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Trade Privacy for Cheaper Car Insurance?

There's a way to save on auto insurance that's gaining popularity, but you'll have to trade your privacy for lower premiums.

Trading privacy for savings on auto insurance

Under what's generally referred to as the 'pay as you drive' model, auto insurers track your every move using small monitoring devices that can plug into your car's diagnostic port.

With the data that's collected, the insurers can monitor when you drive, where you drive, how fast, and how you accelerate, brake and change lanes. Then they use that info to set rates, punishing "risky" drivers with higher rates and rewarding "safe" drivers with lower ones.

Progressive Insurance now has 1 million insureds getting an average savings of $150 a year on their auto insurance. The Chicago Tribune  reports 7 out of 10 Progressive customers who try the pay-as-you-drive option end up saving money. Almost 30% of their total customer based voluntarily chooses to let the company spy on them.

Progressive has been by far the most aggressive in this arena with its Snapshot program. But State Farm and AllState are also doing similar discounts.

State Farm estimates its customers can save between 10% and 50% using their Drive Safe & Save with In-Drive program. Allstate, meanwhile, offers savings of up to 30% through their Drive Wise program depending on how you drive.

ARTICLE: Best Auto Insurance Companies

According to The Wall Street Journal,  insurers are able to hone in with absolute precision on your exact driving when that diagnostic port communicates with satellites and mobile data networks.

So far, these kinds of systems have been optional. But the big danger is that they'll become coercive. By coercive I mean that insurers may say, "Well, you can choose not to have us track you, but we will charge a much higher base rate." That's the danger.

Still, there are uses for this technology that are invaluable. For example, we all know that teens are the most dangerous group of drivers. That's why their insurance rates are sky high. Some teens may be very good behind the wheel while others may have the invincibility syndrome.

So pay-as-you-drive insurance can be helpful to parents and maybe even save a life by revealing dangerous driving habits. And if you have a careful teen driver at home, this can be used to save money.

But again, it is Big Brother monitoring you. You have to decide if the invasion of privacy is worth the savings.

How To Establish Your Own Side Hustle

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Convinced you need a side hustle in order to boost your income and fast-track your financial goals -- but not sure how to get going? Anyone, including you, can establish and successfully monetize a side hustle. It’s all about knowing where to start and how to grow your gig.

These tips in getting started come from my own experience with side hustles. I started my own hustle as a way to provide myself with a creative outlet and to earn extra money that could supplement the low income from my job at the time. In less than a year, what started as a side gig turned into a side business -- and then a full-time business.

Seven months after I started earning money from my side hustle, I had a legitimate and sustainable business that allowed me to double my income and quit my day job. From that experience, I’m passionate about showing other people how to create their own gigs. Whether your goal is to simply earn more money or to eventually try self-employment for yourself, here’s how to establish your own side hustle.

ARTICLE: How To Build a Business From Scratch

What Can You Do for a Side Hustle?

This is one of the first questions people ask about side hustles, and it’s a difficult one to answer. Why? Because there is no one right answer. Anything can be a side hustle!

You can petsit or dogwalk; wash cars or run errands for people. You can clean homes or mow lawns. You can pick up freelance work or serve as a consultant. You can create art or products to sell in person or online. You can create an ecommerce site. You can open a food truck. You can serve as a brand ambassador, secret shopper, or focus group participant. You can flip furniture, fix broken appliances, or serve as a personal shopper for someone else.

The possibilities are truly unlimited. If you’re overwhelmed and have no idea what you could do, I’d suggest starting with the following:

Odd jobs in your neighborhood, so you don’t have to travel for your side hustle and it’s easy for word-of-mouth to help you get more work.
Freelancing or consulting, so you can set up shop online and control both your hours and schedule.

I really like the idea of creating a side hustle that’s part of the digital economy. That’s one that allows you to work from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, and it means potential clients or customers aren’t limited by geographical constraints. There are a lot of benefits to working virtually, including the freedom and flexibility.

