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Early Retirement Extreme: The ten-year update

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Today, I’m pleased to present a guest article from one of my favorite money bloggers of all time: Jacob Lund Fisker. Fisker founded Early Retirement Extreme in 2007. It quickly became an influential voice for the nascent FIRE movement. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that FIRE wouldn’t be what it is today with his work.

Fisker retired from blogging in 2011. Since then, he and I have exchanged long emails on sometimes arcane subjects. Occasionally I ask him for advice. Recently, I asked him if he’d be willing to update people on where he’s been and what he’s been doing for the past decade. He agreed.

Here, then, is Fisker’s story of life after Early Retirement Extreme (and extreme early retirement). Be warned: His story is not short.

Starting in 2007 (and largely finishing by 2011), I formalized a philosophical alternative to consumerism in the form of a 1000+ post blog and 100,000+ word book [J.D.’s review], which I mistakenly called “Early Retirement Extreme” (or ERE in acronym form). These days, I stick to the acronym form. 😛

Central to my philosophy was the renaissance ideal of spending your life mastering a productive level of competence in a broad range of subjects. This arsenal of “renaissance skills” would then be combined into a mutually reinforcing web-of-goals, which made living more interesting and balanced — but also more cost- and resource-efficient and resilient in the face of the growing complexities and uncertainties of the 21st century.

Being a theoretical physicist by training (and remaining one in spirit) compelled me to present all of this as a theory of everything, rather than the more typical format of a light non-fiction autobiography or overview. As I didn’t really figure on a general audience — it was fairly non-existent back in 2008 — that also meant using graphs and equations when applicable.

The benefit of that format was that others could use the ERE design principles to construct their own particular plan according to their own individual circumstances and goals instead of retracing the footsteps of one particular individual.

Retiring from blogging

Eventually, I considered the problem of “How to escape the earn-buy cycle in order to live a more interesting life” solved and sufficiently “communicated”. In 2011, I stopped blogging. I continued to follow the ERE principles in the spirit of the renaissance ideal with the goal of solving other big problems. Being financially independent (FI), I no longer require any compensation even if I still appreciate it — if nothing else than just to keep score or divert the lucre towards more useful purposes (e.g. supporting people on Kiva or Patreon).

Career workers who don’t know me typically ask me what I do for a living, expecting an answer in the form of a job title. (That tends to get awkward and I still don’t have a clever response.)

Similarly, people in the FIRE community (and the media that now covers it since they discovered it a couple of years ago) expect a curriculum vitae in the form of instagram-friendly bucket-list of accomplishments. However, following the systems-based web-of-goals approach, it’s really hard to answer that in a way that satisfies linear formats.

I follow many different leads and do many different things — often concurrently — and sometimes in ways where they combine and result in new, unexpected opportunities (the serendipity effect). It’s therefore difficult to summarize the last ten years of my life in chronological order, so let me instead attempt it as a “skill” or activity-based resume in no particular order.

This format makes more sense since the ERE strategy is to learn something and add value to the process and its environment, a side-effect of which is that I usually don’t have to pay to solve problems and that I sometimes get paid. As a consequence, my spending also remains ridiculously low. (I’ll get to that near the end of this article.)

I apologize that this is long and boring, but ten years is a long time and one can get a lot done in ten years — not all of which might be as interesting to the reader as it is or was to me. So, for the sake of completeness and in no particular order, and perhaps with the hope that I don’t have to write another autobiography for the next ten years, here’s a first-hand answer to the question: “Whatever happened to Jacob Lund Fisker?”

My Sporting Years

The first years of any retirement are often filled with activities that one never had time to pursue when working. For most, this means travel. But I had travelled a lot as a part of my career already, so the missing ingredient for me was sports. So, initially I played a lot of sports.

I spent three or four days each week practicing Japanese swordfighting for three years. So, I know a little bit about swords now. Swordfighting is a complex skill that is hard to put into words. It also resists incremental learning because it doesn’t make sense or flow until all of the ingredients are known and snap together. (Much like the ERE philosophy!)

Note: After moving to Chicago, I wanted to continue swordfighting, but the nearest dojo is too far away. The take-away here is that if one wants to move around, it’s better to pick an activity that exists everywhere and is easily accessible.

Jacob as a team playerI also played a lot of inline hockey in the local city league. My talents were mostly in passing, winning faceoffs, and scoring garbage goals, so I played the role of center forward. Our team won four seasons in a row. Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer, so this was the first time I played a team sport and I thoroughly enjoyed competing with others instead of against myself.

These days, I’ve sacrificed hockey and risky sports in general because I want to avoid acquiring any long-term injuries. Now, I mainly do BeachBody-type workouts: Insanity, Max30, Asylum, Tapout. It’s free, easy, and it keeps me active. I achieved six-pack abs for the first time in my life in my early forties! Another fun exercise is jump roping. I can do double unders, running crosses, heel taps, boxer step, and seamless forward backward reverses. (J.D. loves jump roping too, although he says he’s too fat right now to do it without injury.)

Meanwhile, I taught myself bicycle repair. I eventually served as the unofficial mechanic for a women’s shelter thanks to someone I met via Freecycle. I mostly used Park’s Blue Book, Zinn’s guides, and youtube videos to teach myself. Bicycle repair is fantastic for those of us who come from a white-collar background with zero practical skills, because bicycle repair is mostly solving closed-end problems.

