates. In the last three months of the year those categories are on, department stores and clothing stores so if you can find deals on sports equipment or apparel during times like Black Friday or Cyber Monday then you can also earn higher cash back on those purchases.


Credit Card Tips
I recently made two videos about credit cards as part of a Money Minute contest. Each one contained one simple tip, the first was to only use a credit card if you could pay off the bill each month and the other was to get a rewards card. So having read all the above, you obviously don’t want to be charging your kids sports cost on your credit card if you have to carry a balance. However, if you can pay off that balance each month then having a rewards card can earn you some cashback.

To read more about how to save money on youth sports check out my guide here and you can find out more about the rewards from the Discover Deals program here.

This post is published as part of the Discover Preferred Blogger Program.

Do Your Parents Have Debt Going into Retirement?

If your parents don’t have much in the way of retirement savings, there’s an excellent chance that they are carrying a significant amount of debt. Unfortunately, debt goes hand-in-hand with a lack of savings. Retirement can be the moment of truth for the debtor class, since there will be no assets to draw an income from. Meanwhile, debt will represent a reduction of future cash flow.

For this reason, if your parents have no little or no retirement savings, one of the best ways you can help them is by helping them to get out of debt. Retiring when you’re in debt is not a good idea so they should continue earning income until their debts are significantly reduced.

Here are a few ways you can help.

Help Them Create a Budget

In general, when there is an imbalance between savings and debt, there is typically a lack of budgetary discipline. Too much money is going into consumption, and not enough is going into savings. You can help your parents work through that dilemma by helping them to create a budget.

You can have them set up a free budget software, such as That will help them to track their spending, as well as to determine where they can make cuts in their budget in order to free up money to payoff their debts, as well to begin saving some money for retirement (it’s never too late!).

No other assistance that you offer your parents will do much good if they are not able to implement a basic budget. A budget is the method that creates the discipline necessary to improve your financial situation.

Help Them Develop Additional Income Sources

Sometimes what a budget reveals is that there’s simply not enough extra income to begin paying off debt. This happens because debt is a vicious cycle – as the level that you owe increases, the ability to service it on your income declines. It may be entirely necessary for your parents to find a way to increase their income, and dedicate the extra cash flow to paying off debt.

Though it may seem readily apparent to you that they need additional income, but to a person approaching retirement, the idea of working more might be seen as an oxymoron. Though it’s not pleasant to admit, a lot of people believe that they are entitled to retire even if they don’t have the resources to do so.

You may have to help them identify their talents, skills, and specific interests. In doing so, you might help them to determine what it is they can do to earn extra money. If you have a business, you might consider hiring one of your parents for part-time work, or even on a contract basis to do very specific work.

You can make it clear that the extracurricular income activity is just a temporary venture until the debts are paid. If they want to have anything that looks like a decent retirement, that can provide the necessary motivation.

Offer to Pay One or Two of Their Debts

If your parents have not saved much for retirement, it probably won’t be practical for you to provide them with direct support. A better way to do this may be to payoff one or two of their loans, maybe their biggest ones. That will enable you to make a one-time contribution to their retirement, that would improve their cash flow but not require regular checks from you.

Let’s say that your parents have a car loan with a $15,000 balance, and a monthly payment of $500. By paying off the loan for them, it will be the equivalent of providing them with direct support of $500 per month – only you won’t have to be writing checks for the rest of their lives.

Naturally you have to get some sort of an agreement from them that they cannot take a new car loan anytime in the near future. But this may be a way to enable you to provide direct support, without making them into full-fledged dependents.

Get Them Into Debt Counseling or Debt Consolidation

It’s unfortunately true that some people never get serious about a debt problem no matter what you do. And it may be even more complicated since you are their child, and the historic nature of the relationship may not accommodate them taking advice from you.

But if they have a debt problem, and you are unable to help them address it, you may need to point them to debt counseling or even some sort of debt consolidation plan. They may need to participate in some sort of a formal plan that will help them to get out of debt. If that’s the case, then it’s best to get them the help they need as soon as possible.

The sooner that they get out of debt, the better it will be for them once they reach their retirement years.

In Extreme Cases You May Need to Recommend Bankruptcy

This should never be a first resort for people with a debt problem, but it is also true that some people get so deep in debt that they can’t possibly get out. This is even more pronounced as people get older, approach retirement, and have neither the energy nor the motivation to tackle an out-sized debt problem.

