Monday, June 18, 2018

What My Father Taught Me About Money

by Doria Lavagnino, June 11, 2018 in Money Matters

Let’s face it: Most of our parents play a major role in how we relate to money. They are often our first financial advisers, ideally giving us thoughtful feedback and guidance on how to handle — and not handle — our personal finance.
My own father was the most important financial literacy teacher I’ve had. His life embodied financial struggle and survival, but he eventually reached a position of strength.
When he came to this country in the mid 1950s — a decade after World War II — “financial literacy” didn’t formally exist. He had been raised in Italy, then a war-ravaged country, where he endured famine, nightly bomb raids, and the wrath of fascism.
All the same, he yearned for a bright future. He was young, hungry for success, and eager to have a shot at the so-called “American dream.” Perhaps most important, he had nothing to lose.
His financial life was an epic journey. He started with empty pockets and ended up as part of the one percent. This group — sometimes vilified, but often comprised of honest and hard- working entrepreneurs — shouldn’t be thrust into the same category as disingenuous businesses that commit fraud. They are not one in the same.
As the president and co-founder of CentSai, a financial literacy platform, I often return to the basic money lessons I learned from my dad. There are no guarantees of financial independence for anyone, but these have helped me along the way:

Don’t Live Beyond Your Means

For several years when my dad was getting his business off the ground — introducing a soil erosion product called a gabion to the United States — he could barely make ends meet. He initially lived in a dank room at the YMCA on 34th Street in New York City, then later in a shoebox apartment in the Bronx.
He had no discretionary income. He had to learn to budget to survive. He watched his expenses like a hawk. This budgetary discipline remained throughout his life. Even when money was no longer an immediate concern, he would still drive past a gas station that was offering gasoline at a price five cents higher than what he would pay elsewhere. “Why should I waste money?” he would ask me. Being young and impatient, I preferred convenience, but watching these small decisions shaped me.
Money matters, and anyone who tells you otherwise either hasn’t worked for it or lives in a utopia.

Hard Work Is Your BFF

My dad knew how to hustle. After establishing a small office on 42nd Street and 6th Avenue in New York, he started driving around the U.S. selling his product. Barely able to speak English, he started pitching it to the forest service, various engineers working for local municipalities, and anyone else who would listen. He would drive across the country several times a month, exhausted but determined to succeed.
As an early-stage entrepreneur, he was responsible for driving his product sales along with another partner. Every new sale or relationship gave him the strength to go further. Twenty years later, his company had grown to about 50 people, who manufactured gabions for Canada and all of the Americas. He retired at 55.
I realize that financial independence is not a top priority for everyone. And unless you win the lottery, it doesn’t happen easily. The news inundates us with supposed overnight successes. We just never hear about the 10 years of sweat, blood, and sacrifice that went in to a venture before it became well known. Keep doing your thing and don’t get distracted or easily discouraged.

You Don’t Need an MBA to Understand Business, But You Do Need Instinct

Nowadays, we are put under so much pressure to become educated in school, and often accrue debt at the start of our professional lives. But my dad did not graduate from college. I think he may have had the equivalent of an associate’s degree. What he did have was drive; charm; the “gift of gab”; and an insatiable curiosity about world events, personal finance, and economics.
He also had a sharp “sixth sense” about business. We all do to some degree. If something doesn’t make sense or seems too good to be true, it likely is. Scammers often prey on people who are afraid to ask questions about money for fear of looking dumb. Whether it’s the fine print on a loan or a return on an investment that doesn’t seem possible, there are no dumb personal finance questions.

Failure Sucks, But Never Let It Stop You

At one point in his career, my dad got kicked out of his own company by his investors. My parents’ car was repossessed. They nearly lost their apartment. For a few months, money became exceedingly tight, and their future looked grim.
Rather than throwing in the towel, my dad found new investors. He let his anger become a catalyst for reinvention, slowly regaining his clients one by one (or stealing them, depending on how you want to look at it). And yes, he enjoyed it.
Financial setbacks happen, and sometimes they are completely unexpected. That’s why protection in the form of insurance and emergency savings is essential, especially in our gig economy. Moreover, hitting some bumps (or craters) in the road does not give you a license to give up. Sure, a handful of people are exceedingly unlucky, but grit, determination, and mindset can take you just about anywhere.

Never Stop Learning About Money

Later in his life, my father became a student of the financial markets. He was completely self-taught, learning through networking, observing, doing, and reading publications such as the Wall Street Journal. There was no democratization of finance like there is today: no internet, no CNBC, and no Jim Kramer.
The markets were played by the elite. Day trading was impossible. But my dad taught himself about various financial instruments and plays: stocks, bonds, treasury-bond laddering, going long or short, hedging, and the relationship between a world event and its financial effect. For example, when bad weather hurt orange crops, he would go long on orange futures, knowing that scarcity creates demand.
Luckily, today people don’t have to learn all of this on their own like my father did. There are many sources of unbiased financial information that can help you make smart decisions. Knowing how to invest, the proper diversification of a portfolio, and how much one needs to live comfortably in retirement are some basics everyone should calculate.