These elements are really important to a successful -- and sustainable -- side hustle. Again, this is work you’re doing in addition to your full-time job. It will be easier for you to carry out this work if you can make your own schedule and work from wherever you want.

Find Your Sweet Spot

If you want to start a side hustle in order to earn extra money, your work needs to converge on these three points:

  • What you love to do
  • What you’re good at doing
  • What someone else will pay you to do

Creating a hustle off what you love to do is important. This is work you’re doing on the side of your full-time job. Sure, it might mean extra money. But it also means extra work, too. You’ll also need to be self-motivated. This is work you’re doing on your own and in your free time, and no one is going to tell you that you must keep doing it when you’re tired, sick, or bored.

You need to be good at what you do, too. Really good. Why does this matter so much? Because word of mouth marketing is a really powerful tool that you’ll want to use to grow your gig. When you do a stellar job for a client or customer that just knocks their socks off, they’re going to want to tell someone else about it. They’ll tell colleagues and friends where they got such a good service or product -- and in the process, refer more business your way.

Of course, if you want to earn more money you’ll need to pursue something that others will pay you to do. That’s usually going to be something that solves a problem or addresses a pain point. But it could also be something that provides an intense amount of happiness and joy. From experience, people are very willing to pay money to have a problem solved. I suggest tackling the question of “what can I do that people will pay for?” from that angle first.

ARTICLE: Choose Your Side Hustle Carefully

Seek Out a Niche

Finding the right niche -- or specific market segment -- to service is key to side hustle success. You might think that specializing in something specific would limit your clientele. And in a way, it does.

But here’s the reality: you can’t please everyone. Try, and you’ll please no one. Understand that “everyone” is not a market segment. “Everyone” will not be your customer or client. Envision your ideal client, or the person who you want to work with or sell to the most. Imagine a single person and what that person’s needs are.

I’ll use myself as an example here. My business provides content marketing services to other businesses. But I don’t offer unlimited services to anyone who might find me. I specialize in content marketing for financial businesses -- and even more specifically, financial advisors.

This makes it much easier for me to explain what I do in a way that other people understand. I can speak concisely and directly about the services I offer and explain exactly how they help my ideal client. And when a financial advisor starts asking questions or searching for someone who can help them, my name often comes up. This means I don’t have to spend time seeking new clients. They usually find and come to me.

With a niche, you can establish yourself as an authority in what you specialize. You can become the go-to person for the particular service or product you provide to others.

Gain Experience

So far, a lot of what’s been discussed will help you in the planning stages. You can figure out what it is you want to offer and how to position yourself within the market. But that still leaves an important question for anyone just getting started: “How do I get my first paying customer?”

Before you start, getting paid for your side hustle can seem almost impossible. I promise that if you can take that first baby step and get one person to pay you for your service or product, you’ll quickly build momentum and picking up new gigs and clients becomes easier and easier.

So let’s explain how to achieve that first baby step.

If you don’t have any professional experience or references, you might need to spend a little time investing in your side hustle by doing some work for free. This is only temporary until you have a portfolio, testimonials, recommendations, or references to your name.

You can volunteer at a non-profit, offer to help friends and family, or even pitch yourself to a business. Offer to do some work free of charge -- but make sure you’re compensated in the form of a referral or testimonial you can use to get those paying clients.

If you already have experience and people who will recommend you, start leveraging both. Ask your connections if they know of anyone who needs help or could use your service. Pitch yourself to anyone in your circles that you know you could add value to with the work you do.

It’s called a side hustle for a reason. You’ve gotta be willing to hustle!

Create Your Own Platform

Whether or not you’re operating in the digital space, you can benefit from creating your own platform online. Think about it: when you have a question you need the answer to, what do you do? You Google it. Your clients or customers are doing the same.