If that’s the case with your parents, it is entirely possible that the most constructive way that you can help them is by directing them to a bankruptcy attorney. Many people who are in debt live in denial about the extent of their problem. Denial makes it easier for them to live with debt day-by-day, but also guarantees that they will never get out from under it.

It may be the best thing that you can do is to encourage them to file bankruptcy, wipe their slate clean, and start fresh. That will not only eliminate their debt, but it will keep them from borrowing serious money for at least a few years. And once their debts are gone, they may be able to survive in retirement even on a very limited income.

All of these are tough choices, but there aren’t many options available for people who are entering the retirement years with little or no retirement savings. Pick the best strategy for your parents situation, and do what you can do to help them get out of debt.

Should Your Parents Work in their Retirement Years?

Working during the retirement years is not a subject that a lot of people want to consider. But if your parents will have few financial resources that will enable them to retire fully, working may be the only option. But it may not be as bad as it seems on the surface. How you present the idea to them can make all the difference in the world.

Why Your Parents May Have to Work During Their Retirement Years

There are a variety of reasons why your parents may have to work during their retirement years. Some have to do with a lack of preparation, but others have to do with the fact that times have changed, and some of the old retirement provisions just don’t exist.

Here’s some examples:

  • Lack of a traditional pensions
  • Social Security benefits aren’t as high as they expected
  • Lack of adequate retirement savings
  • Lack of adequate savings of any kind
  • Too much debt

The last three reflect a lack of preparedness, however sometimes these are the result of major medical events, the loss of a job in the years leading up to retirement, or large costs associated with educating children.

Whatever the reasons for the lack of retirement income, it’s important that you are not too judgmental, and that you focus your efforts on pointing them in the right direction.

Framing The Silver Lining of Continued Employment

While it’s true that most people envision retirement as a time of not having to work at all, it’s more important that your parents are able to survive during that time. It’s actually not the worst outcome that could happen either.

Rather than emphasizing the fact that they won’t be able to retire, instead sell them on the idea of semi-retirement. This means that though they will have to work in order to survive, they shouldn’t have to work as hard as they did throughout their lives. They can still retire from their primary occupations.

This could be a matter of using continued employment income primarily as a supplement to Social Security benefits.

That may not give them all of the perks of the traditional golden retirement, but it should enable them to be comfortable and to have more time for leisure activities than they may have had in the recent past.

Encourage Them to Continue With Part-time or Consulting Work in Their Current Field

Generally speaking, the highest paying form of work will come from doing something similar to what they are doing during their careers. That would mean converting a full-time career into either a part-time job or consulting within the current field.

20 to 30 hours per week could be that they need in order to supplement their Social Security benefits. They can choose to work either so many hours per week, or even during busy times in their industry. That would leave them with short retirement periods in between assignments.

Encourage Them to Try Their Dream Career

Semi retirement may be the perfect opportunity for one or both of your parents to pursue their dream career. That can be an occupation that they always wanted to consider during their working years, but were unable to due to high expenses, or to the fact that the transition would result in a large decrease in income.

But without dependents, and having the benefit of Social Security income, retirement may be the time to pursue that dream career.

One of the side benefits to a dream career is if they really like the work that they’re doing, it won’t feel like work, and they may find themselves enjoying life more than ever.

Encourage Them to Start Their Own Business

It’s probably true that most people have some sort of business idea that they’ve played with, even though they never followed through with it during their working years. Now may be the time for your parents to put that kind of plan into action.

A business is not just a chance at providing yourself with an income. It can also represent the adventure of a lifetime. Not having a boss, being free to pursue any direction they like – and being in a business they enjoy – can be more rewarding than lifetime of sitting by the beach or playing golf.

And if the business is successful enough, they might find themselves able to fully retire in another 10 or 15 years. This can come about as a result of either earning enough money to save for retirement, or being able to sell the business for a large lump sum when they’re ready to retire completely.

If You Have a Business, Hire Your Parents

If you have your own business, consider finding a way to hire your parents. You can hire them either on a part-time basis, or even on a seasonal basis during the busy times of the year for your business. This may take the pressure off of your parents in having to either find a job or start their own business.

Having to work in retirement might not be a virtue, but if it is the only way for your parents to survive, then it’s a topic that you are going to have to bring up. And if you have concrete suggestions as to how they can do it – in a more creative, flexible, and rewarding way – they may be more open to the idea than you might imagine.

Helping Your Parents Downsize in Retirement

Some people can’t wait to downsize their homes in retirement, especially if it means moving to a more pleasant location. It can be an outstanding strategy on so many fronts. But many more people resist downsizing even though it may be highly desirable or even entirely necessary.