Speaking of cycling, I did a lot of riding in the bay area and was planning a ride across the United States. That is indefinitely postponed, but I did ride a few centuries (100-milers) and trained enough to reach a [20 minute] functional threshold power of 3.7W/kg for those who know what that means.

Jacob's dog!My connection at the shelter owned a boat and one of my hockey mates also knew a guy with a boat. They connected me with the sailing community in the San Francisco bay.

I think almost everybody who first gets into sailing dreams about sailing around the world, but I found that I didn’t enjoy cruising as much as I liked racing. So, I joined a couple of racing yachts out of the Berkeley marina serving as the mainsail trimmer on my primary boat. We won two regattas while I was on that boat.

I sailed about 50 times per year and have sailed around Alcatraz or under the Golden Gate Bridge more times than I can remember. Lots of stories here including force 6 winds facing 12ft+ rolling waves in the Pacific, losing the rudder (snapped right off), losing the engine, shrimping the spinnaker, shredding the mainsail, taking on water and bailing with a bucket, pulling other boats off of cliff shores. Exciting stuff!

The RV years

From 2008 (before I retired) until 2011 (when we left for Chicago), we lived in a 34-foot motorhome (class A a.k.a. “autocamper” — looks like a bus) that we permanently parked in a nice mobile-home park (we also looked at some not so nice parks before finding a good one) within biking distance from my work and eventually former colleagues.

This allowed us to live in the East Bay Area spending less than $14,000/year for the two of us (including health care, a car, a dog (he’s 15 now!), and of course the RV).

Originally, I wanted to live in a boat or a tiny house, but my wife vetoed it in favor of an RV, which she was more familiar with. I must admit that I wasn’t too keen on our home and worldly possessions possibly sinking either. Also, I didn’t know the first thing about carpentry and building, but that doesn’t seem to hold other people back. If we had to do it again, we’d get a 21-25′ travel trailer. (See the frequently asked questions section on my blog for the reasons.)

Moving to Chicago

In December 2011, we sold the RV and moved into a one-bed/one-bath apartment in Chicago. This was the easiest move ever. It only took 17 days to get the RV sold, drive 2000 miles across the US, find an apartment, and move in. Thanks #minimalism for making it easy to accept opportunities when presented!

For a while, it was strange living in a place where furniture, switches, and doorways were all much farther apart…and how the floor didn’t sway during wind gusts. [J.D.’s note: This is how Kim and I felt after returning from our fifteen-month RV trip around the U.S. Such culture shock going from a tiny space to a huge one, especially one so removed from the outside environment.]

Why did we move? I had received an offer (actually via one of my blog readers) to work in a financial firm in Chicago as a quant on the buy-side. (This had been something I wanted to try for a long time. I first tried in 2008 after reading up on all the details, but then the credit crisis happened and hiring froze!)

I worked there full time until I quit in 2015. It was interesting to see how the markets’ plumbing really works. And how the people working in high finance were some of the most widely-read and intellectually curious people I’ve ever met. I do think maybe academics might be inherently more curious, it’s just that “publish or perish” doesn’t leave enough time to exercise it anymore. I’ve seen so many stacks of unopened books and magazines on the desks of professors bogged down by administrative and grantseeking duties, it makes me sad.

Here’s another big lesson I learned, one that might surprise you.

You know how the standard refrain amongst personal finance gurus is how nobody can predict or beat the market? Well, I met and now know a lot of nobodies who regularly beat the market.

These folks have no desire to start a blog, get a paper published, explain the details, or debate the possibility with the internet. Rather, the attitude is one of “live and let live”. I think some of that attitude rubbed off on me. Why bother explaining if the audience always sees it as a starting point for a win-lose debate rather than an opportunity to learn?

It’s also possible that I’ve just grown tired of arguing. I’ve thought a lot about how we all take roles in that particular dynamic on social media thereby affecting what it’s possible to learn from each other. I feel less inclined to share insights than I used to.

Home and Homesteading

In 2014, we bought a house. We paid cash, of course. (Fun fact: Before I learned about investing as a means of using money to make more money and the whole financial independence thing, I was just saving so I could entirely avoid the interest payments on a mortgage.)

Our house is a roughly 1000-square-foot brick fixer-upper that we live in and that we’re still “fixing” up. Rationally, flipping fixer-uppers you live in is an ideal combination of investing and working that checks many FIRE boxes. However, I’ve found that it’s not really something that I enjoy. To me, a house remains a big container that’s mostly used to shelter myself and my stuff while I do other things. I wish I could enjoy the maintenance aspect of homeownership, but I don’t. Maybe someday I will.

I taught myself woodworking using hand tools, which is mentally different from the machine-thinking I was used to. This process developed slowly and took years, but it came in handy being a homeowner. I can design and build properly-sized furniture and I can make replacement parts and fix free furniture.