The More You Give, The More You Get

My father was a big believer in paying it forward — in other words, giving to his family or to charity with no strings attached. He gave with great joy. He preferred giving anonymously, as he was a down-to-earth man until the end, and he shied from accolades.
That said, he always made sure he was protected. He kept a low profile and never lost sight of the fact that the world can be a tricky and treacherous place, particularly when it comes to money.
My father would be 91 this Father’s Day. I often wonder what advice he would give me in my current entrepreneurial ventures. One thing is for sure: I am as bullish on financial literacy as my dad was. He just didn’t know it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad

by Miranda Crace, June 11, 2018 in Holidays

Searching for the perfect gift to get Dad this Father’s Day? The hunt for the perfect gift can be tiring – but we’re here to help!
We’ve done the hunting for you and segmented the gifts based on personalities and interests. Show your father figure how much you appreciate him this Father’s Day with any of these great gift ideas!

The Sports Fan Dad

Does your dad yell at the TV while watching a game like the refs can actually hear him? If you’re shopping for an avid sports fan, pair one of these gifts with tickets to a local game or an at-home tailgate, and he’ll be thrilled!
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Philadelphia Eagles 3-Piece BBQ Set – $50
  2. The Golden Age of American Football – $39
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James Replica Jersey – $60

The Handyman Dad

For the dad who is always taking care of things around the house, get him something he’ll actually use. The Leatherman Super Tool has 19 tools in one. It may feel like he has everything, but does he have everything in one?
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Leatherman – Super Tool 300 Multitool – $80
  2. Nest Thermostat – $250
  3. 20-Volt MAX Lithium-Ion Cordless Drill/Driver and Impact Combo Kit – $179

The Outdoorsman Dad

If the guy on your list is more likely to be on the hiking trails on a Saturday then stuck indoors, these gifts might be the perfect fit! We’ve got everything from an insulated mug that will keep his coffee warm on a camping trip to a guide for all things outdoors.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. YETI Rambler 14 oz. Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Mug with Lid – starting at $25
  2. The Kaufmann Mercantile Guide: How to Split Wood, Shuck an Oyster, and Master Other Simple Pleasures – $20
  3. Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low Hiking Shoes – $100

The Foodie Dad

From trendy salt plates to a classic at-home smoker, the dad who loves cooking (or just food in general) will be excited to open any of these gifts on Father’s Day. Take him from home cook to master chef in one fell swoop.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Carry On Cocktail Set – $90
  2. Masterbuilt 2-Door Propane Smoker – $164
  3. Himalayan Salt Plate with Salt Plate Book – $60

The Tech-Savvy Dad

Pixels and gizmos and gadgets – Oh my!
For the tech-savvy guy in your life, get him something new and useful that he might not have yet, but definitely wants! The Oculus Go is a virtual reality headset that allows him to immerse himself in over 1,000 different experiences.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. FitBit Versa Smartwatch – $200
  2. Oculus Go – $200
  3. Sony – SRS-XB21 Portable Bluetooth Speaker – $70

The Fashion-Conscious Dad

No normal tie will do for the fashion-conscious dad. Help him elevate his style with something like a gift set from the Tie Bar, which comes with coordinating socks, pocket square and tie. You can splurge and get him a gift card to Trunk Club, which provides him with a personal stylist.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. “Lacie” Faux Leather Duffel Bag – $85
  2. Trunk Club Personal Stylist Gift Card – starting at $50
  3. Novelty Navy Gift Set – $39

The Fun-Loving Dad

What’s a better gift for Father’s Day than a literal dad joke? A bouquet of salami – delicious and hilarious. “Who’s Your Daddy?” Star Wars coffee mug – 100% dad approved. Book of the greatest dad jokes – something you might regret later, but Dad will like it.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Olympia Provisions Salami Bouquet – starting at $50
  2. The World’s Greatest Collection of Dad Jokes – $4
  3. Star Wars “Who’s Your Daddy”? Father’s Day Coffee Mug – $13
No matter which gift you get your special guy for Father’s Day, there’s a good chance he’ll love it. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Affordable Items that Make Your House Look Chic

by Allison Saunders, March 2, 2018 in Home Decorating


Last fall, we discussed inexpensive ways to make your house look expensive. It’s a hot topic among style-savvy homeowners and seasoned interior designers. After all, who doesn’t seize every opportunity to look good for less? Especially since styles tend to shift every season. We just recently witnessed a transition from midcentury to hygge (HOO-gah) home décor trends.
With the ever-changing tide of interior design, accompanied by a seasonal decoration switch, it can be challenging to stay on-trend – not to mention on budget, when you’re striving to make your house look chic and in style.
However, you don’t have to blow your budget to make your home look like an HGTV magazine. The answer lies in a few low-key elements that have the potential to make a high-impact in your home. And the best part? They’re affordable.