If you’d like your parents to downsize, but they’ve been resisting – or you anticipate that they will resist – here are points that may help you to persuade them.

Why They May Not Be OK With Moving

The first point is understanding why your parents may not want to downsize in retirement. By anticipating these in advance, you may be able to work around them.

Here are common objections to downsizing:

  • Habit – “This is where we’ve always lived” – it can be especially difficult for them to uproot after several decades in the same house.
  • Emotion – A house isn’t just another possession, it’s a home; leaving it means letting go of memories, especially if they raised their kids in the house.
  • Fear of change – Some people just don’t do change well.
  • Fear of their own mortality – Moving out of their longtime home is seen as an acknowledgement that they are coming to the end of their lives.
  • They distrust you – If you press the issue too hard, they may assume that you have a selfish motive. Or they may be unconsciously resisting the parent-child role reversal that often takes place between adult children and their aging parents. Tread lightly here!
  • There may be no health reasons necessitating a move – for now.

Identify which objections your parents are likely to raise or have raised in the past, and be ready with a work-round. For example, if fear of their own mortality is the issue, stress the move as a shift to a new beginning in life. Or if they are in good health, emphasize that that’s the best time to make a move, since they can do it on their own terms, rather than being forced into it by a life event.

In addition, be ready to explain the many benefits of downsizing…

Lowering Their Monthly Payment

Living comfortably in retirement is all about getting your budget to fit within a reduced income. Since housing is typically the largest expense, reducing it can be the single best way to create some breathing room in an otherwise tight budget.

This can be especially significant if your parents live in an area that has high property taxes. Going from a home that has an $8,000 annual property tax bill, to one where the taxes are only $2,000, will save them $6,000 per year. That translates to $500 per month, and is practically a small pension.

Also, if your parents still have a mortgage on the home, trading down to a less expensive home could be a way of becoming mortgage-free. For example, if their home is worth $300,000 and they have a $100,000 mortgage on it, selling the property and trading down to a house that’s worth something less than $200,000 could enable them to buy it for cash, and make the old mortgage go away forever.

Freeing Up Capital

If your parents have lived in their home for many years, they may have a lot of equity in the property. If they are light on retirement savings, this can be a way to build up their investment portfolio quickly.

If their home is worth, say $500,000, they can sell it and buy a new one for $200,000 – and put $300,000 into retirement savings. Using the safe withdrawal rate of 4%, that would give them an additional income of $12,000 ($300,000 X 4%), or $1,000 per month. That, plus lower carrying costs on their new home.

Less Space = Less Maintenance and Lower Upkeep Costs

A larger home will naturally cost more to maintain. That includes landscaping, housecleaning, snow removal, as well as anything that needs to be replaced, such as the roof, the furnace, the central air conditioner, or even the driveway.

Some of that cost is also born through time and effort. The larger the home is, the more time that your parents will have to spend maintaining it. That may not be a problem when they’re younger, but as they get older it could become a burden. And if they have to pay people to start taking over those chores, the cost will become financial.

It’s an Excellent Strategy If They Are Financially Unprepared for Retirement

We’ve already discussed the financial benefits that downsizing can bring. But they can become critically important if your parents have little or nothing in the way of retirement savings. If they will be primarily relying on Social Security and some sort of continuing job situation, downsizing could be a move of strategic proportions.

In this case, the lower living costs, as well as the additional investment capital they can get as a result of downsizing, could be the difference between a fairly comfortable retirement, and an old age of perpetual struggle.

It’s Easier When Downsizing Happens Early in Retirement

Most people will have to downsize at some point during their retirement years, particularly if they live well into their 80s. At that point, necessity may step in and force it upon them. But making a move is always easier when it is done in the early years of retirement. At that point, your parents will have more control over the process and how it turns out.

In addition, the financial benefits that come from downsizing can last for the rest of their lives. This may be the most important benefit that you can introduce your parents to in the event that they are reluctant to make a move. If nothing else, downsizing early gives them the ability to settle in to their new lives, which will make the whole process go much smoother.

If your parents don’t want to make a move, introduce them to these benefits one at a time. It may take several years to convince them of the merits of downsizing, so you may want to begin as soon as possible.

Your FICO Credit Score for free from Discover

You’ve probably seen the Discover commercials where a person finds their credit score on their statement and calls in to ask about the new score on their bill.