Jacob can build his own furniture

For example, I furnished our bathroom with a new DIY vanity and built-in cabinet spending only $50 on materials total. Lately, I’ve been interested in toolmaking. I think being able to build one’s own tools is the real measure of mastery of one’s field. Most recently, I have built a lathe from scratch. It cost me less than $10 in materials. [J.D.’s note:: Holy cats! And I thought my father was handy…]

We plowed up (actually laboriously double-dug with a spade) much of our backyard lawn to install a vegetable garden. The ultimate goal is to develop some level of self-reliance beyond just having access to free organic vegetables every summer/fall. This has been a good reminder that we (or at least I) definitely don’t want to be homesteaders. It’s funny how buying a homestead is so popular in the FIRE community that it almost seems like a rite of passage. Maybe homesteading attracts exuberant personalities in search of projects? We almost bought one in rural Oregon in 2011. I’m glad we didn’t because maintenance is just not for me.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Taking apart a watchFor a while, I messed around with mechanical watches. I can now take one completely apart and reassemble it back into a working unit.

Similar to bicycle repair, this skill allows one to fix things for oneself, neighbors, and friends, but it is hard to make real money on it due to the competition. And if you do, it will mostly come from buying and selling at the right price or simple fixes like changing batteries and fixing flat tires. There’s little profit in doing difficult technical work!

Also how many people do you know who still wear watches? They’re both great hobbies though. Recently, I’ve started building a mechanical clock out of plywood. For real!

My general prescription for a successful job-free life is to find activities that cover the combination of meaning+fun and theoretical+practical — albeit not necessarily at the same time. But it’s important to touch all of those dimensions from time to time even it it involves a job.

For example, building a working clock out of plywood is practical and fun and perhaps a bit theoretical as well…but definitely not meaningful in the grand scheme of things. However, it checks some of the checkbox combinatorics. In the long run, meaning is more important than fun though!

Many (but not all) who work a job ultimately come to think working their job is meaningless beyond receiving their paycheck. Filling out TPS reports, designing or selling apps and widgets and thneeds that nobody wants because nobody needs. Or just increasing one’s net worth highscore or falling victim to the syndrome of one more year.

The search for meaning (over comfort) was a big reason I quit my physics career. I wanted to focus on writing the ERE blog. With physics, I was researching arcane details about neutron stars that were only interesting to maybe five other people in the world. I wasn’t exactly curing cancer, but see below…

When blogging, I was breaking new ground (many aspects of commonly accepted FIRE philosophy today were still pretty original ten years ago) and changing peoples’ lives on a daily basis. (At least, that’s what the comments and emails told me!) Quitting astrophysics to write about early retirement thus checked the box of meaningfulness that my academic research lacked.

The Search for Meaning

One of my buddies from high school — who is now a professor at my alma mater — asked for my help doing some numerical research on enzyme reactions that are actually relevant to cancer research. After bridging the interdisciplinary communications gap, it was fun to see what could be done.

The numerical tools used in computational astrophysics are maybe 40 years ahead of what is apparently state-of-the-art in molecular biology. It’s always fun to blow someone’s mind with a little bit of applied math. It doesn’t just happen with the shockingly simple math of extreme early retirement! 😉

The very first thing I engaged in after retiring from physics was signing onto a non-profit startup with the aim to facilitate interdisciplinary solutions for a brave new green economy. As is tradition in Silicon Valley-area startups, we gave each other fancy titles. I was the “associate director” (basically “number one” in Star Trek terms) and served on the board of directors as a founding member.

However, I eventually found that I didn’t agree with the speed and indirect impact of this format. I would much rather focus on solutions that could be immediately implemented at the field level, like ERE, than advise, debate, research, educate, or engage in activism. Ultimately, “big change” needs people filling all roles, but now I have a better idea of the role I optimally fill.

Most of my ERE readers/forumites don’t know it, but before ERE back in the early 2000s, when I was still a grad student in physics, I ran a highly-ranked website on the limits of energy resources that drew more traffic than the rest of the entire physics department combined. A very astute person recently tweeted that ERE is a peak oil blog in disguise. This is correct.

Thinking back, I faded from the energy resource scene for similar reasons that I left the non-profit. Sticking to thinking up actionable solutions at the individual level just works better for me. I’m writing this down as a reminder to myself to stay focused on my current project. Tempting as it is to focus on different ways of solving problems — raising awareness, etc. — I am fundamentally interested in individually actionable solutions.

J.D.’s note: This reminds me of our recent discussion about politics and personal finance. Ultimately, I concluded we need people to fill all roles. Some folks — like Tanja from Our Next Life — are generals. They want to formulate political strategy. I don’t. I want to train the troops in day-to-day financial combat skills.

The Downsides of the Renaissance Ideal

In a given year, I read more than 100 books. Most of these are technical/non-fiction in order to gain useful insights or learn more stuff.

After reading a few thousand, the ROI of reading or “book learning” is near the top end of the S-curve for me. This is also the case for striving towards being a master of many trades in general.

The downsides of the renaissance ideal as measured at the 10-year milestone in my experience? It becomes harder to enjoy being a spectator. It’s also harder to appreciate bought experiences along with and in the company of others. This is not necessarily a virtue or a good thing by the way!

I find myself unable to enjoy watching sports, for example. J.D. can do it; I can’t. Courtesy of my high-finance stint, I got to experience watching the Blackhawks play from the box suites at the United Center eating catered food. I bet that was all very expensive and I appreciate the gesture — I understand that it was meant as a reward — but watching professionals play is a far cry from the full experience of playing hockey yourself even as a competent amateur.

I think this holds true for all kinds of experiences.