Comfort Over Style

Comfort is a 2018 trend that we can get behind! With the emergence of hygge a Danish concept of togetherness, home décor has shifted from prioritizing form and function to indulgence and coziness.
You will see these concepts take the form of oversized throw pillows and blankets and more scented candles.
“Adding throws and pillows is a great way to introduce bold colors and rich textures to any space,” explained Annie Santulli, of Annie Santulli Designs. “They also tend to be tactile and will keep your guests’ idle hands busy and off their phone – for a minute!”
Santulli revealed that jewel tones are making a comeback in 2018. Pantone announced their bold ultra violet 2018 Color of the Year; bright, bold colors have caught the designer eye ever since.
However, if you’re looking to be economical and would rather select a versatile color that compliments any style, try incorporating neutral throws. You’ll get more bang for your buck, should you decide to shake it up next season.
Faux fur throw blanket
Gray Long Faux Fur Throw $13.99 
Candles are a perfect cost-effective, high-impact addition to any room in your home. They’re more than just source of soft lighting; they cater to your senses of sight and smell in perfect harmony, creating a calm and relaxing vibe in your home.
No really. Smell is psychological, able to affect your mood, sleep and overall physical and mental health. For example, it’s speculated that the scent of peppermint stimulate the mind and body, while scents like jasmine and lavender are supposed to entice sleep and relaxation.
Soy candles
The Burlap Bag Soy Candle $20 
Incorporating candles into a few rooms in your home will not only create a warm, relaxing environment for your guests; it has the potential to affect their very state of mind. Strive to place warm, homey scents, like coffee or fresh baked bread, throughout the home.
Lamps and other lighting fixtures are inexpensive items that can easily change the look of a room. The right – or wrong – lighting has the potential to transform your space, acting as the spotlight to your furnishings and home décor.

“Interesting light fixtures are one of my favorite ways to add glamour to a room and lighting always creates a specific mood for each space,” said Stantulli.
Heather Hess, the lead designer behind interior decorating site, SwatchPop!, suggested to upgrade overhead lighting with a larger-sized chandelier or pendant.
Ceiling light
Glass Globe Ceiling Light $69.99
“This one simple upgrade can instantly make a room look more expensive because it will look custom and create a new focal point in the room,” she said. Additionally, overhead lighting can eliminate unflattering shadows in a room that may be distorting the perspective of your décor.
Adding interesting artwork is a great way to increase the appeal of an area in your home, creating a polished look with the other furnishings and décor.
“You can change the feel of an entire space by adding an oversized piece of art, and then adding a few accessories that pull the colors into the room,” added Santulli.
You don’t need to spend big bucks to enhance your space with artwork and prints. There are many affordable places to get quality artwork for a reasonable price, like Esty.
“As a print shop, we know the value of art and the joy it can bring to a room,” said Melissa Golz, digital marketing manager from Parabo Press, a photo-printing add for design-minded printers. “The best part about decorating with artwork is that once you tire of it, you can always switch it out for something new!”
Forest prints
Forest Prints $11.37
Flowers bring more than just a pretty pop of color to a room. Like candles, they appeal to your senses of sight and smell. And if you know where to go, they can also be a low-cost addition to your home décor.
Grocery store flowers are relatively inexpensive, depending on where you shop. Instead of paying upwards of $100 for an arrangement, you can try your hand at assembling your own bouquet for a fraction of the price.
Add a simple, decorative vase from your local second-hand or dollar store and you’ve added a level of hospitality and comfort to your home.
However, if you don’t have the time to assemble a fresh arrangement every week or so, there are still affordable monthly flower subscriptions at reasonable prices.
Pomponi Daisies with Eucalyptus $55
Details, Details
Home décor details are the sprinkles on the cupcake. They add a level of simplistic sophistication to a room, usually at a more reasonable price compared to home furnishings and furniture. Upgraded kitchen hardware or a backsplash above an appliance may be just a few of the details that can spruce up your kitchen.
However, when you’re looking for inexpensive details that will make a statement, focus on the surfaces of the home that are usually neglected – your walls and floor.
Mirrors are a great statement piece to your wall, having a higher-impact compared to picture frames and wall decals.
By strategically placing a few mirrors near a lighting source to create a reflection, you create dimension and the illusion that your space is far larger than is actually is.
Round glass wall mirror
Round Decorative Wall Mirror $47.49 
Let’s face it. Finding a fashionable, affordable rug can be like finding a magic carpet: impossible and probably somewhere in a Disney movie.
However, it’s not impossible to find a reasonably priced rug to transform your space. All you have to do is find the right rug for a room in your home, in both style and proportion.
If you have wood floors, try finding a rug that’s plush and soft. Not only will this add a new texture to the space, but it also creates a welcoming addition to a room. On the other hand, if you already have carpet and you’re just looking to add another layer to your floor, try opting for a thinner rug.
If you’re looking for a rug to go underneath your furniture, like a dining room table and chairs, make sure the rug extends the correct amount of space beyond the furniture above it, as too short of a rug will have the reverse effect of making your space look less expensive and smaller than it actually is.
Whether you’re seeking a style that’s on-trend or a home that’s more accommodating and comfortable, using these affordable, but high-impact home décor items will transform your space in overall quality.

“Quality over quantity is key to working with a budget,” said Hess. “Quality does not always mean expensive, think of it as high-impact and statement pieces that will add to your room.”