It makes sense that credit card companies would make this available to their customers; I’m surprised that more of them don’t. Now that Discover and a few others have set the precedent hopefully more banks will follow suit.

Of course you can see your credit report for free once a year but a credit report isn’t your credit score and your free credit report isn’t intended for the purposes of monitoring your credit.

Credit Score Changes
The nice thing about seeing your credit score on a monthly basis is it can alert you to any big changes. If you’re paying your bills on time and not opening up more lines of credit then your score shouldn’t really change that much from month to month. But if you do see a big change then it can alert you something isn’t right.

Missed Payments
When you miss a payment it’s typically not reported to the credit agencies right at the end of your billing cycle. When the next bill is due if you haven’t caught up on your payments then the late payment appears on your credit report.

The later your payment is, the bigger impact it has on your credit score. A 60 day late payment is worse than a 30 day late payment and a 90 day late payment is worse than a 60 day late payment – so the sooner you realize you missed payment and correct it, the better for your score.

Automated Payments & Alerts
This is why I like using automated bill pay; to make sure my bills are paid on time and to alert me if one of them isn’t. However, technology isn’t perfect. There have been times when online bill pay has had hiccups.

Most major credit cards offer alerts that will notify you about events like an upcoming bill due or when a bill is overdue. However, there are things you might not be able to get alerts for like your mortgage or car payment.

As I mentioned above by the time you miss a payment and it’s reflected on your credit score some damage has already been done. However, the sooner you catch it the better.

Credit Score Monitoring
There are credit monitoring services that will keep an eye on your score for you, most of them charge some type of fee. If you don’t want to pay for updates then the credit score on your monthly Discover it ® card statement can be another way to stay on top of your credit score. Discover allows you to view 12 months of your FICO® Credit Score for free as well as key factors in why it has changed over time.

This post is published as part of the Discover Preferred Blogger Program.

How to Protect Your Aging Parents From Financial Scams

It’s unfortunate but true that scam artists prey on the elderly. They often do this because a) the elderly often have a significant amount of money, and b) because the elderly, especially the very old, can often be confused. For this reason, you should consider ways to protect your aging parents from financial scams.

Here are some strategies you can use…

Put Their Phone Numbers on the Do Not Call Registry

This doesn’t guarantee that your parents will never get scammed, but it will certainly reduce the chances of it happening. Direct phone calls are one of the favorite methods that scam artists use. A convincing speaker can sometimes talk an elderly person into doing something that they couldn’t do either face-to-face or by mail.

Phone calls can be especially effective if an elderly person feels lonely. The caller can establish him- or her-self as something of a new found friend. The calming voice offering a solution to a problem can sometimes be a welcome intrusion.

You can sign your parents up for the Do Not Call Registry. It is a federal registry in which your phone number is restricted from solicitation calls for a period of three years. Callers who violate the registry can be severely fined for doing so.

Make Sure They Understand the Risks of Scams, Particularly to the Elderly

Your first, best line of defense in protecting your aging parents from financial scams is to make sure that they understand both the realities and the risks of participating in one. Your parent needs to understand that scam artists specifically target the elderly. They also need to understand that these people are not their friends, no matter how warm and sympathetic they may sound.

Your parents should understand that they should never give out personal information, especially their Social Security number or any financial account numbers. This includes not only bank accounts, but also investment accounts, retirement accounts, and credit card accounts.

A scam artist can either clean out an asset account, or run up huge charges on credit lines. All they need are the account numbers, and they can be on their way. Those won’t be hard to get if they can convince your parent to make even a small purchase, in which they provide an account number and the three digit CSC (Credit Security Code) code on the back of a credit card.

Ask Them to Discuss Any Major Financial Moves With You

Many elderly parents, resentful of the role reversal that comes late life, resist sharing financial information with their children. But as your parents enter into their eighties, or they become incapacitated in any way, it will be important for you to convince them to share information with you on any major financial moves they’re planning on making.

If there is resistance, reassure them that the purpose is not for you to gain control of their assets, but to make sure that others – who have no business having access – never get control of them.

If someone is attempting to scam them, but they discuss it with you first, you’ll be in a position to prevent the scam from becoming a reality. You may have to get deeply involved in the scam itself, in order to prove to your parents that it’s actually an illegal operation.

Take Over Their Finances If They’ve Already Been Scammed

This can be a difficult step, because it is often a sign to aging parents that they’re coming to the end of their lives and are no longer in a position to manage their own affairs. At the same time, it’s absolutely necessary. If they have been scammed in the past, you’ll need to get directly involved in their finances to the greatest degree possible.