Learning new skills. Making things yourself. Earning money in new and different ways like hourly, salaried, royalties, investing, trading. Interacting with other people whether it be by helping, getting helped, giving, getting, selling, buying. I could go on, but you know what I mean, right?

I have the same problem with going out to eat. Those $150/person restaurant meals — again, I appreciate the gesture — become hard to enjoy once you’re able to create a superior meal (as measured by your personal preferences) for far less.

What My Wife Did

I’ve now been married for more than thirteen years. Both my wife and I suffer from itchy feet on a three to five year basis. She gets it from growing up military. I get it from an early career as a metic academic ever since I left Denmark two decades ago when I was 24. Temperamentally, the idea of “doing time” in a job or being a “career lifer” is just unappealing to both of us.

When I received the job offer in Chicago back in 2011, I of course asked my wife if she was okay with leaving the east bay and wanted to go too? (Veto rights are always implied in our relationship.) She said yes.

In Chicago, she interviewed with a couple of companies in her old field of environmental remediation but she could no longer find any spark of joy. Essentially being on a sabbatical, I insisted on her doing our taxes (something that had previously been under my purview) to get a hands-on feeling for how they worked should I ever get hit by a bus. Strangely, she liked doing the numbers very much and thus decided to go back to school for an associates degree in accounting which she quickly finished (piece of cake when you come in with a STEM PhD).

This led to her being hired by a certain tax preparation company that everybody probably knows. (Free semi-retirement tip: There are a lot of overly-educated, semi-retired people working in tax-prep because it’s seasonal, reasonably well paid, and the co-workers tend to be interesting!) She spent a few years working her way up the ladder until she was responsible for the day-to-day problems of ~100 offices. Then she decided it wasn’t worth it anymore and quit. Now she works for a non-profit in the legal field.

Spending Money as a Failure of Imagination

My spending has remained around the $7000 per year mark for almost twenty years now. Since we got married thirteen years ago, my wife’s spending has also hovered around the $7000 per year mark. In other words, our combined expenses total about $14,000 per year.

The continual addition of new skills and skill-synergies has allowed us to stretch each dollar further and further in terms of what we get from spending it. We still tend to specialize individually, but as a unit comparative advantage works for us.

I can do many things competently. Ditto my wife for many other things. Together, we’re rather self-reliant (to put it mildly). Spending money mainly serves to resolve friction from inefficient lifestyle design. And for us, there’s just not a whole lot of friction left anymore except real-estate, taxes, and insurance premiums, which account for nearly 60% of our budget. We consider spending money a failure to solve our problems by smarter means.

Jacob's graph of skill vs imagination

But our failure rate is getting quite low at this point.

J.D.’s Note
Whoa. This is my biggest take-away from the 5000 words that Jacob wrote here: “Spending money is a failure to solve problems by smarter means.” This hits home hard.

Last week, my dog broke her retractable leash again. She lunged hard at a squirrel and destroyed the internal mechanism. I threw the leash away and bought a new one. This is a failure to solve the problem by smarter means. I’m willing to bet that I could have opened the leash and repaired the sprung spring. But I was too lazy. Or, more precisely, it didn’t even occur to me.

Spending money is a failure to solve problems by smarter means. Wow.

Our present situation could easily be confused for a mundane suburban middle-class existence…except most of what we own has not been acquired by spending. Some get disappointed by that optic expecting the (typically expensive) Instagram-worthy minimalist designs often portrayed in the media as they try to sell eyeballs to those who want to buy the newest fad.

114 Years of Savings (and Counting)

For historical reasons, my wife and I have kept our savings separate while splitting our income. There are lots of different ways to arrange financial matters, and attitudes vary a lot depending on whatever antediluvian norms anyone grew up under. This is just what we decided back then — mainly because it made tax accounting easy — and we’re still happy with it.

For the record, my cumulative income contribution still remains the larger one by a skodge. So we could have chosen differently, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway at this point since we’re both way beyond the standard FI numbers (and have been for several years).

Currently, I have saved 114 years worth of spending. That’s way beyond the 25 years required for the so-called 4% rule for safe withdrawals in retirement. My wife has 62 years worth of savings. At this point, earning more money doesn’t matter anymore.

Both of us have contributed much more to society producing things than we’ve taken out by consuming them. Neither of us need to work anymore. Nor do we feel any reason to spend more. It’s not money but skills and imagination that comprise the limiting factor when operating at this level.

However, whereas it has ultimately become clear to me that I function best as a self-employed intellectual gunslinger for short-term hire to solve complex problems, as mentioned above, my wife still enjoys the structure of a traditional job as long as she’s free to change it from time to time. As a couple, both of us being FI makes it a lot easier to solve the “two-body” problem that academics are annoyingly familiar with: In choosing where to go, we take turns with who gets to do a “location-specific project” next.

What Is FIRE For?

Starting in 2017ish, FIRE began to go mainstream.

Hundreds of new FIRE blogs have been started in the past few years. The handful of us who have been around since the beginning have spent more time than we probably like getting interviewed by journalists.

While social media reactions and the general understanding has improved (especially when talking to journalists who are also pursuing FIRE on their own), the media narrative of the FIRE model often remains a story with two separate parts:

  1. A working phase of money earning accumulation followed by…
  2. A spending phase of consumerist entertainment.

Basically, this is an old-fashioned retirement with younger people, where travelling, eating out, and going to concerts substitute for playing bingo. Given this, it’s not uncommon that young FIRE people eventually get bored and go back to their old jobs.