Giving yourself an online home is a great way to get yourself and your services or products found. Set up a website for yourself (it doesn’t have to be fancy!) and put your portfolio or a digital version of your resume online. Show off what you’ve done and what you can do.

Start Spreading the Word

Once you’ve got your foundations in place -- a bit of experience, a reference or two, and your own platform from which to market yourself, like a website showcasing your portfolio -- it’s time to start spreading the word and growing your side hustle.

Use your own platform to do it. When you’re online, you can take advantage of a lot of free marketing tools: namely, a blog and social media.

A blog can help you establish your authority as an expert in your work. It allows you to display what you know, so potential clients or customers can see you walk the walk and talk the talk. It builds trust in those who might want to work with you.

Social media is a great way of attracting new audiences to what you’re doing, as well. With networks like Twitter, you can grow your following and leverage the social sharing capability of others to get them to help build exposure and reach for you and your side hustle.

Keep Up the Hustle

After you start gaining traction and build up a steady portfolio of work, don’t put things on cruise control. Hustle hard to provide a lot of value to your customers or clients. Aim to make them happy!

Consistently doing awesome work is the best way to grow your side hustle into something more -- if you’re interested in scaling things up. Regardless, a dedication to your work and a respect for the people you serve will be invaluable as a way to grow your reputation as an expert and someone worth working with.

Work hard and aim to add value to the lives or businesses of others, and you’ll always have a line of people out the door (physical or digital) waiting to work with you.

Which Health Insurance Plan Is Right For You?

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With open enrollment almost here, I want to share info from Consumer Reports about the best and worst health insurance plans available to you.

The November 2014 issue of Consumer Reports has rated plans in all 50 states and some clear winners emerge based on a national standard of quality.

A look at the best health insurance plans

In states that have Kaiser Permanente, they came up with the highest overall score. Those states include California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon and Washington state.

The ratings are based on continuity of care and outcomes. Kaiser Permanente has both its detractors and its fans. When you are their customer, you go to their facilities and all their services are provided by their doctors. You pay your premium and your out-of-pocket for care is near zero.

The highest rated plans overall in country were available in Massachusetts at Tufts University and Harvard University, each of which has its own plans.

When you're picking a plan, you need to know that the quality varies dramatically within a state. Some plans are mediocre. The best plans do good follow through and good disease management.

If you have the choice, picking from one of best plan providers is really smart. To help you do that, I suggest you check out the latest issue of Consumer Reports. I know it can be expensive to buy a single issue, so why not go to library and review the plans for free?

Need help understanding the health care exchange system and the Affordable Care Act? See my guide for a complete explanation without the political spin!

Double Your Data With AT&T

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AT&T has an offer through the end of October for existing customers that will let you double the data on your plan.

That new offer for Mobile Share Value plans gives you so much data that for all intents and purposes, it might as well be unlimited.

"New and existing customers who proactively sign-up by October 31 get 30GB of data for the price of 15GB – perfect for families and small business customers," the company's website trumpets.

To put that in perspective, an average person uses less than 2GBs a month. So now with this new offer, a family of 4 can gobble data and not have to worry about any overages!

Most historic rate cuts in a generation

It's curious to me that AT&T didn't go unlimited, but maybe they're worried about people using the fast 4G LTE as a replacement for home Internet.

No matter whether you're an AT&T customer or not, if you haven't re-shopped your cell service, call up your provider and negotiate because the cost of monthly service has dropped so much that you can save big bucks.

I was talking to a guy in a Walmart yesterday who was getting a Straight Talk phone. He told me he'd been with Verizon paying around $120 per month including fees.

He was staying on Verizon (via Straight Talk) and getting the Samsung Galaxy S3 for $239 unsubsidized. His new rate plan through Straight Talk was going to be $45 a month. He was so excited to save $900 a year on that one phone line!

It's been wash, rinse, and repeat for customers across the industry. We are in the midst of greatest price cuts in a generation.