The best time to do this is right on the heels of an actual scam situation. Hopefully, it won’t reach the point where money or critical information has changed hands. But just the fact that it is happening – and that your parents fell victim to it – could be all the evidence that you need to prove to your parents that you need to be closely involved in their finances.

Your purpose should always be clear – that you are getting involved to keep them from losing what they have, and not take it for yourself.

Financial Troubles Could Make Them Willing to Entertain Scams

This can be a serious X factor for your parents. If they have financial troubles, they are likely to be more vulnerable to scams than they would normally be. One of the most popular tactics that scam artists use is to convince the victim that the scammer can solve their problem. It could be too much debt, insufficient income, or a lack of savings. But whatever the financial problem is, its existence will make your parents more vulnerable to scams.

The best way to deal with this is to do what you can to help to improve your parents financial situation. That may mean that you may have to supply some cash to fill an empty bank account, or take over a debt payment, or even do what you can to help them find additional sources of income.

The very fact that you’re helping them with whatever the financial concern is, should raise your credibility in their eyes, as well as eliminate the perceived need to even entertain a potential scam.

Even if your parents have always avoided scams throughout their lives, you can never ignore the possibility that both awareness and defenses drop with age. Sometimes it can be the medications that they are on, other times it’s driven by emotions (mostly fear), and often by the aging process itself. What ever the source, it’s a problem at you can’t ignore, otherwise they can lose everything they have.

Don’t Panic When Your Check Engine Light Comes On

I’m not at all what you would call a car guy, but that’s exactly why I decided to write an article on this topic. As someone who knows little about cars, and has seen the check engine light come on in his cars more than a few times over the years, I’m starting to become something of an expert on this problem.

If you’re like me, or at least like the me that I used to be when I knew nothing about this, you probably panic anytime the check engine light comes on. While it’s almost inevitable that it will create an uneasy feeling – mostly because you don’t know exactly what it means – it’s too early in the process to panic. In most cases, it’ll be something less than a certified disaster.

Here are some steps you should follow if your check engine light comes on:

Keep Calm – It’s Most Likely Something Simple

To a person with no mechanical orientation at all, the check engine light coming on is unsettling to say the least. But it may help to know that in most cases, the reason that the light comes on is due to something that’s very simple, and highly fixable at a low price. It might even be something you can repair yourself.

Yellow Light OR Red Light/Flashing Yellow Light

In most cases when the check engine light comes on, it will be a constant yellow light. Less common are either a red light, or flashing yellow. There’s a world of difference between the two.

The constant yellow light is a true warning light. Its purpose is to alert you to the fact that your car is in need of repair, however it is not a critical situation. You can continue to drive the vehicle, at least for a short while, and at least long enough for you to figure out what’s wrong and what to do about it.

A red light or flashing yellow however mean something entirely different. If that is the warning signal you are getting, it’s an indication that whatever is wrong with the car is doing damage to the engine. That means it’s time to park the car, and have it towed to a  mechanic without delay.

Many times there is no choice. When the red light or flashing yellow light come son, the car often stalls out only minutes later. But if it doesn’t, you’re going to have to act quickly to prevent more costly repairs.

What we’ll discuss from this point forward is what to do in the more common scenario of the constant yellow check engine light.

Get a Diagnostic Done – For Free

When the check engine light comes on – again the constant yellow light – you need to have a computer diagnostic done on your car. The check engine light is tied into your car’s computer, and will provide codes that will indicate what the problem is. It will generally list several, with the most severe listed first, and the rest appearing in descending order of importance.

Sometimes the codes point to different problems, and it can seem as though your car is about to die forever. But in many cases, when you fix the primary problem, the rest of the codes go away. This is likely due to the fact that a malfunction in one component of your car’s engine will affect others. Although there are times when multiple codes do actually indicate multiple problems.

Getting the diagnostic done is a simple process, and you can generally have it done for free if you go to an auto parts store, such as AutoZone. Many people decide to take the car to the dealer when the check engine light comes on, but this is the most expensive route. A dealer will often charge you as much as $200 just to do the computer diagnostic, but make you think you’re getting a deal because they’ll waive the fee if you have the repair work done in their shop – at an even more exorbitant rate.

But considering that the check engine light generally indicates a low-end problem, you should start with a free diagnostic at an auto parts store. It will let you know what the problem is, and you can decide how to proceed from there.