With little or no widespread experience outside of consumerism, it seems there’s a certain lack of imagination in terms of what to do with all of this unlocked financial freedom (time).

While FIRE solves the freedom-from problem, ERE’s renaissance concept also solves the freedom-to issue, because the limiting factor in enjoying post-work life is seldom money but skill, connections, and the amazing opportunities they generate.

ERE was designed as a continually-evolving system that aims at efficiency and resilience for the 21st century. Within this system, FI just happens as a side-effect of being compensated for adding value to the system while reducing the need and desire to spend. Basically, a two-fer.

Focusing on adding value creates plenty of experiences and things to try and do, which I hope to have illustrated above. Effectively, it looks very different from traditional forms of retirement — whether they be early or late. Indeed, it’s been our experience, both personally but also from the other early adopters from 10+ years ago, that the ERE concept works as intended.

The post Early Retirement Extreme: The ten-year update appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.



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Azlo Review – Online Business Checking

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Azlo ReviewAzlo Review

Alzo is an online bank that focuses on simple business banking for entrepreneurs. With a huge focus on online entrepreneurs like freelancers and business, they are looking to change the way these businesses bank.

But what does that mean for you if you’re looking for a great business checking account?

Let’s dive in!

See how Azlo compares to the best business checking accounts and read more in our review below.


Azlo LogoAzlo LogoAzlo Logo

Quick Summary

  • Completely free business checking
  • Integrated invoicing and payment acceptance services
  • Does not offer checkbook services and cannot accept cash

Azlo Details

Product Name

Azlo Business Checking

Min Deposit

$0

Monthly Fee

$0

Account Type

Checking

Promotions

None

What Is Azlo?

Azlo is an online-only bank available in the U.S. and Mexico. The CEO & Co-founder is Cameron Peake. Azlo was founded in 2017 and is part of BBVA USA, Member FDIC.

“Within the banking industry, small business customers usually either aren’t served at all, or they’re served as an afterthought. At Azlo, from day one, we’ve built our product just for them. For example, we don’t have minimum balances or monthly fees. This is important because if you’re a new business owner ― particularly someone who hasn’t started earning revenue yet ― your money should be put towards your business rather than fees,” Peake said in an interview with fitsmallbusiness.com.

What Do They Offer?

Azlo offers free business checking suited for simple businesses such as small businesses, contractors, and freelancers who do all of their business online. 

It also has a no-fee model. Companies that need to write paper checks will want to use a different bank since Azlo doesn’t offer checkbook services. Businesses that need in-branch services and deal with cash will also not be a good fit for Azlo since none of those services are offered.

For most small businesses, Azlo can do virtually everything needed without any fees. It offers simple business checking, but for many small businesses, they don’t need anything more. Here’s what’s included with an Azlo checking account:

  • No-fee checking account
  • Free ATM access using Allpoint Network (55,000 ATMs)
  • Invoice clients for free
  • Debit card
  • Bill pay, which includes option for mailing paper checks
  • Connect your checking account to popular accounting software such as QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Wave.
  • Accept credit card payments through Stripe, Square, or PayPal.
  • Clients can send in paper checks for payment or use a bank transfer.
  • Receive incoming wire transfers fee-free. Outgoing wire transfers are not available.

As you can see from the list above, Azlo is very business-oriented.

Some customers have reported that transfers with Azlo are slower than with other banks. Azlo lists that outgoing transfers can take 1-3 business days, and incoming transfers can take 4-5 business days. Mobile check deposits can take 1-6 business days to process. These processing times can certainly be a factor if you need fast processing for transfers and check deposits.

Azlo cannot send international transfers. They are working on adding this option. Although you can pull from an Azlo account using an international debit service.

We also experienced trouble trying to use the invoicing and receiving payments with credit cards on invoices.

Azlo is available in all 50 states. Azlo is not able to offer services to businesses involved in gambling, money services, privately-owned ATMs, sales of marijuana or its derivatives, precious metals, pawnshops, or cryptocurrency exchanges. It also can’t support limited partnerships or limited liability partnerships.

Azlo does have some limits on certain transactions. From their webpage these include:

  • ATM withdrawals are limited to $1,000/day.
  • Card purchases and over-the-counter cash withdrawals have a cumulative limit of $8,000/day and 30 unique card transactions/day.
  • Transfers TO a linked account are limited to $300,000/day, and transfers FROM a linked account are limited to $100,000/day.
  • Payments through bill pay are limited to $10,000/payment. Bank-to-bank (ACH) payments are limited to $300,000/day.
  • Mobile check deposits are limited to $10,000/check and $20,000/month. Limit can be increased based on your Azlo account history.

Mobile App

Azlo has a mobile app for both the iPhone and Android. On the Apple App Store, it has a 4.3/5 rating from 258 people and 4.1/5 rating from 298 people on the Google Play Store.

Customer Service

Customer service is available by email and phone. You can email Azlo at support@azlo.com. They reply within 1 business day. Phone service is available at 844-295-6466 from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm Pacific time Monday through Friday.

Are There Any Fees?

Nope. Azlo is all-free business checking. That begs the question — how do they make money? Azlo says it makes money by earning interest on checking deposits and from customers using the Azlo debit card.