So even if you want to stay where you are, call up your current provider and see if you can get a better price or more data. If you're with AT&T, get double the data. And if you want to switch, I promise you will save money.

The Highest-Paying College Majors

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Good news for new college grads. Employers are planning to hire you this year, according to a new Harris survey.

Business majors are in highest demand, followed by computer and information sciences majors, and engineering majors. But good luck finding a job if you studied liberal arts, general studies and humanities, education; science technologies, or communication and journalism. Those fields are in the lowest demand, according to the survey.

Either way, don't expect too fat of a pay check. The majority of annual starting salaries will be less than $40,000.

The highest-paid college majors

If you're looking for the highest-paid college majors, here's the latest list (these are starting salaries) according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers:

  • Petroleum Engineering: $93,500
  • Computer Engineering: $71,700
  • Chemical Engineering: $67,600
  • Computer Science: $64,800
  • Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering: $64,400
  • Mechanical Engineering: $64,000
  • Electrical/Electronics and Communications Engineering: $63,400
  • Management Information Systems/Business: $63,100
  • Engineering Technology: $62,200
  • Finance: $57,400

Meanwhile, new research from The Hamilton Project shows that the highest-paying majors will earn you roughly $1 million more over a working lifetime than the lowest-earning majors. This chart offers a great visual aid to take in all the research at a glance.

Degrees that pay the most have lifetime earnings in excess of $2 million. (The average earning over a career is $1.25 million.)

However, there are some real weak spots when it comes to earning; a 4-year elementary education degree earns you less over a lifetime than the average 2-year associate degree. Ditto for social work, drama, and theater arts. Music is dead even on earning power with a 2-year associate degree.

The point is if you find something you would really like doing and it pays, maybe you consider it. Though money is not everything.

You're hearing mixed messages from me because it is a mixed message. Taking on enormous student loans to be an art history student, well, maybe that's not a great idea. Ditto for a social worker. On the other hand, if you do chemical engineering, that has a real payback over a lifetime.


Jobs of today that are going away

Of course, the job market is a constantly moving target. Technology moves at such a quick pace that many jobs we know today could be extinct tomorrow. recently ran a list of 12 jobs on the brink of extinction. Among the professions listed were librarian, professional typist, video store clerk, travel agents, newspaper deliverer, switchboard operator, and more.

The takeaway for you is don't put blinders on. You've got to gain continual education and re-education to make yourself marketable for today's jobs and tomorrow's jobs.

I like to cite a Canadian study that found 70% of jobs that will exist two decades from now don't exist today. Think about that in your own life. Twenty years ago, if you talked about being a web master, or about e-commerce or the Internet, people would have no idea what you were talking about.

The reality is, if you're not getting ahead, you're falling behind.

Stores To Open All Day on Thanksgiving?

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Retailers are pessimistic about what this Christmas will bring them. They're expecting a lump of coal, which means that you'll get the deals!

I'm expecting retailers to frontload promotions heavily during October, specifically tied in with layaway.

Will Black Friday overtake Thanksgiving completely?

Like it or not, the Christmas shopping season is already upon us. I was at a warehouse club this weekend that had 4 aisles equipped with Christmas trees, Christmas toys, and more. The Halloween stuff was already on clearance!

There are any of a number of predictions leaking out that Thanksgiving may be a full shopping day this year, according to MarketWatch. Two years ago, it started creeping into Thanksgiving evening. This year many indications point to at least some stores being open all day on Turkey Day.

The coming Christmas shopping season will be different for online shopping too. Last year, retailers went way too far promising delivery by Christmas, and a huge a number of online orders did not reach customers in a timely manner. That resulted in lost profits and tarnished reputations for retailers.

So you'll see a different approach this year. Free shipping won't be free when you get very close to Christmas. You'll likely have to pay an expedited delivery fee if you want delivery by Christmas.

Again, it all points to this being a year where shopping earlier is a better idea!

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