Consult With Your Automobile Brain Trust

One of the things I’ve done over the years – and that I strongly recommend if you are not educated when it comes to cars – is to create an automobile brain trust. This is the group of two or more knowledgeable car people who you can consult when these problems arise. They can be friends, family members, trusted coworkers, and yes, even your mechanic. When it comes to car problems, it’s best to have multiple opinions. That prevents you from paying too much for major repairs, when the actual problem may be something much less significant.

The auto parts store can give a general idea as to what the codes in the computer diagnostic mean. Armed with those codes – and explanations as to what they mean – go to your automobile brain trust and start asking questions as to which way to proceed.

It’s Most Likely Something Simple and Inexpensive to Repair

In the vast majority of cases when the check engine light comes on, the source problem is something simple, and relatively easy and inexpensive to repair. In fact, according to CarMD, the five most common check engine repairs are:

  1. O2 sensor (part of the emissions system, monitoring and helping adjust the air-fuel mixture)
  2. Loose gas cap (which will cost you nothing to fix)
  3. Catalytic converter
  4. Mass air flow sensor (monitoring the amount of air mixed in the fuel injection system)
  5. Spark plug wires (this is also a very inexpensive fix, but sometimes the problem is the connecting wires, which are a little more expensive to replace)

Generally speaking, none of these repairs are worth losing much sleep over. You might even be able to fix one or two of them yourself, or have it done by one of your automobile brain trust friends, and your car will be back on the road in no time.

If it isn’t something simple – and that is a possibility even with the constant yellow light – get your car into the shop. The possibilities could be endless. But not until you’ve tried all the easy stuff first.

Have you ever panicked when the check engine light came on, only to find out later that the cause was no big deal? It’s actually quite common.

Don’t Be Overwhelmed by Investing

Many of us feel overwhelmed by investing, partly because there are myths about how difficult it is to invest and partly because we don’t understand all the technical terms and concepts we read about or hear financial professionals use. However, investing doesn’t have to be hard, and you don’t have to be overwhelmed. Here are a few strategies to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by investing:

Dollar Cost Averaging

One of the best ways to stop feeling overwhelmed by investing is to make use of dollar cost averaging. This is a strategy that involves taking smaller amounts of money and consistently investing. One of the reasons it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by investing is due to the myth that you need to have a large chunk of capital to invest.

Many people think they need to have $10,000 or more to invest effectively. However, investing is easier than that. If you have as little as $100 to invest, you can build a portfolio with a site like Betterment. Many other discount brokerages will allow you to set up automatic investing with as little as $50 a month. Acorns, a new investing platform, will let you get started with as little as $5, and you can invest pocket change if that’s all you have.

While you want to eventually increase the amount that you set aside each month, the reality is that you don’t need to wait until you have a lot of money to invest — and you shouldn’t wait. Use dollar cost averaging to get in the habit of investing consistently, and you can build up your portfolio over time, without it being too difficult.

Index Mutual Funds and ETFs

One of the hard things about investing is overcoming analysis paralysis. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when there is so much information coming your way. The good news, though, is that you don’t need to fall victim to analysis paralysis.

Instead of worrying about stock picking, which requires you to learn a lot of information, as well as setting you up for problems if you pick the “wrong” stocks, consider indexing. Using index mutual funds and ETFs can help you reduce the amount of information you need to absorb. It’s a good way to get beyond analysis paralysis.

If you really want to avoid analysis paralysis in your investing, consider investing in an all-market fund. These funds offer exposure to all the publicly traded securities on indexes. This can give you broad exposure to the market, and reduce the number of decisions you need to make about your investments. When combined with dollar cost averaging, indexing is a powerful way to start investing and build wealth without becoming overwhelmed.

Eventually, you might want to branch out in your investing, but you can learn what you need to learn while you build wealth with the help of an automatic investment plan that involves an index mutual fund or ETF. You’ll have low fees and, as long as you focus on the long term (and remember that over the course of 25 years the stock market as whole hasn’t yet lost), you can get beyond the feelings of being overwhelmed by analysis paralysis.

Invest for the Long Term

Finally, it’s important to remember to invest for the long term. When you look at short term volatility in the markets, it’s easy to become overwhelmed at the thought of investing. However, in the long term, you are likely to come out ahead, especially if you have a consistent investing strategy that is based on asset allocation and dollar cost averaging. The trend line tends to straighten out over time when you look at investing performance. Consider your investing plan as it applies over a course of two or three decades, and you will find more peace of mind.

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