Payment serviced from Stripe, Square, and PayPal do charge processor fees, but these are separate from Azlo.

How Do I Open An Account?

Accounts are opened online at https://azlo.com.

Is My Money Safe?

Yes, Azlo uses bank-grade encryption on its website, and mobile and BBVA USA is a Member FDIC.

Is It Worth It?

It has potential, that’s for sure.

For small businesses that have simple checking needs and want to accept online payments from customers, Azlo will do everything you need. 

It has integrated invoicing and the ability to accept payment from credit cards and bank transfers, providing a great infrastructure for small businesses.

However, if you’re looking for more, check out our list of the best business checking accounts here.

The post Azlo Review – Online Business Checking appeared first on The College Investor.



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10 Slow Cooker Recipes That Will Make Dinner Time Easy

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Are you looking for some new and delicious slow cooker recipes so you can have tasty and stress-free dinners this week?

I love making meals in a slow cooker. Dinners are so much easier when you start everything in advance! I’m less stressed, can focus on things I’d rather do, all while knowing that I have a delicious meal cooking.

So, if you’re looking for some of the best slow cooker recipes, I have 10 new recipes for you to try – that’s almost two full weeks of meal ideas!

I think you’re going to like all of these slow cooker recipes, but here are my favorites:

  • Easy Slow Cooker Cauliflower Soup – Cauliflower, cashews, and a smoky chickpea topping. This soup is packed full of protein, and it’s vegan. This soup is creamy, rich, and the chickpea topping is roasted, which gives it a nice crunch.
  • Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken Soup – Chicken, black beans, fire roasted corn, lime juice, and more. You can top this hearty soup with cheese, avocado, sour cream (I like to use plain Greek yogurt), and more.
  • Mozzarella Stuffed Crockpot Meatloaf – Garlic, onions, mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, and more. This meatloaf even has a delicious sweet and spicy glaze on top. I honestly had no idea that you could even make meatloaf in the slow cooker until I found this recipe.

Many of these slow cooker recipes take 15 minutes or less of prep time, which means you can easily make them before you go to work in the morning. They also make great leftovers for lunch the next day.

I like to put together slow cooker recipes before we go out hiking, biking, or exploring. We’re usually very hungry when we finish, and having a slow cooker meal ready to eat means we’re never too tired to eat dinner at home.

Being too tired or too hungry to cook is probably one of the top reasons for going out to eat, but dinner out can easily cost $30-$50. That can be a lot of extra spending that you didn’t budget.

So, these slow cooker recipes will give you some delicious new ideas, make dinner time easier, and they’ll keep your food budget in check. 

If you’re interested in more meal ideas, I recommend checking out the following articles for more of my favorite recipes:

Note: If you’re looking for easy weekly meal plans, full of budget recipes, I recommend $5 Meal Plan. $5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service that sends you a delicious meal plan and shopping list every week for just $5 a month.

Here are 10 slow cooker recipes.

 

1. Easy Slow Cooker Cauliflower Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

2. Slow Cooker Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

3. Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

Get the recipe here.

 

4. French Beef Stew

Get the recipe here.

 

5. Teriyaki Chicken Quinoa And Veggies

Get the recipe here.

 

6. Salsa Verde Chicken Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

7. Slow Cooker Corned Beef Tacos

Get the recipe here.

 

8. BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos

Get the recipe here.

 

9. Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Get the recipe here.

 

10. Mozzarella Stuffed Crockpot Meatloaf

Get the recipe here.

What are your favorite slow cooker recipes?

The post 10 Slow Cooker Recipes That Will Make Dinner Time Easy appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.



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Eight Useful, Frugal Projects You Can Do to Save Money

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It’s been my experience that if you leave yourself too much idle time, you usually end up doing things you regret. Perhaps it’s just as simple as wasting away the hours watching random television programs and movies, or maybe it’s something destructive and wasteful that you’ll regret. Whatever the case may be, a sudden abundance of time can lead to some bad routines.

A much better approach is to find useful ways to fill that time, particularly in terms of making things, learning things, or optimizing things for later.

Here are eight projects to take on during moments in life when you have more time than you expect and are struggling to find worthwhile things for idle hands to do.

Maintain your appliances.

There’s really no better time than right now to go through each of the appliances in your home and give them some maintenance love.

The easiest way to do it is to look up the manual for each of your appliances online and see what they suggest doing for maintenance. Which appliances? Your refrigerator, dishwasher, stovetop/oven, microwave, washer, dryer and AC unit. There’s a nice checklist to get you started.

Almost every manual in the world will suggest maintenance and cleaning steps for those appliances. Follow those instructions as closely as you can. You’ll be doing things like leveling the washing machine, dusting behind the fridge, cleaning out little holes in your dishwasher, and so on.

Why do this? Whenever you do a maintenance run on your appliances, you’re extending their lifespan significantly. That means, during the time in which you live in this home, you’ll have fewer appliance replacements. Plus, you’re likely to get these appliances to run more efficiently as well, which could save you a little money along the way.

Make stock.

Stock is the liquid backbone of a ton of different soups and many casseroles and other dishes. There are countless uses for stock — whenever you would use water or bullion in a dish, stock will improve the flavor substantially. The best part? Making it yourself is free, but it requires some planning ahead.

What you need to do is save every vegetable scrap that you have, either raw or plainly cooked. If it’s a bit of extra vegetable that’s edible, but you skipped it for some reason, use it. If it’s a vegetable that’s on the verge of going bad, use it. If it’s some leftover steamed broccoli, use it. If it’s an outer layer of onion that you peeled away, use it.

All of that stuff can go in a large container in your freezer. A gallon-sized freezer bag is perfect for this.

Along with that, save the bones and cartilage and scrap bits of meat from any meat that you cook. Did you cook a whole chicken? Save the bones and cartilage and scraps. Did you cook a roast? Save the bone. Do you have leftover plain meat? Save it.

You’ll want to save individual kinds of meat — save the chicken bits in one-gallon freezer bag and beef bones in another.

When you have a gallon bag full of scraps, you’re ready to make stock. Pour all of those scraps into a pot. You can mix one type of meat scrap with vegetable scrap, or just do them alone if you want vegetarian scraps. Cover the scraps and bones with water, add a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of ground black pepper (or some peppercorns), and then simply simmer it on low all day long in a pot with a lid. You can do it without a lid, but you’ll want to add some water during the day. Twelve hours of simmering should do it. You can do this in a large slow cooker on low, too, and that allows you to safely leave it overnight.

When you’re done, strain the liquid. It’s the liquid you want to save, not the mushy scraps. That liquid can be stored in a big jar in the fridge or frozen in a freezer-safe container. It’s the basis of amazing soups and amazing casseroles. It’s amazing when you use it to cook rice. It’s basically liquid flavor for almost anything where you want to impart that kind of flavor.

Make your own bread.

Homemade bread is a little denser, far more filling, more nutritious, and makes absurdly better toast than the bread you buy at the store. A humble homemade loaf is like $10 bakery bread rather than the $2 loaf you normally buy, but here’s the kicker: it doesn’t even cost $2 to make, and your grocery store has all of the stuff (even if you don’t have it on hand). Not only that, making it yourself is a great kitchen confidence builder.

It’s really easy to do, too. All you really need is flour, water, sugar, yeast and an oven. A loaf pan is nice to shape the final loaf — if you don’t have one, you can get an inexpensive one at the grocery store for a dollar or two.

All you need is a packet or a tablespoon of dry yeast, 2 1/4 cups of warm water (it should feel nice and warm but not hot to the touch), 3 tablespoons of sugar, a tablespoon of salt, a small bit of oil for greasing the pan and 6 1/2 cups of bread flour. This will make two loaf-sized dough balls. You can wrap one in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge a few days for when you’re ready to bake another loaf.

Mix the yeast and half a teaspoon of sugar into the water and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the salt, the remaining sugar and half the flour in a really big bowl until it’s thoroughly mixed. Then, add the water and stir — it’ll be like a soup. Add the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time, until you have a big dough ball you can handle with your hands without sticking to them.

Clear a spot on a table, put a little flour down, and knead the ball until it’s smooth. This will take about 10 minutes. Add a little flour if it starts to get sticky again.

At this point, split the dough ball in half and wrap up half of it to stick in the fridge. Take a bowl, rub a bit of the oil all over the inside of it so nothing sticks, and put the other dough ball in there. Let it sit for a couple of hours in a warm spot, covered with a towel.

After that, just punch down the dough and form it into a loaf shape. Rub a bit of oil all over the inside of the loaf pan and fit the dough in there. Cover that loaf again and wait another 90 minutes or so for it to rise.

Then, heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, pop in the loaf and wait 30 minutes. It’s done when you tap the top of it and it sounds hollow inside. Remove it from the pan and let it sit on a wire rack (or anything you can find that will elevate it from the table and let air flow under it) for a while to cool to room temperature. It’s ready to eat and should be good for several days. The toast is to die for.

When you want to use the other ball, take it out of the fridge, put it in an oiled bowl, and cover it. Let it sit for 3-4 hours and it will start to rise, then jump into the procedure above where you’re punching down the dough.

Not only does this make amazing bread, but it’s also pretty inexpensive, it’ll make your house smell amazing as you cook it, and if you do it a few times it’ll seem really simple, which will encourage you to bake other things yourself. Most basic baked items are similarly easy. It’s mostly mixing together flour, water and yeast, kneading for different lengths of time, adding another ingredient or two, and shaping it differently.

Fix a damaged article of clothing.

Most of us have an item of clothing with some minor issue. Maybe a button is missing from a dress shirt, or maybe a pair of pants is a little too long and needs to be hemmed.

Most of us also have a small sewing kit at home, with a few needles and a few different colors of thread in there. It’s one of those things we pick up over the years as a housewarming gift or in an emergency and then stick in a drawer for later.

Now’s a great time to pull out that garment with an issue and that sewing kit and actually fix it.

Sewing on a button, for example, is a very simple project to get started with. Here’s a great Youtube video that will walk you right through the process.

Other projects will require more work, but they’re all doable with a little time and some needle and thread. You can repair a torn seam. You can sew a patch on a uniform or a jacket. You can hem up a pair of pants.

The first few times you do these things, it’s going to be really awkward and slow. The key is to work through that awkward and slow phase, and this is a perfect time to do it.

Check your windows for drafts and bad caulk spots.

Go to every window in your home and inspect the edges around the window slowly, along every line of caulk (it’s the rubbery stuff at the edges of windows). Look for any spots where caulk is missing or looks damaged and make a note of it.

If you do have access to equipment to seal them (caulk, a caulking gun, and a putty knife), then by all means, seal those windows. These are items that many people have in their tool chest, so you may be able to just tackle it right now. However, springtime is a time of the year when you’re least likely to need to run air conditioning, so this part of the project can wait.

If you make a thorough catalog of all of the places with inadequate caulking right now, actually fixing it later will be a pretty easy task. You just get a caulking gun and some caulk and a putty knife and head straight down the list, going from spot to spot to fix the issues.

Why is this useful? Those spots where the caulk is missing from your window are spots where warm air is leaking out of your home in the winter and hot air is getting into your home in the summer. Fixing those spots will save you quite a bit of money over the long haul.

Make some homemade laundry soap.

Homemade laundry soap costs about $0.03 per load and does a pretty good job. On almost all loads, I find it’s almost exactly the same as Tide or storebrand detergent at a tiny fraction of the cost. It’s also easy to make it — you can get the items the next time you need to visit the grocery store.

All you need is baking soda or washing soda, borax (likely found next to cleaning supplies or laundry supplies), and a couple of bars of non-glycerine soap (Ivory or a generic brand works just fine). You’ll also need a container of some kind to keep near your washer, as well as a measuring tablespoon, and you’ll need a box grater. You’ll likely have most of that stuff already at home.

First, take the bar of soap and the box grater and grate the soap into fine flakes. You essentially want to turn the bar of soap into powder. This will take a little while — maybe 10 or 15 minutes — but you can do it while listening to a podcast or watching a TV show as long as you pay attention to your knuckles so you don’t grate them.

If you have baking soda instead of washing soda, put one or two cups of baking soda onto a baking tray and bake it in the oven at 400 F for one hour. The heat will turn the baking soda into washing soda.

Then, pull out your storage container and put equal amounts of washing soda, borax, and soap flakes in there. If you have a big container, two cups of each is great; if it’s smaller, aim for a single cup or a half cup of each. Shake the container and mix the powders together for a few minutes, then pop the measuring spoon in there and you’re good to go.

All you need is a tablespoon of this mix for a normal-sized load of laundry. Just sprinkle it around evenly in the load — don’t just dump it in a clump. It does an impressive job of getting clothes nice and clean.

If you use a cup of each substance, you have three cups of homemade laundry soap, which, if you’re using a tablespoon at a time, adds up to 48 loads. If you add up the cost of the ingredients, your cost per load will end up somewhere in the $0.03 to $0.06 range. If you compare that to the cost of normal laundry detergent per load, you’ll be pretty impressed by the savings.

Consider this a nice “trial run” to see whether or not homemade laundry soap works for you. It works pretty well for me!

Make a “refill” list.

This is actually a project I’ve done myself in the last few days. I typed this up, printed it, and laminated it.

It’s simply a list of the 40 or 50 things around our house that we consistently use up and need to replenish. The items on that list are things that we’ll always stock up on if we notice them on sale, and if we see that we’re running low, they get added to the list. Rather than just writing “dishwashing detergent” every few months on the grocery list, now we can just put a star by “dishwashing detergent” on the “refill” list.

Just go around your home, looking in your various cupboards and pantries, and identify all of the household supplies and nonperishable food items that you always want to have on hand. You’re looking for things like toilet paper, dishwashing detergent, flour, bar soap, shampoo, pasta and so on. The exact list will be different for everyone, depending on age, family size and specific requirements, and you’ll find that your first draft is probably missing several items.

What’s the value? Like I said, having a list like this with a dry erase marker handy makes it a lot easier to take note of the regular stuff you need at the store, so that you don’t forget something essential and have to make an extra trip. Notice toilet paper missing? Just draw a quick star on this laminated sheet, then check it the next time you’re about to go to the store. It’s as easy as that! Sure, it’s a new routine to get used to, but it’s a super simple routine, and it can easily start saving you trips to the store.

Review your subscriptions.

Many of us have subscriptions to services and publications and other things that we completely forget about most of the time. We’re subscribed to a magazine or two that comes in the mail that we don’t read that gets automatically renewed. We’re subscribed to an annual service on our phones that we were really into a few years ago but now it just gets re-subscribed without a thought.

There’s no better time than right now to sit down and go through all of those subscriptions and evaluate which ones are worth retaining and which ones aren’t.

There are several ways to find the things you’re subscribed to.

One way is to go into your email program and search for “subscription” and “renewal” and see what comes up.

Another way is to use your phone to find your online subscriptions. Here’s how to do it on iPhone and how to do it on an Android device.

Another place to look is your Amazon account. Here’s where you should go to check your subscriptions through Amazon.

It’s also worthwhile to look through your credit card and bank statements for the last several months, identifying any automatic charges and renewal charges that appear there.

You might also want to examine your magazine rack and any other spots in your home where magazines accumulate.

This isn’t a call to cancel everything, but rather to review everything and cancel things that clearly aren’t giving you enough value.

This whole process will take a little while, which is why it’s a nice project to take on when you have the time for it.

Make tomorrow better.

The goal with each and every one of these projects is to use some time today to make tomorrow better – a little less expensive, a little easier to navigate, and so on.

Good luck!

The post Eight Useful, Frugal Projects You Can Do to Save Money appeared first on The Simple Dollar.



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